Discussion of new Amherst government set for June 12

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, June 07, 2018

AMHERST — Before the first Town Council is elected and seated later this year, two members of the former Charter Commission are interested in helping residents understand how they will be involved in creating the new government and how they can participate in decision-making.

Margaret Gage and Thomas Fricke, who both served on the Charter Commission that proposed the new form of government, will hold a community conversation at 7 p.m. June 12 in the Large Activity Room at the Bangs Community Center.

“This will be a discussion of how we make sure there’s community participation and transparency, and people understand how elections work,” Gage said.

The charter calls for a community participation officer and regular district meetings, as well as townwide forums on the budget, zoning and master plan.

While Fricke and Gage were on opposite sides of the charter debate, with Fricke supporting the proposal and Gage opposing it, she said the session is not intended to be similar to the Amherst Connect event last Wednesday at the Jones Library that attempted to bring both sides together to heal rifts.

“This is not a reconciliation process, this is looking forward and trying to make sure there’s public pressure to set up public accountability mechanisms,” Gage said. “For the council to be accountable people need to know what it’s doing, there has to be public demand for accountability and transparency.”

Gage said what she sees as a challenge is preserving some of the means of educating 240 Town Meeting members, which included bus tours and meetings to review the warrant, and ensuring that decisions are made in the open, noting that all controversial votes at Town Meeting are recorded and members’ votes are available online.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.