Monday, January 18, 2016

When Products Compete, They Get Better

The sun is setting on our current form of government

The race for Charter Commission illustrates perfectly the problem with Amherst Town Meeting:  20 candidates have thus far taken out nomination papers for the nine open seats, or  2.2 candidates per seat while Town Meeting has only 30 candidates for 80 open seats, or .375 candidates per seat.

So how's a voter to decide who to elect to this critically important body that will decide the fate of Amherst town government for the rest of the century?

Well first of all it should be easy to nix the ones who did not sign the charter petition that brought it to the March 29 ballot in the first place:

Out of the 20 potential Charter Commission candidates that would include Janet McGowan, Gerry Weiss, Meg Gage, Maurianne Adams, Jennifer McKenna, Robert Greeney, Diana Stein, Leslie Saulsberry, and Chris Riddle (Although an Amherst For All Steering Committee member confirms Mr. Riddle signed a sheet but may have been disqualified for being illegible or some other technical reason).

In other words, Town Meeting Loyalists need not apply.  And the initial strategy to protect that inept antiquated form of government was to naively hope enough signatures would not be collected.

That of course did not pan out as Amherst For All collected the 3,215 signatures in a historically record breaking three months.

So the first two questions that should be asked of all the candidates who successfully hand in their nomination papers by February 9 with 50 signatures is did you sign the petition to bring about the Commission you are now running for, and do you support Amherst Town Meeting?

If they answer No & Yes you have your answer:  Choose someone else.


Anonymous said...

"I own some stock in some casino companies, but aside from that I have no interest in any casinos."

Anonymous said...

Chris Riddle most definitely signed the petition in October.

Anonymous said...

Chris is unpredictable, but he most definitely signed.

Anonymous said...

I thought this is to study forms of government? How could it matter if they are just collecting facts? Oh, I get it. You've already got a predetermined conclusion. So much for the study.

Anonymous said...

So people who like Town Meeting shouldn't even have a voice during this 'study?' So much for democracy.

Anonymous said...

I didn't sign the charter commission petition (I was away last fall). I'm for studying the form of government and would consider anything from a mayor to returning to an open town meeting. So why should I be disqualified from running or being elected to the charter commission.

- An un-hypocrite

Anonymous said...

Whe products compete?

I don't see how they are competing against each other. This is a move to replace town meeting. There's no competing to make things better as your title suggests.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the signature gatherers. People didn't sign for all kinds of reasons. Some people will not sign any petitions. Some people didn't understand the issue. Some people were "on the clock" when we asked them.

As 11:12 notes, you can't prove a negative.

That said, I really hope that the Charter Commission doesn't become another Amherst "date night" committee. You got Gerry Weiss+ Jenifer McKenna (business and life partners) on the ballot, with their son (who lives in NoHo) campaigning for them on Facebook. That's plain weird. My hope is that that they will split each other's vote, and we will be spared.

Anonymous said...

When products compete, the market gets better.

This is not a market, this the ratchet system of government and funding it. Things only move in one direction, bigger and more expensive.

A better example would be a person with a vise clamping down on each hand. Whichever vise produces more pain wins. The human is not better in the end.

What is cute is the thought that a different form of mega government will change things. This is like eating a cherry candy and wishing you a had a chicken dinner, and someone hands you an orange candy.

What is being forgotten is that it is human nature that is driving things. Amherst embraces one particular aspect of human nature really well. The desire to control everything and everyone around you....and keep their resources. I do not see a different flavor of government changing this.

This is like grant writing where 100 people put in 2 hours competing to win $200. Thus the group puts in 200 hours for $200. That is $1/hour. My sense is that if everyone who invested all the time to make this change had volunteered for the town in stead....that town would be a much better place, perhaps with less needed expensive employees. In stead they put in 100s or 1000s of hours to change things little if at all.

Anonymous said...

10:45, Lack of volunteers is not the problem. The charter backers have all served on multiple boards and committed "1000s of hours" to the Town already. It is that experience (and repeatedly getting our hands clamped in the Town Meeting vise) that is leading us to seek a new governing system.

Janet McGowan said...

What exactly do the Charter changers want? What problems have they faced getting their concerns addressed? I didn't sign the petition for a charter commission because I agreed with Amherst For All's statement that Amherst is a great place to live, learn and visit. I don't go from the idea that Amherst is a great town to --we have to change the government helped make it great. This makes no sense to me.

This is a great community, despite flaws. Amherst is beautiful, solvent, prosperous and has a tremendous number of involved citizens tirelessly working on the select board, on committees and in town meeting.

I moved here in the middle of the last charter vote in 2003 and found a community bitterly and sadly divided. People were really angry. Why would anyone want to stir up, again, this anger and divisiveness--especially now as we look for a new town manager? I need a really good answer to this question and have asked it on the Amherst for All facebook page. I can't say I got a good answer.

That said, I want to work on the Charter Commission, if a majority of Amherst voters want one in. I will take my training and experiences as a lawyer, mediator, parent, citizen activist and town meeting member and work hard for our community. I will not only listen to community members, I will hunt you down and ask you for your opinions and ideas. I will look to other New England towns' experiences, read laws, ferret out information, analyze issues and ideas, and talk them out.

I suspect many problems that people see in Amherst government can be fixed without a charter change, but if a charter change is needed, I will work with community members and commission members to bring a proposal back to our community. I promise you that.

Janet McGowan

Larry Kelley said...

Old Irish -- or maybe Polish -- proverb: "Anything worth doing is worth doing right."

The previous Charter Commission made a glaring error by keeping a Town Manager and having the Mayor be a weak figurehead. Although they did terminate Town Meeting, so I considered it close enough.

I hope the new Charter Commission learns from history.