Three candidates for two seats on the Amherst District 4 council
AMHERST – Three residents, challengers Anika Lopes and Pamela Rooney and incumbent Evan Ross, are seeking the two seats to represent District 4 on city council in the November 2 municipal election.
Ross said he was running again to build on the progress made over the past three years, with a particular focus on addressing the city’s housing crisis.
“We have moved our community forward on climate, housing, racial equity and capital investment,” Ross said. “But the measures we took were only the first steps. We still have a lot of work to do and I want to use the skills, experiences and knowledge that I have gained from my service on the board to keep moving us forward.
On housing, Ross said low- and moderate-income families find their budgets strained by the high costs, with some being driven out of town. In addition, young workers and young families cannot find accommodation because the original accommodation is bought back to become student rentals.
“If we want a diverse and inclusive community that lives up to our values of equity, opportunity and sustainability, we must tackle housing affordability,” said Ross.
Ross said his vision for Amherst is where anyone who wants to live in Amherst can afford it, where city departments serve all residents fairly, where children attend school in buildings that support their learning, and the library municipal council is accessible to all. Additionally, Ross said downtown should be a destination for residents and tourists, and Amherst should have a racial equity and climate action lens in all planning and decision-making.
Ross cites the council’s accomplishments as three new affordable housing developments, strengthening the inclusionary zoning bylaw, establishing climate action goals, advancing the renovation and expansion of Jones Library, helping bring Amherst back to the state process for a new elementary school, and establishing a community response program to provide a police alternative to responding to non-violent incidents.
“This is an incredible achievement record for our first city council,” said Ross.
Rooney said she is running to represent the perspectives that are flouted by the majority in city council and to facilitate residents’ participation in their government.
“I focused on the zoning,” Rooney said. “I push for planning first, and zoning adjustment second.”
She said city council moved forward with several zoning changes even before good design guidelines for city centers were agreed or impacts analyzed.
Rooney notes that Amherst faces severe erosion in the availability of housing for low-income families and individuals due to the presence of the University of Massachusetts.
“Fewer homeowners means fewer permanent residents who become good neighbors and devote time and energy to schools and the community at large,” Rooney said.
Rooney said she will strive to maintain the city’s services and infrastructure, and create a downtown area with attractive buildings and sidewalks that can attract people and encourage lively activity.
“I thank the first board for the great job that has been done in setting up systems and processes,” Rooney said. “I want to build on this work, facilitate citizen participation and improve communications to and from the board. “
Lopes said a priority of his campaign was to ensure the availability of housing for non-students at all income levels and to bridge the gaps so that future real estate developments can be positive for developers and neighbors.
“I run to city council to create opportunities for underserved youth and families so they can access the resources they need like everyone else, to provide creative solutions to historic challenges, including availability housing and employment opportunities that keep our young professionals in town, ”said Lopes.
When Lopes returned to Amherst last year, she helped re-display the Civil War tablets and supported the establishment of a black and Indigenous history museum or gallery in Amherst and an interactive historical walk.
“As someone who puts the B and I in BIPOC, I am excited about the possibility of representing the streets where my family has lived for generations,” said Lopes. “The Town of Amherst understands that systemic racism and systems of economic discrimination have deprived the BIPOC community of basic opportunities and is committed to interrupting this generational disadvantage with measures that level the playing field for our young BIPOCs.”
It supports the creation of a BIPOC adolescent center and the creation of generational wealth.
Lopes said she was grateful for the work done by the inaugural advisers.
“It’s amazing to think that 13 people who served in the first term basically initiated a new form of government with an unknown system,” Lopes said. “In turn, there is a great responsibility in learning from its failures and implementing policies, procedures and programs that create a city where all residents have the opportunity to thrive. “