Dale Peterson: Commends members of Charter Commission

Tuesday, March 06, 2018
Praises members of Charter Commission

Residents of Amherst owe a debt of gratitude to the nine hard-working members of the Charter Commission.

They stood for election with announced positions, deliberated and debated in a fully transparent manner, conducted extensive research , made themselves accessible to public opinion in frequent meetings and on an active website and, ultimately, adopted informed and well-reasoned majority and minority recommendations to be tested by public vote.

In short, they provided a model of civil discourse and good government that can be achieved best by the council-manager form of government proposed in the new charter.

In a representative government, fewer elected legislators command more legitimate authority than a larger number. Candidates who seek to build a constituency and achieve a majority must articulate persuasive arguments to voters and they can be held accountable by those voters.

The 13 town councilors proposed by the new charter will represent a mixture of district and townwide constituents; their votes count for something beyond individual preference because they speak for a critical mass of citizens. The push and pull between the 10 district representatives and the three at-large voices guarantee that consensus will be hard won; fears of domination by any vested interest are, frankly, implausible.

Passions run high in Amherst politics and, to my ear, the decibels are reaching an unbearable (and indefensible) pitch. Aspersions are being cast left and right on the motivation of advocates.

I do not believe that town is being taken over by a cabal of developers or a den of troglodytes. For my part, I do not doubt that those who oppose my perspective want good government as much as I.

Nonetheless, in all sincerity and confidence I urge my fellow citizens to vote “yes” for the new charter. I commend the nine charter commissioners for conducting a trial run of good government in Amherst.

Dale Peterson