Thursday, May 24, 2007

Let the riots begin

Northampton, our sister city to the west, ADDS seven police officers bringing NPD to 63 or a ratio of 2.1 officers per 1,000 Amherst last night decided to SUBTRACT two cops reducing APD to 48, or a ratio of 1.4 per 1,000.

According to the FBI, the national rate of full-time law enforcement employees to inhabitants is 3.5 per 1,000.

Now yes, his Lordship, the new Select board Chair Gerry Weiss will cite Umass’s police force of 60 and then add them to Amherst’s police department as though the two could become one seamless entity.

Override buster Stan Gawle tried to increase the budget by $150,000 to retain the two officers and add back in overtime for riot control and 4 bulletproof vests. The voice vote was so overwhelmingly negative nobody had the nerve to suggest a standing vote.

Former long-time Finance Committee and Select Board member (considered part of the “sensible center”) Eva Schiffer offered a neat compromise motion, using the $100,000 the Select board freed up last Monday that would have at least saved the two officers.

Like the vote against flying the flags on 9/11, it was not even remotely close. By a greater than two-thirds margin, Town Meeting voted (133-60) to make Amherst a more dangerous place to be. Like the vote against flying the flags on 9/11, it was shameful, irresponsible and downright embarrassing.

Unfortunately, far too many jaded Amherst Town Meeting members view American flags and police identically: as symbols of tyranny and oppression.

Interestingly, the next budget discussion concerned the Department of Public Works where the Select board wanted to spend 10% of that $100,000 previously banked savings on road line painting, because according to Ms. Awad the crosswalks were so faded that pedestrians were simply using “their memory” to attempt safe passage.

The DPW chief then reported that within weeks all the lines and crosswalks would be painted (using this year’s budget money) and the paint lasts two years. Even the Select board could do that math.

His Lordship immediately admitted to being “embarrassed” and Ms. Awad rescinded the Select Board motion to add $10,000 for the redundant item.

Yeah, that’s our exalted leadership--throw money at unnecessary items while cutting Job One for any government: maintain public safety.

When government loses its way this profoundly, it’s time for a new government.

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