Letter: Vote The Bums Out!

Photo: istock

“Vote the bums out!” — an age-old sentiment, fitting even in an Amherst election. But first things first.

First, when you get your ballot, turn it over and if you have any foreboding about the Jones Library $35+ million demolition/expansion Ballot Question, fill the oval for NO . 

Having done that, on the front, go to Library Trustees to find the people who brought us the rampantly costly Jones Library demolition/expansion, six candidates for six positions, with no challengers. Get creative: find the six lines marked, “Write-In”, another age-old fitting role for the voter. There isn’t an organized Write-In campaign for specific trustee candidates, nevertheless, Write-In any residents you think could be dutiful, honorable, open-minded trustees in the full meaning and spirit of the word, as a protest of the six named. Be sure to fill in the ovals next to the Write-In names. 

To the top of the ballot for the councilor candidates. Most of the incumbent councilors voted for the demolition/expansion project; they bear their responsibility for this wasteful project. But wait. Here voters have the benefit of challenger candidates as well as endorsements by the new, needed, receptive, growing organization, Progressive Coalition of Amherst. It is forward-looking, energetic, intelligent, diverse in all ways, and takes positions and actions on behalf of the full community. “Our goal is to help Amherst government become more democratic and diverse.” 

Vote for no more than three Councilors-At-Large. PCA endorses: Viraphanh Douangmany Cage, Vincent O’Connor, Ellisha Walker. They are profoundly engaged in political-social activities and show the likelihood, as councilors, of working cooperatively with the total community for its betterment. Three District Councilor candidates (in districts 3 and 4) won endorsement of PCA: Dorothy Pam, Jennifer Taub, Anika Lopes. If your listed District Councilor candidates aren’t to your liking, do the good old Write-In again, for no more than two candidates in this category. 

For School Committee, PCA endorses three: incumbent Ben Herrington, and challengers Jennifer Shiao Page and Phoebe Merriam. Since five candidates are the maximum choices, there are still two opportunities to Write-In. Do it.

For Housing Authority, the clear stand-out is Michael Burkart, and for Elector, Oliver Smith Will, the same is true for Carol Gray. 

And there we have the 2021 ballot. But this letter wouldn’t be complete without a few comments about Amherst government under its new Charter. 

The Fatal Flaw 
The council has shown what many of us expressed before the charter election: the council has taken over two arms of a typical town’s or city’s government functions, legislative and executive, and balled them into one, without the kind of checks and balances that should apply. When the Amherst Council votes for the Jones demolition/expansion, or for a zoning bylaw change, how is it acting? Legislatively? Executively? Whichever, where is the balancing body with the other function? (Well, it doesn’t exist.) The two crushing votes by the council recently were for the Jones demolition/expansion and against the moratorium on the zoning bylaw change. When I wrote the council looking for support for the moratorium, I received emails from two councilors, Ms. Griesemer and Mr. Steinberg, both stating, without any explication whatsoever, that postponing a zoning bylaw change would take too long, and would work against the intent of the moratorium. What? Double-speak. I thought these replies were pretty vacuous from people who ought to know their full constituency. 

Taking a cue from Ira Bryck, here are some guideposts for voting. Do your councilor choices fill the bill?

   Take interest in what our community wants in downtown and neighborhoods, be truly representative, pay scrupulous attention to the total community that elected you.

   Student housing needs to be maintained, but not overpriced, not overstuffed, not driving prices up beyond what a family can buy or rent. Affordable housing cannot be at $1,700 per month per 1-bedroom apartment.

   Decisions on major projects are more acceptable when involving the wisdom and experience of community members.

   A petition with 1,000 signatures for a 6-month moratorium to plan sensibly should be thoroughly discussed with full public participation.

   Support inclusion, diversity, affordable housing, ideas of the public, cautious spending, tax relief for the average taxpayer.

   Formulate sound policy to deal with the climate emergency; all buildings, public and private, should have green energy provisions, solar panels on all new buildings plus retrofitting for existing buildings, solar canopies over parking lots, and more. 

   New buildings in the center should be 3-4 stories, not 5-6 stories, and be well-built, attractive in design, with ample setbacks and landscaping, and have parking, and similar amenities.

   Taxpayers need relief from high-priced capital projects and over-priced planners, consultants and other interests. 

Martha Spiegelman

Martha Spiegelman is a resident of Amherst

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.