PROGRESSIVE COALITION OF AMHERST
Both broadly (and with specific examples when possible), please explain your understanding and positions on the following issues, along with your intended actions if elected:
1. Public health, safety, and emergency services:
Broadly speaking, I see public health and safety as intersectional with other issues of injustice and inequality in our community. I support the recommendations of the Community Safety Working Group and will advocate for the full development of the CRESS program over the next two years. I will also be an advocate for non-violent communication and restorative justice practices within government, schools, and business.
2. Capital spending, borrowing and local property taxes:
My campaign slogan is “Progress With Purpose” because I believe it is essential to be intentional about the ways in which we seek progress in our community. Our world has drastically changed in the last 18 months, and our lens, which governs our decisions, needs to be reflective of the current society in which we live.
I believe we need to build on The Amherst Master Plan by actively seeking out and integrating the voices of all residents, and more deeply understanding the issues that marginalized community members face.
High property taxes make it difficult for more people to live, and accumulate wealth, in Amherst. Expanding and diversifying our tax base is critical, and will require that we think thoughtfully about planning and economic development in the coming years.
3. Operating budget and use of municipal funds:
I fully support the recommendations made by the Participatory Budgeting Commission in their report dated June 1, 2021. The municipal budget is a values document and should reflect the priorities of the entire community, not only folks who have the time or capacity to engage.
I value the skillset the Town Manager and their staff bring to the budgeting process, and recognize the complexity involved in the budget’s creation. I will work hard to understand the complexities myself, so I can contribute to budget discussions meaningfully. I will also creatively seek new revenue streams and identify underutilized town services, which could free up funds for new and/or underfunded priorities.
Centering questions of race and equity in all areas of budgeting is essential and will be a top priority of mine.
4. Downtown development and zoning policies:
Coming back to my campaign slogan -- progress with purpose -- I support thoughtful and balanced development downtown. Specifically, I believe we need to prioritize development that supports a vibrant, year-round downtown for locals and destination seekers.
I value and appreciate the work the Chamber and BID are doing to strengthen our downtown, amidst very challenging times. I hope to support these organizations by advocating for initiatives that promote culture, diversity, and economic stimulation downtown. I want parking that brings in more patrons!
I will also work to support vitality in our other village centers -- The Mill District, South Amherst Commons, and University Drive.
5. Town government's focus and priorities:
Given the newness of our legislative body, the fact that we do not have a mayor (elected by the people), and the reality that our entire world has drastically changed in the last 18 months, I think we have a lot of work to do to understand our priorities as a community. I plan to focus my efforts as a Councilor on supporting robust and diverse community engagement and accessibility. Specifically, I will focus on matters related to social and racial justice in our community, including (but not limited to) reparations, community health and safety, and climate change.
6. Equity and social justice:
Creating a truly just and equitable Amherst is a top priority for me. I believe a strong focus on issues of social and racial justice will benefit our entire community and make Amherst a desirable place for people to live, work, and visit. Specifically, I was recently recommended by the Town Manager to the newly created African Heritage Reparations Assembly. I look forward to serving on the committee and being a voice for reparative justice on the Council.
7. Housing and affordability:
Housing is one of Amherst’s greatest challenges and will require a great deal of focus in the next two years. The Amherst Master Plan sets forth a broad housing objective to provide “a mix of housing that meets the physical needs of and is affordable to the broadest possible spectrum of the community, and that minimizes the impact on the environment.” This objective was used to set the stage for the Comprehensive Housing Policy that was put forth to the Council in mid-August, which I support.
I appreciate the work of the Amherst Affordable Housing Trust and will support their mission to “Promote the Town’s affordable housing priorities as determined through the most recent town housing plan, particularly to create safe, decent, and affordable housing for our most vulnerable populations.”
Specifically, I would really like to see Amherst develop more workforce housing, so that our town employees (including in our schools) and business owners can afford to live in Amherst. I will use my knowledge as a real estate professional (I have been actively working in real estate since 2005 ) to participate meaningfully in housing discussions and initiatives.
8. What do you see as the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the Town Council and its procedures?
I have deep appreciation for the amount of time the current Council has given to serve the Amherst community. The endurance and commitment they have demonstrated is something to admire. And yet, the bar that’s been set makes the possibility of serving less accessible for many people. How does the Council balance making space for all of the critical issues and voices, while also making it reasonable for more people to assume the role of Councilor?
What would be your top priorities if elected? What steps would you take to accomplish your goals?
Seeing the work of the African Heritage Reparations Assembly through will be a top priority for me, along with other issues of racial justice.
After meeting with the Amherst Sunrise team I'm inspired to get educated on the climate crisis, with the goal of engaging in meaningful action steps that move us toward better sustainability and climate justice in Amherst.
I will work to support the Community Participation Team to engage residents and increase participation by underrepresented residents in Town Government. I will promote community engagement through personal outreach, District gatherings, and social media. I’ll uplift “Engage Amherst” -- the Town of Amherst’s Online Public Engagement Platform!
9.Describe an effort to bring about change in which you played a major role, including the overall goal, the process, and outcome.
I co-lead a reparations initiative for Black residents that resulted in the creation of a committee to study and develop reparations proposals, and a municipal fund for reparations.
1. What would you say are the biggest challenges Amherst faces?
We have many, but the biggest challenges are housing, a limited tax base, municipal infrastructure needs, low civic participation, community polarization, and resident mistrust of government bodies (Council, Town Staff, APD).
Our world has significantly changed in the last 18 months, leaving us with new challenges that are not yet fully realized. It is critical for our Town Council to stay attuned to the emerging post-pandemic reality, and to act responsively and resiliently.
Approaching the Town’s challenges requires a great deal of thoughtfulness, but not to the point that we get bogged down. Working together for the greater good of our community, and understanding that what we do today, is the legacy of tomorrow, will help us to achieve our goals.
2. What relevant experiences and qualities would you bring to the Town Council that would help it work through these challenges constructively and effectively?
To meet the challenges we face, it is essential to focus on repairing past harms and building back trust within the community. We all reside under the same Amherst roof, but our lived experiences are different. When we embrace our differences, whatever they may be, we gain access to much more productivity and harmony as a community.
My experience this year advocating for reparations in the Amherst community, has taught me valuable lessons about how to move a complex initiative forward. It is no secret that progress within government takes time and persistence, and laser focus. We have to be mindful of our capacity as a community, and work hard to understand the priorities of all residents.
In a town of “progressives” we have unique languages to express our activism. In my work on reparations, I have learned the value of understanding these languages, to bring me closer to people, and to better recognize where there are shared goals. I have also learned that calling people in (as opposed to calling people out for mistakes, or because they have different viewpoints) is an effective, non-violent approach to working through differences, and making progress.
As a Councilor, I will continue to use my strong instincts and interpersonal skills, and my ability to develop trust with the people I’m working with, to build bridges across the community.
3. Have you ever served on an elected board or committee in Amherst and if so, what were 3 of your most challenging votes?
I have not served on an elected board or committee, however I have recently been appointed to the African Heritage Reparations Assembly.
4. What steps would you take to engage low-income residents, renters, residents of color, and other underrepresented voices?
Creating a truly just and equitable Amherst is a top priority for me. I will work to support Amherst’s Community Participation Team to engage residents and increase participation by underrepresented residents in town government. I will promote community engagement through personal outreach, district gatherings, and social media. I’ll uplift “Engage Amherst” -- the Town of Amherst’s Online Public Engagement Platform -- and work on other creative, sustainable ways of informing and engaging residents about Town government matters and happenings.
5. “One Town, One Plan” has been in development and in public discussion for over a decade. The plan is designed to meet the town’s most pressing infrastructure needs in a financially responsible way, and prioritizes the following four projects equally: the Jones Public Library Renovation & Expansion, the Elementary School Building Project, the Department of Public Works Building, and the South Amherst Fire Station. Do you support this plan? Why or why not?
My campaign slogan is “Progress With Purpose” because I believe it is essential to be intentional about the ways in which we seek progress in our community. Our world has drastically changed since the creation of this plan, and our lens, which governs our decisions, needs to be reflective of the current society in which we live.
That said, I believe the capital projects identified by the Town are essential, and accepting state funds to support these projects is critical. Conditions on state funding and grants is unavoidable and should not be seen as a determinant, rather a greater incentive to work together to meet our shared goals.
6. As a member of the Town Council, how would you engage and communicate with your constituents, including those who have not previously been active in town politics?
District One has a very strong voice and I will work fervidly to amplify it!
During this campaign season, I will focus on getting to know my neighbors through a variety of events and one-on-one meetings. I will work hard to increase voter turn out, for this election, and to lay the foundation for future elections.
As a Councilor, I will make myself accessible to my constituents in a variety of ways. I will hold monthly district meetings, with a focus on accessibility for all. I will participate in the work of our neighborhood association (DONA), and partner with our faith organizations and businesses to understand their needs.
I will listen to constituents equally and will lean into challenges (which I see as opportunities), with an open heart and mind. I will strive to appreciate the work that so many of the residents and business owners in District One are doing to make North Amherst a wonderful place to live.
Statement On Endorsements
I'm grateful for the Political Action Committees and other organizations that invest in the democratic process. Receiving an endorsements is a gift, and like any gift one would receive, is offered in the spirit of freedom. Barring an endorsement from an organization that is harmful to the greater good of society, I will humbly receive all political endorsements, with gratitude for the acknowledgement.