The Gazette and Bulletin ask Questions of Candidate in Contested Elections

The Gazette and Bulletin have asked candidates in contested elections for answers to some questions for an article they are writing. Below are Mandi’s complete answers to their questions.

Why are you running for a seat on the Town Council?

I am running for re-election because I have enjoyed the challenge of governing in Amherst and I have more I want to accomplish. While I have accomplished a lot in the past three years, including successfully co-sponsoring employee wage protection legislation and currently co-sponsoring surveillance technology oversight legislation; voting in support of many affordable housing measures, including an inclusionary zoning bylaw requiring affordable housing in all new residential developments of 10 units or more; supporting climate action initiatives, including adoption of aggressive Climate Action Goals that, if met, will lead the Town to carbon neutrality by 2050, and funding the elimination of on-site fossil fuel use at two of our three library buildings in town; and supporting a re-definition of the meaning of community and public safety through the creation of the Community Response for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) program, which will result in more appropriate responses to emergency calls from our residents, there is more that I would like to accomplish.

I want to continue addressing the housing crisis in Amherst by proposing legislation and working with the Town Manager to begin addressing the many challenges that lead to our housing crisis. I want to continue our work on funding the four major capital projects. I want make progress on making Amherst a more equitable Town. And I want to continue moving Amherst towards being a carbon neutral Town by 2050.

What is a top issue facing Amherst?

Amherst faces some big challenges. The good news is that the new form of government has begun to address them head on. Yet, we must keep moving forward on these initiatives. We have a housing crisis that must be addressed (high taxes, lack of affordable housing for families, low housing-supply as compared with demand, public-private partnerships, etc.). We must find a fiscally responsible means of funding the upcoming major capital projects amidst rising construction costs, rising interest rates, the possibility of not receiving grant money to share the costs with state-wide taxpayers, and a desire to have all of them completed in the nearest term possible. And we must re-assess our operating budget and which services we want to provide and at what levels, including a focus on community safety.

 As a Councilor, I voted to fund the renovation and expansion of the Jones Library, the first step in addressing both the four large capital projects in Town in a fiscally responsible manner and a major step in moving our largest public buildings off of fossil fuels. I also voted for a smart revision of the Inclusionary Zoning bylaw, and, in the Community Resources Committee, have voted to support adoption of allowing Accessory Dwelling Units by-right, and a re-definition of mixed-use buildings to help ensure our business districts have public facing businesses at street-level. I have been instrumental in drafting and presenting to the Council for adoption, a Comprehensive Housing Policy that will enable Town staff, boards, committees, and the Council to evaluate measures, spending proposals, and projects in a way that best addresses our housing crisis. Finally, I have voted to support a re-definition of the meaning of community and public safety by supporting the creation of the Community Response for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) program, which will result in more appropriate responses to emergency calls from our residents. I am proud to have served on a Council that has begun thoughtfully addressing these challenges and look forward to continuing moving forward on them.

Do you have specific goals and visions for Amherst?

If re-elected, my top legislative priority would be housing. Our housing crisis causes many spill-over detrimental effects in Town. It is why families cannot afford to live here and our schools are suffering from declining enrollment. It perpetuates inequality and hampers the presence of a more diverse Town. It causes town-gown strain. If re-elected, I intend to propose legislation and work with the Town Manager to begin addressing these challenges. Some options include stronger regulations regarding required inspections for obtaining a rental registration permit; net-zero and green building requirements for both new buildings and retrofits; guiding new housing growth to areas that minimize the impact on Amherst’s open space; promoting duplex and triplex development by-right; promoting infill development; and collaboration and partnerships for student housing in appropriate locations.

Other areas I would prioritize include funding the remaining major capital projects and enacting design guidelines.

How do you feel the first three years of the Town Council have gone?

Overall, the first three years of the Town Council have gone well. As with any venture, there have been challenges and successes. Some of the things the Council needs to work on include reducing the time commitment for Councilors in order to encourage more people to run, and figuring out better ways to engage the public on measures that are before the Council. Some of the successes include setting up the Council’s processes and procedures so that the Council can operate effectively, more deliberate decision-making, the funding of the Jones Library expansion and renovation project, progress on the Elementary School Building Project, and the adoption of a Comprehensive Housing Policy.