Jim Oldham: An open letter to members of the Cherewatti family
Rather than writing again about your activities, it seems more forthright to write to you. We live in the same town, send our children go to the same schools, frequent the same streets and businesses, so as one neighbor to another, I ask you to consider how the way you live affects other families in town.
I’m addressing several Cherewatti family members. While my general message is to you all, what I have to say to each varies, based on your differing roles and opportunities related to Eagle Crest Property and Echo Village.
Jamie and Erin: It’s a new academic year. My kids are back at school, happy to be with friends, getting back into their studies, and supported by teachers and staff who know them. It saddens us to realize that other local children have had to change schools and communities, not because their parents found new opportunities elsewhere, but simply because they lost their homes at Echo Village.
You have raised rents beyond what most of us pay on our mortgages and begun evictions. Children of families still living at Echo Village are starting the year afraid that they might not be able to remain in their home or school. I cannot imagine their feelings. We wouldn’t want that for our children, and it isn’t right for our neighbors’ children either.
Erin, I include you here because, although not part of Eagle Crest management, you may have an ownership role and you’ve been listed in the past as Information Technology Director and business contact. Several years ago, when you and Jamie donated reflective vests for the Amherst Police to distribute to walkers and joggers, the department blog identified you jointly as “owners of Eagle Crest Property.” Above all, your entire family stands to benefit from the Eagle Crest’s earnings. I find it hard to imagine that someone who supports and volunteers for the PGO, and charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters, would want to provide for her own family with funds earned through the displacement of other families.
Jack, I don’t know whether you are a co-owner with your brother, but as property manager for Eagle Crest you make your living with the company. You’re young, just a few years older than my son, with your whole career ahead of you. I encourage you to focus as much on making a positive impact on your community as on the money you make — I think ultimately you’ll find life more rewarding that way.
Finally, Roger and Ilona: You are not principals in Eagle Crest Properties, which is controlled and managed by your sons. But reports suggest that Jamie, perhaps Jack too, learned about property management in part from Roger. I hope you might also be able to help them figure out how to work in a way that is respectful and considerate of those around them.
You fund the Cherewatti Family Foundation, so I believe you want to contribute to the community. But what does it say for your family legacy when your donations to Amherst Educational Foundation or Center for Human Development are undermined by a family business displacing and harming some of the very families these organizations serve?
You are well-suited to help your sons hear and respond to community concerns. You changed plans and didn’t demolish the 19th century Federal style farmhouse on North East Street after hearing an outcry, and although the compromise may not be perfect from either perspective, it demonstrated a willingness to work with neighbors and local officials that is sorely needed in the case of Echo Village.
I ask Jamie and any others with power of decision to immediately end evictions at Echo Village and work with the Town Manager and his staff to craft a solution that will permanently preserve affordable housing there. I ask the rest of the Cherewatti family to help them find a way to do the right thing for our community.
Jim Oldham is a Town Meeting member from Precinct 5.