LWV Forum – October 17, 2021
Thank you to the League for holding this forum.
My remarks reflect some of the ways we measure up against the values identified by the Charter Commission. Yet, there is clearly room for improvement.
Since the Inauguration of the Town Council we have held 20+ Public forums about as many hearings, and one meeting of residents regarding 132 Northampton Road – with attendance ranging from 5 – 400 residents; I have individually responded to over 6,000+ emails as President on behalf of the Town Council. Most Town Council and Committee Meetings include public comment – comments range from none to comments that continue for at least an hour. And the newest mechanism allows all residents to submit Public Comment online. These are published prior to every Town Council Meeting on Town’s website. In addition well over 250 residents participate as members of our many 35+ committees. We have added two committees and eliminated none.
*Representativeness (demographics and interests)
The Town Council does not represent the face of Amherst and I certainly hope this will improve with the next Council.
*Effective, deliberative and efficient structures
Government is clunky, but our structure of committees allows every issue to have body that looks at the issue in significant detail.
*Accountability and transparency
The annual budget process, while complicated, has numerous points for input although this can always be improved. We continue to receive clean annual audits. The Charter describes 4 procedures that Residents can use to petition the Town Council – each of which have been employed at least once during the past three years.
*A clear voice for Amherst.
The Town Council has represented the Town with the state legislature on items such as Ranked Choice Voting, Voting by mail, Open meeting law, and other issues as appropriate. We passed numerous resolutions and proclamations and have publically read at least 18 of those since December 2018.
*Avoidance of big money politics
I personally limit all cash donations to my campaign to no more than $100 –
eliminating the influence of “big money politics.”
*A culture of tolerance and respect
The past three years have been a time of ongoing education for me, particularly as it relates to racism. I have participated in 4 ½ days of anti-racism training, met with the CSWG, and worked with the Co-Chairs to help facilitate their meetings with the Council. And still I am learning.
*Strategic and long term planning
Our strategic and long-term planning is evident in the creation and approval of the Town Manager Performance Goals, the financial model for the large capital projects, and the 5-year capital plan, to name a few. Personally I would like the town to begin planning now for the use of an empty elementary school building once the new school is open. Specifically, I would like the town to explore creating a place for a senior center together and an early childhood program in one building.