New Political Action Committee Forms In Amherst

Photo: Progressive Coalition of Amherst

Source:  Progressive Coalition of Amherst

A new political action committee, Progressive Coalition of Amherst, formed today (7/12) by filing with the Amherst town clerk’s office. The mission of Progressive Coalition of Amherst is to improve the lives of all community members by supporting progressive and diverse candidates for public office in Amherst.

“The vision of Progressive Coalition of Amherst is a town where elected bodies prioritize issues and causes that support the whole community, including working people and marginalized groups,” said committee treasurer Demetria (Dee) Shabazz, “and where elected bodies reflect the residents they represent. To that end, Progressive Coalition of Amherst will be governed by an Executive Board consisting of a majority of people of color.”

The inaugural Executive Board members are Pat Ononibaku, Jennifer Page, Dr. Demetria Shabazz, Allegra Clark, and Dr. Maria Kopicki.

The initial focus areas of Progressive Coalition of Amherst are:

  • Thoughtful planning and zoning policies to assure that development is designed to benefit the town and the community as a whole
  • Initiatives and programs to attract and support locally-owned small shops and restaurants
  • Transparency and fiscal responsibility by town government
  • Increasing the availability of affordable housing
  • Properly maintained roads and sidewalks for all modes of transportation
  • Sensible and well-informed spending for any municipal renovation or construction
  • Prioritizing public safety resources for mental health, addiction, and other social services, including fully funding the recommendations of the Community Safety Working Group
  • Robust reparations for Black residents
  • A well-crafted school budget that prioritizes the needs of students
  • Significantly reducing the town’s carbon footprint
  • A fully inclusive democracy, and protection of voting rights for all residents
  • Accessible social and cultural programs for the community

“We feel that the time is ripe in Amherst for a political action committee that truly supports progressive causes,” said committee chair Jennifer Page. “It is becoming more and more clear that town government is not only about zoning and development; it’s a venue where issues like racial equity, reparations for Black residents, police violence, and more, can be addressed. At the same time, we know that Amherst residents have been disappointed by the actions of our town government when it comes to development and zoning decisions in the downtown area. The work of Progressive Coalition of Amherst is to support candidates who will truly advance progressive issues and causes.”

Progressive Coalition of Amherst Executive Board Members

Pat Ononibaku is a business owner, social justice advocate and community organizer. She has served on the Fort River PGO Multi-Cultural Committee and the ARPS Special Education Parent Advisory Council Executive Board. In 2020, she was appointed to the Town’s Community Safety Working Group. She has been an Amherst resident since 1984.

Jennifer Page served on Town Meeting, the Socioeconomic Integration subgroup of the ARPS Enrollment Working Group, and the board of directors of the Amherst Education Foundation. Page is an officer in the Professional Staff Union at UMass Amherst. She has lived in Amherst since 2007.

Dr. Demetria Shabazz earned a Ph.D. in mass communication focused on race, class, and gender in the media, and teaches courses in community engagement, film, and social justice. She serves on the board of directors of Amherst Media. Shabazz is committed to creating a more inclusive and democratic culture.

Allegra Clark has a Master’s in Social Work with a certificate in Urban Leadership. She has held clinical social work positions working with substance use, housing, and the criminal legal system.  In 2021, she was appointed to the Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust. Clark is a graduate of Amherst Regional High School.

Dr. Maria Kopicki served on Town Meeting, the Special Education subgroup of the ARPS Enrollment Working Group, the Facilities Use Advisory Board (studying the middle and high schools), the Fort River School Building Committee, and the Crocker Farm Expansion Study Committee. She is also a frequent contributor to the Amherst Indy and has lived in Amherst since 1999.

How To Get Involved
The Progressive Coalition of Amherst invites the community to join them in their efforts  to bring about positive changes to Town government and help make Amherst a more vibrant community. They seek volunteers who would like to help with the following:

  • Fundraising
  • Candidate recruitment
  • Communications
  • Candidate support 
  • Canvassing 

Those interested in joining in this work can contact the Coalition at  ProgressiveCoalitionAmherst@gmail.com.


For more information see the group’s website at https://coalitionamherst.org/

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6 thoughts on “New Political Action Committee Forms In Amherst

  1. The repeated, vociferous condemnation of political action committees, the organizing of voters to promote particular candidates, on this website has always been misguided and unfair. But actually it was really always about only ONE group, Amherst Forward. I would argue to you we’ve had PACs in town since I arrived here in 1995, soliciting candidates quietly, meeting to plan Town Meeting legislative strategy, just not in any public way. Some Town Meeting members were in the loop, and some of us clearly weren’t. So the crying from this website about Amherst Forward has always seemed just a bit hypocritical to me.

    Well, now perhaps the formation of this new PAC will put an end to this nonsense. Go ahead, just declare “it’s only OK when WE do it” and let’s move on, perhaps to a more lively political debate in town…..if we can ever…..ever get to the substance.

    And we have a practical problem for this year: without ranked choice voting, voters shouldn’t be stuck inadvertently running candidates off against each other who agree with their vision of the future in town. So, with some public candor about what they do and do not want, not just bromides (and some of what I see above are bromides), two or more PACs COULD actually be of assistance to voters in making choices for the next two years. We’re stuck with the presentation of slates of candidates, but it might not be as bad as some might think.

    Let’s face it: we have two political tribes in town, and, as this extremely serene monolith of a website has demonstrated for years now, they don’t deal well with ANY internal conflict, even on things that matter. An engagement in a respectful space on the implications of the tribes’ competing visions, as opposed to hunkering down in respective echo chambers, would be good for the Town. But none of us, myself included, feel safe doing that, and I would submit that it’s close to unanimous. There isn’t a civilized, respectful space for that. Amherst Indy doesn’t provide it, which is why so few of us (on my side) read it with interest and without cringing on a regular basis. It’s a recreation room for a club.

    At some point, we really, really need to be intellectually honest with each other about the big picture stuff. If we can’t have growth in town, or if we take actions that choke off growth in town, how can we afford to pay for the services (and buildings) we want? The dilemma is imposed on us by Massachusetts law, which I think some folks have now been lulled into believing state-wide was wise policy from the outset. But, on the other hand, how much, and what kind of growth can we accommodate, year after year after year without eventually destroying some essential character of the Town (whatever THAT is)? I submit to you that these matters don’t get engaged here, not in the Bulletin, not YET in our political forums at election time, and perhaps not on some other blog or website that might arise, because we have two groups of political actors determined to be hermetically sealed off from each other.

    It’s a very bad situation, but I submit that the formation of a second PAC in town does NOT make it worse, just more above board.

  2. I was unaware that the Amherst Indy was a “recreation room for a club” and I have certainly read things with which I disagree? Has it failed to publish your opinions? Have you tried submitting articles as well as responses? Your piece here would, IMHO, be worth publishing more prominently.
    As for the view that “if we can’t have growth in town, or if we take actions that choke off growth in town, how can we afford to pay for the services (and buildings) we want?” I agree absolutely. And that is why I oppose much of the construction that has been going on. The approach favored by Amherst Forward will, IMHO, destroy our downtown, kill local retail and business development, and drive tax payers out of town, lowering property values and killing our schools (etc.).
    And I welcome a robust discussion with you, or anyone else, about these matters!

  3. Yes – happy to have the formation of of a new PAC. Thank you Richard Morse for writing your thoughts in this forum. I agree that having political action committees promoting candidates and issues is a good for our collective engagement. At this moment I see three BIG divisive issues: zoning and development, especially housing, the Jones Library and branch libraries, and the elementary schools. It is certainly not surprising that we are having a hard time building consensus, but we should try. At the foundation, we are is good agreement. I do believe that if we included all voices in our planning and policy formation from the earliest stages forward, we would craft plans that would be more broadly supported and would be executed on a far faster time scale. The schools renovations would have happened long ago, the Library would be already under construction and new existing housing option would be more plentiful and diverse. Realizing an improved practice of planning and policy formation will require more openness, more inclusion, and more participation at all stages.

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