Many voices saying ‘yes,’ Part 3

This is the last in a series of three posts recalling memorable quotes from “yes” supporters. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

“In one depressing way, our town is just like the rest of the nation: We’re having trouble with this democracy thing…People at Town Meeting make choices based on gut feelings about right and wrong, regardless of whether those impulses are conflicting. I still love living here but worry that we are becoming ungovernable.” (Charles Mann, author of “1491” and other books)

“On average, a board that knows the details well enough to be able to carefully consider the issues is going to be right more often than a Town Meeting that does not.” (Rick Hood, former Regional School Committee chair)

“I have lived in Amherst for 11 years and, despite trying, I still can’t quite figure out how to have a meaningful voice in town government here.” (Sarah Goff)

“Status quo defenders are trying to use the two new buildings downtown to scare people about rampant development under the new system. Whatever you think about those buildings, it’s pretty clear that they were built under our current Town Meeting model. These developers cracked the code – they figured out how to build big buildings downtown, under the current system, and yet we have no clear plan for what we want downtown to look like!” (Andrew Churchill)

Town Meeting rules restrict deliberation to a sequence of disconnected and wide-ranging individual statements, with little opportunity for in-depth response, follow-up questions and a chance for all members to speak.” (Peter Demling)

“John Fox is owed thanks for his dedicated service to the town. But the fact that someone can be a Town Meeting member for three decades is itself a symptom of the problem.” (Meredith Michaels)  

“Personal enjoyment and sentimentality are not sound principles on which to choose a system of government.” (Jim Wald, Select Board)

Many current Town Meeting members, including staunch defenders of the status quo, proudly say that they do not represent any view or constituency other than their own. If that is the case, then perhaps the best name for our current system is closed Town Meeting.” (Matt Blumenfeld)

The floor of Town Meeting isn’t structurally able to deal with the discussion that’s necessary to lead to compromise legislation. You can’t amend items on the floor to the degree necessary. You can’t have a true deliberative conversation on the floor.” (Mandi Jo Hanneke)

Maybe Town Meeting used to be a responsible deliberative body, but in the 5 years I have lived here, it has a developed a cancer at its heart… a cancer of a small mean-spirited group of firmly entrenched power brokers who game the system in secret.” (Brian Scully)

Amherst is awesomely unique in female representation on town-wide elected boards and committees. That won’t change because there’s a Town Council.” (Mandi Jo Hanneke)

The proposal for a new form of government in Amherst is not radical. It is not a coup, not a revolution, but rather a sensible reform that will make decision-makers more responsive to residents. “ (Nick Grabbe)

In a truly representative Town Meeting model, our current demographics would translate to at least 70 of our 240 Town Meeting members who are non-white, 86 living below the poverty level, and 65 who speak English as a second language.” (Alex Lefebvre, Jones Library trustee)

“Town Meeting succeeded in preventing a real parking garage from being built and the result is that there is still inadequate parking and a lack of foot traffic downtown.” (Audrey Child)

“In making town representatives more accessible and accountable, and by increasing voter turnout in local elections, the town charter modernizes and strengthens Amherst democracy.” (Evan Ross)

“Being able to easily identify and contact my Town Council representatives with questions and comments is more constructive and less frustrating than the alternative.” (Angela Russo)

“The composition of Town Meeting differs from Amherst as a whole: for example, the average age of its members is greater than the Amherst average, and members are more likely to be white and own a home.” (Kendra Brown)

Amherst faces a financial squeeze. If we continue to pass up opportunities to get revenue from sources other than residents, it is inevitable that we will continue to have high residential taxes, tight budgets and difficulty funding major projects.” (Nick Grabbe)



Comments 1

  1. I grew up in Colorado but slowly gravitated back to my father’s roots in Massachusetts. Fifty years ago I started my first teaching job and witnessed my first Town Meeting in a small community in Vermont. Thirty years ago I was managing NEH grants for programs in public libraries to build civic virtue amongst New England citizenry. Five years ago I moved to Amherst, and its Town Meeting system convinced me I was home, home at last! Alas, as Thomas Wolfe once said, “You can’t go home again.” Along with so many other harsh realities that come with so many birthdays, the fact that we have outgrown our TM is a tough truth to accept, but I take heart in the feeling that my “Yes” vote is also a “No” to the fatuous idea that we are Making America Great Again by pretending the world has not changed. Amherst TM is not the little piece of history I witnessed in 1967. It too has gained weight and lost its balance. Yes, I will feel a little melancholy and old when I go to the polls on Tuesday, but yes, I will be voting for the future, not the past.

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