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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 …

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What Amherst Wants – Themes the Commission Heard

Amherst residents know what they want in their government. And, they know what they don’t. The Charter Commission’s job was to find the common themes in all the comments, emails, and questionnaire answers we received. Then, the Commission needed to take those themes, turn them into principles for government and propose a system that best meets them. So, what are the themes that we heard, as voiced by Amherst’s residents? Well, residents want to avoid “big money” in politics, which we came to learn means supporting a government where campaigns don’t cost a lot of money and the winner isn’t …

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 …

Did we listen?

225 Emails. 188 Online Comment Form Submissions.  56 Meetings. 14 Listening Sessions. 10 Handwritten Comments. 2 Public Hearings. 2 First Day Celebrations. 1 Block Party. And that’s just what’s documented.  There are the uncountable conversations each of the 9 of us has had when stopped in town, emails sent to only a few commissioners, questions asked and answered at the local coffee shop, and many other, too numerous to tally. When the Charter Commission first met, we agreed we wanted feedback. We wanted to hear from you, the people who would be governed under any proposal we might have—what works, what …