Peter Vickery: District 2
The new Town Council will need to work through many issues, old and new. What are the key dilemmas you believe the new Council will face?
Promoting economic vitality while safeguarding our cultural heritage; creating a built environment that works while preserving open space, and providing first-rate schools without exacerbating inequities in taxation.
What relevant experiences and qualities would you bring to the Council that would help it work through these dilemmas constructively and effectively?
As an attorney I am used to advocating for others, genuinely listening to opponents, and attempting to resolve disputes fairly. I understand that consensus is not always a virtue in that it tends to empower those who are least willing to compromise and most willing to exploit the kindheartedness of others. I try to argue persuasively, but am willing to take stands that are unpopular, realize that I will often lose, and am not afraid of being in a minority of one.
The Town faces many challenges with inadequate and outdated public buildings and infrastructure. What are your priorities for capital improvements? If everything cannot be done at once, how would you prioritize them?
First, schools, then the fire station and Jones Library.
Many of the Town’s competing needs and goals involve zoning, land use, and development. The Charter requires the Council to adopt a Master Plan to frame these issues, and to consider any proposed zoning changes in light of that plan. The Planning Board adopted a Master Plan in 2010 that can serve as a starting point. What key elements of that plan would you support as a member of the Council? What would you change or add?
I am in favor of greater density and mixed use in the downtown and village centers. The Master Plan is the result of much thought and citizen participation, and I do not believe we need to replace or revise it for the time being. Rather, we need to abide by it.
Resident engagement is a key feature of the Charter. As a member of the Council, how would you engage and communicate with your constituents, including those who have not previously been active in town politics? How would you engage constituents in understanding issues before the Council and the choices and trade-offs they represent? What steps would you take to engage low-income residents, renters, residents of color, and other underrepresented voices?
I would hold regular office hours at locations convenient for traditionally under-served and under-represented communities; regularly post online requests for comment; and publish a monthly online newsletter.
In 2016 and again in 2017, a majority of Amherst voters supported an override to fund the new co-located elementary school building, yet our legislature at the time, Town Meeting, did not provide the two-thirds vote needed to approve the funding, so the proposal failed. How did you vote, either as a Town Meeting member or a voter, on the proposal to fund the co-located school building? Since you are running for Town Council, not School Committee, how would you approach your role on a vote for funding if a school construction proposal is brought to the Council and supported by the School Committee, the Town Manager, and the voters?
I voted in favor of the proposal to fund the co-located school building. That effort having failed, I will try to help create a new proposal that does not require an override. However, If the next proposal that emerges really does hinge on an override, and is not feasible without one, I will vote in favor.
What ideas do you have for maximizing the benefits and minimizing the challenges of Amherst’s being a college town?
The University is our biggest employer and most important strategic ally. So the council needs to remind the people who work and study at UMass – and Amherst College and Hampshire College – that they are welcome and that Amherst is their home. There is much more that the Town can do to capitalize on being a classic New England college town that is host to the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts, e.g. publicly and regularly celebrating the academic and athletic achievements of UMass in a way that encourages students to visit our downtown and village-center stores. That way, when problems arise (and they will) the Town and University will have better chance of resolving them effectively.
Anything else you would like voters to know?
Amherst has been my home since 1999. It’s where my wife, Meg, and I chose to raise our three children. This year, I am president of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, an independent, membership organization that supports local businesses. The new Town Council will need somebody who will promote policies to help create new private-sector jobs, who will oppose policies that undermine local businesses, and who isn’t worried about appearing insufficiently progressive. That is what I did on Town Meeting, and that is what I would like to continue doing on the new Town Council.