Incumbent District 3 councilors face challenge in Amherst’s town election

  • Dorothy Pam SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • George Ryan SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Jennifer Taub SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2021 9:17:34 AM

AMHERST — Incumbents Dorothy Pam and George Ryan are running for reelection as District 3 councilors, while Jennifer Taub challenges them to represent the district on the Town Council, at the Nov. 2 town election.

Taub said she is interested in serving on the Town Council out of concern for the well-being of Amherst, where most of its 1,444-person population increase over the past decade came from the University of Massachusetts.

“I’m running for Town Council because I believe the long-term viability of our town is at stake,” Taub said, observing that Amherst has had more than 500 apartment units permitted since 2015, but just 61 new single-family homes.

Amherst, Taub said, would benefit instead from expanding the town’s permanent, year-round population, which, on average, pays more in taxes, provides volunteers to serve on town committees, and has a stake in the town’s long-term future as measured in generations, rather than semesters.

“We need to do more to sustain and expand our year-round community,” Taub said. “We must attract more families whose children will attend our schools and help reverse the trend of declining enrollment.”

Taub said she also wants to ensure far greater representation from Amherst’s Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community on the Town Council and other boards and committees, and to make sure Amherst reaches its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

While she appreciates the council’s long hours, Taub said local government has shown a concentration of power in a subcommittee that examines land use and economic development.

“This leaves many residents feeling that their concerns and priorities are not represented on a committee that drafts bylaw amendments and policy for many of the most pressing issues in town,” Taub said.

George Ryan

Ryan said he brings three years of experience with three council committees, including serving as chairman of the Governance, Organization and Legislation Committee.

“In this job experience matters,” Ryan said. “I feel I am only beginning to get a feel for the complex challenges we face as a town. I want to be a voice for prudent and responsible government, a voice which emphasizes our shared aspirations and our longing for a truly just, dynamic and diverse community.”

Ryan adds that he talks to everyone, tries hard to listen to all points of view, even those with whom he fundamentally disagrees, and that a common goal is a flourishing community.

“I try to represent a consistent and coherent point of view, but one open to compromise and conversation,” Ryan said.

Ryan said there are several interconnected issues facing the town, from building a 21st-century school to replacing and relocating the Central Fire Station, and getting the Department of Public Works into suitable quarters.

“If I had to boil it down to a single issue, I would say it is the challenge of our town living within its means while at the same time trying to realize its goal of a more just, diverse, and equitable community,” Ryan said, adding that he wants to assist the business community as it comes out of COVID through access to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Ryan said he is pleased with the first three years of the council, which has worked toward affordable housing, supported the creation of a civilian responder program to provide an alternative for certain kinds of calls traditionally handled by police, and adopted a wage and tip theft bylaw.

Dorothy Pam

Pam’s campaign theme is to treasure the past, nurture the present and embrace the future.

“I am running for reelection to Town Council for District 3 because those words are more important now than ever,” Pam said.

Pam said she worries that a push to create more taxable student rental housing comes at the expense of its family neighborhoods.

“We can have new growth, but we need a less rushed, more thoughtful, zoning process with good design standards that value scale, setbacks, trees, and the shared green space needed for mental well-being and for community,” Pam said. “We need stronger, more inclusive neighborhoods protected from the unchecked exploitation that turns affordable family homes into profit centers renting by the bed.”

Pam said constituents are concerned that buildings downtown come with no parking and plans are being made for a new parking garage in a residential district next to a local historic district. Pam said repairs of sidewalks also remain a topic of concern to her constituents.

Pam is also supportive of a revisioning in how public safety is delivered, implementing a meaningful and effective reparations program for Black residents and increasing renewable and sustainable energy systems.

“The first three years of the Amherst Town Council have been a blur of intense work. Much has been accomplished, but much more is yet to do,” Pam said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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