Sarah Marshall: The siren song of the single-issue candidacy

Monday, October 08, 2018
The siren song of the single-issue candidacy

Amherst voters face important choices as they decide whom to elect to the inaugural Town Council. I urge voters to consider candidates’ positions on multiple issues and not be seduced by strong stands on single issues. For example, an Amherst voter might want to rule candidates out — or in — based on their pledges to limit construction of apartment buildings in our downtown, or their promise to add more land to our conserved open space.

However, every dimension of the public interest has knock-on effects on other goals important to local voters. For example, the desire for housing costs to (somehow) become more affordable may conflict with the aim of keeping town and village centers in their current states, or with expanding conservation land. Desire to maintain or rebuild multiple elementary schools in the face of deteriorating structures and declining enrollments may conflict with aversion to raising taxes or reducing upkeep of town roads and properties.

Councilors will have to balance numerous responsibilities and concerns and must be open to negotiation, compromise, and creative thinking — ideological purity will be unhelpful. I wonder if candidates who prioritize one issue over all others can effectively serve our community.

Sarah Marshall