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Let’s avoid rancor in charter debate

  Three months from today, Amherst voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of the proposal for a new form of government. Will we spend the next three months tearing each other apart, demonizing those we disagree with, indulging in anger, straining friendships, and giving voice to half-truths? Or will we have a respectful and fact-based debate about the benefits and trade-offs of each alternative? The choice is ours. As members of the Charter Commission’s majority, Mandi Jo Hanneke and I voted for the plan to replace the Select Board and Town Meeting with a 13-person Town …

5

On charter, much to be thankful for

This is the season for giving thanks, and those of us working to reform Amherst’s system of government have plenty of gratitude to spread around. First, there are the 2,039 people (60 percent of voters) who voted to create the Charter Commission on March 29, 2016. I am especially grateful to the 1,514 Amherst residents who voted to make me a member. I also give thanks that the 18-month Charter Commission marathon was a wide-open process, with ample time and opportunity for residents to express their opinions. The commission received 225 emails, and 188 residents lodged online comments. We held …

2

The year Town Meeting changed

There’s a common misconception that Amherst Town Meeting resembles that Norman Rockwell painting in which a regular guy stands up and says his piece. Actually, that form of Town Meeting hasn’t existed in Amherst for almost 80 years. Many neighboring towns have this type of “open” Town Meeting, which welcomes any resident and typically lasts one day, but Amherst gave that up in 1938. In later blog posts, we will  go into depth about Amherst’s 79-year-old “representative” Town Meeting. But for now, let’s go back to a time long before UMass expanded, when a proposal to change the form of …

Charter 101

  If you have trouble understanding the ins and outs of the proposal for a new form of government in Amherst, don’t worry. Here’s a guide to the basics of the proposal and how it was formulated, designed for residents who know little or nothing about it. Q. How did the campaign for a new form of government get started? A. Two years ago, a group of residents started circulating petitions to put on the ballot the creation of a Charter Commission. Q. Charter? Like in charter schools? A. No, it has nothing to do with charter schools. A town’s …