Steve Bloom:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Less representation

Oh boy, here we go again. Proponents of our newly-minted Town Council claimed its creation was for increased diversity in our representation. Instead, predictably, we got less.

Now opposition to maximum densification with minimal, if any, design standards is being dismissed by Councilor At-Large Alisa Brewer, along with a majority of councilors, as “fear of change” by “white homeowners.”

Ironic, as Ms. Brewer herself is a white homeowner, but conveniently for her not in a downtown adjacent area (as is true of many Town Council and Planning Board members). Residents of these districts are indeed fearful that the fabric of their neighborhoods, which are already under severe stress, will be torn asunder by inappropriately sized structures with vastly reduced setbacks. They are not fearful of differences in income, race, ethnicity, or religion. But they are fearful of unsupervised student warehouses.

If Ms. Brewer is truly committed to representation on the council that reflects the composition of Amherst, perhaps she should not seek reelection, but actively campaign for candidates who will bring diversity to our governing body.

Councilor Evan Ross, meanwhile, seems to be driven by the fact he “can’t afford to buy a house in Amherst,” even though the price of a single-family home here is well below the statewide median. What’s really going on is that our council is willing to throw away the town’s history, character, and charm, which are among its greatest attributes to, theoretically, build up our tax base.

Whether the new apartment developments on East Pleasant Street have actually increased tax revenues, compared to those generated by the mom and pop establishments that were put out of business in the name of promoting it, remains unclear. Also unclear is if demand for new housing, which our Town Council insists is dire, even exists given the plethora of large new complexes in downtown, North Amherst, on University Drive, Spring Street, Olympia Place and Route 9. And that’s not even taking into account the projected decline in college enrollment nationally, which existed before the pandemic and will surely be compounded by it.

The continued degradation of our downtown is irreversible, but maybe, somehow, it will get Councilor Ross his house. No matter, full steam ahead!

Steve Bloom