Dover City Council Ward 2 candidate: Robbie Hinkel
Updated: Jan 16
Name: Robbie Hinkel
Occupation: Business Systems Analyst in the software development department of an insurance company.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, cum laude, with concentrations in Marketing and Management from Northeastern University. Certified by the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services as an Intentional Peer Support Specialist.
Civic experience: I am a member of the Dover Democratic Committee and was elected as the organization’s Treasurer. I am also the Chairperson of the DDC’s Finance and Fundraising sub-committee; I serve as a Delegate At-Large for the New Hampshire Stonewall Democrats, the state’s LGBTQ+ caucus; I volunteer with the End 68 Hours of Hunger and Don’t Trash Dover organizations, addressing food insecurity and beautifying our city.
Campaign website: www.RobbieForDover.com
Favorite movie, book or television show: Movie: "Mean Girls"; Book: "Brave New World"; TV show: "Money Heist" (Netflix)
What would be your top three priorities if you are elected?
As City Councilor, my top three priorities are:
1. Promoting the development of workforce and affordable housing, in addition to offsetting residential property taxes by expanding the commercial tax base.
2. Addressing both the mental health and substance use crises, proactively, and with novel approaches.
3. Funding quality public education through a collaborative budget process.
What is the city doing well, and where is there room for improvement?
To better understand the operations of the city, I have taken it upon myself to meet with the heads of city departments including finance, police, fire, recreation, welfare, planning, community services, the library, the schools, and more. If I had to identify a theme across departments, it would be that they are each very innovative in the solutions that they create to administer city services. Almost every department head mentioned strong interdepartmental collaboration and a commitment to serving the residents of Dover.
I found that the relationship between Dover’s school district and the rest of the city operations could be substantially improved. During budget season, things get contentious and the two sides are pitted against each other. We’d be better served if we recognized the schools as an integral city department, just like any other. I recently attended a joint sub-committee meeting between members of the City Council and School Board and was heartened to see the beginnings of a collaborative partnership. As a City Councilor, I’d work to ensure this important work remains a priority, and strive to strengthen this partnership to ensure better outcomes for the schools, the city, and the taxpayers in the long run.
Can Dover find a way to avoid an annual battle over the school budget and the tax cap? What do you suggest? Please be specific.
The best way to avoid an annual battle over the school budget and the tax cap is to break down the wall between the schools and the rest of the city departments and finally work together as one, unified City of Dover. The School Board and the City Council should come together early during the budget season and discuss their priorities and needs for funding. The earlier this discussion happens, the better informed each side will be when it comes time to make final budgeting decisions. This increased communication and collaboration would go a long way in easing traditional budget tensions, as it would increase transparency in the process. The two boards should also work to find areas of overlap where they can share resources, helping to reduce costs for the City overall. In addition, City Councilors and the School Board should work with our state legislators to advocate for a better school funding model at the State level that doesn’t put the burden on local property tax payers.
Are you in support of the Dover waterfront development project with Cathartes?
Past plans for the waterfront favored developers, and put the city’s needs second. This time it seems the city has secured a much better deal. In general, I will say that I’m both excited about, and in support of, the current waterfront development plan. The city has secured a deal that designates almost the entire riverfront as a public park, giving all residents equal access to the river. The addition of over 30,000 square feet of commercial space will bring much needed revenue to our city, helping offset residential property taxes. A public boathouse and docks will bring visitors (and tourist revenue) up the Cocheco from Portsmouth and other communities on the water, and provide exciting recreational opportunities.
While the addition of hundreds of residential units to the city’s housing stock is much needed, as a Councilor, I will work to refine the plan to secure more affordable housing in the mix. The design is forward-thinking in that it will be built to withstand flooding and, if elected, I will work to ensure the project’s impact on city resources, such as water and schools, is also sustainable.
Can Dover do more to increase affordable housing in the city?
In New Hampshire, municipalities are only able to legislate items that have been expressly permitted by the state. Municipalities do not have the authority to force workforce and affordable housing development. We can (and do) incentivize affordable housing development through temporary tax breaks, typically available in downtown revitalization districts. However, as downtown becomes more desirable, it becomes harder to get developers to commit to affordable housing in an area where the market commands higher prices. As a City Councilor I would push for Dover to take advantage of HB154, which allows municipalities to offer tax incentives in areas outside of downtown. With the right incentives, developers will be more likely to designate affordable housing in properties in remote parts of the City where the rental rates would likely be lower. This has the benefit of easing issues common with high downtown density, such as heavy traffic and parking shortages. Of course, we must ensure that these developments do not negatively impact the areas of the city in which they are built, and that the concerns of neighbors are considered and accommodated.
How do you feel about Dover’s efforts in recent years around diversity, equity and inclusion? Please include your thoughts on the land acknowledgement statement.
With the establishment of the Committee on Racial Equity and Inclusion, it is evident that the City of Dover is ready to take the business of inclusion seriously. I’m proud to live in a city where our Mayor issues proclamations and raises flags in support of various ethnic and minority groups. It lets residents and visitors alike know that Dover is a community committed to equality and equity of opportunity and outcomes for all, regardless of affiliation to any group. The adoption of Indigenous Peoples Day and the land acknowledgement are additional examples of our city working toward a more inclusive community. Acknowledging our past is the only way we can build a better future. As City Councilor, I would like to work with the committee to review the city’s hiring and personnel practices and guarantee they are in-line with current best practices around diversity, equity and inclusion. I would also work to implement a process by which all City Council legislation is reviewed for its impacts on the same, ensuring equal outcomes for all residents of Dover.