Letter: Democratic Failings Observed At This Week’s Town Council And Planning Board Meetings

Photo: Blue diamond gallery

I was concerned this week by two points of process regarding Amherst governance. 

Town Council
I was most upset by the lack of preparation for the Council’s vote on deciding polling places at the Monday, Aug. 3 Town Council Meeting. 

Lack of information on the deadline for this vote could have had a negative impact on voters, and clearly led to wasted time for this all-important decision as the Town Council spun its wheels trying to confirm the definition of 20 calendar days and then holding more votes. 

The Council should have been well aware of the final deadline for deciding on polling places weeks ago, if not longer. Why wasn’t this on someone’s calendar? I was especially upset when one council member apparently tried to excuse the way the process was unfolding saying the Town Clerk had worked hard. This is no doubt true, but this is no excuse for inconveniencing voters, and possibly inadvertently depriving them of the opportunity to vote. 

I’m wondering how those involved plan to avert such situations in the future.

Planning Board
I was dismayed and deeply concerned by the lack of civility and regard for democratic processes I observed when I tuned in to the end of the August 5 Planning Board Meeting.

Democratic procedures require agendas be made available in advance. Important decisions should be on the agenda. 

Though I appreciate the hard work of members of the community who step forward and undertake civic duty, I fear the derision and lack of civility I witnessed harm our community, and democracy in general. Who would want to serve on a body that conducts itself in this manner? I fear down the road this meeting style will result in participation only by members of the community who are motivated by personal interests, rather than those who are motivated by serving the community. 

Moreover, respectful and inclusive discussions are especially important at this juncture of history. There is growing awareness of the need for and the many advantages of introducing leadership styles that are more inclusive of diverse opinions from people of diverse backgrounds. My view is that without following clear democratic processes and without changing our leadership culture, members who perceive themselves as being excluded due to current systemic norms will not feel inclined to increase their participation. 

I hope in the future I will not witness meetings unbefitting of our town, and all the wonderful people who serve it.

Jocelyn  Ford

Jocelyn Ford is a resident of District 2

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