Smart Growth Downtown
High-Quality Town Services
Good stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars
I want government that is accountable and transparent but also one that is not afraid to put forward a vision and a concrete plan for how to move Amherst forward in the 21st century.
Our town faces a number of daunting fiscal challenges -- two elementary schools need replacing; the DPW needs a modern facility to better do its job of caring for Amherst's roads and infrastructure; the downtown fire station needs replacing; there is a plan to renovate the Jones Library, which is desperately needed; and our Senior Center needs to be upgraded to serve our aging population.
I believe we have an obligation to the next generation to see that these things happen -- but it must be done in a way that does not unduly burden the Amherst taxpayer. Amherst homeowners carry an excessive share of the property tax burden compared to most Massachusetts towns.
I believe the best way to reduce that burden and to fund these needed projects is to broaden and expand our tax base through smart growth in our downtown and village centers. Development in my lexicon is not a dirty word -- but it must be responsible and sensitive to the needs of the community. Thoughtful, well-planned, and socially responsible development is very much in the common good. I want to revisit form-based zoning (which Town Meeting rejected), a tool which many communities have found very useful in encouraging smart growth while maintaining the overall character and look of the community. Change is always unsettling, but we must not fear it -- we must manage it.
I also want Amherst to be a community that is supportive and friendly to local business. Amherst cannot be a vibrant and flourishing community without a vibrant and flourishing local business sector. We need to look for more ways to encourage and promote that vital part of our town.
I want the town to address the issue of affordable housing from a broader perspective. We must consider the housing needs not only of those at the bottom of the income ladder, but also those in the middle who work in town but cannot afford to live here. I also want us to continue to seek ways to assist those living on fixed incomes who struggle with an increasing property tax burden.
I also want a government that stands for progressive values. Issues of racial equity and fairness need to be addressed in our schools. We as a town need to be in the forefront of ecological and environmental responsibility. I would love to see universal pre-K in Amherst.
Realizing these goals will require good governance, fiscal responsibility, and a vision forward. Help me make that vision a reality.
I have lived in Amherst with my wife and family for 31 years. We raised our two daughters here, educating them in Amherst public schools from Wildwood to ARMS to ARHS. Both my wife and I are teachers, and I coached my daughters' soccer and basketball teams.
I have served my neighborhood on Amherst Town Meeting for 12 years. I volunteer delivering Meals on Wheels to Amherst seniors. My particular civic focus has been centered around the issue of affordable housing. For 12 years I was a member of the board of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, eventually serving as Vice-President and President of the affiliate.
During those years I helped develop a number of Habitat projects in Amherst including Charles Lane, West Pomeroy Lane, and the Hawthorne Farm project which came about in partnership with Amherst College. We also built projects in Northampton, Orange, and Turners Falls. Through my work at Habitat I gained valuable experience dealing with town planners, zoning boards of appeal, bankers, lawyers, contractors, university and college officials, fundraisers, and more. In addition to helping develop and guide projects, I was responsible for shaping policy, overseeing budgets, and long-range planning.
This experience reinforces one of my key drivers: I like to get things done. I listen, I work well with people, I work hard, and I want results. I would bring this approach to our new Town Council.
Here is a chance to get to know me a bit better. This is my "Candidate Statement" that I recorded for Amherst Media this month:
If any of what I've laid out here resonates with you, I could use your help! Here are a couple of easy ways you can help me be elected:
Questions? Ideas? Suggestions? Send me an email at GeorgeRyanForAmherst@gmail.com.