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Candidates debate building projects

How should Amherst prioritize new buildings for the elementary schools, the Jones Library and the Fire and Public Works Departments? There was a plan to creatively finance all four projects, costing over $100 million, without significant tax increases. But that plan was disrupted by Town Meeting’s unwillingness to borrow money for a school project and the subsequent loss of $34 million in state assistance. Now what? That was the question Tuesday night for six candidates for three at-large seats on the new Town Council in the Nov. 6 election. Jim Pistrang said he rates a new fire station in South …

2

Three candidates deserve a closer look

An ideal Town Council would include a healthy mix of new faces and old hands. Newcomers to town government bring fresh ideas and perspectives, while councilors with experience provide institutional memory and awareness of how things work. I’m impressed that capable newcomers such as Shalini Bahl-Milne, Evan Ross, Darcy DuMont and Pat DeAngelis did so well in the preliminary election Sept. 4. But I’m concerned that the qualifications of three candidates who didn’t do as well haven’t gotten enough attention. These three candidates possess valuable knowledge of  planning, zoning and finance, and this knowledge would provide solid foundations for many …

6

We supported the charter, and will work hard to move Amherst Forward

This guest post was written by Katherine Appy and Ginny Hamilton, co-chairs of Amherst Forward Last spring, with 58 percent of the popular vote in favor of a new town charter, voters made clear that the time for change in Amherst had arrived. Today our town is facing a critical moment in the transition to our new Town Council. We are in the process of choosing 13 fellow residents – three at-large councilors, and 10 district councilors – who will represent us on this inaugural council. Will our new Town Council succeed or flounder? The answer depends in part on …

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Should candidates’ votes on charter and school project influence who we support?

The two most far-reaching decisions Amherst has made in the last five years have been voters’ approval of a new form of government  and Town Meeting’s blockage of a plan to build two new elementary schools using $34 million in state money. On Nov. 6, we’ll determine which 13 of the 26 candidates will sit on Amherst’s new Town Council. Should the candidates’ positions on these two votes influence which ones we support? Even though I strongly supported the new charter, opponents do not automatically lose my support. There are at least two anti-charter candidates who I think would be …

15

A lower limit on unrelated housemates

This guest post was written by Ira Bryck, Amherst resident and president of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley, also based in Amherst. When my family moved to Amherst in 1993, we were fully aware that it was a college town, and looked forward to that influence on our new home. Amherst is often considered among the best college towns in the nation, and this has much to do with a healthy balance between town and gown, and  protecting affordability for young families. My contention is that an over-abundance of student rental houses has put home ownership (or rentership) …

14

Moratorium on downtown development?

Darcy DuMont, a candidate for Town Council, has proposed a moratorium on approval of downtown development until new zoning can be enacted. DuMont, who did very well in last week’s preliminary election, is appealing to residents’ understandable unease over the rapid change in the visual landscape of the northern part of downtown Amherst. But there are many reasons why a moratorium is not the best way to address the issue. First, it’s probably illegal, and could cost taxpayers lots of money in lawyers’ fees when someone challenges it in court. Amherst did have a moratorium on new construction in the …

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Election reflections: Women rule

If the results of the preliminary election yesterday hold true on Nov. 6, there will be 10 women and three men on the new Town Council. Combined with Mindy Domb’s landslide victory in the state representative primary and Jo Comerford’s write-in State Senate win, it was a good day for female candidates. Although only 31 percent of the candidates on the Town Council ballot were women, they received 42 percent of the votes. If District 1, where all four candidates are women, had needed a preliminary election, a greater percentage of the votes townwide would have gone to women. Four …

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On Tuesday, I’m voting for four women: Mindy, Jo, Mandi Jo and Alisa

Most of us are tired of reading lists of candidates’ strengths and recitations of their resumes. So I’m going to tell personal stories about four women I’m voting for on Tuesday, and maybe these stories will illustrate why they deserve your votes, too. Five years ago, Mindy Domb became director of the Amherst Survival Center, where I’ve been a receptionist and occasional meal server since I retired in early 2013. I was impressed that she personally performed every volunteer task, to learn how every facet of the Center operated, and also walked around the building listening to people. When Mindy …

13

Why the hatred of five-story buildings?

Amherst residents who complain about the new five-story buildings downtown could gain some perspective by considering their benefits. Then, if they still don’t like the appearance of these buildings, or what they represent, that’s OK. But they should balance these criticisms with an awareness of the positive impact of these buildings. And if this issue is going to be a part of the campaign for Town Council, let’s try to understand all the facts, and the alternatives. These buildings bring in lots of property taxes. Kendrick Place and Boltwood Place, the only two of these buildings that’ are currently open, …

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Deciding among Town Council candidates

How should voters decide which five candidates for Town Council to support on Sept. 4? Should the key factor be whether or not they favored the new form of government? Whether they backed the proposal for new elementary schools? On Tuesday night, lots of voters showed up to listen to the candidates for district council. I attended three of the five simultaneous district meetings, and there were about 150 people in attendance, an impressive turnout for an August night. An excellent format devised by the League of Women Voters provided for both debate and informal contact with voters, and lots …