Letter: On Amherst Forward’s Curious Notion Of Democracy

Photo: Kitty Axleson-Berry

A May 31st article in the Gazette revealed Amherst Forward (AF) to have a curious idea about democracy.  Members were quoted as having a concern that undue pressure was being put on the Elementary School Building Committee (ESBC) by letter writers expressing a preference for the Fort River site over the Wildwood site.  (I am one of those letter writers.). It seems that AF, a political action committee (PAC) unaccountable to the public as to how it spends its money or exerts influence over public boards and committees, would prefer that letter writers supporting the Fort River site leave the ESBC alone as it deliberates.  I assume that it would also advocate for not bothering the Supreme Court as it deliberates on Roe v. Wade, and not pestering our busy congressmen about sensible gun legislation.  If I am unfairly extrapolating from their position on the ESBC I would be glad to have Amherst Forward explain why.

I can imagine three possible reasons for this attack on democracy; readers may come up with more.  One reason might be that AF has no position on the school site issue.  Another reason could be that AF, not subject to the Open Meeting law or other public scrutiny, has means of letting the ESBC know its position other than public debate.  And a third reason could be that AF has a strong preference for the Wildwood site, leaving the Fort River site available for private development of the sort AF has always supported downtown.

AF notes that the Progressive Coalition of Amherst, also a PAC, has made its position known publicly (it favors Fort River).  Why hasn’t Amherst Forward?

Michael Greenebaum

Michael Greenebaum was Principal of Mark’s Meadow School from 1970 to 1991, and from 1974 taught Organization Studies in the Higher Education Center at the UMass School of Education.  He served in Town Meeting from 1992, was on the first Charter Commission in 1993, and served on several town committees including the Town Commercial Relations Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee.

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5 thoughts on “Letter: On Amherst Forward’s Curious Notion Of Democracy

  1. Excellent letter Michael. Even more “curious” is Peter Demling’s guest column in the June 2 Gazette where he accuses supporters of the Fort River site of being opponents of the 2018 school project, insinuating that they have no right to weigh in on this vastly different and improved project or that that they do not have the town’s best interests at heart. And after imploring supporters of the Fort River Site to leave the ESBC alone to determine the best site (“loudness of demand does not equate to representation”), Mr Demling encourages other residents to “let the Building Committee know what you think at Amherst.School. Project@gmail.com.” Hmm? Apparently only certain people are allowed to express an opinion in this town.

  2. It seems to me that the views of teachers, parents of students, and school administrators should be given serious consideration in this matter. Commercial interests are not relevant. I strongly agree with Greenebaum and Keene.

  3. I would expect a call for less public advocacy to come from an authoritarian country like Russia, China, or Egypt, but not from the USA, especially from a political group out of egalitarian Amherst. C’mon Amherst Forward — these are your friends and neighbors you are trying to silence.

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