Around Amherst: Breaking down the money in the charter debate

Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

AMHERST — Year-end filings by the four ballot committees formed related to the proposed Amherst charter have collected more than $22,000 for their campaigns for and against the change in advance of the March 27 election.

While three opposition groups combined have raised just over $11,000, the group in support brought in $11,196.

Not This Charter raised the most among those seeking to maintain the current form of government, with a 240-member Town Meeting, professional manager and Select Board. Of the $9,005 collected, all but $380 came from people who donated at least $50.

This included loans and donations from Town Meeting members, including $2,200 from Maurianne Adams and $1,200 from John Fox.

Meg Gage, a member of Not This Charter, said her group had to make an effort to respond to what she called a “very slick, professional” and “unprecedented” campaign by charter supporters, which began several months before such campaigns usually start with a mailer sent to all homes.

“We’re not big bucks, but we have people who can loan money so we can catch up,” Gage said. “We have to be prepared to play in this brave new world of Amherst politics.”

“We don’t want to be hayseeds watching this happen,” Gage added.

Its largest expense was $3,214 for advertisements in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Vote No on the Charter raised $1,465, all but $315 from those who donated at least $50. It has made no major expenses over $50 yet.

Carol Gray, a leader of the group, said the pro-charter group raising nearly $10,000 more indicates that people endorsing change are tied to those with means.

“The people pushing this charter have money and are connected to people with money,” Gray said. “Those people want to control town government for their own interests, zoning, development, capital projects, and this is a sign of things to come if this charter passes.”

There are a significant number of donations identifiable as coming from developers, property management companies, and other types of investment or business interests, she said.

Town Meeting Works brought in $602, with $160 from who donated $50 or less. Its biggest expense was $107 to produce T-shirts.

Of the $11,196 Amherst for All, $7,820 came from those who donated $100 or more. But 160 individuals contributed, with more than half giving $50 or less, and no single supporter more than $250. Its largest expense was $3,463 paid to Amherst College to print and mail the campaign postcard.

Chairwoman Johanna Neumann said the high number of “small donors” refutes that the campaign is in the pockets of developers or big money.

“That underscores, I think, the idea that Amherst for All is a campaign driven by the grassroots,” Neumann said.

“The small donor support from everyday citizens may be an inconvenient truth for charter opponents who want to paint our campaign as doing the bidding of developers,” Neumann added.

Neumann contends that more donors shows broad support.

“The status quo empowers 240, a new charter empowers 20,000 voters,” Neumann said.

MMA Conference

Select Board members Alisa Brewer and Connie Kruger, Town Manager Paul Bockelman and Senior Planner Nate Malloy were among those representing Amherst on panels at last weekend’s Massachusetts Municipal Association conference in Boston.

Brewer and Bockelman discussed recruiting a town manager under difficult circumstances. For Amherst, this meant focusing on how leaders handled the unexpected death of Town Manager John Musante in 2015 and the campaign to bring a change in the form of government.

Kruger and Malloy informed their colleagues demand-based parking strategy for making downtown and always enough free spaces and promoting turnover.

Office hours

State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose has scheduled three times where he will be in the Third Hampshire District to meet with constituents

On Monday from 8-9 a.m., he will be at Amherst Coffee, 28 Amity St., to meet with individuals who have personal and confidential concerns, or need help from a state agency.

Feb. 12 from 6-7 p.m., Goldstein-Rose will be at the Pelham Library, 2 South Valley Road, where he will answer questions about bills and discuss state politics and legislative initiatives.

Finally, Goldstein-Rose will be at Share Coffee, 17 Kellogg Ave., Feb. 15 from 7 to 8 p.m. There he hosts “Politics and Pastries” to chat about politics and provide an update on civics education over dessert.

Benefit concert

The Leverett Chorus, directed by Anne Louise White, performs a benefit concert “Voices for Sanctuary” Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Jewish Community of Amherst, 742 Main St.

The concert is in collaboration with the Immigrant Sanctuary Fund at the First Congregational Church of Amherst, which is raising money to support the family of Lucio Perez.

Perez, an immigrant from Guatemala, was targeted for deportation by the Trump Administration despite living in the United States for 20 years. He has worked as a landscaper to support his wife and four children.

A $10 donation is suggested.


MONDAY: Historic District Commission, 4 p.m., First Floor Meeting Room, Town Hall; Complete Streets/Traffic Calming Subcommittee, 4:30 p.m., conference room, Department of Public Works; Recycling and Refuse Management Committee, 4:30 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

TUESDAY: Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee, 6:30 p.m., high school library.

WEDNESDAY: Amherst Regional School District Planning Committee, 10:30 a.m., superintendent’s conference room, middle school.