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School maintenance costs provide evidence that Town Meeting is failing us

It’s not what Town Meeting has done that’s the problem. The problem is what it hasn’t, can’t or won’t do. The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s recent article, “Amherst faces big bills for upkeep of schools,” is maddening, partly because it’s so predictable. Those of us who supported the school buildings project wanted to provide our children and their teachers with safe, healthy, up-to-date buildings that are conducive to learning. We warned, over the course of a long campaign to merely convince our town to accept $34 million in state matching funds, that the costs of delaying would be significant.  We didn’t …

6

Town Meeting and our core values

The writer of this guest post worked in the Amherst Planning Department from 1997 to 2007 and coordinated the Master Plan process. He is now senior physical planner at UMass. So many times over the past 20 years I have wanted to hold up a big mirror in Town Meeting. I’d like to ask members to take a good look at themselves. I call the Town Meeting system a Tyranny of Those with Time. Members do not fully recognize that their goals are shared by many of us, but they don’t understand how to sustain them financially. That lack of …

6

Sandy Pooler on Town Meeting, charter

  Sandy Pooler earned a lot of respect among Amherst residents during the five years he spent at Town Hall as finance director. Two years ago, he left to become deputy town manager in Arlington, but he still keeps an eye on what’s happening in Amherst. I spoke to him recently about the charter campaign. Even though Pooler no longer lives in Amherst, he made a contribution to Amherst for All, the pro-charter organization. I asked what he thought about the proposal for a 13-member Town Council to replace Town Meeting and the Select Board. “A smaller group of people …

Kay Moran: Why I support new charter

Before retiring in 2003, I covered Amherst’s Town Hall and Town Meeting for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I have been a member of Town Meeting since 2005 (also for three years in the early 1970s), and I served on the  Finance Committee for 12 years and chaired it for three. So I have a pretty good understanding of how Amherst’s Representative Town Meeting works. It is not representative of the town’s residents, as anyone watching a session can see. Proportionately, there are many more white heads and white faces – including mine – than in the general population. It doesn’t …

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Dr. Kate Atkinson on why she’ll vote ‘yes’

This guest post was written by Dr. Kate Atkinson, an Amherst primary-care physician. When I first moved to Amherst, nearly 20 years ago, I liked the idea of Town Meeting. It seemed a way to make sure that every voice was heard. But when I had occasion to attend, I was discouraged to see how ineffective it was. There were complicated issues to discuss, and TM members didn’t seem to have read the materials but rather mostly commented on what other people said. When I decided to build a new doctors’ office in town, I was truly appalled at how …

5

Peter Demling urges ‘yes’ vote on charter

This guest post was written by Amherst School Committee member Peter Demling. I encourage you to join me on March 27 in voting Yes for the new town charter. It is the most positive thing we can do for the future of our town and our schools. The charter provides us with two key elements missing in our government today: a structure to ensure informed decision-making, and a direct line of clear accountability to the general public. The need to improve how informed our decision-makers are became apparent last year during the Town Meeting discussion and vote on the school …

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An insider’s view of Town Meeting

This critique of Town Meeting comes from a longtime Town Meeting member. Some people view Town Meeting as the only defense against their neighborhood being ruined. Do they outnumber the people and their friends who have served in Town Meeting, know how bad the process is, and swear to have nothing to do with it the rest of their lives? We’re going to find out. In the next four months, we’re going to learn whether political forces in Amherst have placed the Town in permanent gridlock, essentially under glass as a museum piece, or a theme park for elderly people, …