This guest post was written by Katherine Appy and Ginny Hamilton, co-chairs of Amherst Forward
Last spring, with 58 percent of the popular vote in favor of a new town charter, voters made clear that the time for change in Amherst had arrived. Today our town is facing a critical moment in the transition to our new Town Council. We are in the process of choosing 13 fellow residents – three at-large councilors, and 10 district councilors – who will represent us on this inaugural council.
Will our new Town Council succeed or flounder? The answer depends in part on how we as residents engage with our councilors to support constructive, measured, and creative change. That’s why many of us who advocated for the new charter and the co-located elementary schools have chosen to organize as a political action committee called Amherst Forward.
We worked hard to convince our friends, neighbors, and family members that the move to a Town Council was the right step for the future of the town we love. Now we feel a responsibility to help make the Council the responsive, informed, progressive decision-making body our town expects and deserves. Doing so will require helping voters stay engaged about the important issues that will come before this new governing body.
Over the next few weeks, we will share candidates’ public positions on issues we believe are of special importance to the town, based on all the conversations we had with our fellow residents as we called them and knocked on their doors this past winter. Those issues are:
Thoughtful, environmentally responsible development;
A broader tax base to curb our well-documented over-reliance on property taxes;
The best possible schools and town services;
Protected open spaces and more clean energy;
Affordable housing for all;
A long-term, strategic plan for the town’s future, including how to pay for new school buildings by 2025, library renovation and modernization, a new fire station, and a new home for the Department of Public Works.
That’s an ambitious agenda for any governing body, especially one that is brand-new. That’s why we support candidates who represent a diverse mix of new energy and veteran insights into the functioning of our town government. Whether or not Amherst’s Town Council succeeds in addressing these issues also depends in part on the people we elect to become our first town councilors.
We will not conduct fundraising activities on behalf of individual candidates, nor will we contribute financially to their campaigns.
Some may try to manufacture controversy over the mere fact that our group exists, drawing from the same predictable line of accusations, misinformation, fear, and innuendo deployed throughout the debate on whether or not to support the new charter. So be it. We are proud to support a progressive, positive, smart future for the town we love, which Amherst residents were hoping for when they voted to support the charter – and we will organize accordingly. In fact, we view it as our civic duty.
We are thrilled to see such a strong, motivated field of competitors vying to join the Town Council, and look forward to engaging with them regarding our core principles. All Town Council elections will be significant, but this one has special importance. Thank you for being engaged and excited by this next phase of our town’s representative democracy.
Katherine Appy was chair of the Amherst School Committee for five years and served on Town Meeting for seven years. Three of her children went through the Amherst Regional Public Schools. She is a clinical psychologist in private practice, and Katherine and her family moved to Amherst in 2006.
Ginny Hamilton spent more than 20 years in campaign organizing and policy advocacy, primarily regarding housing, homelessness, and civil rights. She and her family moved to Amherst in 2012 because of our excellent public schools and engaged community. Her son attends Crocker Farm School.