This is the season for giving thanks, and those of us working to reform Amherst’s system of government have plenty of gratitude to spread around.
First, there are the 2,039 people (60 percent of voters) who voted to create the Charter Commission on March 29, 2016. I am especially grateful to the 1,514 Amherst residents who voted to make me a member.
I also give thanks that the 18-month Charter Commission marathon was a wide-open process, with ample time and opportunity for residents to express their opinions. The commission received 225 emails, and 188 residents lodged online comments. We held 14 listening sessions, and received many in-person comments at the 56 commission meetings.
I am grateful to all of my eight fellow commission members, especially Chair Andy Churchill, who ran the meetings fairly while dealing with a demanding work schedule; Vice Chair Mandi Jo Hanneke, who has the best grasp of the details of the charter; Irv Rhodes, who was a key member in the decision to recommend a town manager; and Tom Fricke, a calming influence who had a knack for getting to the essence of an issue.
I also want to thank commission member Gerry Weiss. Although he disagrees with me about the charter and the importance of elections, Gerry was always forthright about where he stood.
I want to thank the 28 people I met with individually, including numerous defenders of the current system. Counting my private meetings with commission members, I contributed to the finances of Amherst’s coffee shops more than 70 times.
I am grateful to the leaders of Amherst for All, especially Johanna Neumann, Clare Bertrand and Jerry Guidera, and to the volunteers who are already canvassing Amherst’s neighborhoods collecting pledges of support for the new charter.
I am grateful to former State Rep. Ellen Story for her support.
I would also like to express my appreciation to those opponents of the charter who take their Town Meeting commitment seriously and believe in civil, respectful disagreement. Chris Riddle, Michael Greenebaum, Alice Swift, Adrienne Terrizzi, Gabor Lukacs and John Hornik are among the conscientious Town Meeting members who defend it responsibly. Rich Morse said that if Town Meeting was composed of 240 Alice Swifts, he just might favor continuing it.
I would like to thank Mandi, my partner on this blog, who agreed to take on this project after the 18 grueling months of commission meetings. I also want to thank the readers of this blog (904 users and 3,587 page views so far).
I am also grateful that we live in such a wonderful town, and that we have an opportunity to make our governmental system more democratic.