Pages tagged "District 3"
Posted on Amherst/Pioneer Valley by · August 26, 2018 11:04 PM
District 3 members on the Amherst Town Council will represent Precincts 4 and 10 (vote at the Bangs Center).
Amherst, Northampton and Pelham are currently discussing Community Choice Energy. Is this an idea you support? What are the advantages and disadvantages that you see?
I support actively exploring the CCE option with our neighboring towns, and, if necessary, funding the technical report that will be needed to make rational decisions about its viability and sustainability. This is a complex issue that will require careful thought by the town. As a former Finance Committee member I am as concerned about the potential economic impact on our citizens and businesses as I am optimistic that a CCE could help us reach our shared goals of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels.
Community Choice Energy is an idea I would support. Advantages are it gives consumers more choice about how their energy is created. More importantly, it reflects the values of our community of coming together to create environmental change on the policy and personal level. I see no disadvantages, given that it still provides avenues for customers to pay status quo rates. This policy would encourage consumers to play a more active role in shaping their energy system around them.
Programs to encourage and help finance renewable energy, public and private relationships where homeowners and businesses can sell back all of their excess energy, and energy conservation all must be supported. Community Energy Choice can be very important as we transition to more renewable energy sources, working with Eversource and National Grid to make sure that needed delivery systems are well maintained. We must decrease reliance on fossil fuels to create energy self-sufficiency here in New England.
I like the idea of choice and any choice that includes cleaner energy sources is attractive and a boon to the environment. I have some concern about the reliance on electricity since a good portion of the current production of electric power is fueled by coal. I would need to be convinced that the electric power that is being generated is not being primarily generated by coal-fired power plants.
How will you explain to voters the initial costs and long-term savings of new Town-owned buildings under the Zero Energy Municipal Buildings bylaw?
Many people are familiar with the idea that sometimes you need to pay extra up front for something in order to reap long-term savings. For example, in deciding to buy a slightly more expensive, but more energy-efficient, refrigerator the buyer can at estimates for power consumption, cost of electricity, and estimated lifetime of the appliance and see how quickly the initially higher cost will be "paid off" and how much long-term savings will result. The same logic applies to zero-energy buildings constructed by the town.
The initial costs of new Town-owned buildings under the Zero Energy Municipal Building Bylaw are an investment and will be paid off in the long-term. Massachusetts and Amherst should be leaders in environmental justice and this is one way that Amherst can model for other communities how to make a financial prudent and just decision. I would provide voters will a comparable example that I have done a lot of work on: food-insecurity in families and children. I did 18 months of research on the SNAP program, school lunch, and food insecurity in children and families in the Honors College at UMass. Ultimately, we got to go to Beacon Hill and advocate for policy changes. I had the pleasure of meeting with then Senate President Stan Rosenberg to discuss the Kids First initiative. Making sure children have antiquate and healthy diets can contribute to better attendance and performance in schools, help develop a healthy and productive citizenry, and prevent a burden on the healthcare system later in life. The logic is the same: positive changes often require upstream investment but the rewards can be bountiful and even generational.
One pays more to get a well built fuel efficient car. The savings are realized every week at the gas pump when one spends less to go just as far. When one looks at the big picture and examines the reduction in pollution of the environment, the savings are seen as even more important. In like manner, Amherst must continue to be a leader in building zero energy buildings and institutions like Hampshire College to be an example for others to follow. Paying more up front is hard, but when more people are doing something, prices go down so that it is cheaper for us all to do the right thing in the long run.
Zero energy buildings will cost more to build than conventional buildings -- upwards of 10% more. But over time the initial upfront costs will be paid back and then some, beginning around the 16th year of operation. At that point the yearly energy savings will more than pay for the upfront costs. To say nothing of the benefit to the planet.
What are your ideas for making Amherst more affordable for low and moderate income renters and owners?
As demonstrated with the new development in North Amherst on the former Cowls land, the town can work with developers and other levels of government (state and federal) to create the economic incentives and supports needed to make below-market-rate housing a reality. Such partnerships are essential because the market itself will not get the job done--which is why we need leaders who are committed to taking the time and energy to make affordable housing an ongoing priority.
We need to build. We cannot be stymied by NMBY attitudes. Not every location will be perfect for housing projects, however, we must continue to build housing to meet the demand in Amherst. Moreover, I would act in accordance to the Master Plan and head the suggestions of the 2015 Housing Market Study which suggests denser development in the downtown and village centers. I would like to look further into 40R districts and the possibility of a University overlay district. Having districts with a mission of focus may help us address some of the many housing needs that face Amherst.
There are many types of affordable housing, and Amherst must be proactive on all fronts. No new apartment buildings or developments should be built in the town of Amherst that do not have affordable housing of some kind--not just in exchange for a variance, but as of right. I strongly support the creation, preservation, and maintenance of safe, decent, and affordable housing for low and moderate-income individuals and families. These should be diverse and inclusive developments with a variety of ages and incomes, where residents have easy access to services and transportation, developments that relate to the scale and ambience of surrounding communities. The Housing Trust Strategic Plan's call for enhanced SRO's (studios with kitchens and baths) must be coupled with necessary on-site services and common indoor and outdoor social spaces.
I fully support making the former East Street school site available for an affordable housing project. I support the creation of a 40R zoning district in the downtown and/or village centers that would allow for more denser development than current zoning allows. In other communities this has proved to be an effective tool in helping create lower and middle income housing. Long term we need to look at ways we can assist first-time homebuyers who want to live in Amherst but are currently priced out of the market.
If elected, what will you do to increase racial and class diversity in town government - from Council to committees?
First step is to identify barriers currently limiting participation by non-majority individuals. That will require some organization and effort to create forums for folks to talk about what those barriers are. Some, no doubt, are cultural, and some are logistical. We can work on both types of barriers (although the logistical ones, such as offering childcare or transportation, are easier and faster to accomplish than changing the culture of a town government). That doesn't mean cultural change can't happen--it can, and has--but cultural change has to start with leaders who appreciate the degree to which their own relative privilege can bias their understanding of issues important to those who are not so privileged, either because of race, sex, education, economic background, or any other form of difference.
The burden is on us, the candidates, to meet people where they are at and engage them in the democratic process. That means whether at school functions, bus stops, or the super market engaging friends and strangers alike in conversations on the pressing matters of the town and introducing them to ways they can get involved. Every school and civic group I have been apart of, many which I later became a leader in was on where a peer dragged me to a meeting. That is what it takes. I also means using alternative methods for communication and seeking public input like meeting in the spaces and times of local organizations that are not traditionally included in the conversation. Not everyone can commit to being on a committee but everyone should be a part of the process!
We must make efforts to reach out to people who have not been participating in Amherst government by removing the barriers to their participation by making sure that information, child care, and transportation are easily available. It is not enough to make a statement, put up a sign, or say "You are all welcome."
Town Councilors must seek out new people representing different cultures, races and ethnicities, neighborhoods, ages, interests and livelihoods to serve on committees if the town government is to be truly diverse and representative. Serving on Town committees is a good path towards being elected to the Town Council.
We also have to realize that many people with children are just not available to go to meetings because they are either working, shopping, cooking, eating with their family, or putting children to bed. We all know how important these simple activities of daily life are in the life of a child. So providing childcare is important, but it is not a complete answer.
The solution is, therefore, more outreach on the part of Town Councilors who must set up fact finding meetings in places and at times convenient to the residents to find out their thoughts and wishes about upcoming matters so that their council members can represent them well at Council meetings. I hope to work with district residents to set up regularly scheduled gatherings where issues can be presented and discussed in informal settings.
I think all of us want a town government which resembles the community it serves. As someone who spent the last 12 years on Town Meeting and who knows a good number of people who have served on Town committees and boards I know the kind of personal sacrifice such service entails, both in time and energy. But for those prepared to make such a sacrifice we as a Town should do what we can to make it possible. The new charter has a provision for a community participation officer who will be tasked with broadening the level of engagement in town government. And certainly any elected official, such as a Councilor, should do his or her part to reach out to those who might not otherwise consider it and encourage them to become engaged.