Candidate Questionnaire from
The Springfield Republican/MassLive
Name & Age: Shalini Bahl-Milne, 50
Occupation: Mindfulness Teacher and Researcher, Owner of Downtown Mindfulness
Education: Ph.D in Marketing, Isenberg School of Management, UMass | Chartered Accountant (Equivalent of CPA), Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants | Bachelor of Commerce Honors, Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, India
How long a resident of Amherst: 14 years
Past public offices held: none
1] Why are you running, and what will be your priorities if elected?
I believe my skills in research, collaboration, empathy, and looking at the bigger picture will be helpful in making thoughtful decisions in the Town Council and get things done. My priorities are to:
- Work with other town council members to create policies and procedures for Town Council meetings and engaging diverse populations in district 5.
- Prioritize decisions to ensure a safe and healthy Amherst for all its residents with a focus on building our schools, universal pre-K and free after school programs for income eligible kids. For District 5 this includes responsive fire services, well maintained sidewalks, and safe roads for pedestrians, bikers, and cars.
- Build a diversified tax base with well-planned development in downtown and village centers (with a focus on revitalizing South Amherst Village centers) that are inviting to families and diverse populations while conforming to Amherst character.
2] What is your vision for the council's relationship with the town manager?
According to the Charter, the Council sets policy and hires and supervises the Town Manager who executes that policy and runs the day-to-day operations. The Council can be thought of as the “board of directors” elected by and accountable to the voters and the Town Manager is like the chief operating officer of the Town appointed by and accountable to the board. The Council is responsible for policy leadership and legislative decision-making. The Town Manager is responsible for implementation of the policies to ensure proper operation of Town’s affairs. I look forward to learning more how the Town Council can help the Town Manager do his/her job well and create lines of communication to hear from the Town Manager about the Town’s needs.
3] How do you view the town's relationship with UMass?
UMass is a vital stakeholder in our town. In one year alone UMass Amherst contributed about $2 billion in economic activity in Massachusetts and is the largest employer, creating about 9,000 jobs (Source: Donahue Institute 2014). Many UMass employees live and use the services in Amherst contributing to town’s taxes and local economy. It has more than 20,000 students who shop, eat (and drink), and provide internships in our local organizations. On the other hand, a thriving town and schools are vital for UMass to attract the best professors and employees, which then attract good students. I see UMass as having a symbiotic relationship with the town. I would like to see the town and UMass continue to find ways to support each other such that the town can offer infrastructure and services to channel the new research and host startups in mutually beneficial ways and UMass can channel its expertise and internships for social and economic innovation in town.
4] How do you define diversity?:
Diversity to me means respecting individual differences that can be along dimensions of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, physical abilities, and ideologies. Beyond recognition and acceptance of differences, I believe inclusion and creating a sense of belonging for diverse populations in our community is important in order to create safe spaces for people to express their differences. Political diversity is important to ensure that all voices are represented in decision-making and all constituents’ needs are met. Besides, there is growing evidence that diverse and inclusive teams make better decisions and get better results.
5] Anything else you'd like to share?
I was born in India, grew up in the Middle East and have been in the US for the past 17 years. I understand and appreciate diversity. As a Chartered Accountant with a Ph.D. in business and small business owner, I understand complex budgets and numbers. As a mindfulness practitioner and teacher, I know how to listen, build collaborative spaces, and consider the bigger picture that is inclusive of all stakeholders and long-term consequences. These are the skills I will bring as a District Councilor to work with the residents of District 5, businesses, colleges, and other council members to improve our local economy, environment, and quality of life of all residents, especially the underrepresented and income-eligible populations.