Noon today, Amherst town center. Note Select Board candidates don't even bother
With actual town-wide contests on the ballot, Tuesday's election will draw twice the voter turnout as last year's snoozer.
Although, that's not saying much since last year Amherst -- where even the H is silent -- saw a pitiful showing at the election booth of only 6.6%; compared to 69% the previous year for the Presidential contest (which in Massachusetts is not much of a contest).
And with two of four Select Board candidates firmly representing the status quo establishment vying for two open seats, and with each voter allowed to vote for two candidates, Finance Committee Chair Andy Steinberg and Amherst Housing Authority Chair Connie Kruger are nothing if not unbeatable.
The other two candidates -- John Boothroyd and Helen Berg -- can flip a coin to see who's last. Although considering her eccentricities, let's hope it's Helen Berg.
When it comes to the Select Board race -- after the tumultuous years of Czar Anne Awad, his lordship Gerry Weiss and t-shirt tosser Rob Kusner -- the last six years have been pretty smooth sailing.
Well, other than the perennial national embarrassment over censoring the commemorative American flags in the downtown on 9/11.
So I'm quite comfortable with Steinberg and Kruger assuming top leadership roles in town government, as it's not like "changing horses in mid stream."
The School Committee is a different matter altogether. Amherst has champagne costs with lite beer results. And the PC problem, also a PR nightmare, of racism and bullying has been an issue for many years; an issue the current School Committee has done nothing to solve.
So I'm more than up for giving an outsider a chance -- especially since Vira Douangmany is not your usual white-bread upper middle class automaton, and her husband owns a small business. Maybe now the connection between expensive school costs bringing on high property taxes in a town that has a tiny commercial tax base will be understood.
The Amherst Redevelopment Authority is dead but if it is ever revived it wouldn't hurt to have a stakeholder with some passion on board, so I will be voting for Paige Wilder, even though we strongly disagreed on the Gateway Project.
Phillips Street was the only area in the Gateway that was officially ruled "decadent" (making it easier to take by eminent domain) by a certified consultant, so maybe some day the ARA will take the street, flatten it, and build something we can all be proud of. That is, if they ever meet again.
Same can be said for Amherst Housing Authority. While I would strongly disagree with Tracy Lee Saraia Grace Boutilier's quest to take Echo Village Apartments by eminent domain (they are not considered "decadent") she would still bring an impassioned outsider perspective informed by experience.
Ah, Town Meeting -- that overwhelmingly white, overly educated bastion of democracy. Until Amherst grows up and switches to a more professional Mayor/Council it's the only game in town (what the gambler said about a rigged operation).
I can't argue with the recommendations of Sustainable Amherst, but I find it interesting the long-time Town Meeting members they did not endorse: Media mogul Isaac BenEzra, landlord Richard Gold, Nonny Burack, Rob Kusner, Mary Wentworth to name a few.
Matthew Cunningham-Cook (the UMass student who brought us the $15/hr Minimum Wage article slapped down by Town Meeting last week), also fails to garner an endorsement, which, after the recent debacle is more than understandable.
We do have a handful of other students running for Town Meeting, so in all likelihood some will be successful. Of course Town Meeting drags on until June, so it will be interesting to check their attendance records after UMass lets out.