1

We’re deciding now, not in two years

Some opponents of Amherst’s new charter are advancing the argument that it’s “safe” to vote “no” on Tuesday because there can be a re-vote in two years. They claim that Town Meeting deserve a chance to reform ktself, and if it doesn’t do a good job, you’ll get another chance to vote “yes.” I believe this argument is misleading in several ways. First, if the “no” side wins a majority on Tuesday, there is no automatic trigger that brings it back for a second vote in two years. The only way a second vote happens is if 10 percent of …

18

Which campaign has the big donors?

The claim that supporters of Amherst’s new charter are beholden to Big Money has been exposed as a cynical messaging tactic. In fact, it is opponents of the charter who rely on large donations. Surprised? Just look at the numbers from the two sides’ 2018 campaign finance reports. They don’t lie. Of the $12,652 raised by Not This Charter and Vote No on the Charter, almost half of the money came from just nine large donors. Contributions under $50 made up just 16 percent of their fundraising. In contrast, Amherst for All, the pro-charter group, raised $15,702 from 234 donors, …

4

C’mon, Amherst, we’re better than this

When Amherst voters are asked to approve a new form of government March 27, they will also be asked to reject personal attacks and fear-mongering. The leaders of the “No” campaign, who are mostly Town Meeting members, have been using scare tactics and misleading statements for some time (See “Top Ten Questionable ‘No’ Arguments”). But they have descended to the kind of negative campaigning that you associate with national politics, not with Amherst. For those voters who are undecided about the charter, these tactics may convince them that the “no” campaign doesn’t deserve to win this vote. Even if you …

2

Checks and Balances – Revisited

The proponents of the status quo like to reference the federal government’s legislative, executive and judicial branches, then point to the proposed charter and claim it is flawed because there aren’t similarly separate branches. Well, guess what? Municipal government is not like the federal system.  For one thing, Amherst doesn’t have a judicial branch, and probably never will. The proposed council-manager system is the most widely used form of municipal government in the country for towns with 10,000 people or more. It is not some weird experiment. It dates back to Progressive-era reforms designed to balance professional management with elected …

8

What I love about Amherst isn’t at risk

So I got a postcard in the mail today. Maybe you got it too. It said the proposed charter “threatens everything we love about Amherst,” and that “everything you love about Amherst will be up for a vote.” And I thought, “Wow!” Is this what conversation in our town has devolved into? But beyond that, I wonder, what does the opposition think a council-manager structure threatens? Because I love a lot about Amherst, and most of what I love has nothing to do with the existence of Representative Town Meeting. I love the Community Fair. I love the Block Party …

3

Fear and Loathing in Amherst

This post is in two parts. First, Sarah Marshall writes that charter opponents are trying to frighten Amherst voters. Second, Nick Grabbe describes how opponent Michael Burkart tried to generate fear in Tuesday’s televised debate. Be afraid, be very afraid. That appears to be the Fox News-like strategy of the Amherst anti-charter groups – invent so many outlandish, terrible, what-if scenarios about Amherst’s future that sensible people are too alarmed even to read the proposed charter. I am reminded of my nights at summer camp, when we girls would tell horror stories in the dark – stories we knew were …

12

Top Ten Questionable ‘No’ Arguments

Opponents of Amherst’s new charter have put forward a series of questionable arguments to try to convince residents to vote to keep the status quo on March 27. In the spirit of David Letterman and Top 40 radio, I am counting them down here. 10. “Everything I love about Amherst is at stake.” If the charter passes, we will still have excellent teachers, dedicated public safety workers, abundant land protected from development, and a wide range of cultural opportunities. Amherst will still be Amherst. The biggest change is that we will have decision-makers who are accountable to voters and fully …

16

A Response to Jim Oldham’s Finance Concerns

UPDATED As usual, Jim Oldham’s recent Amherst Bulletin column forgets to compare the proposed charter to the current government structure. Why is that important? Because on March 28, Amherst will either still operate under the current system or will have adopted a new system. If something doesn’t exist in either system, Amherst won’t have it on March 28, no matter what. Why do I keep pointing this out? First, because Oldham, and many other charter opponents, keep arguing that the proposed charter doesn’t have a mayor. Guess what? Neither does the current system! If you vote “no,” you won’t have …

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 …

36

Scare tactics 4: Concentration of power

Opponents of governmental reform in Amherst claim that the new charter, which will be voted on March 27, reduces democracy by concentrating authority in a 13-member council. Unlike the other scare tactics we have exposed on this blog (rampant development, Big Money in politics and male domination of the council), this one at least sounds like it could be right. The charter does reduce the number of elected decision-makers from 240 (actually, 180, the average number of Town Meeting members who show up) to 13. But to claim that this is a reduction in democracy is misleading.  Democracy is all …