Tuesday, February 4, 2014
At least the upcoming March 25 Amherst local election is, unlike last year, a contested one. Sort of. But in the (sort of) all important Select Board race, where four candidates will vie for two open seats, the two insider candidates -- Andy Steinberg and Connie Kruger -- are virtually unbeatable.
The quirk in an election with two open seats is that each voter gets to vote for two candidates. Two like minded candidates then combine forces and easily double their vote tally, making outside loners like Helen Berg and John Boothroyd marginal candidates.
Potentially the most interesting Select Board candidate, Umass Grad Student Matthew E. Cunningham-Cook, failed to return his Select Board nomination papers with 50 required signatures, but he did sign up for Town Meeting.
He said he became too busy working on calling a Special Town Meeting to try to enact a Home Rule Amendment for Amherst to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour. Not sure how well that will go over with local businesses in our service economy that rely on a, um, cheap labor.
But hey, I'm sure he could talk Senator Elizabeth Warren to come speak in its behalf.
Thus the only interesting race is going to be for School Committee where incumbent Katherine Appy will take on newcomer Viraphanh Douangmany. With the current disarray in the schools it's probably a positive not to be an incumbent.
Town Meeting interest picked up dramatically in the final stretch and there are now contests in all but one Precinct out of ten for the (sort of) all important three-year seats.
Even though the Amherst Redevelopment Authority has not met in over a year two candidates -- Paige Wilder and Pamela Rooney -- will be vying for one seat with a five-year term. And the Amherst Housing Authority also has two candidates for one five-year term, Peter Jessop (also an "insider") and activist Tracylee Boutilier.
Last year with no town wide seats contested, voter turnout was a pathetic 6.6%. With all these "contests" this election should see a whopping 15% turnout.