In part 2 of its 3-week series, the Amherst Indy asks about social justice. Here is my response.
Social Justice: What do you think are the greatest social justice challenges facing our community and what can/should the Town Council do to address them?
Amherst faces many social justice challenges. A significant portion of our residents do not feel safe in the community. We have residents who do not have homes and many other residents who are cost burdened in the homes they do have. We are facing a climate crisis that will disproportionately affect our most vulnerable residents. Some of our residents do not have access to broadband internet or computers at home.
Fortunately, the Council has begun addressing these issues, and I have consistently supported the measures taken. I co-sponsored the Resolution in Support of CRESS and the Resolution in Support of H.R. 40 / S. 40 Bills in Congress (national reparations bills). I have been a consistent supporter of re-evaluating the meaning of community safety and how the Town approaches community safety. That work must continue with the new Council.
I voted to support Valley CDC’s 132 Northampton Road studio apartment project, purchase land on Belchertown Road for more affordable housing, and update our Inclusionary Zoning bylaw to require all projects adding 10 or more units to include affordable housing, all actions that will help us address our housing crisis and support residents whose housing costs are too high.
I sponsored the Resolution in Support of S. 868, An Act Empowering Cities and Towns to Impose a Fee on Certain Real Estate Transactions to Support Affordable Housing, and S. 1853, An Act Providing for Climate Change Adaptation Infrastructure and Affordable Housing Investments in the Commonwealth. This legislation, if enacted, will provide funds to our Affordable Housing Trust for their work in creating, supporting, and developing deed-restricted affordable housing, both rented and owned, in Amherst. It will also provide the opportunity for Amherst to receive grants from the state to retrofit existing housing stock to address climate sustainability and resiliency, another important part of equity and social justice.
I voted to support the Jones Library expansion and renovation project, which will provide necessary additional meeting space for the ESL tutoring program, a dedicated teen space, and additional computers for accessing the internet and computer programs. All of these additional benefits support equity and social justice, especially for those that are new in town, whose primary language is not English, who do not have the funds to hang out after school in a business, and who do not have access to broadband, or even a computer, in their home.
I co-sponsored with Councilors De Angelis and Schoen the Wage and Tip Theft Bylaw and the Responsible Employer and Tax Relief Agreement Bylaw, successfully enacting important wage protections for workers and tax-supported projects in Amherst. And, I am co-sponsoring with Councilor De Angelis a Surveillance Technology Oversight bylaw that would require transparency from the Town on the use of all technology that surveils the public.
These actions are only a first step. We must continue working together to address climate action, housing costs, and community safety in a holistic manner, so that we can make Amherst a better place for all.