Amherst Connects: a community dialogue

We will have an opportunity on June 6 to move beyond the contentious politics surrounding the end of Town Meeting and the establishment of a Town Council. In an event called Amherst Connects, international peace activist Paula Green of Leverett will encourage residents with different opinions about the town’s new charter to talk with each other, with the goal of diminishing the polarization of the recent campaign. Co-facilitator Pat Romney of Amherst has led similar dialogues here before. Amherst Connects will take place in the Jones Library’s Woodbury Room on Wednesday, June 6, starting at 7:15 p.m.  Participants should use …

7

Reconciliation needed after today’s vote

At least three charter opponents have told Nick Seamon, owner of the Black Sheep Deli, that they will not patronize his business because of his public support for a “yes” vote. In my neighborhood alone, there are at least two households where couples are divided on the charter question. On one lawn on Cottage Street, there are both a “yes” and a “no” sign. I myself have seen long-standing friendships strained because of differences over the charter. I don’t know what the outcome of the vote will be as I write this today. But I do know that our beloved, …

3

Weighing Golf Courses and Public Safety

How do Cherry Hill Golf Course and public safety staffing relate to each other? At first glance, you might think they don’t. But, give it a closer look and one could argue that they do. We need a legislative body that can see the connection between them when making decisions. We need a governmental body that can connect issues brought in front of it to all facets of government. We need a legislature that can see the forest for the trees. Representative Town Meeting isn’t structured to do so. It is unable to consider individual proposals in the grand scheme …

11

Amherst’s Town Meeting Leaves 37,000 Residents Out in the Cold

Amherst’s Representative Town Meeting is not like the traditional idea many people have of town meetings — that Norman Rockwell painting, where anyone can stand up, speak and vote. That’s Open Town Meeting, and it’s pretty much only found in small towns – places like Pelham, Hadley, and Leverett. Let me give you an example: A few years ago, New Salem had a warrant article on whether to bring broadband access to the town. Friends of mine were really interested in seeing that happen. So, they showed up at Town Meeting and voted. They’d never showed up to a Town …

1

A Better Government for a Better Amherst

  Amherst is a pretty great place to live right now. So you may be asking yourself, why move away from Town Meeting? After all, it seems to have served Amherst well. My response: because Amherst can do better. And the proposed charter will move us in that better direction. Let’s first acknowledge that much of what we love about Amherst has little, if anything, to do with our Representative Town Meeting form of government. The summer farmer’s market, the Taste of Amherst, the Amherst Cinema, the fair on the Common, and Atkins Market. All of these beloved events and …

Council/manager is most popular in U.S.

  Amherst may seem like an island sometimes, but it’s not. People all across the country have wrestled with this question: “What’s the best system of local government for representing the people and making good decisions?” So what can we learn from looking outward, at how other communities govern themselves? First, the council/manager structure proposed in the new charter is the most popular form of local government in the country. Nationwide, it is used in more than half the communities with populations over 10,000. It governs about one-third of the U.S. population – over 105 million people. The council-manager form …

8

Not This Charter Amherst – Refuted

As fans of Hamilton will know, there is a point in the musical where Hamilton refutes Farmer Seabury as he barks from the top of a box: “Heed not the rabble who scream revolution, They have not your interests at heart.” Nick and I have already addressed all six of the opposition’s reasons to vote no. I summarize them here, and link to the more extensive posts. It’s your one-stop shop for answers. Reason #1: The Charter will “Eliminate Checks and Balances in Government.” It’s surprising to me that they even make this argument when the current system, the system …

4

How much will the new system cost?

While voters kick the tires of Amherst’s proposed Town Council system, it is natural that they want to know how much it will cost. Working with Town Manager Paul Bockelman, members of the Charter Commission studied this question. While some of the numbers we came up with are certainties, there are some that can only be estimated. But the bottom line is that while the new system will cost a little more than the current one, the difference will be inconsequential. The small increase will have little or no impact on property taxes, unlike many actions taken by Town Meeting. …

1

Comparing the Ballots

  You may be wondering, won’t the proposed Charter make the ballots longer? And won’t moving to bi-annual elections be less democratic? The answer to both questions is no. Why? Because, for elections, the current system is more complicated, less frequent for each official, and offers less accountability. In addition, the number of candidates on the ballot each spring is often the same or greater than what will happen under the proposed Charter. Why is the current system less frequent when elections are held yearly? Because each official only runs every three years. So, as a voter, you only get …

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 …