Matt Blumenfeld: Town Council provides representative democracy

Saturday, February 17, 2018
Town Council would be representative

I have lived in Amherst for more than two decades and our family has been here since the 1960s.

We have always believed in helping where we can. For me that has meant serving on the Amherst ABC Board, as well as the boards of Amherst Education Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, and Amherst Cinema.

I have coached more than 15 seasons in Amherst youth sports, coaching my daughters in soccer and basketball and my godson in baseball. I have also been a Town Meeting member. I appreciate many aspects of life in Amherst, and am grateful to live in a place where so many are passionate about their community and their government.

All four members of our family today are strongly in favor of the charter change because we support effective, open, democratic government and believe that a Town Council and professional town manager will yield better outcomes for more Amherst people than our current system.

Many current Town Meeting members, including staunch defenders of the status quo, proudly say that they do not represent any view or constituency other than their own. If that is the case, then perhaps the best name for our current system is closed Town Meeting.

In closed Town Meeting, even if I show up to speak, there is no obligation to listen to my voice, and no way for my vote to count. For instance, there have been several recent occasions when I have contacted all 24 of my Town Meeting members about a warrant article and have not heard back at all from those who disagreed with my point of view. Can you imagine a town councilor not responding to a constituent who takes the time to reach out personally about a relevant issue?

The proposed Town Council, which has real representation through both ward and townwide councilors, is much better suited to dealing with important townwide and neighborhood issues throughout the year than our current form of government.

The new system would also better respond to the needs and desires of more Amherst people, and give us all the representative democracy we crave and need.

Matt Blumenfeld