Around Amherst: Sign-holding, endorsements as charter vote looms

Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

AMHERST — Both sides in the ongoing debate over the town charter continue to get the attention of voters by participating in debates, staging events and getting endorsements.

Voters on March 27 will decide the fate of the charter, which would replace the Select Board and representative Town Meeting with a 13-member council.

The Amherst for All campaign in favor of the charter recently earned support from the University of Massachusetts Democrats. Following a debate on campus, the group voted 19-7 to recommend the proposal, joining retired State Rep. Ellen Story and U.S. Congressman John Olver as proponents.

Vote No on the Charter, one of three groups trying to preserve Town Meeting, had what member Carol Gray described as a successful sign-holding in front of Amherst Media during a debate at the College Street studio last month.

“Numerous cars honked their agreement as we held our signs and banner,” Gray said.

Another sign-holding event was organized in downtown Amherst Tuesday during a debate sponsored by radio station WHMP.

In their statement endorsing the charter, UMass College Democrats president Sonia Guglani and vice president Jack Eccles said that representative Town Meeting is no longer appropriate for a town Amherst’s size, and that there is a lack of accountability and competition.

“This new charter modernized and modified what was necessary and allowed what was successful to stay in place, such as a strong, professional, non-politicized town manager at the helm of day-to-day administration of Amherst,” the Democrats wrote.

Johanna Neumann, Amherst for All’s campaign chairwoman, said she appreciates this support. “In their endorsement, the UMass Democrats clearly articulated the case for this sensible update to year-round democracy for Amherst,” Neumann said.

But Gray said her group has continued to outline concerns about the changes, which would include bringing more money into local politics, with it more expensive to run for council seats. In addition, she notes that all 13 city council seats as well as all Jones Library Trustees and School Committee positions would be up for election at the same time every two years, meaning the possible loss of stability and institutional memory.

She also is concerned about a lack of checks and balances and losing gender and economic diversity that Town Meeting brings.

“There is more class and race diversity and more students than a city council would ever have,” Gray said.

Gubernatorial candidate

Bob Massie, a progressive Democrat running for governor, will be the guest speaker Monday at the Black Sheep Deli’s monthly free community dinner.

The dinner begins at 7 p.m. at the 79 Main St. restaurant, followed by Massie’s talk at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, call the restaurant at 253-3442.

Register to vote

Residents interested in voting in the March 27 town election have until Wednesday to register to vote.

A registration session will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town clerk’s office at Town Hall.

Mail-in registration forms, which must be postmarked by midnight, are available at the town clerk’s office, as well as online at www.sec.state.ma.us

People who have moved within town should also alert the clerk about their new addresses.

Cuppa Joe with Paul

Town Manager Paul Bockelman will be available to the public for a Cuppa Joe with Paul event at Kelly’s Restaurant, 314 College St., March 9.

Bockelman will be joined by Police Chief Scott Livingstone from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

Anyone with questions, concerns or compliments, or suggestions for how to improve the town, can drop in.

For more information, call Bockelman at 259- 3002

Skating Club anniversary

The 50th anniversary of the Skating Club of Amherst is being recognized by the Select Board.

The board this week issued a proclamation congratulating club officials for reaching the half century mark of its founding by faculty, staff and families at Amherst College in 1968.

Rita Leaman, president of the Skating Club, said about 150 members are part of the club that uses with Orr Rink at Amherst College and, since the early 1990s, the Mullins Center rink at the University of Massachusetts. The club offers figure skating instruction, ice dancing lessons and how-to-skate courses through 10 professional coaches.

“This is a very important milestone for us,” Leaman said.

The club will hold a 50th anniversary program titled “Gold” March 25 at 2 p.m. at the Mullins Center.


MONDAY: Select Board, 6:30 p.m. Town Room, Town Hall.

TUESDAY: PVTA public hearing on route changes and fare adjustments, 4 p.m., Bangs Community Center; TMCC Subcommittee on Policies and Procedures, 5 p.m., Room 101, Bangs Community Center; Amherst Regional School Committee, 6:30 p.m., high school library.

WEDNESDAY: Planning Board, 7 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

THURSDAY: Board of Assessors, 11 a.m., and Finance Committee, 7 p.m., both at First Floor Meeting, Room, Town Hall; Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.