The Amherst Charter Commission wants to know what you think of the elements of the proposed charter we are drafting. We hope your answers to this feedback form will help us learn. Please note, though, that we are aware this is unscientific and therefore will not represent a statistically valid sample or data with which to draw conclusions. Comments are therefore especially helpful.
The Charter Commission, by a 5-4 vote, is proposing a town council legislature, consisting of 13 members. Three of the members will be elected at-large by the entire town. Ten of the members will be elected by each of the 10 precincts in Amherst (1 elected per precinct). The at-large members will have 4 year terms; the precinct members will have 2 year terms.
Reasons for having both at large and precinct councils are so that at-large councilors can focus on representing the views of the entire town, while precinct councilors can focus on representing the views of their precinct, making sure matters that might have a negative effect on 1 or 2 precincts are still represented on the council.
Reasons for having different length terms include that it takes more effort to run for town-wide office, allows council to have a few members that can looks towards long-term vision/priorities (even if unpopular) without having to run for re-election soon after, and requiring precinct councilors to run every 2 years will keep them closer to their constituents.
The Charter Commission, by a 6-3 vote, is proposing that a Mayor be elected by the Town as the Chief Executive and Administrative Officer. The Mayor's term would be 4 years.
We are currently considering the formation of Neighborhood Meetings to promote participation of residents and neighborhoods in government. We are not sure what they should look like at this time, but envision a system where residents in neighborhoods meet regularly with their councilor to have direct access in a meaningful way to their precinct councilor.
The draft charter requires that the mayor hold three public meetings a year (budget, master plan, schools) in order to keep the public informed and solicit feedback on these areas. The draft charter also requires the mayor to make an annual state of the town address and to update residents monthly on town hall happenings.
Participatory Budgeting is a method of budgeting where residents initiate and vote on projects to fund through a small portion of the budget. Cambridge has adopted such a program and allows residents age 12 and over to vote on the funding. The "winners" are included in the City's capital appropriation for the year.
There are many ways to hold elections. The Charter Commission is considering a variety of them. Mail in Balloting allows anyone who chooses (not just those absent on the date of the election) to vote by mail. Early voting allows voters to vote at specific locations in person prior to election day. Rank Choice Voting (aka Instant Run Off Voting) is when voters rank candidates in order of preference. In the event that one candidate fails to achieve a sufficient majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings is eliminated and these votes redistributed, the process being repeated until one candidate achieves the required majority.
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