David Lithgow: A ‘Yes’ vote is best for the community

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Early last year my wife and I wrote a letter to the editor after taking a tour of the Jones Library, a facility we thought we knew well, expressing our surprise that we had “... learned how much more than book lending this remarkable community resource provides annually to its quarter of a million visitors.”

We continued the letter with a narrative sharing that experience with our friends and neighbors. When a local debate regarding a proposal to renovate/expand the Jones developed thereafter in the press we were predisposed, notwithstanding our uninformed concerns about the cost to the town, to favor the project.

Because I’m retired, I could spend countless hours reviewing some 25 videos, numerous Town Council Committee Reports (a Februray 2020 Finance Committee Report was especially informative, alleviating those aforementioned “concerns”), the 206-page Kuhn-Riddle repairs analysis report, and viewing numerous live public Zoom sessions.

The more informed I became the stronger grew my conviction that forfeiting the $13.8 million MBLC grant and spending virtually the same sum for Band-Aid repairs necessitated by long neglected maintenance made no sense. When the Town Council reached the same conclusion with a 10-2 vote to implement the renovation/expansion plan, I was gratified by the results of their extraordinary due diligence as well as the deliberative process (including substantial public input) they had followed.

“What a remarkable display of democracy in action,” I thought to myself. I was understandably dismayed when a small minority of eligible voters (5%) was able to veto the Town Council decision. “How could those petition signers reach such a diametrically opposite conclusion based on the facts in evidence provided by the extraordinary efforts of our elected representatives,” I wondered.

After all the public debate, my sense is that most Amherst residents favor the renovation/expansion proposal. If so, while acknowledging minority petition rights granted by our town charter, it will be a sad failure of our democratic process if supporters don’t vote on the Nov. 2 referendum and the minority view defeats a proposal that serves the best interests of our community.

David Lithgow