3

Parking questions await answers

When the new Town Council is seated, it will address several downtown parking questions, from the enforcement time on meters to a possible second garage. But one parking issue the Select Board hopes to resolve soon is how many spaces will be lost when the area extending from the parking lot in front of Town Hall to Spring Street is turned into a more attractive space. The board may make a recommendation on the North Common project next Monday night, and hope that the Town Council ratifies it. The plans have gone through numerous public forums over the past five …

12

Candidate survey is helpful but incomplete

A helpful survey of Town Council candidates’ positions on important issues is now available online. The questions on the survey are specific and non-partisan, and the answers are revealing about the candidates. Unfortunately, only 15 of the 26 candidates responded to the survey by the deadline. That’s mostly because the survey was conducted by Amherst Forward, which had previously endorsed 14 of the candidates and formed a political action committee so it can raise money to inform voters. With three exceptions, the endorsed candidates responded to the survey and the unendorsed ones didn’t. Jim Pistrang and Steve Braun were not …

9

College students: bane or boon?

Some Town Council candidates and others have made statements that seem to demonize college students, asserting that the two new buildings downtown are “dorms.” This is a revealing misstatement. Dormitories are generally defined as housing that is owned by educational institutions and restricted to students. These two buildings are privately owned and include many non-students, so it’s more accurate to call them “apartment buildings.” It is revealing because the word “dorms” functions as a slur against a class of people who are regarded as fundamentally different from you and me. It creates a stereotype about a disfavored group. Many people …

39

Candidates debate building projects

How should Amherst prioritize new buildings for the elementary schools, the Jones Library and the Fire and Public Works Departments? There was a plan to creatively finance all four projects, costing over $100 million, without significant tax increases. But that plan was disrupted by Town Meeting’s unwillingness to borrow money for a school project and the subsequent loss of $34 million in state assistance. Now what? That was the question Tuesday night for six candidates for three at-large seats on the new Town Council in the Nov. 6 election. Jim Pistrang said he rates a new fire station in South …

2

Three candidates deserve a closer look

An ideal Town Council would include a healthy mix of new faces and old hands. Newcomers to town government bring fresh ideas and perspectives, while councilors with experience provide institutional memory and awareness of how things work. I’m impressed that capable newcomers such as Shalini Bahl-Milne, Evan Ross, Darcy DuMont and Pat DeAngelis did so well in the preliminary election Sept. 4. But I’m concerned that the qualifications of three candidates who didn’t do as well haven’t gotten enough attention. These three candidates possess valuable knowledge of  planning, zoning and finance, and this knowledge would provide solid foundations for many …

6

We supported the charter, and will work hard to move Amherst Forward

This guest post was written by Katherine Appy and Ginny Hamilton, co-chairs of Amherst Forward Last spring, with 58 percent of the popular vote in favor of a new town charter, voters made clear that the time for change in Amherst had arrived. Today our town is facing a critical moment in the transition to our new Town Council. We are in the process of choosing 13 fellow residents – three at-large councilors, and 10 district councilors – who will represent us on this inaugural council. Will our new Town Council succeed or flounder? The answer depends in part on …

35

Should candidates’ votes on charter and school project influence who we support?

The two most far-reaching decisions Amherst has made in the last five years have been voters’ approval of a new form of government  and Town Meeting’s blockage of a plan to build two new elementary schools using $34 million in state money. On Nov. 6, we’ll determine which 13 of the 26 candidates will sit on Amherst’s new Town Council. Should the candidates’ positions on these two votes influence which ones we support? Even though I strongly supported the new charter, opponents do not automatically lose my support. There are at least two anti-charter candidates who I think would be …

15

A lower limit on unrelated housemates

This guest post was written by Ira Bryck, Amherst resident and president of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley, also based in Amherst. When my family moved to Amherst in 1993, we were fully aware that it was a college town, and looked forward to that influence on our new home. Amherst is often considered among the best college towns in the nation, and this has much to do with a healthy balance between town and gown, and  protecting affordability for young families. My contention is that an over-abundance of student rental houses has put home ownership (or rentership) …

14

Moratorium on downtown development?

Darcy DuMont, a candidate for Town Council, has proposed a moratorium on approval of downtown development until new zoning can be enacted. DuMont, who did very well in last week’s preliminary election, is appealing to residents’ understandable unease over the rapid change in the visual landscape of the northern part of downtown Amherst. But there are many reasons why a moratorium is not the best way to address the issue. First, it’s probably illegal, and could cost taxpayers lots of money in lawyers’ fees when someone challenges it in court. Amherst did have a moratorium on new construction in the …

21

Election reflections: Women rule

If the results of the preliminary election yesterday hold true on Nov. 6, there will be 10 women and three men on the new Town Council. Combined with Mindy Domb’s landslide victory in the state representative primary and Jo Comerford’s write-in State Senate win, it was a good day for female candidates. Although only 31 percent of the candidates on the Town Council ballot were women, they received 42 percent of the votes. If District 1, where all four candidates are women, had needed a preliminary election, a greater percentage of the votes townwide would have gone to women. Four …