Amherst Town Meeting: Too large (white, rich, old, clueless)?
The Amherst Charter Commission in their 1st meeting since the state mandated public forum last week discussed "themes" they heard both at the forum and in emails to the Commission over the past month or so.
The fate of Town Meeting seemed to be the paramount concern or as the music industry used to say "Number one with a bullet." Of course supporters fear Town Meeting will be "terminated with extreme prejudice," aka a bullet to the back of the head. (Metaphorically speaking of course.)
Charter Commission met last night in Town Hall prior to Town Meeting
Back in 2001 when the previous Charter Commission was formed the Select Board allowed a non binding advisory question on the ballot asking voters if it was time to terminate Town Meeting. And voters said "Yes" by a healthy margin (1,832 to 1,307).
Commissioner Diana Stein started the discussion by pointing out 24 of 37 speakers supported Town Meeting in some form. Although fellow loyalist Gerry Weiss was to quick to admit the most common comment was "to make Town Meeting smaller."
Chair Andy Churchill thought most of the 50+ attendees were, "Insiders who don't think outside the box."
The Charter Commission was pleased with the turnout for the 5/12 Public Hearing
Commissioner Nick Grabbe rattled off a list of common criticisms including "long sessions, not enough candidates, grandstanding, absenteeism, lack of preparation prior to meetings, reflexive opposition to staff proposals, acting with no constituent feedback, and name recognition key to getting elected."
Chair Andy Churchill took notes
Other members mentioned how Town Meeting can act as an "incubator" for entry into town government and the large legislative body acts in a checks-and-balances way to keep town officials and the executive branch (Select Board) in line.
But most agreed the overall form of government is diffuse without any one entity vested with the power to get things done or be held accountable when they fail.
Click to enlarge/read
Commissioner Irv Rhodes wondered if a Flint Michigan water crisis scenario occurred in Amherst who would be to blame: the Select Board, Town Manager, Town Meeting, DPW Director?
After last night's petulant Town Meeting, perhaps drinking the Kool-Aid is more in order.