1] Amherst North Common
What are your thoughts on the “preferred concept” recently submitted by the planning department?
The tension between maximizing the naturalized beauty and public function of a renovated North Common and the need for downtown parking is the issue here. I would encourage a plan that keeps as much parking as possible in the short run with the option of turning those temporarily saved spaces into public use natural landscaping at a future time when the parking is no longer needed. It is likely that we will build a new parking garage in the near to mid-term future.
2] University-Town of Amherst Collaborative (UTAC)
The UTAC has largely been inactive since the spring. Is the UTAC a useful vehicle for dialogue and/or what could be done to make better use of that structure? For example, when UMass announced last month that they would seek a developer to build additional housing, for 1,000 undergraduates, on the south side of Massachusetts Avenue, could that have been something that included more UTAC involvement?
UTAC is a good idea and should continue. Increasing the housing stock for students through public private partnership is also a good idea. Involving UTAC in a meaningful participatory manner is a good idea. Efficacy and efficiency of process generally benefits from early and continued collaboration with all parties that have a stake or interest in the matter. Failure to do so often results in divisiveness, delays and a diminished outcome. The recent elementary school proposal failure is a good example of the failure of a proper process of inclusion and participation. Amherst town center development is another example.
3] Strategic Partnership Agreement between Amherst and UMass
The current agreement signed in 2015 expires next year. What changes, if any, would you insist on as a member of the Town Council?
By all means this agreement should be renewed and continue. It is easily documented that the cost of education the children brought to UMass by students, graduate students and post-doctoral research fellows and visiting professors and researchers far exceeds the payments we receive. This is one area that should be renegotiated in any renewed agreement.
4] Municipal Finance
What is your budget/fiscal experience and background, and what sort of financial acumen would you bring to the Council?
I teach physics at Holyoke Community College. I am practiced at numerical literacy, quantitative reasoning. I do planning and budgeting for physics and astronomy. I was a town meeting member for over ten years. I construct and use spreadsheets often. Most important, I can bring a perspective that high standards of quality can often be achieved at reduced cost. Inclusion and participation of a diversity of perspectives can also lead to better outcomes at lower cost.
5] Town Meeting/Legislative function of Council
When any legislative action is required, that had previously been a town meeting function:
A] Should those types of duties, in terms of scheduling, be discussed and acted on by the Council at meetings when only those town meeting functions would/could be on that meeting agenda?
B] Please discuss your reasoning
The Council, of course, must follow the requirements of the Charter. In places where protocols are not explicit, the Council need not be constrained by previous Town Meeting practice. The precedents of practice set by the new Council should, however, be considerate of important guidelines, such as, openness, transparency, inclusion, involvement and participation.
6] Term of Office
How long would you like to serve on the Town Council?
Three years of course, after that, too soon to speculate.
7] Anything else you would like to share?
Thirteen people will set into action our new governance for the foreseeable future. I am running to ensure the process by which we set policy and make decision on spending, building, zoning, etc. is broadly inclusive and participatory. This has not been our past practice, especially regarding controversial issues. The divisive and failed elementary school proposal is a good example of the failure of inclusion and participation. The current trend in downtown development is similarly divisive and controversial. Whether you like it or not, you were not asked and you did not participate. The Council must change that practice.