Charter Commission (four men, four women) January 19
Much to the delight of the eight or nine Town Meeting loyalists in the audience the Charter Commission squandered an entire three hour meeting backtracking from their late December decision to pursue a Mayor/Council by discussing ways to improve the current Town Meeting.
Which is kind of like the horse and buggy industry discussing ways to improve that mode of transportation circa 1910 or today's newspaper industry brainstorming ways to make ink on paper more efficient.
The Commission previously voted 5-4 to put Town Meeting out to pasture but the minority folks are having a hard time accepting that vote. Kind of like the President Trump haters who have come out of the woodwork over the past two months.
Julia Rueshemeyer -- ever the attorney -- who has transformed into an all out Town Meeting cheerleader, pointed out that close vote was only a "straw vote," and openly wondered what happens now with one mayor/council supporter absent (Irv Rhodes) when the revote is 4-4?
Since the illustrious Select Board will vote to allow remote participation at their Monday night meeting that means absent member Irv Rhodes will be allowed to vote from afar his reaffirmation of mayor/council keeping the 5-4 vote intact.
And while he's at it Mr. Rhodes, who is black, should play the race card to offset Ms. Rueschemeyer playing the gender card at the last meeting praising Town Meeting for having 52% proportion of women.
Of course age, income, home ownership and skin color status is wildly out of whack compared to current town demographics.
In a recent memo to the Commission from their Collins Institute consultants the odd idea of creating a Select Board with one member being essentially a "mayor" was pretty much ruled out of order for ideas the Attorney General would allow.
All the state statutes treat a Select Board as a shared power executive branch, so in Amherst each of the five members are one-fifth of a mayor. Which is of course the problem. Nobody takes any one of them very seriously.
And insiders would be happy to point out over the past ten years former Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe and current Chair Alisa Brewer do/did act as sort of the Connecticut version of a "first Selectman" but it's made no difference with government efficiency.
Ms. O'Keeffe spoke during the public comment period and pointed out the signature gathering effort to get the Charter question on the ballot "reflected significant dissatisfaction with town government" and any tweaks/improvements to Town Meeting should be handled by the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee, not the Charter Commission.
Specifically addressing Ms. Rueshemeyer's pro-women rallying cry the longtime former Select Board chair said emphatically, "This is Amherst. We've had a majority of women on Select Board and as Chairs for decades!"
The Commission has scheduled an extra meeting for January 30th prior to the Special Town Meeting vote on the $67 million Mega School. But members hope to take the revote after one more hour of discussion at their Wednesday, January 25th meeting, which starts at 6:30 PM.
At that meeting they will hear from Northampton Mayor Narkewicz who will no doubt be subject to "gotcha" type cross examination by the four Town Meeting loyalists.
The Commission will continue to discuss the merits of Town Meeting and perhaps take a revote later that night whether to rescind the previous "straw vote".
So even if Mr. Rhodes is absent and the Select Board has not approved remote participation the vote to reverse direction from the previous mayor council straw vote will still be a 4-4 tie and therefor the motion does not pass.
Simply enough to understand, even for a lawyer.