Progressive Coalition of Amherst Celebrates Increased Diversity Of Incoming Town Council, School Committee
Source: Progressive Coalition Of Amherst
In a statement issued Wednesday (11/3), The Progressive Coalition of Amherst (PCA) extended congratulations to those who were chosen on Tuesday to serve in our town government. PCA suggested that with three people of color winning election to the Council and with three of five seats on the School Committee going to people of color, the results indicate that Amherst is on its way to becoming the strong, diverse, and responsive democracy that many people desire. Full election results can be seen here.
Amherst’s incoming Town Council will have twelve women and one man and will provide broader representation than in the past in terms of political perspectives and racial composition.
“We are gratified to see that PCA’s efforts over the last several months to identify, recruit, and support progressive and diverse candidates had a significant impact,” said PCA Chair Pat Ononibaku. “We are also grateful for the groundswell of public support for our candidates, and our goal of building a more inclusive, vibrant local democracy in Amherst.”
The top vote-getter in the Town Council race was Ellisha Walker, a newcomer to elective politics with 3,164 votes, 64% of all voters in this election. A Black woman and mother of three, Walker is the co-chair of the Community Safety Working Group, (CSWG) which has recommended alternative public safety services and reforms to Amherst Police Department oversight.
“Ellisha’s popularity with voters indicates to us that our community is eager to make the major changes to emergency response services which the CSWG has recommended,” Ononibaku said.
PCA believes that Town Council newcomers Jennifer Taub (District 3) and Anika Lopes (District 4) will broaden the Council’s perspective and provide new insights as it grapples with critical issues such as improving public buildings and programs, creating appropriate zoning and affordable housing, and establishing a reparations program for Amherst’s Black heritage residents. PCA is also pleased that incumbent Dorothy Pam (District 3) will return to the Town Council for a second term, and is confident that she will provide fair, thoughtful and commonsense leadership going forward. Pamela Rooney (District 4), who declined endorsement by PCA to run as an independent candidate, will help the new Council make informed decisions regarding zoning and development.
PCA thanked Town Council candidates Vira Douangmany Cage and Vincent O’Connor for their efforts with the hope that they will continue their advocacy as private citizens for a more fiscally responsible, equitable and transparent local government.
PCA is excited for the ongoing diversification of the Amherst School Committee. PCA noted that Jennifer Page whom they endorsed, will bring much to the committee including her commitment to extensive community outreach on all critical decisions before the School Committee. PCA believes the School Committee will also benefit from incumbent Ben Herrington’s re-election, his collaborative spirit, and commitment to equal educational access for all students.
PCA is grateful that School Committee candidate Phoebe Merriam will continue to serve on the Elementary School Building Committee as a community member. Heather Lord, a School Committee incumbent who declined PCA endorsement, will continue her role with the Town’s African Heritage Reparation Assembly.
Ononibaku said the newly-elected progressive candidates will be strong advocates for the public by fighting to ensure that all Town Council and School Committee plans, and proceedings are fully transparent and responsive to public input.
“PCA, as a political action committee, was only founded a few months before the election,” stated Ononibaku. “We are very grateful for the support many have shown for our efforts. We look forward to being a continuing voice for progressive reforms in Amherst, and to engaging with local elected and appointed officials to broaden representation of all voices in decision- making.”
Ononibaku noted that the Amherst Sunrise Movement, made up of Amherst Regional High School students, played an important role in supporting progressive candidates. “These young people are well-informed, intelligent and thoughtful citizens, and we very much look forward to working with them in the future,” she said.
Note: PCA did not make endorsements in the uncontested Town Council races in Districts 1, 2 and 5.
For more information about PCA, visit www.coalitionamherst.org.