Here at the Indy we are quite excited about our new Issues & Analyses feature, which takes a deep dive into issues facing our community and encourages us to become better informed and to undertake discussion and debate about those issues.
We kicked off the series with Gerry Friedman and Maral Asik’s three-part contribution on revenue, taxes, and downtown development. The first installment, Economics In A College Town, which looked at the relationship between housing development, schools, and tax revenues, was the second most-read article in the Indy in 2021 with over 600 unique hits. It provoked a lot of discussion that we think has enriched and elevated the intense, ongoing conversations on downtown development. The article was the first of a three-part series and I’m sorry to say that far fewer people returned for the second two installments. The second installment, If We Build it Will They Come? explored why downtown Northampton is so much more vibrant and apparently more of a shopper and tourist destination than Amherst, and what can we learn from that comparison. With all of the heated chatter circulating about what our downtown needs, this piece is really a must-read, whether you agree with the authors or not. The third piece , Promoting Creative Economic Development In Amherst, discusses how towns can help local businesses to thrive, thereby enhancing the vibrancy of the town.
Two weeks ago we began posting a series of primers on zoning issues. Zoning is complicated and most folks find its intricacies make for pretty dry reading. Nonetheless, zoning touches many aspects of our daily lives, impacting where and how we live, where and how we shop, and where and how we park. Suzannah Muspratt and Kitty Axelson-Berry have endeavored to provide us with accessible introductions to various aspects of zoning policy and practice. Reading these primers will not make you an expert on zoning, but they will likely make meetings of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Historical Commission, and Community Resources Committee much more intelligible.
Last week, Suzannah Muspratt provided a thoughtful piece that frames the concerns about the ongoing and future development of North Pleasant Street, not in terms of inflammatory polarizing rhetoric, but in terms of a civic challenge that can be addressed creatively. If you missed it last week, I encourage you to go back and check it out.
This week, Kitty Axelson-Berry introduces us to the expansive work of the planning board.
We plan to offer more of these primers, which we think of as a kind of Municipal Governance 101 course. If there’s a topic you would like to see us cover, drop us a note at email@example.com
New Column on Creative Economies Coming in August
We’re pleased to announce that UMass anthropologist Boone Shear and his colleagues will begin a bimonthly column beginning in August on the solidarity economy and creative economic undertakings to be found throughout the Valley. Shear writes that ” the column will feature stories, essays, commentaries, interviews, and reflections that are intended to show or demonstrate examples of community or municipal level projects that exceed the prescribed limits of capitalist modernity. What might be possible if we look around rather than look ahead (if we think about well-being, rather than development and growth, as a path to well-being)? These stories might focus on what already exists in our own backyard, or they might be elsewhere in time and space, though we will certainly feature the many that currently exist in our own backyards.”
Seeking Writers For New and Established Beats
The Indy seeks writers to join us for all manner of writing assignments. We call on our readers to help us in keeping our community informed and civically engaged. We are looking especially for writers to help us cover three important beats. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to learn more.
Food and Agriculture: We seek one or more writers to cover a broad range of stories in this category including food insecurity, mobile and farmers’ markets, food policy, CSAs, regenerative agriculture, food and sustainability, local farming, Town Ag Commission, etc.
Finance: We seek a reporter with financial know-how to be the primary reporter for Finance Committee meetings (currently scheduled on alternate Tuesday afternoons) and to support/supplement the work of our other financial reporter, Toni Cunningham.
Investigative: We have a pile of potential investigative pieces seeking an investigator. If you like filing public records requests and excavating old correspondence, you might be interested in this beat.
The Indy Is Not Just For Weekends Anymore
While most of you read the Indy on Saturday morning, you should know that there has been so much breaking news in town recently that we have been posting new content nearly daily. When we do, we add a link to that new content at the top of our table of contents (What’s In This Issue) in a new section called “Breaking News” (just under the subhead, What’s In This Issue). So why not include a quick visit to the Indy with your daily morning coffee. You can easily check in with “What’s In This Issue,” which is the first item to appear on your screen (if you read us on your phone) to easily see if there is new news.
Most of our readers do not subscribe to our free service which puts a digest of the week’s headlines in your inbox every Saturday morning. While we had roughly 29,000 page views in May, we only have 965 subscribers receiving the free digest. We’d like to push that number to over 1,000 by the end of June. Can you help us recruit some new readers/subscribers? As our regulars know, we won’t share your email address with anyone, nor will we fill your inbox with junk. Folks can subscribe here or they can send us a request at email@example.com and we’ll take care of the rest.
Thanks for reading,