Charter Commission: 8 out of 9 were in attendance last night
Much to the horror of the Collins Institute consultants the Amherst Charter Commission spent an hour discussing a topic not on the agenda, a sort of do over of the previous meeting where a 5-4 straw vote set a path towards Mayor/Council leaving our current Select Board/Town Meeting/Manager system relegated to the dust bin.
Town Meeting loyalist Gerry Weiss read a defiant statement lamenting the lack of discussion by Charter Commissioners about "improving" Town Meeting and suggested he would outright oppose any new form of government proposed that did not include Town Meeting.
Weiss was joined by Julia Rueschemeyer who echoed the same concerns even going so far to say the lawyer in her was tempted to call for a revote knowing Mayor/Council supporter Irv Rhodes was not in attendance.
But Chair Andy Churchill pointed out a 4-4 tie vote would still mean the motion fails, so it would not undo the 5-4 vote from the previous meeting.
The Select Board will vote on Monday night whether to allow town boards and committees to use "remote participation," so in the future when Mr. Rhodes is traveling and unable to make a meeting he can use an electronic device to participate and his vote will count.
The consultants were concerned about an already tight deadline with this backtracking taking up valuable time.
The Commission decided to flesh out the Mayor/Council proposal for the rest of the meeting and on January 19th briefly revisit the idea of "improving Town Meeting" and take yet another vote which form is the best for them to pursue over the next six months.
Although Mr. Weiss was quick to acknowledge that it will still end up a 5-4 vote in favor of Mayor/Council.
Over the rest of the night they did vote to support forming a Council of 13 members, one per precinct (Amherst has 10 precincts) and three elected "at large"; and the precinct Councilors serve two year terms while the three at large Councilors each have a four year term.
And, like a kid taking his toys and going home, Mr. Weiss abstained on those two votes.
Let's hope on January 19 when the Charter Commission reaffirms their earlier vote to mothball Town Meeting, Mr. Weiss will simply resign and let someone replace him who can help move the Commission steadily forward on solid ground rather than seeking a quagmire.