Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"...the bombs bursting in air."

Click to enlarge

Just stole this response off of SelectPerson Stephanie's blog. Note to readers: I have reset my settings to allow for 'Anonymous Comments' so please, be nice.

neil said:

Mr. Shaffer is a public servant who has made new policy, with or without consultation with his boss Mr. Weiss. Why can’t the public obtain a copy of his rationale in writing? What are the moral, legal or political justifications and how does he weigh the competing interests of the Parade Committee, protest advocates and other interested parties such as the parade-going public? I ask these questions not as a rhetorical device but because if Mr. Shaffer would provide the rationale, the policy and whether it is grounded in well-reasoned principles could be tested by public review. Certainly most of the work has already been done, it’s just a matter of committing it to paper. The public - those of us who must submit to the policy - await.

The position held by protest advocates is absolute. They claim an absolute right to protest in the Parade Committee’s Independence Day Parade. Neither Mr. Shaffer nor his boss Mr. Weiss disagree. Neither Mr. Shaffer nor Mr. Weiss have asked protest advocates to consider an alternative form or forum for protest on that day. Both Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss require the Parade Committee to concede their free speech and their right of association to the demands of protest advocates.

Select Board members Ms. O’Keefe and Ms. Brewer want town government to discuss and debate the new policy on its merits, to understand Mr. Shaffer’s policy requirements and the reasons for them, to understand the Parade Committee’s purpose and the merit or lack of merit in excluding protest marchers, to understand protest advocates’ demands and to explore how protest advocates’ demands can reasonably and satisfactorily be met. I think Select Board members O’Keefe and Brewer are on the right track and I endorse the transparency and reasoned analysis they advocate. Please, sign me up for more of their style of government.

I was confused by the Select Board meeting minutes. Should I believe Mr. Larry Shaffer’s press release

and Amherst Leisure Services Parade Application for 4/7/9 9AM-5PM

that make it clear the town of Amherst has decided to disenfranchise the Parade Committee because the Parade Committee chooses to not include protest marchers or what Mr. Shaffer said in the Select Board Meeting?

“Mr. Shaffer said that there is still time before the 2009 parade and that he is happy to discuss with the parade committee how the parade might be run, and suggested that they talk about it. He said that the issues involved are very important but that the corrections for those issues are very small, and that he is happy to talk about it and would welcome a solution.”

What Mr. Shaffer means is that he "is happy to discuss with the parade committee how the parade...[must] be run” as a condition for getting the permit to run it on July 4, 2009. For Mr. Shaffer the “issues [separating the town and the Parade Committee] are very small” but he is being coy and he won’t spell it out. I will: Allow the 7/4/9 parade to be used by protest advocates and the town of Amherst will issue the Parade Committee a permit, otherwise the Parade Committee will be denied. I wonder if this condition as a matter of town policy is compelled speech and as such, misuse of authority.

It is clear Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss believe protest advocates are morally, legally or politically right and the Parade Committee are wrong. Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss cannot wrap their heads around the fact the Parade Committee has free speech rights too and that when balancing “competing interests”, a list of good solutions does not include giving the whole baby to one party.

Convinced of their own rectitude, Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss’ believe a conversation with Mr. Joy would rightly be a one-way street: Concede to protest advocates’ demands or the Parade committee will be denied a Parade permit for 7/4/9. Mr. Joy might consider sending Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss court decisions on freedom of speech and right of association. Mr. Joy did one better. He gave Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss a copy of the Amherst 250th Anniversary celebration parade rules.

The Amherst 250th Anniversary celebration parade rules do not allow protest in the parade. And still, neither Shaffer nor Weiss recognize or agree that a parade celebration does not demand the right to protest. A blue ribbon panel of Amherst citizens produced the rules for the Amherst 250th Anniversary celebration parade, not a group of conservative-minded Amherst citizens like those who constitute the Parade Committee.

Here's my best assessment of Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Wiess' official policy:

The Town of Amherst will not issue the Parade Committee a permit to conduct their Independence Day Parade in 2009 unless it consents to concede its right of association.

The Parade Committee's right of association has no authority when balanced against protest advocates right to exercise free speech including protest in the Parade Committee's Independence Day parade as marchers.

Let’s get Mr. Shaffer's policy rationale in writing and go from there.
April 30, 2008 2:35 PM

SelectPerson Stephanie O'Keeffe's Blog:

Public Comment

Kevin Joy of the Amherst July Fourth Parade Committee said that the committee had sought a permit last week to conduct the 2009 July Fourth parade, and were told that the Town had filed a permit to hold a parade on that day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mr. Joy said that the filing of the Town’s permit and the hours therein appeared to be a definitive determination by the Town Manager that the Town would take over that parade and that no other parade would be allowed on that day. He asked that the Town Manager state for the record that the current parade committee would no longer be running the July Fourth parade in 2009.
Mr. Shaffer said that there is still time before the 2009 parade and that he is happy to discuss with the parade committee how the parade might be run, and suggested that they talk about it. He said that the issues involved are very important but that the corrections for those issues are very small, and that he is happy to talk about it and would welcome a solution.
Mr. Joy said that the permit had already been taken out by the Town, and read the last paragraph of the Town Manager’s press release regarding parade plans, and called that “pretty definitive.” Mr. Joy spoke of how long it takes to plan such a parade, suggesting a year to a year and a half.
Mr. Joy showed a document containing three paragraphs of expectations and regulations for parade participants. He said that he had been asked to consult on the Town’s 250th Anniversary celebration parade, and had reluctantly agreed. He said that he received a 13-page document f that parade’s regulations, and read from part of it about marching units being able to carry a banner with only the group’s name and without any corporate sponsorship, that only the parade-approved banner would be allowed and that no additional signs, placards, literature or other messages would be allowed to be shown, distributed or shouted, and so forth. He said there were many pages of such regulations and said that he believed that they were more restrictive on people’s rights than the regulations put forth by the July Fourth parade committee.
Mr. Weiss said that the Select Board would need to determine what role if any it had in the issue, and that it would need to schedule time to do that, probably in June after the conclusion of Town Meeting, if we were to opt to address it as a Select Board.
I said that I thought we should do that and that an open and televised discussion of the issue would be helpful for the public to participate in and watch. Ms. Brewer said that the rules for 250th parade need to be addressed, and that they may have been put together by that committee without knowledge of the July Fourth parade issues.
Mr. Shaffer agreed that the 250th parade rules need to be looked at, and said that as keepers of the public way, that the Select Board certainly has a role in the parade discussion and that it is in the Select Board’s authority to be involved with this issue if it so chooses.
Ms. Awad said that while the Select Board controls the public ways, the Town Manager controls parade permits, and that the Select Board doesn’t control what takes place on the public ways once a permit for their use has been issued. She said she completely supports the Town Manager’s filing for a permit for the 2009 parade. She said she isn’t sure that the Select Board should engage in a public discussion on the issue, unless it does so as a public forum that invites people from both sides to present their concerns and arguments. She said she didn’t think the Select Board should vote or express opinions when receiving those comments.
Ms. Brewer said she wanted consideration of whether or not the Select Board would officially participate in the parade to be part of a future discussion.


Tommy said...

Why is it impossible to do the least patriotic thing in Amherst without having to fight tooth and nail? The constant political correctness scandals are embarrassing and do not reflect the attitude of 90% of the town.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Tommy,
You got that right! When Enter Stage Right, a well known Canadian conservative web site picked up this story the editor headlined Amherst as being "Almost as bad as Berkeley"

I think we're worse.

O'Reilly said...

Don't impugn the Town of Amherst because of a few misdirected policy makers with suspect problem-solving skills, susceptible to undue political influence.

I think Tommy may be right about where the majority opinion rests on this issue.

Instead, let's evaluate the policy on its merits and set about fixing it. There's plenty of time. Did you see Neil's post on the issue?

I think there are at least two select board members that are eager to get this mistake straightened out... and I think they are determined to drag the rest along. Chin up.

Anonymous said...

Amherst is Berkley's stepchild, after all, with Holub, three of the five college presidents are former Berkley deans....

Anonymous said...

Time for the state ethics commission.

It is a violation of the state ethics law to get something not open to the general public. So if the Town Manager is able to apply (as a person) for a permit for a year that they aren't issuing them for yet, it is an ethics violation.

Note that it is permit 09-01 -- the first (only) for that year so far.

They can't have it both ways. Either the TOWN is doing the parade, a policy decision made in an open, scheduled meeting by elected representatives - or individuals are doing it. As they would never violate the open meeting law, what you have here are town officials acting as individuals.

And they get the permit that Larry & Co - also acting as individuals - couldn't get. Ethics violation.