Stephen Schreiber: District 4
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?
Our town council is getting its start in the midst of a vital town-wide conversation about what we want and expect from development in town, particularly downtown. How do we want our downtown to look in twenty years? How much development is too much development – and how much do we want and need in order to diversify our tax base, serve our residents, and keep our downtown bustling while also preserving the trees and green space that make Amherst such a great home?
What relevant experiences and qualities would you bring to the Council that would help it work through these dilemmas constructively and effectively?
I am an architect and the founding chair of the Department of Architecture at UMass, and my wife and I are both designers and serve as UMass faculty members. During those ten years on the Planning Board, and for the 8 years in which I was an elected member of Town Meeting, I learned so much about what this town values and expects from development – as well as what it wants to avoid. That’s learning that I will bring to every Town Council meeting.
The Town faces many challenges with inadequate and outdated public buildings and infrastructure.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?
Replacements for Wildwood and Ft. River are top priorities. If state matching funds are available, then the library renovation and addition is also a high priority. Moving the central fire station is an equally compelling priority. I also support a new DPW building.
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?
As an architect, I have particular problem-solving expertise that will be useful on the Town Council as it works with the community and Planning Board to update the master plan, and ensures that the master plan is a guideline for sustainable development and conservation. In particular, there should be a clearer connection between the master plan and land use regulations. I support another look at form based zoning and infill development in our village centers. Infill, if done strategically and thoughtfully, will sustainably increase our tax base, breathe new life into our downtown and other centers, and increase the diversity of our community.
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?
We have to be mindfully to involve more than the "usual suspects". The Town Council needs to engage everyone who lives in Amherst, whether or not they are voters. I would work with the other District 4 councilor to have monthly community meetings, at different times of day and in different places. District 4 is home to many unique communities-- five Amherst Housing Authority complexes, one private "over 55" condo complex, and several dorms at UMass and Amherst--it's critical to hold meetings in these communities, and recruit board members from these areas..
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 yes as a voter, yes+yes as a Town Meeting member, then yes as a voter. I would vote yes in the scenario described above.
What ideas do you have for maximizing the benefits and minimizing the challenges of Amherst’s being a college town?
I am a college professor, and I love working with and living among college students. My neighborhood is roughly 60% owner-occupied. We need to very careful about striking the right balance of owner occupancy, student renters and other renters. We also need to pressure UMass to finalize private public partnerships that will provide more on campus and near campus opportunities for students.
Anything else you would like voters to know?
Our family has lived in the Amherst center area, as renters and owners, for more than 13 years. My daughter is an alumna of Wildwood, Amherst Regional Middle School, and Amherst Regional High.