Mandi Jo Hanneke
So I got a postcard in the mail today. Maybe you got it too. It said the proposed charter “threatens everything we love about Amherst,” and that “everything you love about Amherst will be up for a vote.”
And I thought, “Wow!” Is this what conversation in our town has devolved into? But beyond that, I wonder, what does the opposition think a council-manager structure threatens?
Because I love a lot about Amherst, and most of what I love has nothing to do with the existence of Representative Town Meeting.
I love the Community Fair. I love the Block Party sponsored by the Business Improvement District. I love the Norwottuck Rail Trail, owned by the Commonwealth. I love the Taste of Amherst organized by the Chamber of Commerce.
I love the eateries in Town: Atkins Farms (especially their cider donuts), Glazed Donut Shop and Insomnia Cookies, the Black Sheep, among so many others in town.
I love the variety of cultural places we have: Mead Art Museum, Beneski Natural History Museum, Eric Carle Museum, Amherst Cinema, and the Fine Arts Center.
None of these things I love about Amherst is a result of the existence of Representative Town Meeting.
Then there are events and locations that do involve government: Amethyst Brook and all the other conservation land and trails. Mill River and Groff Park. Jones Library. Winterfest. Fourth of July at UMass. But these parks, trails, and events don’t exist solely because of Amherst’s Representative Town Meeting.
Do the opponents really think that parks, trails, and events like Winterfest are threatened if we adopt a Council-Manager charter? I know I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t support it.
So why the alarmist view that everything I love is at risk? I truly don’t know. A rational debate about the benefits and drawbacks of a Council-Manager system, versus the benefits and drawbacks of the Representative Town Meeting system we have now, is possible without the scare tactics.
So, please, don’t be swayed by the opposition’s excessive fear-mongering. Everything we love about Amherst isn’t at risk. It’s not threatened and it’s not up for a vote.
What is up for a vote on March 27 is the relationship each of us has with our elected representatives in Town government. Do we want a relationship where we don’t truly have a say in who they are, and they don’t have to heed our wishes? Or do we want a relationship with our representatives where they are accountable to us, seek out all of our opinions, and give a voice to all of us, no matter what time limitations we have?
I believe that a Yes vote creates a better Amherst — one where the government gives voice to all us, not just the privileged 254 who happen to have the 40+ hours a year to be in Representative Town Meeting.