Nonny Sagalyn Burack: Questions diversity of 13-member council

Thursday, July 06, 2017
Questions diversity of 13-member council

This is in response to the June 30 column (“Possibility of inclusive government”) vaunting how a 13-member council would be a glorious improvement to Amherst.

First of all, the notion that Town Meeting membership is an entitlement has members holding their sides and rolling on the floor. An individual Town Meeting member has no power, no privilege and no prestige. The response I usually got from someone on learning I was one was,”Better you than me,” or, “Well, somebody has to do it.”

Secondly, when I came to Amherst in the late 1960s, the selectmen were just that – all male, all white, all homeowners and all Christian. While in the ensuing 50 years the gender and religious exclusivity has vanished, there has been just one African-American, just one Asian-American, and just one member of child-bearing age (and, yes, she bore a child while serving).

Why would a 13-member council be more diverse than a five-member Select Board or a 240-member Town Meeting? Amherst has many miles to go before various disparate groups believe they have something to gain and something to give by involvement in town government.

No amount of tinkering or redesigning of town structure will effect diversity.

Nonny Sagalyn Burack


The writer is a former Amherst Town Meeting member.