Monday, March 30, 2009

Vote early, vote often.

So once again activist Amherst will turn out a pathetic 15 to 20% of the vote to cast ballots in the annual town election. Last November it was closer to 80%. And it’s not like the President of the United States has a big impact on little old Amherst.

The Schools spend the vast majority of our $60+ million budget so the School Committee race will be telling. Rhodes is a shoe in, as he will most likely be almost everybody’s second vote (providing they don’t “bullet vote”.) So the only question is will reformer Rivkin or maintain the status quo Rosa get in.

The Amherst Redevelopment Authority race between tree hugger Rob Kusner and former Chamber of Commerce director John Coull should also be interesting. With the power of eminent domain the ARA can be a formidable tool for development not just in the downtown but also in the North and South Amherst Village Centers.

In the League of Women Voters insert in the Amherst Bulletin Mr. Kusner highlights his experience as committee chair for the Norwottuck Rail Trail, but fails to mention his recent three year stint on the Amherst Select Board (not that they were all that distinguished.)

And as usual, nobody cares about Town Meeting as no contests exist for 3-year-seats in eight out of ten precincts, meaning 64 do-gooders (over one-quarter of the body) are guaranteed election.

Let’s hope none of these folks get to serve out their full term. Charter change for accountable government. Coming soon.


Ed said...

Town meeting is a joke and not worth attending. I resigned and they still list me as a member.

The only position that really matters is town manager and he ain't elected. SO, I propose that we start calling him the "Town Dictator."

LarryK4 said...

Only one in the original five Select Board members who hired him are still around.

And it only takes three to terminate the contract.

Anonymous said...

How is the town going to be more accountable with a Mayor than with a Select Board? Please explain.

LarryK4 said...

Because that is where the buck will stop. You don't like what he/she does, then throw them out at the next election.

Leadership is an individual thing, not a committee thing. Nowhere to hide.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Willey Said:
To the comment "Town meeting is a joke and not worth attending". , a good friend of mine also joined and echoed the same concern. "Its a joke he said if you go against the grain you are no longer welcome."

How is the town going to be more accountable with a Mayor than with a Select Board? Please explain.

Mayors are paid elected officials of the town. They are held accountable for their actions and spend considerably more time focusing on the needs of the town. For you see it's their job, I give our select board and A for giving so much of their time for free. It is time for Amherst to stop making bad decisions and my sentiment here is echoed believe me.

Anonymous said...

Mayors bring corruption. They are a paid position that too often ends up in ther pocket of a corrupting interest. Just look at Chicopee. Why stop there, look at Atlanta, Detroit, Huntington Beach, Newark, Passaic, Providence, DC, and a whole host of places to see the number of mayors that have gone to jail. The list goes on and on. What we lack in some kind of strange notion of leadership we make up for in lack of corruption.

Ed said...

And hopefully someone will write a recall provision into the city charter. So that a corrupt mayor can be recalled -- I suspect that the Town Mangler wouldn't be what he is with that big knife hanging by a thread over his throne....

Town meetings work, just not in Amherst..

Curious reader said...

"Rhodes is a shoe in, as he will most likely be almost everybody’s second vote (providing they don’t “bullet vote”.) So the only question is will reformer Rivkin or maintain the status quo Rosa get in."

So can you please explain why you are describing Rosa as "maintaining the status quo"? Do you know anything about why she is running or what she stands for?

You really should have a better understanding of someone before you make a statement like this, in this very public forum.

LarryK4 said...

As in trying to protect Marks Meadow, where she has two children attending.

Of course the interesting thing is because of Conflict of Interest law she will not be able to vote (if she wins tomorrow) on that when it comes before the School Committee.

Curious reader said...

Please explain where, in any of these articles, do you see that she has said that she would keep Mark's Meadow open? Have you heard her speak at all? Have you met her? When have you heard (or read) her say that she is running to keep Mark's Meadow open?

I have met her. I have worked with her. I am not a Mark's Meadow parent. I know how she feels. She is highly concerned about the budget and knows that there is a very real possibility that Mark's Meadow will need to close.

Everything she has said is about making sure if it is done, it is done correctly. That all information that is needed is known, that new districts are drawn for the benefit of the children, that services which are needed, are able to be held on to, that we will really be saving money by closing the building, etc. NO where will you find her saying that she is running to save Mark's Meadow BECAUSE SHE IS NOT!!!

She is running to make sure ALL the kids are given the education they ALL deserve. She wants more collaboration between the schools and the colleges, try to get high school kids into college classes, who need more challenges than they can receive in the high school, have the entire schools budget looked at line-by-line and find money that may be hiding where there could be better efficiencies in place, and more.

She is someone who is willing to listen to everyone's points and looks for ways to come to agreement to benefit all involved. She listens to what people say. She is someone who understands what people may need who come from many different backgrounds. She understands the SPED system.

I highly suggest that you have a conversation with her, before you spread false rumors. You may find you really like what she has to say!

Robert said...

I'd like to know some names of people in this town Mayor/Council supporters see as truly viable, experienced candidates for Mayor. The idea of being able to hold a mayor accountable is valid. However, I look at the people in the past 5 years or so who have served on the Select Board, people that would at least on a resume have a leg up on the other competition, and I don't see anyone capable of handling the job of Mayor.

Saying you would like this form of government is fine, but you can't think of just the here and now, you need to plan for the decades down the road. Is Select Board/Town Meeting a perfect form of government? No, but there is no perfect form of government. The fact is remains that there has been fresh blood coming into Town Meeting, winning votes to increase development, push back NIMBY ideas and cut spending on programs that we cannot afford. These are votes that in previous years would have gone differently. Maybe instead of criticizing Town Meeting, you should join and make your voices heard there.

I don't always agree with Larry, but at least he is in Town Meeting every night standing up for his beliefs. If we had a tenth of the people in this town who criticized Town Meeting actually run for it, then races would be contested and accountability would increase.

Ed said...

I'd like to know some names of people in this town Mayor/Council supporters see as truly viable, experienced candidates for Mayor

It is a fair question:

Kurt Schumway
Cindi Jones
Catherine Sanderson

There are more, but these three names come immediately to mind. I could see one of these three running - and doing a fairly good job at it.

Note that the first two are not currently officially involved in politics, and that the third only reluctantly got involved in the school committee. You aren't going to find a successful mayor coming out of the current selectboard arrangement. For the same reason that you aren't going to find divergent voices showing up to town meeting more than once.

Ed said...

Perhaps off topic but this is the speech that Don Feder wanted to give at UMass:

This is a classic defense of free speech. It is what many people mean when they say (technically incorrectly) "First Amendment." And I would encourage anyone to read the _West VA v. Barnette_ SCOTUS case, remembering that it was written in 1944 when Hitler was still in power but it looked like we were going to win that war.

Anonymous said...

Cindi Jones for mayor?

You've got to be joking? She's a nutcase, and her family owns half the town. So we would get erratic behaviour and cronyism. Great. If that's the best we can do that we should merge with Northampton.


Anonymous said...

cinder joans would burn the town and gown down just for a new place to stack her clearcut lumber.

it's been here since 1741 and does whatever it pleases

u no who

Anonymous said...

cronyism.... you mean like how coals is the only company listed on the 250th's website under ag and manufacturing?

am I to believe there is not one other company in town that falls under that heading?

that is the definition of cronyism.

u no who

Ed said...

Look, folks, the question was if there are people who could run for mayor and who would have a reasonable ability to manage the job. I am from the "Good Government" school and I answered it from that perspective. There are viable potential candidates.

Nowhere do I say whom I would support, mind you, only that I can immediately think of three people with the ability to do the job. And Cindi Jones meets that qualification -- clearly many would disagree with *how* she would manage things, I have only met her once and don't know he well enough to comment either way -- the only issue is that she has the "qualifications" to be able to do the job. Which she clearly does.

Should Cindi Jones run, I am fairly certain that certain coalitions would organize against her campaign and somehow find a candidate to bear their standard. The ensuing debate would be good for the town, regardless of which side won, and you know that the victor would be kept honest by an organized opponent coalition and the spectre of both re-election and recall (you GOTTA have recall in the charter).

The best political candidates are often reluctantly dragged out of private life by coalitions needing to either advocate a cause or (more often) oppose someone/something considered objectionable. This is political theory 101 and the other thing that many are missing here is that once one enters office, he/she/it is forced to moderate his/her/its views and no longer can be the firebrand of a private citizen.

And hence, using her as an example because she was raised, it is unlikely that Mayor Jones would be quite the same person as private citizen Jones -- this is why someone like Rush Limbaugh will never run for President and why Ralph Nader would never (EVER) have a chance at the nomination. And I can see all three of the people I named not running...

LarryK4 said...

Of course Curt and Cinda would actually have to move back to Amherst to run for Mayor (although maybe they could pull off an Anne Awad residency scam--it sure fooled the Registrar of Voters)

Anonymous said...


You named three people. Obviously, you didn't pick your three worst choices. So let's look at them.

Shumway owns almost every hotel room in the area and so has major conflicts of interest, and is not going to rum anyway because he's got a business empire to run.

Jones is poor choice for prevously stated reasons that others listed.

So that leaves Sanderson. This a professor at Amherst College. She is not leaving the most selective college in the country to be Mayor. Tenure sure beats being voted out after your first term.

It's not so easy to find good candidates. The next thing you know it's going to people who have nothing to lose because they don't have businesses to run or are not smart enough to be tenured academics.

You want better government but be careful what you wish you.

This is a liberal, flakey town and adding a mayor is probably going to make that worse not better.

Bernie Sander and Dennis Kucinich both started as mayors. You are going to get the mayor of Cambridge out of this. There's more. The one thing the select board and town manager system does is keep the town from being an incubator for left-wing political climbers.


The yard sign with Vince O'Conner for Mayor on it.

Ed said...

So that leaves Sanderson. This a professor at Amherst College. She is not leaving the most selective college in the country to be Mayor.

If the rules at AC are somewhat similar to UMass, she *could* do it. I know more than one person who has taken a "professional leave of absence" to go hold public office or serve in either the Governor's or President's administration. It is sort of like when someone goes into the college admin - they can come back and be a tenured professor at any time they want, they are on unpaid unteaching leave from that post.

My gut feeling is that she wouldn't want to do it. And as to bastion of leftism, this ISN'T Cambridge. There are going to be some very strong right-wing pressures placed on a Mayor that aren't placed on individual selects or the town mangler.

And the town has never had a shortage of applicants for the Town Manager position, has it?

Anonymous said...

It's majority rules and you will get a good number of votes for a conservative candidate but they probably won't win. How did a moderate-conservative like Irv Rhodes do when he ran for Select Board? Badly. More likely, a Gerry Weiss will get elected Mayor and will just have more power than before.

Anonymous said...

heaven forbid!