Monday, December 2, 2013

Let The Race Begin

Finance Committee Chair Andy Steinberg

Andy Steinberg is first to announce his candidacy for the five member Amherst Select Board, our executive branch of government. As an entrenched insider -- i.e. Town Meeting and Finance Committee -- Steinberg, a retired lawyer, is a slam dunk for one of two open seats.

Especially since he touts "collaboration and transparency" on a shortlist of his priorities.  Who can argue with those?

And as a Town Meeting member he voted in favor of flying the commemorative American flags every 9/11.  Well okay, maybe that one will cost him a few votes.

Interestingly enough, he's probably the only North Amherst/Cushman homeowner who does not have a "Stop The Retreat" lawn sign prominently displayed in his yard.  So yeah, that too may cost him a few votes since NIMBYs usually patronize the ballot box.

If they really possessed political power, however, they would not have been so unceremoniously blown out of the water at the last Town Meeting.

It's been a while since two incumbents both decided to retire from their Select Board seats, thus the field this coming election (March 25) is pretty wide open.  Fitting I suppose, since Stephanie O'Keeffe and Diana Stein both won their seats almost six years ago in a strongly contested election (5 candidates) but at the election three years ago neither had competition.

The odd thing about an election with two open seats is a voter gets two votes.   Thus like-minded candidates usually form an unofficial team, quietly telling their ardent supporters to throw their second vote to candidate B.

Theoretically Candidate A can have only 750 entrenched supporters as does Candidate B; but with each telling their supporters where to throw their second vote both candidates end up with a whopping 1,500 votes.

Thus making it tough on lone-wolf Candidate C, an outsider who tells their voters to "bullet vote"  (don't cast second vote) with a respectable 1,000 supporters,  but still ends up coming in a distant third.

Whereas if voters were only allowed one vote, Candidate C would have come in first.

Since there's no Proposition 2.5 Override or change-our-antiquated-form-of-town-government Charter issue on the ballot, voter turnout will be in the usual range ... dismal.

Over the past five years annual spring town elections averaged a pathetic 15% turnout (with an Override question on the ballot, 2010 had a 32% turnout) while the 2012 November Presidential election garnered a 69% turnout.

In addition to the two Select Board seats other town wide contests for three years seats include one seat on Jones Library Trustees, one  seat on Amherst School Committee, one seat each (for five year term) on Amherst Housing Authority and Amherst Redevelopment Authority (that did not meet once in the past year).

As usual the Town Meeting Moderator position is up (although Jim Pistrang has a 20 year lease). And Town Meeting will have the usual rotation of eight seats per Precinct up for three year terms (80 total) and a dozen other shorter term seats contested.

Amherst currently has 17,851 registered voters.


DaveMB said...

If A's followers prefer B to C and C's followers prefer A to C, then having the 1500-1000 majority elect both their preferred candidates is arguably the right outcome.

If you want minority factions to be represented, you need a system like that in Cambridge MA, and you need more positions available. In that system, if 4/9 of the voters preferred all left-handed candidates to all right-handed candidates, you would guarantee that at least four of the nine councilors would be left-handed.

Any word on whether the school committee posts will be contested? I was interested in the furor on this blog earlier in the fall about whether the current administration is limiting the availability of algebra for eighth-graders, and I might well vote for SC based on that issue.

Anonymous said...

Run, Larry, run!

Anonymous said...

Run Larry, then you could give first hand account of Selectboard issues. I'm sure Dave K. would show you the ropes.