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Q&A on preliminary election Sept. 4

The first election for Amherst’s new Town Council is coming up in a little over two weeks, on Sept. 4. Here are some questions and answers about this “preliminary” election. Q. Now that the town is divided into five districts instead of 10 precincts, where will I vote? A. You will vote in the same place you have always voted. Click here for the locations. The precinct lines still exist with respect to polling places. Here’s a map of the district and precinct lines and polling places. Q. Will there be a preliminary election for Town Council members in all …

One endorsement for Town Council

There are many excellent candidates for Amherst’s new Town Council, but only one I feel qualified to endorse. If you have met Mandi Jo Hanneke, or heard her speak, you may not need me to tell you why she should be part of the Town Council. But if you’ve seen her lawn signs and said “Mandi Jo?” let me tell you about my two years of working closely with her. Here’s a link to her video statement, and here’s a link to her campaign web site. I have never worked with anyone who possessed such a combination of brainpower, industriousness, …

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A big change: All Amherst voters can choose their representatives

This fall, 100 percent of Amherst voters will be able to choose among multiple candidates as they elect the 13 members of the new Town Council. This level of voter choice is completely new in Amherst. Over the past 11 years, only 5 percent of voting precincts have had this much choice among candidates for Town Meeting. Voter choice among Select Board and School Committee candidates has been declining. With our new form of government, Amherst is empowering voters to make decisions between candidates based on their experience, character and positions on issues (and other criteria). There will be four …

Here’s final list of Town Council candidates

The 33 candidates who filed signatures to run for Town Council by the deadline are listed below. Candidates will appear on the ballot in the Sept. 4 preliminary election for the three at-large seats and in four of the five districts. Only in District 1 will candidates not appear on the ballot, as there are only four of them. In the Nov. 6 general election, there will be six candidates on the ballot for at-large seats and four for each district (that is, twice the number of Town Council members). The governor has signed a special act that will allow …

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34 consider running for Town Council

A total of 34 Amherst residents have taken out nomination papers for the new 13-member Town Council. Fifteen of them have collected the signatures they need to put their names on the ballot for the Sept. 4 preliminary election and filed them with the town clerk. The others have until this coming Friday, June 29, at 5 p.m. to file their signatures. Voters will get a chance to meet the candidates for the 10 district councilor seats at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and scheduled for Aug. 21. Candidates for the three at-large seats will meet …

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Is Amherst’s school system really racist?

Does Amherst, one of the most progressive communities in Massachusetts, have a public school system that is racially biased? I ask this question as the white father of children who were in the system for 19 years (1985-04) and as the newspaper reporter covering the Amherst schools for five years (2008-13). The question arose after Superintendent Mike Morris declined to hire two finalists for the Regional Middle School principal position, who were people of color recommended by a search committee, and instead asked the white interim principal to stay on next year while a new search takes place. As the …

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Limits to campaign donations: good idea but bad timing

Imposing a limit on contributions to candidates is an appealing idea. We don’t want our new Town Council to be as corrupted by money as the U.S. Congress is. But I think the Select Board should heed the advice of the Town’s attorneys and reject calls for a special Town Meeting to establish limits on donations before the Town Council is seated. Meg Gage served on the Charter Commission with me and opposed the recommendations that were overwhelmingly approved by voters on March 27. She is organizing a petition drive to call a special Town Meeting to limit individual contributions …

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Two bipartisan charter events coming up

In the next 10 days, there will be two public events at which both sides of the charter campaign can come together and talk about the future of our town. Each event has been organized by two members of the Charter Commission, on opposite sides, in a spirit of bipartisanship. Gerry Weiss and I have been involved in planning a community dialogue at the Jones Library next Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. And on June 12, Meg Gage and Tom Fricke will lead a discussion of the fine points of the new charter at 7 p.m. in the Bangs Community Center. …

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Election schedule and ‘normal noise’

Two months after an election in which Amherst overwhelmingly decided to adopt a new form of government, a small group of diehard Town Meeting members have sought a delay in the Town Council election, which would result in extra burdens for voters and diminished voter participation. Four of them went to Boston Wednesday to challenge the schedule for the election of Amherst’s first 13-member Town Council. They told a Legislative committee that the schedule would discriminate against students, even though the alternative schedule would make students less likely to vote. Also appearing before the committee Wednesday were Andy Churchill and …

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Should boards restrict public comment?

This guest post was written by Rick Hood, who was a member of the Amherst School Committee from 2010 to 2016 and chair of the Regional School Committee from 2010 to 2012. In a town where only the H is silent, what is “acceptable” public comment? An issue that came up a few times when I was on the School Committee was how to handle critical public comment directed at people, as opposed to policy, program or process. The issue came up again at the May 22 meeting of the Regional School Committee, where many had come to comment on  …