The Springfield Republican recently sent the Town Council candidates a candidate profile and survey with five questions. Look for all the candidate answers soon in the paper. But, in the meantime, here’s how I responded.
1] Why are you running, and what will be your priorities if elected?
I am running to advocate for (1) responsible funding of voter-approved capital projects; (2) creating a comprehensive plan that addresses all aspects of Amherst’s housing needs, including affordable housing, family housing, and student housing; and (3) enacting form-based zoning that will ensure new buildings fit into the character of the surrounding streetscape. In working towards achieving these priorities, I will ensure the Town Council enables greater public participation by actively reaching out to residents and seeking out partnerships with apartment complexes and leading non-profits.
2] What is your vision for the council’s relationship with the town manager?
The Town Council must have a good working relationship with the Town Manager that also respects the separation of powers between the two branches. It will be imperative for the Town Council to permit the Town Manager to exert appropriate authority over the various departments in Town by giving respect and deference to decisions made in accordance with that authority. At the same time, the Town Council will need to maintain its independence on legislative matters.
3] How do you view the town’s relationship with UMass?
UMass is one of the largest employers in Town and houses a large fraction of Amherst’s population. Amherst and UMass must be partners, working towards a vibrant, healthy town people want to live and work in. Amherst officials need to openly and effectively communicate with each other, like the UMass off-campus housing office has with the Amherst Police Department. At the same time, the Town must advocate for what it needs from UMass, both with UMass officials and at the state house, including negotiating for additional PILOT agreements and funding for schools and public safety.
4] How do you define diversity?
It is extremely important to ensure a wide variety of perspectives are represented in discussions. Ideally, the individual decision-makers represent diverse viewpoints on the matters being considered. But, diversity is not achieved if the people participating have the same opinion, even if they are demographically different. In order to achieve this diversity, it’s essential that we reach out to and involve individuals from a variety of backgrounds, life experiences, races, genders, economic situations, ages, and lifestyles. The Council will need to continually work to reach out to under-represented groups to achieve this, like I did while on the Charter Commission.
5] Anything else you’d like to share:
In addition to my service on the Charter Commission and Town Meeting, I am currently the renter representative to the Rental Bylaw Implementation Group in Amherst and served on the Electronic Voting Study Committee that brought more accountability to Town Meeting in Amherst. I am an active volunteer in the community, serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate at Friends of Children, helping children in the foster care system. I also served on the board of the Pioneer Valley Symphony for six years (three as President), and currently play viola in it.