Friday, December 21, 2007

Reap what you sow


So it’s gotten to the point where the Town Manager must hate to pick up a newspaper. Take today’s Amherst Bulletin, for instance. The Gazette’s Thursday article “No cash windfall for Boy Scouts” appears on the Bulletin's Front Page, above the fold. Usually Wednesday is the cut off for stories from the Gazette to make this week’s Bulletin.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with the intricacies of journalism in the Happy Valley the fold is the dividing line between A-rated stories and B-rated stories. Note for instance the article on Rob Kusner not running for a second Select board term is, appropriately, at the very bottom of the page.

And of course the banner headline number one story concerns our failing schools (or at least gives that impression). Although in Amherst nothing is more important than education I would still have switched the placement of those two lead articles.

Because parents packing a School Committee meeting to demand better quality education is kind of the journalistic equivalent of dog bites man story; stealing candy from a baby or initiating a tax on Christmas trees sold by Boy Scouts is a man bites dog story.

The Gazette only has a few thousand subscribers in Amherst as opposed to the Bulletin that is mailed free to every household (about 8,000). And while I subscribe to the theory “you get what you pay for” it is still incontrovertible that the Bulletin, in Amherst, is more widely read than the Gazette.

The article about the Town Manager forming a “blue ribbon panel” (how come nobody ever forms a “green ribbon” panel?) to peruse the budget is located below the fold.

So the Town Manager, who is praised by the Gazette for his economic initiates and heralded to the heavens by our lackluster Chamber of Commerce, finds his positive puff piece pushed down the page by this notoriously negative Christmas tree fiasco.

Today’s Gazette reveals the Town Manager has been reigned in by the Select board from charging groups for using the Town Common. We can’t charge the Pot Rally (A Umass Registered Student Organization) for purposely attracting 1,500 folks requiring over $1,000 in extra police details but we can charge the Boy Scouts $775 to use a chunk of space nobody else wants?

Only in Amherst!

http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/73013/

5 comments:

O'Reilly said...

Today’s Gazette reveals the Town Manager has been reigned in by the Select board from charging groups for using the Town Common.

Residents should petition to have Kendrick Park deamed functionally equivalent to town commons, if its necessary.

We can’t charge the Pot Rally (A Umass Registered Student Organization) for purposely attracting 1,500 folks requiring over $1,000 in extra police details but we can charge the Boy Scouts $775 to use a chunk of space nobody else wants?

Yep. You said it Larry.

O'Reilly said...

Essentially, the Boy Scouts are called on to finance town security for a pot rally. As leaders of young people, Scoutmasters would undoubtedly find it objectionable on ethical grounds. Why should the Scouts be called upon to underwrite security for a pot rally, an activity that runs counter to the values taught in the organization? What parent would let their child be a member of the scouts if the leaders tolerated drug abuse?

chris said...

There is a big difference between the 2. Christmas tree sales are a commercial operation th festival is a political rally to change the archaic drug laws.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and if/when those archaic laws get changed can you imagine the commercial activity that will result?

The La Paz Centro Sister City folks could sell pot brownies at Amherst Town Meeting (now that might encourage attendance!)

O'Reilly said...

I'm not against pot rallies. I'm for them. I just don't think tax payers or boy scouts should pay the cost of the additional security required (in the town's opinion.) The group holding the rally should finance the security.

The boy scouts are a non-profit that serves the greater good... arguably. They certainly try to teach good values and responsible CITIZENSHIP.

Charging them sales tax for their use of a piece of PUBLICLY-OWNED LAND (that would otherwise go unused during that time) is absurd because it DOES NOT generate any significant revenue for the town and it may even be illegal to tax a non-profit organization's income.

Charge them rent, maybe: Charging them a percentage tax, illegal.

There is a concept called "commoms". It is a concept that town-owned land is owned in common by its residents and that I am free to graze my goat or horse or cow there, without paying fees. Amherst, like most New England towns, has a long traditional of permitting the use of commons - publicly owned land - without charging fees. Why the town manager decided to initiate a ill-considered tax, contrary to the concept of commons, without deliberation of the policy committee (select board) goes to one motive: He would just as soon not see them there at all. His words, not mine. If he's to be taken at his word, he wants to reserve the use of public land in Amherst for no one's use. I don't think he has that authority.

Finally, the FDA and the state, not the town determines the drug laws. The purpose of the rally cannot reasonably be conflated with actually changing the drug laws. At best, it shows there are people who'd like to have the laws changed. I support your efforts.