Amherst-Pelham Education Association (APEA)

Questions for Town Council and School Committee candidates

1. Recently the school budget was cut by a million dollars, and the Elementary Tech and Art positions were cut from full time to .8.  As you know great schools are important to our community.  What would you do to support our schools?

Response: The role of the Town Council is to vote the annual appropriation for the schools. It is the role of the School Committee to determine if the positions requested by the Superintendent are at the appropriate levels.  With regard to the annual appropriation, as a member of the Finance Committee for the past three years, I have engaged in the detailed review of the proposed school budgets and voted to recommend those budgets to the full Town Council.  Then as a member of the Town Council, I have voted to approve the annual appropriation for the schools. 

Other votes relevant to the schools taken by the Town Council that I have supported include moving forward with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to build a new elementary school; and the annual capital budget.

2. What actions should the town council take to work toward building an anti-racist community?

Response:  The Town Council has already taken several actions to work toward building an anti-racist community. Along with my colleagues, I have voted to support the CRESS program and I initiated the amendment to the Town’s budget to increase the number of responders from 4 to 8.  We have also created a reparations fund using Town resources to begin that fund.  In addition to approving proclamations related to stopping racism, the Town Council has participated in a 2 ½ day Anti-Racism Workshop and as a Board member of the Amherst Survival Center, I have also participated in an additional 2 days of Anti-Racism training.  Most recently the Town Council discussed the successor committee to the Community Safety Working Group (CSWG) including the charge and stipends so that the appointment of the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee (CSSJC) can move forward.

Regarding future actions of the Town Council, we will receive and discuss the report of the CSWG regarding the creation of a police oversight committee at a special meeting on October 25, 2021.  In addition, as the CSSJC is appointed we will hear regularly about their recommendations and requests of the Town Council.   

3. What is your view on the role of law enforcement in our community?  

Response:  I think it is critically important that we strike the right balance and financial support for police, CRESS, and fire/EMS services in our community.  The Town Council has taken the initial steps by approving the funds for CRESS and asking that the program start as early as February 2022. And we have asked that the CRESS program be evaluated over time.  At the same time, the CSWG is working with the consultant (LEAP) to review our police department and make recommendations regarding police oversight. With all of these new efforts plus ongoing training of our police department, Amherst has an opportunity to set a standard for law enforcement in the 21st century. 

4. What if any policing reform actions do you feel are necessary for the safety of the entire community, including individuals with mental disabilities and people of color?


5. Do you support the Fair Share amendment?

Response:  Yes

6. What changes or distributions would you make to the current town budget?

Response:  To the extent possible the Town Budget reflects the many demands and priorities of the residents of Amherst. 

7. In comparison to Massachusetts towns with similar socio-economic status and high educational ratings, what do you consider a Living Wage in Amherst?  

Response: For this answer I provide the following link.   Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the data provided here is based in sound research and policy.

8. The School Committee supervises the superintendent.  If elected to serve on the SC, how will you communicate to families and staff about the goals for the budget and allocation of resources to meet these goals? 

Response:  Not applicable to Town Council Candidates

9. How do you envision the school committee and APEA building a collaborative relationship to improve the quality of our schools?

Response:  Not applicable to Town Council Candidates

10. How will you work to develop a positive working relationship with the APEA?

Response:  Not applicable to Town Council Candidates

11. What three goals will you pursue to help the Amherst Schools in the coming academic year?  

Response:  Not applicable to Town Council Candidates

12. In what specific ways will you build racial equity for residents in Amherst?

Response:  See response to question 2 above.

13. Are you willing to participate in anti-racism training within your first 6 months?  

Response:  Yes

14. You’re going to have to make hard decisions in your position to support your constituents.  Tell us about a time when you took an unpopular stance in a leadership role and how you dealt with the outcome.

Response: Since I have been both a District 2 Councilor and President of the Town Council for the past three years, I can cite numerous examples where I have taken an unpopular stance.  The one that I will use is prominent since it involved the entire Town of Amherst. As we approached the 2020 Presidential Elections the Town Clerk at the time proposed that we consolidate all precinct voting locations at the high school.  This was under serious consideration with one week during which we could provide another plan.  Please note this was during the height of the COVID Pandemic and in mid to late summer.  The response from the Community was overwhelming against this move away from local precincts, with absolutely no voices supporting this decision. In addition to the unanimous voice of the community, the research strongly suggests that you should not change voting locations immediately prior to a Presidential Election.  With a carefully laid out plan, this decision would have saved some money.

In the space of one week, an entirely new plan was developed with space plans drawn up for each of 7 existing precincts and the move of 3 precincts to the high school.  The 3 precincts that were moved included Precinct 2 (This was moved from the North Fire/EMS Station, which would have required significant disinfection prior to and after the use of the station, dislocating our first responders located there for at least 4 days); and Precincts 4 and 10 (These Precincts comprise District 4 and were moved to the high school which is in the center of District 4.  This allowed decongestion of the Bangs Center where there is fewer parking spaces and formerly the voting locations for 3 Precincts.) One, Precinct 5 remained at the Bangs Center.

In other words we “listened” to a unanimous voice and compelling arguments and reversed the decision.

15. What concerns do you have for low income families and how will you seek to address these concerns? 

Response: The needs of low income individuals and families include food, housing, and heath care, as well as other basic needs.  Through support for non-profits such as the Amherst Survival Center, Not for Bread Alone, Family Outreach of Amherst, Craig’s Doors, and many more, the Town helps support some of these needs through the distribution of CDBG funds, COVID Cares monies, and now ARPA monies.

In addition, the Town has increased its support for the development of low income rentals.  The Comprehensive Housing Policy. I voted to support all of those actions taken by the Town Council including:

  • 132 Northampton Road – A property that will include 28 studio apartments for low income people including homeless.
  • East Street School
  • Purchase of Belchertown Road Properties

Early in the Town Council’s tenure the Affordable Housing Trust proposed a housing policy to the Town Council.  With the truly outstanding work of the Community Resources Committee, that policy which I support includes the following interdependent goals:

Goal I: Promote Greater Pathways to Homeownership and Integrated Communities through Increased Supply of a Diversity of Housing Types

Goal II: Increase the Supply and Variety of Affordable and Market Rate Rental Housing

Goal III: Create, Update, and Maintain Safe, Secure, and Environmentally Healthy Housing

Goal IV: Address Climate Sustainability and Resiliency of Housing Stock, Location, and Construction

Goal V: Align and Leverage Municipal Funding and Other Resources to Support Affordable Housing

With regard to Health care, the Town is host to the Musante Health Center, with a new ramp creating accessibility to this excellent health care center that will serve anyone regardless of income. 

Could we do more?  Absolutely!!  One of my goals as in the coming term is to increase home ownership among low income and BIPOC individuals and families.

16. How will you reach out to your constituents, particularly those who are underrepresented in town leadership? 

Response: This is one of my ongoing goals.  To date I have regularly attended the Community Safety Working Group meetings as a member of the audience; and guided them in preparation of their presentation to the Town Council.  I have met with one of the co-chairs (the other co-chair was not available.) to discuss their recommendations and urged them to develop a proposed charge for a successor committee.  This has now been brought to the Town Council who concurs with creating the on-going successor committee – Community Safety and Social Justice Committee (CSSJC)

During this campaign season, I have met with two of the BIPOC members running for Town Council, provided financial support to their campaigns, and provided advise on what they might consider doing as part of their campaigns – door-to-door, brochures, etc. And as a District 2 Councilor, I will continue to look for more opportunities to strength the participation of underrepresented people in town leadership.