Inclined to vote for messiness of democracy
By Richard S. "Dick" Stein
Tuesday, February 17, 2018, Amherst Bulletin, Letter to the Editor
An oft-quoted bit of advice is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We should think about this in dealing with the Amherst Town Meeting.
True, Town Meetings has its problems. Sessions are too long and only take place twice a year. Membership is not very competitive and often does not represent the composition of the districts being represented, and members are often not well-informed about issues being considered.
However, in spite of such defects, Town Meeting has worked fairly well for many years.
True, with the growth of Amherst in recent years, the problems have become more serious, but is this a reason for “throwing out the baby with the bath water”? Might it be good to consider alternatives to the drastic approach of replacing our 240-member Town Meeting with a 13-member council and manager? This might work, but if it doesn’t, going back to the old could be very difficult.
It is my belief that if one is faced with a choice between two approaches where the outcome is uncertain, one should avoid the one which cannot be reversed if it is wrong. A compromise with a more modest approach makes sense.
Thus, I am uncomfortable with having to choose between these two forms of government. I would prefer the more modest approach of choosing a modified Town Meeting which addresses the defects in the present one. I believe this is possible and that we should give it a try.