Oct. 10 — To the Editor:
This summer, the City Council supported the creation of the Citizen Response Task Force. The task force brought us some great things: expanded on-street dining, PopUp NH, and regular updates on the local challenges of dealing with the COVID pandemic. It’s hard to imagine it being more successful and it’s safe to say that some businesses were saved because of the work the task force accomplished.
The challenges the task force faced are not going away; if anything, they will become tougher. Our restaurants and retailers may well face the toughest winter business conditions they have ever experienced. However, new emerging challenges are making themselves felt in the broader community; many of our citizens will soon, if not already, experience intensified needs around child care and schooling, financial stress, and eviction forbearance.
The Council now has an opportunity build upon its earlier support and help create a new or modified task force to address these broader social needs. We already know there are groups of citizens who are eager to step up and help. Through council support and continuing citizen-driven initiatives we need to give these willing people the structure and means to lend a hand. Consider the following:
If our schools have to return to periods of remote learning, how do we ensure that every student has a Chromebook, printer, and desk?
If vulnerable residents face short-term but dire financial emergencies, can we create a fund to help bridge the gap?
When COVID restrictions periodically tighten, many parents will find themselves under strain as they try to balance work and caring for homebound children. Do we have ideas and resources to help them navigate these circumstances?
With good leadership, council support, and by harnessing the work and talent of our great city staff, a task force of dedicated volunteers with a broader charter could offer the skills, agility, resourcefulness, and creative thinking that we’ve already seen at work this summer.
We can’t simply wait for guidance and help to come from the national or state level. Portsmouth is full of generous, talented, and civic-minded citizens. Let’s get them to work and help bridge the gap between now and our eventual health and economic recovery.