The Select Board must provide leadership in making the choices and that will assure that the town continues to meet residents' needs.
Our town is facing a number of specific current challenges:
- Elementary Schools - Students are attending school in two buildings that were poorly designed, have deteriorated, damage the health of many children and school staff, and do not enhance a 21st century education. The proposal before voters on March 28th is the most cost effective solution.
- Library - The Jones Library is a treasure to our community and an anchor in our town center. The building needs substantial repair, is not accessible to people with disabilities, does not have space for current programs and is inefficient and costly to staff.
- Charter change for Town Government - The Charter Commission will propose changes to our form of government. I cannot take a position on a proposal that has not been fully developed. If voters adopt a new form of government, I will be committed to assuring that there is a smooth transition. If the voters decide not to adopt a new form of government, I will work to address problems that caused voters to create the Commission.
- Affordable Housing - Housing costs affect people who live in Amherst, or would like to live here, in different ways. A variety of efforts are needed to create housing opportunities for all.
- Financial Stability - Town government must be financially responsible with long-term planning to assure we have the resources to provide essential services.
Every year there will be specific challenges that face our town. No matter what these challenges are, I will bring a consistent set of core philosophies to managing these challenges:
Sound Fiscal Management
My Finance Committee experience has provided me an understanding of Amherst’s opportunities and challenges.
Our town's services - schools, public safety, roads, etc - are funded primarily through property taxes. Our largest employers, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and Hampshire College are large land owners that do not pay property tax. The Town needs economic development that will increase our tax base. As UMass grows the need for appropriate housing for new employees and students increases. We must work with the university to assure that its growth does not compromise the very important needs of our residents. Demands on our housing supply drive up costs and make it difficult for families and individuals with low or moderate incomes to live in Amherst. In order to have a diverse community, we must find ways to increase the availability of affordable housing while maintaining the safety of our neighborhoods.
Protecting Our Quality of Life
Amherst is a community where our children can safely leave home, attend a good school, get a book from a library, participate in exciting and healthy recreation programs, and have neighbors who will be vigilant and supportive. We can feel safe, take a walk down the street or on a beautiful trail in a conservation area, and find cultural, recreation, and enrichment opportunities for ourselves. When or if we need elderly services, they will be there for us. We rely on the Town to make all of these opportunities possible, maintain our roads, provide healthful water and deliver other essential services. We need to assure that this quality of life is protected for us, our neighbors, and people who will come to Amherst in the future as their home. I am committed to preserving town services that are essential to the quality of our lives and keep our taxes as low as possible. This can be achieved with the right economic development and responsible stewardship, primary obligations of our Select Board.
Amherst is a town that works
Our police officers, fire fighters – who are also qualified as EMTs, public health professionals, Senior Center and Leisure Services staff, conservation employees, Public Works Department, and so many others provide us with the services and programs that make Amherst a great place to live. They are directed by the Town Manager who has the professional experience and knowledge of Amherst to assure that our needs are met. Our schools are recognized statewide and nationally for their excellence. The Jones Library is an outstanding source for books and so much more. The services and programs we support with our taxes are guided by residents who serve on Town Meeting, boards and committees, and are enhanced by those who volunteer their time. The Town’s financial resources are limited and the budget must establish priorities. The Select Board must continue to provide leadership in making those choices and assure that the town continues to meet our needs.
Housing & Neighborhoods
Amherst is a unique place thanks to our proximity to our town's three institutions of higher learning. Our three largest employers bring great value to our town, including jobs, youth, culture, and investment. At the same time they bring challenges to our town including housing, student behavior, increased strain on resources such as public safety. We must solve the housing issue in Amherst. We need to put a plan in place that deals with off-campus housing for students. We need to do this in a way that ensures adequate affordable rental housing for families in town and protects our neighborhoods from unruly student-occupied houses. We must work with UMass to make this happen. We need to continue to think creatively, collaboratively, and learn from best practices that have been tried by other college towns around the world. A key role of the Select Board is to provide leadership on these issues.
Collaboration & Transparency
I have learned, from working on the Budget Coordinating Group, how important collaboration is to getting stuff done in our town. There are many stakeholders, each with their own priorities and agendas. It is critical that we create processes that enable us to collaborate together to get things done. Because that's the end goal: Getting stuff done for our town.
It is also important that decisions about our town are made in a transparent manner. All residents are entitled to critical information, to ask questions and provide input, to see exactly how decisions are being made and to find how how to have their voice heard and be involved.