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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 …

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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 …

4

On Tuesday, I’m voting for four women: Mindy, Jo, Mandi Jo and Alisa

Most of us are tired of reading lists of candidates’ strengths and recitations of their resumes. So I’m going to tell personal stories about four women I’m voting for on Tuesday, and maybe these stories will illustrate why they deserve your votes, too. Five years ago, Mindy Domb became director of the Amherst Survival Center, where I’ve been a receptionist and occasional meal server since I retired in early 2013. I was impressed that she personally performed every volunteer task, to learn how every facet of the Center operated, and also walked around the building listening to people. When Mindy …

13

Why the hatred of five-story buildings?

Amherst residents who complain about the new five-story buildings downtown could gain some perspective by considering their benefits. Then, if they still don’t like the appearance of these buildings, or what they represent, that’s OK. But they should balance these criticisms with an awareness of the positive impact of these buildings. And if this issue is going to be a part of the campaign for Town Council, let’s try to understand all the facts, and the alternatives. These buildings bring in lots of property taxes. Kendrick Place and Boltwood Place, the only two of these buildings that’ are currently open, …

4

Deciding among Town Council candidates

How should voters decide which five candidates for Town Council to support on Sept. 4? Should the key factor be whether or not they favored the new form of government? Whether they backed the proposal for new elementary schools? On Tuesday night, lots of voters showed up to listen to the candidates for district council. I attended three of the five simultaneous district meetings, and there were about 150 people in attendance, an impressive turnout for an August night. An excellent format devised by the League of Women Voters provided for both debate and informal contact with voters, and lots …

2

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 …