New PAC forms ahead of Nov. election in Amherst

  • Election stickers FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2021 1:32:39 PM

AMHERST — A political action committee with an aim to improve the lives of all residents by supporting progressive and racially and ethnically diverse candidates for public office has formed in advance of the town’s Nov. 2 election.

The Progressive Coalition of Amherst filed paperwork this week with the town clerk’s office to become the second PAC in town. Amherst Forward organized in advance of the first election under the new town charter three years ago and endorsed a slate of candidates.

“The vision of Progressive Coalition of Amherst is a town where elected bodies prioritize issues and causes that support the whole community, including working people and marginalized groups, and where elected bodies reflect the residents they represent,” committee treasurer Demetria Shabazz said in a statement.

An executive board that consists of a majority of people of color will govern the new PAC.

In addition to Shabazz, who teaches courses in community engagement, film and social justice and serves on the board of directors of Amherst Media, the board includes Pat Ononibaku, a business owner, social justice advocate and community organizer; Jennifer Page, an officer in the Professional Staff Union at UMass; Allegra Clark, who has done clinical social work with substance use, housing and the criminal legal system; and Maria Kopicki, who has served on the Fort River School Building Committee and the Crocker Farm Expansion Study Committee.

The new PAC’s advocacy will include planning and zoning policies; initiatives and programs to attract and support locally owned small shops and restaurants; transparency and fiscal responsibility by town government; robust reparations for Black residents; and prioritizing public safety resources for mental health, addiction and other social services, including fully funding the recommendations of the Community Safety Working Group, according to the committee. 

Page said in a statement the group has been disappointed in the Town Council’s decisions related to downtown projects.

“It is becoming more and more clear that town government is not only about zoning and development; it’s a venue where issues like racial equity, reparations for Black residents, police violence, and more, can be addressed,” Page said.

Election season kickoff

Amherst Forward is holding a kickoff party to the election season with an event July 22 at 5:30 p.m.

The PAC and its supporters will convene at the red barn at 16 Memorial Drive that evening.  

Library trustees seeking reelection

Five of the six incumbent trustees for the Jones Library have already obtained nomination papers, with board president Austin Sarat and member Lee Edwards already returning forms with 50 signatures to get on the Nov. 2 ballot. Tamson Ely, Alex Lefebvre and Robert Pam are the others who have taken out papers. 

The other resident to pick up nomination papers is Farah Ameen.

The trustees’ longest-serving member, Chris Hoffmann, first elected in 2008, has opted against running for reelection.

“It's been a pleasure serving for 13 years, but it's time to step aside and allow someone new to take my seat,” Hoffmann said.

Accomplishments during his tenure, he said, include returning the trustees to being a policy-setting board, rather than managing the library’s operations, selecting current Library Director Sharon Sharry and getting the Jones Library renovation and expansion project approved by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Town Council. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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