Cast Your Votes for An Inclusive, Responsive Local Government in Amherst

ON NOV. 2, ELECT CANDIDATES WHO ARE COMMITTED TO A MORE INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, A MORE VIBRANT COMMUNITY, AND TO A RESPONSIVE, TRANSPARENT LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN AMHERST. 

AMHERST TOWN COUNCIL CANDIDATES 

FOR AT-LARGE SEATS:


VIRAPANH (VIRA) DOUANGMANY CAGE  https://voteforvira21.com/

Vira served on the Amherst School Committee and chaired the school equity task force. The associate director of an adult day health center, Vira is on Amherst Media’s board, and the state Asian American Commission. She led a successful organizing campaign to free an innocent person from a life-without-parole prison sentence.  After fleeing war-torn Laos at age five, Vira’s family spent about a year in a Thai refugee camp. She is committed to the equitable treatment of all residents. “I will use my voice to responsibly steward the land, act on climate change, and respect people who need to be seen, heard and belong at the table for real social, racial and economic justice,” Vira said.

ELLISHA WALKER  https://www.ellishaforamherst.com/

Ellisha Walker is the co-chair of Amherst’s Community Safety Working Group (CSWG), which recommends alternative public safety services and reforms to Amherst Police Department oversight. Ellisha is an executive assistant and office manager at a law firm. As a mother of three and a Black woman, she will bring a fresh perspective to the Town Council, and be a voice for the BIPOC community. Her goal is to amplify “the voices of BIPOC, immigrant, low-income, first time home-buyer, and other traditionally marginalized community members who have long been disengaged … these voices deserve authentic representation,” she said.

VINCENT O’CONNOR vjoc41@gmail.com

Vince has lived in Amherst for 47 years, served on six town committees, and on Amherst Town Meeting for forty years. He is a longtime champion for social justice and civil rights. In 1965 as a volunteer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he worked for the voting rights of the Black farming community in Arkansas.

A political activist in Amherst and Massachusetts for decades, Vince has fought for government transparency, fiscal responsibility, housing affordability, dual-language education, and land conservation. among other causes. Vince will advocate for renovation/renewal of Fort River Elementary as the Town Council’s top capital project priority, and believes that the financial health of Amherst will require the Council to seek an agreement with Amherst College, for an annual payment in lieu of taxes of at least $1 million.

FOR DISTRICT TOWN COUNCIL SEATS:

DOROTHY S. PAM (DISTRICT 3) https://dorothypam.com/

Dorothy serves on the Town Council, Finance Committee and Community Resource Committee, and was on Town Meeting. She has taught for more than 40 years, most recently at Holyoke Community College. She fought for women’s rights, founded and ran programs for seniors and youth, and worked for cleaner air.

Dorothy will continue to be an independent voice of integrity and common sense. Her vision is to increase affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for families, young workers, and senior citizens; to protect and create diverse neighborhoods, and support responsible plans for net-zero public buildings. Dorothy will work to re-envision delivery of public safety and social services in Amherst.

 JENNIFER TAUB (DISTRICT 3) https://www.jennifer4district3.org/

Jennifer chairs Amherst’s Local Historic District Commission, is a Community for Better Planning member, and served on Town Meeting. Jennifer’s background is in community organizing and project development for agencies that help low-income individuals. On the Town Council, Jennifer will work to restore vibrancy to Amherst’s downtown through initiatives to support existing retail businesses and attract new ones. She will focus on what makes Amherst unique, and seek a balance in new construction to better serve families and the year-round population. Jennifer will apply a climate-conscious lens to procurement, budgeting and policy decisions, and is committed to a transparent, inclusive government that respects residents’ priorities and concerns.    

ANIKA LOPES (DISTRICT 4) http://www.anika4amherst.com/

Anika is a milliner who has designed hats for musical artists and television programs, and understands the challenges faced by small businesses. Anika is dedicated to building a thriving, more engaging downtown Amherst, and will advocate for an abundance of cultural and recreational activities to fuel the growth of shops, cafes, and restaurants. She will seek better communication and dialogue with downtown developers, to assure that unmet needs and neighborhood concerns are addressed collaboratively. Anika is committed to bringing forward and celebrating Amherst’s African American and indigenous history, while being a voice for today’s growing BIPOC community. She is motivated by her family’s six-generation heritage here. “I’m dedicated to honoring and exploring our past while building a joint future … I want Amherst to be the place where our young adults choose to stay, and where our parents can afford to retire,” she said.

Note: The Progressive Coalition of Amherst did not make endorsements in the uncontested Town Council races, which include districts 1,2, and 5.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE CANDIDATES 

PHOEBE MERRIAM . https://www.facebook.com/PhoebeforSchoolCommittee/ 

Phoebe, who attended Crocker Farm, the Middle School, and graduated from Amherst Regional High School, is a mother of three children, including one at each of those schools. She believes it is the School Committee’s responsibility to support administrative steps to “ensure each and every child that goes through the system gets the very best opportunity at success, no matter what that means for the individual child.”

“Amherst needs to do a better job when it comes to actively soliciting different ideas, strategies and voices from people who historically haven’t felt they could have their voices heard, or didn’t know how to. I want to work together to bring success to the children of the Amherst school system, and in order to do that, we must start with a diverse School Committee,” she said.

JENNIFER PAGE https://www.jenniferpageamherst.com/ 

Jennifer, who works in marketing and communications for the UMass College of Information Sciences, is a former co-president of the Amherst Education Foundation. She is secretary of the UMass Amherst Professional Staff Union, and parent of an Amherst Regional Middle School student. 

Jennifer envisions a school district which is committed to every student reaching their potential. “I will ask hard questions, and I will speak up about what is being omitted or ignored,” Jennifer said, adding that she will seek out and respect those who raise concerns about important decisions. Jennifer said the School Committee needs to proactively engage with families to learn about their needs, and she will advocate for regular community outreach events.

 

Jennifer, a daughter of immigrants, is on a “journey of awareness” about identity as an Asian woman, a non-Black person of color, and a non-white person who benefits from white privilege. “I am firmly committed to looking at all issues with an equity lens. This includes things like noticing when a board or committee includes no or few non-white people … (and) making an event more accessible for attendees who speak other languages,” she said.       

BEN HERRINGTON https://benjaminherrington.com/

Ben, who is assistant facilities director for the Amherst Public Schools and an incumbent School Committee member, chairs the Amherst Human Rights Commission. A veteran of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ben serves on the School Equity Task Force and served on Town Meeting. He is the single father of a 7th grader at Amherst Regional Middle School. Ben participated in the Fort River School Building Committee feasibility study and served as the District Representative on the Crocker Farm feasibility study.

“I am running for re-election to the School Committee because I believe in our school system, and in our potential to continually improve and grow as a learning community. I value the ability to work together to find solutions that benefit our students, our staff and Amherst as a whole,” he said. 

The Progressive Coalition of Amherst believes that our Town government should serve the community, including working people, families and small businesses. Our goal is to help Amherst government become more democratic and diverse. To find out more, visit us on the web at https://coalitionamherst.org/ on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CoalitionAmherst, on Twitter @ProgAmherst, or send us an email at  progressivecoalitionamherst@gmail.com

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