Ahhhh, local elections. Yes, all the stupid signs on the sides of the roads mean it's time once again for you to totally mean to cast your ballot, except that you're so busy with soccer practices and grocery shopping and you don't even know who these jokers are anyway, and what difference does it make anyway, so you don't vote.
Well, I can't help you with the groceries or ferrying the kids around, but if you're hung up on not knowing any of the names in today's Portsmouth city elections, you've come to the right place.
Of course, you want to do your research to find the candidates whose priorities and philosophies are most aligned with your own. The local papers did a good job interviewing the candidates (or at least getting them to fill out their questionnaires) so check them out.
Lots of articles and q&a with candidates from the Herald is here: Portsmouth Herald election coverage
A quick overview of the election from Foster's is here: Foster's election coverage
The city of Portsmouth web site has all the information you might need to know about your ward's voting locations here: http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/CityClerk/voteinfo.htm
Even more fun is my pal Dan Freund's youtube-style video interviews with the candidates. Go here for those: http://www.shortstream.tv/v3/localelections Unfortunately not all the candidates are there, but most of them are. Good job Dan!
Haven't got time to do all that research? There are cheat sheets! Hooray for cheating! The Portsmouth Taxpayers Association does the best job of distributing sample ballots with their picks filled in. You can take it into the booth with you, if you're so inclined. Personally, I find the APT picks tend to be opposite of my inclinations, and oppose those whom the school supporters, for example, would pick. (Yes, that's code for Republican vs. Democrat, although these seats are officially non-affiliated.)
There are other cheat sheets, too, if you look for them. For example, in the local paper, I found that the police are endorsing incumbents Nancy Novelline Clayburgh, Laura Pantelakos, and Ken Smith, as well as newbies Ryan Baker and Bob Lister.
Or you could simply ask your friends, neighbors, and co-workers who they like. There's no shame in that. Heck, it's a small town, and some of your friends might actually know the candidates personally. They may have even had some good ol' fashioned dust-ups with one of them, like my pal Erik's well-taken issues with Councilor Smith.
If you trust the editors of the Portsmouth Herald implicitly, you can use their endorsements as your guide: http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20091029-OPINION-910290399
And if you'd like to simply crib off of me, here's my cheat sheet:
Bob Lister. Well qualified and well liked former school superintendent, he's my pick for mayor.
Jerry Hejtmanek. Lots of experience both civic and corporate, forward-thinking on issues like sustainability.
Laura Pantelakos. In the vein of Evelyn Sirrell and Eileen Foley, a longtime councilor, great for her institutional knowledge and old-school Portsmouth values.
Chris Dwyer. Incumbent doing a good job, leader for arts and affordable housing.
Eric Spear. Incumbent doing a good job, good ideas plus youthful energy.
Write-in: Former Mayor Steve Marchand. We sure could use his leadership again about now.
Write-in: Unofficial mayor of downtown, Dave Campbell, AKA "The Wine Guy" or to me, "Dad." He's too modest to run officially, but I think he'd do a great job.
Hint: As veteran of many of these elections, I'll tell you that while there are 9 seats on the city council, you do NOT have to vote for 9. Don't hem and haw over seats 7, 8, and 9 if you don't know any of the names remaining. Better is to vote for only those with whom you feel comfortable. Remember, if you only vote for say, 5, then you've distanced those 5 from the rest of the pack, giving them a better chance to be elected. (Indeed, since the top vote-getter for council becomes mayor, you've given them a better chance to be elected mayor, too, FWIW.)
As for the school board, here's a good overview of the candidates from the Herald. Another good crash-course on the school board is here, where each is asked if we should level-fund the schools again. Most years level-funding equals a cut, and I'm not willing to compromise our schools.
My cheat sheet for School Board then is:
Chellman, Ellis, Serlin, Stevens, and Kent LaPage for his longevity, experience, and I'll take him at his word when he said in the Herald: "I will not send a wasteful budget ever to the City Council. But I also will no longer send any program reduction to the children of Portsmouth and SAU 50."
Fire Commission has 2 candidates for 2 slots, so fill them in or not, it makes no difference.
Police Commission has 3 candidates for 2 slots. Here I'm voting for Jerry Howe and letting the chips fall where they may.
IMPORTANT! Polls close at 7PM so most of you have plenty of time to get there after work. And if you don't happen to be registered to vote yet in Portsmouth, you MAY do so at the polls. So no excuses, get out there and do your civic duty already!
Then, tonight you can watch as they tally and announce the winners. You can root for your picks just like in fantasy football!