Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Gave proof through the night..."

So last night at venerable, archaic, always boring Amherst Town Meeting I asked--now that the town has decided to “take over” the July 4’Th Parade—thus violating that age old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it," where exactly is our cash strapped municipality going to find the $10,000 required to launch their extravagant Protest Parade?

Actually I think my figures ran anywhere from $10,000 to $90,000 as I pointed out our privately run event at one hour in duration will cost $10,000 this year (and the Committee is all-volunteer) but the People's Republic is planning a nine-hour marathon Parade on July 4, 2009--so that could easily cost nine times more.

The Boss Hogg Town Mangler responded as though I were some pimple-faced Jr. High School student daring to challenge his supreme authority: “All the money will be raised privately,” he said dismissively.

Hmm…Kind of sets the stage for the 250’Th Anniversary Committee coming before Town Meeting later this month to request $25,000 in tax monies for the Anniversary Parade scheduled for September, 2009.

If it’s that easy to privately raise money for a Parade then why not have the LSSE empire raise the $25,000 for the Anniversary Parade; after all, unlike the July 4’Th Parade it only happens once every 250 years!

Springfield Republican Rides to the Rescue Let's hope the AP is having a slow news day.

Our web cite is UP!


Neil said...

Mr. Weiss calls the Parade Committee’s Independence Day parade a “discriminatory event.” Discrimination is a charged word in our society like “racist” or “cracker”. We’ll examine the assertion.

All who agree to Parade Committee policy may participate as marchers. Parade Committee policy applies equally to all participants. The policy prohibits protesting by sign or shouted slogan. The Parade Committee's stated purpose is that the parade is a celebration of our country’s Independence, the service of police, firemen and veterans; and specifically not a protest parade. No one is prohibited from participating as a marcher on account of his or her race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The only basis for excluding participation in the parade is consent to comply with the parade policy that, among other things, disallows protesting.

If you are black or Caucasian and you agree not to protest, you can march. If you are Catholic or agnostic and you agree not to protest, you can march. If you are of any ethnic background or any sexual orientation and you agree not to protest, you can march. If you are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Green Party and you agree not to protest, you can march. The only discrimination is discrimination against people who do not consent to participate within the guidelines set forth by the Parade Committee. People participating along the parade route as audience have no restriction on their conduct other than what is expected of people in society at a public gathering.

In what sense, does Mr. Weiss claim the Parade Committee parade is a “discriminatory event” and since when does disallowing protest equal discrimination? We don’t allow protest in our children’s classrooms, in movie theaters or at Select Board meetings. We don’t even allow people to yell “fire” in crowded movie theaters. Free speech is not an absolute right, whether at a parade or elsewhere. Free speech is balanced against competing interests. In this case, it is balanced against the equally valid constitutional right of association. Check it out for yourself. It’s real and it has yet to come up in coverage of this issue, in Mr. Shaffer policy announcement, in Select Board minutes or in newspaper coverage.

Mr. Weiss’ accusation is unfounded. He should stick to the facts and refrain from using inflammatory and pejorative language when referring to the Parade Committee’s event. It is inaccurate, unfair, and it reveals his lack of respect for their purpose, their point of view and their judgment.

The fact is, some Amherst residence want an Independence Day Parade that allows protesters in the parade. The fact is, the Parade Committee does not want the parade to be a protest parade. For protest advocates and for Mr. Shaffer and Mr. Weiss, the opportunity to protest along the parade route as spectators, the opportunity to organize a protest rally, or the opportunity to organize a separate protest parade does not satisfy their need. Why is that?

Their solution is to demand that the Parade Committee allow protesters. If the Parade Committee does not, the Town of Amherst will have town government conduct a 2009 Independence Day Parade that will allow protesters to march. The decision is made at the cost of approximately $10000. All of this is within town government’s misguided authority to decide. It is a decision that caters to protest advocates rather than the moderate middle, a moderate middle that doesn't believe our Independence Day parade must, as matter of obligation or good judgment, include protesters as marchers; a moderate middle that would prefer an Independence Day parade that is a celebration and not a protest.

What should be clear is that this issue is not a matter of righteousness – about who is right and who is wrong - but a matter of finding the right balance between valid competing interests.

I submit that this is a complex problem requiring the best efforts of our wisest elected leaders, not a matter for our un-elected town manager to decide on his own, or on his own with input from one person, his boss, a like-minded individual who has wrongly claimed the Parade Committee’s parade is discriminatory. The Parade Committee has a valid and respectable position. Protest advocates have a valid request that should be provided for. A solution that provides for one and not the other is misguided and autocratic. Larry Shaffer’s policy is a poorly decided solution. The best solution will respect the rights of both parties.

The most troubling conduct by far was how the town manager moved to exclude the Parade Committee from obtaining a 7/4/9 parade permit by filing a fraudulent application for a 9AM to 5PM town parade permit, which is nothing less than unethical pretense.

Mr. Shaffer started the clock on this issue by announcing the new policy. Since then it has been part of the news cycle on a frequent basis locally and around the nation. The sooner the Select Board takes up the issue on the merits, in the spirit of meeting both parties interests and respecting both parties rights, the sooner this issue is resolved. I suggest the Select Board not to wait until June.

amherstac said...

Yeah I was a tad peeved as His Lordship branded us a "discriminatory event," as though we are forcing blacks to the back of the bus or hanging signs "Irish Need Not Apply."

His Lordship is also wrong when he says they are "town roads" we are using.

Strangely enough (it's Colonial Law) the main road running through town center is owned one-half by the private business owners on the left side of the street and the other half owned by property owners on the right side of the street. The town has an "easement in gross," an irrevocable right to use the land.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Brookline, the town, which is just about as left-wing as Amherst (limo-liberal in that case, not academeic-marxist) had an outstanding Flag Day parade. Completely apolitical, except for the unifying celebration of the flag.

It was also a great success beacause towns from all over eastern Mass. would send boy scouts, antique fire trucks, fife & drum corps and so on. This is because it worked as a dress rehearsal for all the different towns' own July Fourth parades.

This might not be a bad way to go in order to institute the sort of civic celebration you have in mind. Give it five years and the Amherst Town July Fourth parade will die on the vine due to official neglect, I'm afraid.