Building Partnerships

We are all in this together. 

It sounds trite, but it’s the truth.  Collaboration and partnerships are our very best path to progress.  To collaborate we need to communicate, so that we know each other’s individual goals and needs in order to find opportunities for mutual benefit. 

UMass, Amherst and Hampshire:  We have so many issues of shared concern – student and faculty housing, parking and transportation, off-campus behavior, general quality of life, and more.  How can we offer them better assistance and how might they help us to address economic development and infrastructure needs?   

The Local Business Community:  The vibrancy and dynamism of Amherst is due in large part to our business sector – the businesses you see downtown and around town, as well as those that operate under the radar, in home offices and studios.  Whether the enterprise is a restaurant, retail, writing or Reiki, the purveyors and practitioners may well be poised to thrive and contribute more to the community…if only.  Is it parking?  Permitting? Signage?  Wi-fi?  Bus access?  Other?  We need to know what those if onlys are in order to reap the benefits.  The Chamber of Commerce, Promoting  Downtown Amherst and the Town Commercial Relations Committee are vital partners and resources in that effort.

Our Neighboring Towns:  We function jointly as a region in ways formal and informal, and we need to continue to develop both.  What affects the other towns affects Amherst as well – for better and for worse.  We all operate in the shadow of UMass, we all face similar budget woes based on similar circumstances, and we all have individual strengths to share and gains to realize if we can find the right ways to do so.  The Regional School Agreement provides a good model, discussions with Hadley and UMass on economic development issues are promising, consideration of fees for providing emergency services is important, and all of these should be just the beginning.

Broader Alliances:  There is strength in numbers.  We have more clout when we are part of a larger group.  This is why efforts by groups such as the Regional Homelessness Task Force, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council and others must be encouraged and supported.  If we are too worried about protecting Amherst’s sovereignty and “unique” interests, then we waste time on redundant efforts and we miss the opportunity to leverage greater strength for better results. 

Committee to Committee:  The Select Board must be the role model for constructive collaboration with other Town bodies.  Every board and committee has a separate charge, but they are all pieces of the larger puzzle, and they need to fit together.  When community goals are identified, partnerships among relevant complementary bodies to achieve those goals should be an exercise in cooperation, and never a turf war.  We have seen some good examples of this, but it is an area ripe for new possibilities.  How about the Public Works Committee, the Recycling & Refuse Management Committee and the Agricultural Commission working together on Town-wide composting?  How about the Public Transportation Committee, the Public Works Committee and the Public Art Commission working on bus stop improvement?  How about the Conservation Commission and the Housing Partnership/Fair Housing Committee working on new affordable housing locations?   How about the Community Development Committee, the Recycling & Refuse Management Committee and the Town Commercial Relations Committee working to coordinate food reclamation efforts from area restaurants and college dining halls to assist organizations like the Amherst Survival Center and Not Bread Alone, and reduce waste and expense?   These particular ideas may be impractical or may have already been tried, but the point is to find ways to coordinate talents and resources for larger outcomes.

Collaboration requires respect, give and take, compromise and communication.  Most of all it requires the ability to step back and see the big picture, recognizing that in internal and external matters, working together beats going it alone.

If you share these sentiments on the necessity of collaboration, please vote for me on April 1st.