Charter Would Concentrate Power
By Bob Weiner
Thursday, February 17, 2018, Amherst Bulletin, Letter to the Editor
As I read and listen and hear more about both Town Meeting and the proposed charter in Amherst, I can’t help having that sinking feeling in my stomach of be careful what you wish for.
Many pro-charter voices say that because Town Meeting is cumbersome, slow, inefficient, old-fashioned and elitist (lack of diversity, for retired older folks), why not try this charter and its 13-member elected council? They ask, “What do we have to lose?”
My gut feeling is that we have a lot to lose. Changing basic structures in a life, a family, a group or a town is a huge choice and has long-lasting consequences that are not easy to reverse or change, once in motion. The danger is in conflating “This doesn’t work (well or at all), so let’s try something else, someone else, some other structure or person. Give it a try.”
Witness the current Trump election phenomena as a reactive attempt at paradigm shift. There are times when this could be an appropriate response to a troubled situation. In fact, this country was founded on just this kind of paradigm/power shift: A new form of government was formed (and brutally fought for) to get out from under the thumb of a king, and create several complementary bodies (executive/legislative/judicial) of citizens.
I don’t believe we are at such a radical point in Amherst. Quite the opposite: Allowing a few elected and paid politicians to decide local politics moves decision-making power into the hands of the few and invites the influence of moneyed interests, with increasing economic inequities, which is happening nationally and across the globe.
Town Meeting, clearly not perfect, is based on a system of checks and balances and egalitarianism that is not for sale, and is set up to prevent concentrated power, which is what this charter would impose.
I am voting “no” on the charter because I believe that egalitarian democracy is a fundamental principle of this country, the “common wealth” of our citizens.