Monday, May 20, 2013

A Safer Healthier Amherst

Stephanie O'Keeffe, Select Board Chair and strong proponent  of Rental Permit Bylaw

While it was unseasonably hot outside the Amherst Regional Middle School, the auditorium where Amherst Town Meeting convenes was even hotter as the issue of the decade, perhaps a generation, Rental Registration Property Bylaw (permit system) came to a final head.

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor, sounding like a clear two thirds majority. So decisive in fact that no one thought to call for a Tally Vote, since the measure only required a simply majority. 

With unanimous support of the Planning Board, Finance Committee, Select Board and Town Manager and more than a majority of speakers who addressed the issue from the floor, the discussion carried on for just over two hours.  A motion to refer back to the Select Board made by Town Meeting member and landlord Richard Gold failed miserably.

Landlord, lawyer and town officials wait in front row for possible call to speak

Another motion offered by Coalition of Amherst Neighborhoods to exempt owner occupied units from the new regulation also failed by a tally vote of 116-74.

Speakers against the ordinance cited costs ($100/year), constitutional issues (unreasonable search by town inspectors), and suggested Amherst is already known state wide for being over regulated.

But common sense won the day, by a very wide margin.  Not something you see all that often on the floor of Amherst Town Meeting. 

Now of course, the lawsuits begin.


Anonymous said...

Princess Stephanie done good..huh, Larry?

Larry Kelley said...

Yep. Her legacy is now safe.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the Coalition of Amherst Neighborhoods and all the residents of North Amherst who have tirelessly worked to reclaim their neighborhoods!

Larry Kelley said...

Not just in North Amherst.

Citizens all over town are "mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore."

Dr. Ed said...

Part 1 of 2:

Princess Stephanie's legacy will be as safe until the inevitable riot that this is going to cause.

You seek to *control* a horde that you don't quite see as being human. You seek to keep them "in their place" and to maintain your plantation-like community financially gains from the exploitation of the UM Students every bit as much as the Antebellum South benefited from the exploitation of the slaves.

The overseer with the whip has been replaced by the student loan repayment folk and electronics, it is future rather than current labor from which you benefit, but the effect is the same -- the Amherst economy is based on the exploitation of a sub-class of people whom the community doesn't quite consider to be human beings.

I spent time I didn't have pointing out what would need to be included in the rental registration ordinance in order for it to be, well, as provocative of conflict as Roger Taney's infamous Dredd Scott decision (which arguably provoked the Civil War).

I suggest that Princess Stephanie is a skillful politician who either hasn't read or more likely doesn't understand Machiavelli. Stephanie pandered to those who hold political power while ignoring Machiavelli's caveat that a prince "needs his people to love him."

It is one thing to disenfranchise and subjugate a populace (or portion thereof), it is something else entirely to do so against their will. This is what Machiavelli meant by the Prince needing his (subjugated) people to "love him" -- with Machiavelli implying that the Prince needed to do things "he didn't 'have to'" in order to gain that love.

Any system of human governance, be it "small-d" democratic or not, can exist only when the majority of the populace generally complies with the leadership's dictates. Even though it has the legitimate use of force (and implicit/explicit threat thereof), both its use and threatened use has to be the exception and not the rule.

Any government is only stable when the vast majority of the populace voluntarily complies with its edicts. When it has to rely on force or threat of force, the "force" required to have any effect inexorably approaches one of two hard limits -- (a) the human resources necessary to do so quickly exceed its ability to provide, and/or (b) the things necessary for "force" to have any effect quickly exceeds the conscience (both individual and collective) of those whom it asks to do them.

Dr. Ed said...

Part 2 of 2:

An example of the first case was the 55 MPH speed limit -- which collapsed in the 1980s when motorists realized that "they can't get everyone" and a finite number of police officers, writing tickets as fast as they could, became irrelevant as people increasingly drove faster. (This is why the median speed on rural Interstates actually went down when the speed limit went up to 65.)

An example of the second is the fall of both the Berlin Wall and the DDR itself. The East German soldiers were willing to shoot the occasional person trying to escape, but they weren't going to shoot entire families. At a point, their perspective shifted from shooting bad people to shooting their fellow Germans which they weren't willing to do.

The ONLY thing regulating student behavior at this point is an ever-increasing number of police officers using increasing "force." Human resources (including MSP) have increased at a *percentage* that is no more sustainable than the yield of a Ponzi scheme.

Likewise, the amount of "force" required (including both UM suspensions and involuntary psych commitments) is rapidly approaching intervention levels. Enku may not be bright enough to realize it, but she is rapidly approaching the "tipping point" where those with power over her (legislature/governor, alumni/donors, etc.) hear from enough aggrieved students/parents to (a) believe that it is the university and not students who were in the wrong and (b) step in to "do something about it."

In other words, UM can suspend/expel (a distinction without a difference under the current UM rules) a few students, but not a few hundred.

The same thing is true of the malicious involuntary commitments, while the aggrieved individual will be dismissed as "crazy" and ignored, a large enough number of them won't be.

Furthermore, there are honorable people in the mental health profession, people with consciences and who actually believe in things like the APA's Code of Ethics. They get upset when they see this sort of stuff, and they start telling others about it -- both for emotional support and in hopes that the others might be able to stop it. At some point, as the number of different kids abused in this manner increases, the level of "risk" they are willing to accept goes from telling people like me (how do you think I know about this) to "going public.

At a certain point, a police department looses the ability to be taken seriously by the local court and all of their paperwork gets tossed by judge and jury alike.

Admit it Stephanie, the only thing that is stopping ever larger/wilder parties is an increasing number of cops arresting more kids -- that's not sustainable.

Anonymous said...

This is what is maddening about Amherst Town Meeting:

The article had overwhelming support from the floor YET it was discussed for two hours.

Democracy can be inefficient but it doesn't have to be. The length of Town Meeting in the spring can be a deterrent to the willingness of ordinary working people to serve. That's not democratic.

Anonymous said...

No pain, no gain, my friend. Two hours to discuss s game changing proposal is a small price to pay. Don't complain if you're not willing to put the time in.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:25, how do you know the article had overwhelming support from the floor?