Amherst For All, an organization seeking major changes to local government in Amherst, will hold a series of three practice “district” meetings beginning on Monday.
A plan to replace Town Meeting, which has 240 elected members, and the Select Board with a 13-member Town Council also calls for merging Amherst’s 10 voting precincts to create five districts.
“When you vote in March on improving and updating key parts of Amherst government, one thing you’ll be voting on is a stronger system of voter input and accountability. One important new feature … is the District Meeting,” states the letter from AFA Chairwoman Johanna Neumann.
Town Meeting proponents have argued that local government would be less representative under the plan, with a major decrease in the number of people able to vote directly on critical issues.
District Meetings are designed as an open forum for communicating with Town Councilors, Neumann wrote, “in order to share your opinions, insights, and feedback with the elected officials who will represent you.”
Neumann maintained that there is no equivalent feature in today’s Town Meeting-based system. “Today, you have to go find out who represents you, find out how to reach them, and hope they respond,” she wrote.
A Charter Commission tasked with studying Amherst town government and coming up with proposed improvements has narrowly voted for the Town Council plan, which would include a Town Manager. At local polls in March, Amherst residents will vote on the proposal.
The dates of the District Meeting “Dress Rehearsals” are below, and AFA has asked that those planning to attend send an RSVP.
Proposed Amherst Districts 1 & 2 (Now Precincts 1, 2, 3, 6)
UMass Police Station | Thursday, Nov. 16, 7 – 8:30 PM
Proposed Amherst Districts 3 & 4 (Now Precincts 4, 5, 9, 10)
Amherst Police Station | Monday, Nov. 13, 7 – 8:30 PM
Proposed Amherst District 5 (Now Precincts 7, 8)
Munson Memorial Library | Sunday, Nov. 19, 2 – 3:30 PM
The Spectator of Amherst appreciates your comments and clarifications, and welcomes submission of well-reasoned opinion columns. Marla Goldberg-Jamate is a Precinct 7 Town Meeting member. This article may be updated with additional information.