Which Amherst do you live in?
The current charter debate reveals that there are many different Amhersts. If the number of signs around town reflects the level of our passions, we are living through a stormy period of competing visions.
Our perceptions of Amherst are shaped by our life experiences, our personalities, our tribal memberships, our information silos. We can live right next door to each other, yet feel we live in different Amhersts.
- a small town threatened by urban development?
- or a town, no longer small, that has outgrown its historical governmental structure?
- a university and college host struggling to live comfortably with its student guests?
- or a town enriched by the presence of colleges and university which provide employment and cultural events?
- a desirable place of possibility with good schools, green spaces and cultural richness?
- or a town in decline where communal needs and cultural desires outstrip reasonable tax revenues?
- a place of ethnic, economic and racial diversity where neighbors get to know each other and look for our human commonalities?
- or a historically white town where non-white people often feel marginalized and targeted?
- a place of increasing economic stratification with tensions between homeowners and renters?
- or a town where people share many hopes for our life together and feel confident we can govern ourselves for the common good?
- a place where opposing camps are locked in bitter combat and where winning is all that matters?
- or a place where we listen to each other’s thoughts and feelings, try to understand each other and work together toward solutions to the challenges we face?
- a place where we question the motives of people on the opposite side of issues and ascribe corrupt purposes to our opponents?
- or a place where we can engage in civil and respectful discussion and disagreement about issues facing our town?
- a place of fear?
- or a place of hope?
Is there an objective reality of “Amherst” around which we can come together for the common good?
Let’s all step back and take a deep breath. Now, what Amherst do you live in? Can we find our way to a common vision? An Amherst that works for all of us?
If you want to learn more about the proposed new town charter from dedicated people who are seeking to improve how our town government works, I recommend the blog A Better Amherst.