Nick Grabbe: Contends guest column was flawed

Friday, November 24, 2017
Contends guest column was flawed

In his Nov. 17 guest column (“Responds to column opposing Town Meeting”), John Fox predicts that if Amherst voters approve the new charter, real estate developers will pour money into council candidates who would approve zoning changes favorable to them. There are numerous flaws in his argument.

First, candidates won’t need lots of money beyond the cost of lawn signs, brochures and newspaper ads, as personal contact with voters will be much more important.

Second, if a developer did make a large donation to a candidate, it would be public and likely more of a detriment than a benefit.

Third, proposed zoning changes will require for approval a higher percentage on the council than in Town Meeting.

Fourth, if he’s talking about bribery, he should show us how that has been a problem with the councils in Northampton, Easthampton or Greenfield.

Large donations influence the current system. A single donor gave $5,000 to the group fighting the elementary school reconfiguration plan, amounting to two-thirds of its total fundraising. I don’t recall Fox complaining about that.

He is incorrect when he says there would be no limits on campaign contributions; state law puts the limit at $1,000 per individual.

And he ignores the fact that if neighbors object to a zoning change, it will require the approval of 10 councilors (77 percent, as opposed to 67 percent of Town Meeting).

He also ignores the fact that the council will be heavily tilted toward neighborhood representatives (10) as opposed to at-large members (three).

Nick Grabbe


The writer is a member of the Charter Commission.