The tax burden on Amherst residents is one of the highest in the state and is affecting those on fixed incomes and is contributing to higher rent costs. We need to recognize this. Younger families of modest incomes are less able to afford housing than in the past and our school enrollments are continuing to decline. It is time for Amherst to look at decisions with an eye towards spending our taxpayers money wisely and minimizing tax increases. When I become your council representative I will make decisions accordingly.
We need to expedite and make the replacement of the Station Road bridge a top priority...even if it is at first a temporary solution! Town Council must generate a prioritized and financially responsible plan to address Amherst’s most serious infrastructure needs. At the top of my list are the Fort River and Wildwood elementary schools whose open classroom structure is clearly detrimental to learning. I support investing for elementary schools that will facilitate learning from preschool through 6th grade. I am committed to doing so in an informed and responsible manner.
We also have a need for a New Fire Station South of Amherst Center to replace the outdated and inappropriately located Amherst center station. Additional projects to be considered are addressing the lack of space at our Senior Center, and the DPW building issues.
The majority of our Amherst’s revenue comes from property taxes and our residents and businesses are already strained from the burden. At present we are not in a position to fund all of our desired capital projects while providing the high-quality services needed by our residents without borrowing (and paying interest!). We will need to be financially responsible as we move forward. The new high-density buildings being constructed in town and considered for other locations provide needed tax revenue but in the near term we are going to have to exercise fiscal responsibility and make some compromises. We will need to be creative as we consider revenue strategies and should not limit our thought processes.
Development can be a positive thing when carefully planned to meet the needs of the community. I attended as a child the ribbon cutting opening ceremony for Hampshire College in 1970. Changes to zoning are very important and the details definitely matter. High density housing is a reasonable concept but one that is particularly impactful to the Downtown Amherst. More large structures are on the way. We need a strong design review process so that the voices and concerns of town residents are heard and considered. One needs to look no further than the Bank of America Building in comparison to the Police Station to understand that design matters. Wide sidewalks are needed in our downtown for Amherst to be a more vibrant and desirable destination. Additionally, new developments need to make accommodations to address the critical need for affordable housing via set aside units or contributions of funding for use elsewhere. When I become your Town Council representative I will work to achieve these objectives. These structures will be here for 100 years so let’s get it right.
As your Town Council representative, I will strive for a culture of collaboration and respect by listening to the residents of Amherst and other voices of town government as decisions are made to serve the needs and values of our diverse community. Together we need to ensure that Amherst provides efficient delivery of high-quality services that meet the needs and values of our diverse community. Once elected, I plan to continue talking personally with my district neighbors and residents. I will provide easy and ongoing feedback mechanisms so that you can keep in touch with me at all levels of decision making.
It is clear to me that Amherst will benefit greatly by becoming known as a business friendly town that is welcoming to new entrepreneurs and investors of capital. Most of our residents agree on the desirability of a year-round local economy so let's facilitate things. It makes sense for the town to work together with our local businesses, Amherst BID, the Chamber of Commerce, Cooperative Markets, and others to identify areas where we can reduce strain to facilitate economic growth. Similarly, we can reach out to our builders and contractors. I believe in the win-win approach for our town and and our businesses and will work towards achieving mutually beneficial positive outcomes when I become your Council Representative.
It makes sense for Amherst to continue on the green path to Sustainability. I am in favor of advancing the consideration of Comminity Energy Choice Plus which would enable Amherst residents to choose renewable sources of electricity. There are many non-intrusive steps that can be explored such as water fountain outlets downtown and elsewhere to fill up containers and reduce plastic waste; electric car battery charging stations to enable access and to get ahead of the curve on the coming electric car systemic change; tax credits and education for carbon neutral and green construction. This will be good for our economy and will be a win-win for our community.