I love living in a small college town. Our house is only a mile from the center of Amherst, so I can get on my bicycle and be most places I want to go in five minutes, or in the winter walk there in 15 minutes.
I can visit our wonderful public library, I can choose among five coffee shops, or I can go to an indie movie theater. I can attend free concerts and lectures at the University or Amherst College. I can drop off my tax payments at Town Hall.
While living and working in Amherst for 32 years, I’ve met lots of creative, intelligent, liberal-minded people. I know who my neighbors are, and see people I know whenever I go downtown. I love that our residents paid for a new building for the Survival Center, where hundreds of volunteers give out free food and clothing to neighbors in need.
I love that in Amherst I’m not expected to wear fancy clothes. No one looks askance at me because I get around on a bicycle and wear clothing bought at church sales and the Salvation Army.
There’s a farmers’ market (in the winter!) only a two-minute walk from our house, as well as a popular one downtown in the summer. As a gardener, I like that Amherst has a rich agricultural tradition and there are several farms where residents can buy shares and pick up fruits and vegetables regularly. I like that we are among the leaders in the state in acreage preserved for farming.
This small town is an ideal place to practice simple living. And I like that my political beliefs, which might mark me as a dangerous left-winger in Middle America, are seen as moderate here in Amherst.
We have just the right combination of rural tranquility and cultural opportunities. I don’t think I’d like to live deep in the country, cut off from people and having to drive long distances, or in the city, with its noise, traffic and confusion.
But we have some problems in this paradise. During the 19 years I was the editor of our weekly newspaper and the subsequent 13 years when I wrote stories about our town, I noticed that our town falls far short of the democratic ideal. Now that I’m retired, I would like to contribute to making Amherst’s government better reflect the will of its residents.
On March 29, I will be one of 20 candidates on the ballot for nine seats on a “charter commission,” which will investigate our alternatives and recommend changes that voters will be asked to approve. I don’t have a preconceived notion of what direction we should go, but a conviction that we can’t continue with the status quo.
It is inevitable that there will be conflict in this process. If elected, I will try to respect the views of those who disagree with me and work to minimize the divisiveness.
Amherst has a lot going for it. Imagine how much better it will be when all our citizens believe they have a say in our government. I think we can achieve this without losing our cherished small-town values.
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