Christopher Riddle: Stop blaming Town Meeting in Amherst

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Letters and commentary in the Gazette for years have made the dishonest point that Town Meeting is to blame for Amherst’s failure to take advantage of state support and approve the Wildwood School project.

This annoys me greatly because it isn’t true. The project was disapproved because public opinion in town didn’t support the project in sufficient numbers, and that fact was accurately reflected on the floor of Town Meeting. As it happened, there were two instances when citizen referenda occurred at almost the same time as Town Meeting votes on the same topics. The two referenda produced votes that exactly matched — within one or two percentage points — the Town Meeting votes taken at the same time.

The final vote that ended the project was a citizen referendum (not a Town Meeting vote) to approve the borrowing for the school. It produced a solid majority in favor, but less than the two-thirds needed by law. The Town Meeting vote that preceded the referendum by a few weeks was almost identical. So a substantial majority of Town Meeting members approved the Wildwood School projects, but not quite two-thirds. And a substantial majority of Amherst voters approved the project, but not quite two-thirds.

Please stop blaming Town Meeting for that. Please instead credit Town Meeting for accurately reflecting public opinion.

Christopher Riddle