Amherst League of Women Voters

A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change

November News

Contents of the November e-bulletin

From the Steering Committee: The summer and early fall of 2018 have been a very busy time for the Amherst League, with the Book Sale segueing into primary (and preliminary) and then general election activities. It might be expected that we would take it easy in the winter months, given all this activity ...but: the Steering Committee has begun planning for a revival of the Observer Corps, whose members would attend the meetings of the new Town Council. The Amherst League is also about to undertake a study, initiated by LWVMA, of the process by which ballot questions move from drafts to signature collecting and campaigning to a place on the general election's ballot.

LWVMA and LWV Amherst are enthusiastic about the long-awaited passing of a Civic Education Act. State Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose, a member of LWVA has shown his support locally for this cause by hosting Civics Nights at ARHS, co-sponsored with LWVA, the past two springs. The Civic Education Act has been important to him, and he has played a significant role in its passage.

Congratulations to the League of Franklin County, which is now a full-fledged League.

Observer Corps: If there is sufficient interest, the Steering Committee intends to revive the Observer Corps (OC) that the Amherst League had for decades. Given that Amherst has a new Town Council, it seems appropriate that members of the League should observe and report on its functioning. A planning meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28th in the Amherst Room of the Jones Library.

The use of an Observer Corps is a tool not infrequently used by Leagues of Women Voters, as a browser search will reveal. In Amherst, the OC was a committee that observed the major town committees - one person would observe the Select Board, another the School Committee, a third the Planning Board, and a fourth the Zoning Board. The emphasis was (and still is) on silent observation. Each observer filled out a form for her committee's meeting, indicating what members were present, when and where they met, what votes were taken and issues discussed. Those matters on which the League had positions were of particular interest. The observers met together once a month, shared their findings, and produced a report which was published in the League bulletin. The observers were very well informed about Town government, and as a result, so, too, was the League.

Today's Observer Corps might not function just as did the earlier one, but the components would be the same: silent observation, written reports and publication by League media. The Steering Committee plans to start with observers of Town Council. Perhaps eventually, it might be extended to some other Boards and Committees, if interest warrants.

Ballot Question study: The State League of Women Voters has initiated a study of the ballot question process itself, in order to determine whether members desire changes to improve aspects of the process: language and length of questions, collection of signatures, campaigns run for and against, right of the Legislature to make changes after citizens have expressed their will. LWVA will collaborate with the Northampton, Franklin County, and Springfield Leagues. The Amherst consensus meeting(s) will be held in late January or early February.

LWVMA's ballot question process committee spent last year doing an impressive job of researching the topic and writing a Study Report (with the background) and a Study Guide (with the questions.) Take a look at these informative and well-written documents.

More...

  • Celebration of International Human Rights Day on December 9
  • Candidates Forum, October 23 and Live Election Coverage, November 6
  • Amherst Media Honored League's Service with Jean Haggerty Award
  • Affordable Housing in Amherst

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