TSO Recommends Town Adopt Civilian Responder Agency And Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion Department


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Report On The Meeting Of the Town Services and Outreach Committee, December 10, 2021

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded.

The meeting consisted of four separate meetings, including two public forums. These were, in the order that they were conducted:

  • A joint meeting of the Town Council and the Town Services and Outreach Committee (TSO) for the presentation of a primer/information session on the town manager’s reorganization plan to create an Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and a new agency, Community Responders For Equity Safety and Service (CRESS)
  • A public forum on the town manager’s Reorganization plan for CRESS
  • A public forum on the town manager’s reorganization plan for DEI
  • A regular TSO meeting 


  • The Town Council postponed, until December 20, votes on the mixed use building amendment and the rezoning of the lot on North Prospect Street to create a parking facility overlay district. This was the second postponement of these votes, this time, following a request of four town councilors under a provision in the town charter.
  • Attendees heard a comprehensive report from the Town Manager on his reorganization plan to create a new town agency (CRESS) and a new town department (DEI). The Town Manager and Members of the CRESS implementation team responded to questions about the plan from the Town Council as well as questions that had been raised in the course of program design.
  • Substantial public comment was offered in support of CRESS, DEI, and the now discontinued Community Safety Working Group (CSWG)
  • TSO endorsed unanimously the town’s adoption of the Town Manager’s reorganization plan that includes the creation of CRESS and a DEI department.
  • TSO adopted a motion supporting changes in the public way from Hallock Street to North Pleasant Street

In addition to members of the Town Council, the following town officials were present:

Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Finance Director Sean Mangano, Human Resources Director Donna Rae Kenneally, Police Chief Scott Livingstone, Fire Chief Tim Nelson, and members of the Community Safety Working Group and CRESS implementation team Brianna Owen, Ellisha Walker, Russ Vernon-Jones, and Jennifer Moyston. Twenty-three members of the public attended.

Primary Information Session On CRESS And DEI / Joint Meeting Of Town Council And TSO

Votes on two zoning bylaw amendments, the mixed use building amendment and the parking facility overlay district, were scheduled for this meeting, but four councilors, Darcy DuMont (District 5), Dorothy Pam (District 3), Cathy Schoen (District 1) and Sarah Swartz (District 1), requested a postponement under a provision of Section 2.10 (c) of the town charter that allows a vote to be postponed following a request by four town councilors. The vote is now slated to take place at the council meeting scheduled for December 20. This is the second postponement of the vote on those amendments. The previous postponement followed a request from DuMont at the Town Council meeting of December 6, under Section 2.10(c) of the town charter, allowing a single councilor to postpone a vote once until the next scheduled meeting.

The council heard a comprehensive report from Town Manager Paul Bockelman on his reorganization plan to create a new town agency, the Community Responders For Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) program, a civilian response alternative to police officers, and a new town department for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The DEI department which will be charged with 

developing, recommending, and implementing a strategic plan that will advance a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture for the town and establish priorities that provide opportunities to build diversity and inclusive practices into the town’s operations. The office will review town policies, procedures, bylaws, values, goals, and missions through an equity lens to foster an unbiased, anti-racist, and inclusive environment. For purposes of this office, equity is meant to include race, ethnicity, physical ability, LBGTQIA+ identity, age, and socio-economic status as examples, but is intended to be inclusive of all people. 

The full PowerPoint presentations can be viewed here (for CRESS) and here (for DEI). The final plan can be read here. A job description for the DEI director can be found here. The PowerPoint includes answers to a number of anticipated questions about the program. Details about funding, staffing, and the implementation timelines can be found in the aforementioned presentations and reports. The timeline for CRESS anticipates hiring a director by January, and hiring and training community responders by the end of April. The program is expected to be launched in the spring as a 24/7 operation.

Questions And Concerns

Questions posed by councilors focused mostly on budget issues. Councilors Andy Steinberg (at- large) and Geroge Ryan (District 3) raised concerns about funding the programs in future years when substantial grants for the initial year are no longer available. Budget Director Sean Mangano replied that within the context of the entire budget, the costs of these programs, looking forward, are “not overly concerning.” The Finance Committee report and Mangano said that funding CRESS sustainably will likely be challenging but doable, and the Finance Committee underscored its support for the undertaking. 

Public Forums

The following individuals spoke in support of CRESS and/or DEI during the public forums: Martha Hanner, representing the Amherst League of Women Voters’ racial justice committee;  Jonathan Sivel, representing the Amherst Pelham Education Association, Lydia Irons on behalf of Defund 413; Ash Hartwell of the Amherst League of Women Voters’ racial justice committee; Jennifer Page; and Kaylee Brow. Page also requested the removal of the driver’s license requirement in the DEI director job description, noting that alternative transportation options are available and lack of a driver’s license should not be disqualifying, especially for a job focused on inclusion. 

Regular TSO Meeting
The committee addressed two items of business:

  • discussion of the addition of two new departments to town hall
  • Improvements to North Pleasant Street

Following a brief discussion focused mostly on concerns about the ability of the town to pay for CRESS and the DEI department, the committee voted unanimously to endorse the adoption of both. The adoption of the programs will be taken up by the full Town Council at its meeting on December 13. 

Steniberg, as chair of the Finance Committee, had the most explicit concerns about the impacts of the new programs on town finances, noting that the town was able to fund the DEI director’s position because the town manager has chosen not to replace the town’s economic development director, a position that Steinberg said is essential to the town’s economic growth and well-being. Steinberg worried about the impact that the new programs might have on schools and the library, and voiced his concern that they might contribute to deficits. Nonetheless, he concluded with his firm support for moving forward with them.

Alisa Brewer warned that the programs are costly and worthwhile, “but may require changes in the way we think about Amherst.”

Improvements to North Pleasant Street
Last week there was a public hearing on the proposed upgrades from Hallock to North Pleasant Street. This led to the adoption of the following motion which passed unanimously with DuMont absent.

To recommend the Town Council approve the following changes to parking and permanent changes to the public way on North Pleasant Street from Hallock Street to Triangle Street:

  • Conversion of traffic flow to one-way traffic northbound from McClellan Street to Triangle Street
  • Creation of back-in angled parking spaces on the eastern side of North Pleasant Street along Kendrick Park
  • Parking prohibited as a tow zone on the western side of North Pleasant Street
  • Removal of the grass belt on the western side of the street

With the following conditions:

  • A complete streets approach will be applied to the final design to maximize bicycle and pedestrian safety and use, including consideration of a separate southbound lane for cyclists either at street or sidewalk level
  • The Disability Access Advisory Committee will be consulted on the number and placement of accessible parking spaces
  • The town must return to the Town Council for approval of the plans and regulations for parking, including new spaces and the mix of metered and permit parking, and meter regulations.

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