PAMOGRAM NOVEMBER 24, 2022
Town Councilor Dorothy Pam PamD@amherstma.gov
DISTRICT THREE COMMUNITY MEETING
ON ZOOM SATURDAY DECEMBER 3, 2022
Participatory Zoom meeting
Jennifer Taub and Dorothy Pam Invite you to an exciting meeting with two great speakers! This is a friendly zoom where participants will be admitted to the “room” and be seen—but first you must register as shown below. Our Speakers will bring us UpToDate on recent events:
Cathy Schoen, Town Councilor and Chair of the Amherst Elementary School Building Committee
Darcy Dumont, former Town Councilor, organizer, lobbyist, and writer on Climate and Zero Waste **
You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Dec 3, 2022 2:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. (There is a waiting room for entrance.)
**Darcy has included some links for relevant material at the end of this newsletter. (Check them out below the double line.)
Welcome, this Thanksgiving weekend, to the Winter Holiday Season of 2022. I hope you have had a joyous time with friends and family, being flexible as we must in this time of continuing Covid. Get the latest bi-valent booster if you have not yet done so, because if you do catch Covid, your symptoms will likely not be too strong.
In this newsletter, I will highlight just a few of our recent actions. I hope to see you at our District 3 meeting on Saturday December 3rd at 2:00 (you will be let into the Zoom, but be sure to register as shown above), also at the neighborhood brunch on Sunday December 4th at 11:00, and at the Town Council meeting on Monday December 5th at 6:30.
Saturday December 10th is Joint Office Hours at the Jones Library with Jennifer Taub and me, 10:00—12:00. Come by to share a concern, ask some questions, have a cup of tea.
UPDATES ON RECENT ACTIONS
Recently Monday nights have brought marathon Town Council meetings that last past midnight and are often filled with contorted arguments and unnecessary rancor–or what some would call, in a lighter vein, spirited discussions. Nonetheless, we sometimes do come to a consensus and find a path forward.
Social Justice. Over the past few months, we on the Amherst Town Council have been struggling, trying to find a way to respond constructively and compassionately to the encounter between 9 teenagers and the Amherst Police Department on July 5th. As the Town Council liaison to the CSSJC (Community Safety and Social Justice Committee) I attend their meetings and heard their anger at the awkward handling of the situation which left both the police and the young people feeling misunderstood. The BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) and white parents were upset that their children had to lose their sense of safety in their hometown. Town Manager Paul Bockelman’s fine apology to the town, the youth, and the police department finally cleared the air. After many hours of difficult meetings and deadlock, the Town Council finally adopted a platform of actions in an attempt to remedy the situation and find a path forward.
I am experiencing battle fatigue and a bad cold, so I refer you to the Hampshire Gazette and the Amherst Indy for the details. One observation is the fact that I joined all of the new members of the Town Council in the decisive vote. We have some fine new members, especially our own Jennifer Taub, Ellisha Walker, Anika Lopes, Pam Rooney, and Michele Miller.
Just in, Amherst Media is awarding its Jean Haggerty Award for Community Service and Social Change to the Community Safety Working Group (CSWG) on November 30th at the Augusta Savage Gallery in the New Africa House at the University of Massachusetts. Those to be honored include Brianna Owen, Ellisha Walker, Tashina Bowman, Darius Cage, Debora Ferreira, Pat Ononibaku, and Russ Vernon-Jones. The reception for the honorees, part of Amherst Media’s annual meeting, takes place from 6:30—8:30 at 180 Infirmary Way. The gallery is currently exhibiting the Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project. Part of CSWG’s work was the recommendation of two new departments in Amherst: The Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) now headed by Pamela Nolan Young, and the Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service (CRESS), under the leadership of Earl Miller. These two new departments put Amherst at the cutting edge of social justice work.
This is positive and energizing news that at long last the voices of Lincoln Avenue residents have been heard. Soon signs will go up saying No Parking Monday—Friday 8:00—5:00 on the east side of the street. The measure also includes parking restrictions on Sunset and Elm Streets.
After many hours of frustrating meetings and deadlock, the Town Council finally adopted a platform of actions to remedy the situation. The Council at last listened to the advice of the Department of Public Works (DPW) that Lincoln Avenue is not wide enough for two driving lanes and one parking lane. Kudos go to Jennifer Taub who led the effort with never flagging energy and attention to detail. At the final vote, all councilors voted for the measure except Hanneke, Lopes, and DeAngelis. Residents of Lincoln Avenue kept up the pressure, special thanks go to David Sloviter, Nancy Gilbert, Bruce Wilcox, Don Katzner, Ken Rosenthal, and Shannon Farrand-Bernardin.
Artificial Turf and PFAS vs Well-Maintained Grass Fields
Responding to more letters received than on any other issue which cited voluminous research on the dangers of artificial turf and PFAS for playing fields, I joined 5 other councilors to defeat the request for $900,000, part of a $ $4 million plus project to reorient and replace the track and the field inside it. Despite efforts to call this a vote against student athletes, we were heeding the example of many other towns which are now banning artificial turf because of its dangers to players and to the environment, including drinking water. (Mayor Michelle Wu has banned the installation of new artificial turf in public parks and other facilities in Boston).
I remembered one of my first votes on the Council, for a gas powered bus over the more expensive electric bus, because of urgent arguments for expediency that I heard. I soon realized that if we are to meet our goals to stop destroying our environment, we must make the hard decisions now because time is not on our side. I join my other councilors in pledging to work for repairing and increasing the number of grass fields so that our young athletes can play and compete safely. My question is, why has the situation of poorly maintained athletic fields been allowed to continue so long? Such a situation makes people vulnerable to the salesmanship of a “toxic industry” that promises what it cannot deliver.
Town Solar Power. It was a pleasure to attend the ribbon cutting for the Town of Amherst solar array at the North landfill, by [contractor Cypress Creek Renewables. Standing there in the Transfer Station, we could look up and see the angled panels looking down on us from their height, like friendly alien beings. The solar panels bring in $100,000 revenue yearly and make 4 megawatts of green electricity, half of the energy the Town needs each year. It was a long and slow process to come into being, but the Town staff did not abandon its goal, so the plan has at last come into fruition.
** INFORMATION ON ZERO WASTE (supplied by Darcy Dumont)
TOWN COUNCIL ACTION
In August, the Town Council referred the Universal Composting and Zero Waste proposal to the Town Services and Outreach Committee (TSO) to discuss and provide a recommendation back to the Council. The four Councilor sponsors (Bahl-Milne, Taub, Walker, Steinberg) have led two discussions so far and have come up with a workplan for discussion of the various aspects of the proposal. The next discussion will be on changing to a town contract model, set tentatively for the TSO meeting on Thursday, December 7, at 6:30 pm, on zoom.
TRIP TO MARTIN’S FARM COMPOSTING FACILITY
Two of the Councilor sponsors, Jennifer Taub and Ellisha Walker, and our DEP Municipal Assistance Coordinator, Susan Waite, visited Martin’s Farm Compost Processing Facility in Greenfield in November to see how composting of solid compost materials works. Martin’s is one of only a few industrial scale facilities in MA that processes solid food scraps, yard waste and other compostable materials. The cost to “tip” or dispose of compost there is approximately half of what it costs to dispose of trash.
TOWN MANAGER ACTION
The first item on the TSO work plan is to obtain a Technical Assistance grant from the Department of Environmental Protection to work with our local Municipal Assistance Coordinator, Susan Waite on preparing a Request for Proposals or Request for Information from haulers. The DEP grant was awarded on November 10 and is now in motion, with several departments involved. That is a great move forward!
THE LOUISVILLE, COLORADO MODEL
ZWA is especially interested in the Louisville, Colorado model of providing services which includes both curbside compost pick through a contract with a national hauler and a pay as you throw incentive to reduce waste by using a smaller cart.
HOW YOU CAN HELP/WEIGH IN/FIND OUT MORE
Email the Town Council and Town Manager to urge their support and rapid action on this initiative.
Underline for them how zero waste is a top priority for climate action because of the huge amount of raw materials and energy used to produce the stuff we consume.
For more information, see: