Friday, March 24, 2006

My musings on "Candidates Night"

Last night, the League of Women Voters held a “Meet the Candidates” night. These were my thoughts and impressions, chronologically:

  • Harrison Gregg, running unopposed for Moderator, made a great point when talking about the upcoming Town Meeting. He said that in the midst of the budget crisis situation, people and time are among the resources we need to use efficiently, and that we need to stay focused and prioritize our efforts and attention. Excellent advice indeed. Perhaps, just temporarily, we can quiet those perpetually squeaky wheels and rein in those civic hobbyists who so colorfully bog down town government.
  • The Jones Library Board reps and Oliver Smith Will trustee are running unopposed.
  • Jean Haggerty was extremely compelling as candidate for a seat on the Amherst Housing Authority. I know how vital she is in creating important programs and community-building activities at Ann Whalen Apartments, and I suspect she would be a great addition to any group or committee. She is knowledgeable, determined and well-spoken. I think hers would be a valuable voice as a tenant representative to the AHA. Her opponent in the race was not present, and I’m afraid that I don’t even recall the person’s name.
  • Former Select Board member David Keenan is running against incumbent Anne Awad. He alluded to a rocky history with the town or the Board, which I believe I’ve read a little about in the paper. I liked some of his no-nonsense ideas and blunt honesty, but I wasn’t sure whether he was really a serious candidate or just trying to make a point and stir up debate with his running. If he is serious, I’m not sure he is the answer to what ails the Select Board currently.
  • Anne Awad is very impressive – smart, personable (much more so than comes across on Select Board Meeting broadcasts,) professional and quick with details. However, she has been a major force on a Select Board that I feel has been going in the wrong direction. Where we need leadership and decisiveness, we get ad-hoc committees, public comment hearings and non-binding referendums. Where we need to let the work of the town proceed as intended, we get micromanagement, second-guessing and conflict-of-interest policy that is best described as “if it ain’t broke – break it.” I mean no disrespect to her or the rest of the Select Board, but they don’t have my confidence. Despite all that, I’m not at all sure that I can vote against her at this time.
  • The School Committee panel was very interesting. Makes you feel good to see such dedication to the schools and the children. Elaine Brighty has been on the committee for a while and is its chair. She has always impressed me. I wasn’t familiar with either Sonia Correa Pope, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the committee last year, or Stephanie Gelfan, who is running for the first time. Both were full of ideas and innovations and enthusiasm, and that was appealing. But Elaine Brighty knows how things really work and how having a good idea is much easier than implementing it. I have no strong opinions on this race yet and will need to learn much more about how the school system and its budget work. All of these women impressed me.

It was an interesting and informative evening. For those who couldn’t attend, the event was taped for ACTV and will be broadcast daily up until the election, on Channel 17. Get exact dates and times here.

Many thanks to the LWV for this and all their events and publications that seek to make us informed citizens.