With Super Duper Tuesday coming up, many of us are contemplating our options for national leadership. As they say, think globally, but don’t forget to act locally. Here in Amherst, our April 1 election has begun to heat up, as many well-qualified candidates have tossed their names in the ring for Select Board and School Committee. We encourage you to pay attention to these candidates – and even better, to join them on the ballot.
Sometimes at the national level it feels like you can’t make a difference. But in Amherst, your vote counts – and even more so if you can vote at Town Meeting. We’re here to say, if you’ve ever thought of joining Town Meeting, well, come on in, the water’s fine. There has been an infusion of new energy in Town Meeting recently. More than 80 new members. Sensible zoning articles passed with an eye to economic development. It’s safe again at Town Meeting.
We know the cynical perceptions. In fact, we’ve come up with our own Top 10 (cynical) Reasons to Join Town Meeting – listed below, along with our sense of how the reality differs from the myths:
Top 10 (cynical) Reasons to Join Town Meeting
10. You don’t have a life. Actually, Town Meeting can be enriching – you’ll meet new people, learn who the “movers and shakers” are in our town, find out how things work, and get the good feeling that comes from civic duty.
9. You hate lovely spring evenings spent possibly outdoors. Truthfully, you’re going to spend some time indoors, but catching up with your neighbors outside the Middle School on a soft spring evening has its own satisfactions.
8. You need to burn off that high-octane coffee your Seattle relatives sent. Actually, with lively discussions and a new attitude in Town Meeting that keeps discussion to a reasonable length, you won’t need to mainline the caffeine.
7. At least you won’t have to watch it on TV. Face it, if you’re watching it anyway, you might as well have a vote. It beats just yelling at your television.
6. You can join all the other “NIMBYs.” Actually, the mood at Town Meeting these days is more savvy than falling for that old “Not in My Backyard” mantra.
5. You’ve always wanted to learn knitting. Knitting is kind of cool. We’re with you on this one.
4. You have a burning desire to wrestle with zoning terms like “Special Permit” and “Site Plan Review.” Actually, understanding what can and cannot set up shop in our town is really important.
3. You can impeach Bush and set Amherst’s foreign policy. OK, we’re Amherst, sometimes we think globally. But mostly Town Meeting is about local services, funding and zoning – the things that directly affect our quality of life.
2. You just don’t get enough bickering in your own house. Actually, the discussions are well moderated, the rules are clear, and hearing different opinions can be enlightening.
1. Someone else can do it. If you don’t do it, shudder to think who will.
Imagine how exciting it would be to see your name on the ballot. All you have to do is sign up by Feb. 12 and you’re there. It only requires one signature – yours.
Some in Town Meeting have served for many years, some simply because there was no competition for their seats.
And while we respect all who serve, we believe that the town is best served by a continuous infusion of new members with fresh perspectives joining the process.
Each of the 10 neighborhood areas (or precincts) that make up Amherst elect 24 representatives, so each spring there are eight new Town Meeting openings in your precinct. One of them could be yours.
So how about it? Give Town Meeting a try – and on April 1, you could go into the voting booth and see your name on the ballot. It’s easy. You just go visit Town Hall (by Feb. 12), take a right down the hall to visit Sandra Burgess, the town clerk.
Tell her Andy, Baer and Clare sent you.
Amherst Center is a monthly column that seeks to present local issues from a centrist point of view. It is written by Town Meeting members Baer Tierkel and Clare Bertrand and School Committee member Andy Churchill.