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A post-partisan future for Amherst

There’s been too much mistrust and partisanship in Amherst this year. As we approach an important election for our first Town Council, voters need to exercise informed judgment, debate should be civil and factual, and candidates should respect their opponents. When the Town Council is sworn in on Dec. 2, I hope the members can put aside the disputes over the charter and the elementary school project. On the big questions the Town Council will have to address – such as how to prioritize public building projects, how to spend taxpayers’ money, and what to do about downtown parking – …

18

‘I am not beholden to Amherst Forward because they endorse me’

This guest post was written by Shalini Bahl-Milne, a candidate for Amherst’s Town Council from District 5. It was written in response to a voter who questioned her endorsement by Amherst Forward. Thanks for this thoughtful note and your commitment to create an inclusive community. If you’ll permit me, I want to start by sharing my experience of being an immigrant mother who came to the US with a 7-year-old son. This was my first experience of being away from my close-knit family in a foreign culture, raising my son while pursuing my PhD. Between taking care of him and …

6

Roads, sidewalks, bridges, speed limits

Why are so many of Amherst’s roads in bad shape? Should we prioritize building new sidewalks or repairing old ones? Can we please lower this speed limit? And how long will the Station Road bridge be out? These questions were hurled at Town Manager Paul Bockelman Friday as 20 residents came to an informal meeting with him and Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring. While Town Council candidates answer questions about how they would prioritize large building projects, many residents care deeply about these smaller problems. In many cases, the decisions will come down to how the Town Council chooses to …

What qualities make a good councilor?

Early voting for the Nov. 6 election starts on Monday. Check this link for the times and places. A forum for all the candidates for Town Council is this Tuesday starting at 6 p.m. in the Regional Middle School auditorium, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Check this link to find out when you can listen to the candidates from your district. Here are some responses to the question, “What qualities will make for an effective Town Council member?” Feel free to add some in the comments section. From Ira Bryck: Calm, common sense, pragmatism without ideology, a quick …

6

Parking questions await answers

When the new Town Council is seated, it will address several downtown parking questions, from the enforcement time on meters to a possible second garage. But one parking issue the Select Board hopes to resolve soon is how many spaces will be lost when the area extending from the parking lot in front of Town Hall to Spring Street is turned into a more attractive space. The board may make a recommendation on the North Common project next Monday night, and hope that the Town Council ratifies it. The plans have gone through numerous public forums over the past five …

16

Candidate survey is helpful but incomplete

A helpful survey of Town Council candidates’ positions on important issues is now available online. The questions on the survey are specific and non-partisan, and the answers are revealing about the candidates. Unfortunately, only 15 of the 26 candidates responded to the survey by the deadline. That’s mostly because the survey was conducted by Amherst Forward, which had previously endorsed 14 of the candidates and formed a political action committee so it can raise money to inform voters. With three exceptions, the endorsed candidates responded to the survey and the unendorsed ones didn’t. Jim Pistrang and Steve Braun were not …

10

College students: bane or boon?

Some Town Council candidates and others have made statements that seem to demonize college students, asserting that the two new buildings downtown are “dorms.” This is a revealing misstatement. Dormitories are generally defined as housing that is owned by educational institutions and restricted to students. These two buildings are privately owned and include many non-students, so it’s more accurate to call them “apartment buildings.” It is revealing because the word “dorms” functions as a slur against a class of people who are regarded as fundamentally different from you and me. It creates a stereotype about a disfavored group. Many people …

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Candidates debate building projects

How should Amherst prioritize new buildings for the elementary schools, the Jones Library and the Fire and Public Works Departments? There was a plan to creatively finance all four projects, costing over $100 million, without significant tax increases. But that plan was disrupted by Town Meeting’s unwillingness to borrow money for a school project and the subsequent loss of $34 million in state assistance. Now what? That was the question Tuesday night for six candidates for three at-large seats on the new Town Council in the Nov. 6 election. Jim Pistrang said he rates a new fire station in South …