Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bring On The Consultants

Steering Committee co-chairs Nancy Buffone, David Ziomek (left)

The Town Gown Steering Committee had their final meeting of the year Tuesday and passed their collective hands over the final RFP draft for a consultant to help navigate the stormy waters that arise between two large independent entities -- in this case the town and UMass, a flagship University in a state that cherishes education.

As usual there were a couple points of friction:  Actual Amherst demographics are hard to measure precisely: how many year round residents of the town overall and how many off campus students there are nine months of the year.  And what is the exact make up of on-campus students since some of them take online courses  and therefor not physically present.

But the real point of friction came from immediate neighbors in the audience who took offense at the line "Community resistance to new growth has been consistently high." Yes, in a bureaucratic document, God forbid directness.

Jack Hirsch went so far as to say the line was aimed directly at "Save Historic Cushman," a relatively newbie organization in the generations old BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) movement.

John Fox also read a prepared statement decrying a "secret document" that had been commissioned by Town Meeting a few years back as part of the ill-fated Gateway Project.  That traffic study, like this town/gown consultant effort, was a joint effort overseen by UMass procurement department, and seems to have simply been misplaced in the shuffle.

Or as Stephanie O'Keeffe explained,  "There are so ... many ... damn things going on."

In fact the final report still has "draft" stenciled across the front page.  And Mr. Fox never did point to any scandalous factual findings that would give anyone a reason to want it keep secret. 

Committee member Rolf Karlstrom also brought up concerns about the document reflecting all the final tweaks just discussed and urged the committee to hold off voting until a final document could be emailed to the entire committee, since one-third were not in attendance at the start of the meeting.

 Rolf Karlstrom (far right)

And in fact, by the end of the meeting only 12 of the 24 member remained.  Of course if the steering committee were subject to Open Meeting Law the unanimous vote would be invalid since a 50% attendance of a governmental body does not constitute a quorum. 


Anonymous said...

still trying to figure out why this group just doesn't start working on a plan together.

Tom McBride said...

As far as frustration with the system of government, in general, Stephanie O'Keeffe is proof positive, she's seen it all, and knows that insanity and dysfunction are creeping in from all sides, although she probably won't admit it. As far as Jack Hirsch taking offense at the way something was worded, of course he's going to take offense, it was a direct shot at him and a lot of others. Big changes may take place place and are taking place, and tempers are going to flare, even in the town which seems to pride itself in enforcing the status quo in such a civilized manner. Town meeting and the rest of government have been holding the rest of us hostage for quite a while. And to make matters worse, ....I'd have to check the rolls again, but I'm pretty sure there were at least two people from my precinct that got positions as town meeting members, yet failed to attend a single meeting. The late Stanley Durnakowski (I probably misspelled his name), had the right idea. As far as waiting for results with this new group, we'll just have to wait, and it won't necessarily be pretty. BUT, as least something is happening. If you think this is dysfunction and frustation, look at Washington. As far as determining tne number of year round residents that aren't students, I don't think that's too complicated. You just look at the number of owner occupied homes (individual homes and condos), which is the most important number. It is true, that some other people that aren't students, live in apartments.

Walter Graff said...

I wonder if the master plan of Amherst is keeping a dysfunctional system so that nothing gets done, Amherst never develops, and it stays Amherst RFD. Oh but they'll tell you the town has an awesome website.

Amherst RFD will not elect a mayor because then they'd have a more efficient system of checks and balances. And more important, someone would have to be responsible for what is wrong, the money that is wasted, and the inefficiency all around. Someone could point a finger at the inefficiency and those not doing their share in a system where someone has to be accountable.

Now it's all committees, committees and committees to tell everyone what they already know, and what could have been figured out without the expense. This is what happens when you water down a true open town meeting with a representative town meeting. Three hour meetings that are like some sort of social and intellectual show of wit and stature but if you later read the transcript you'd wonder what was actually accomplished. You could post the same photo for any meeting of this town because nothing changes.

Committees simply take away all blame and responsibility and when all is said you can vote again on what you already know and still not get a result and somehow you've removed yourself from blame. Works perfectly because nothing gets done and no one is to blame and they simply fall back into the flock and go unnoticed.

The Amherst RFD motto goes like this:

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

The antonyms for accountable are blameless, innocent, irresponsible and unreliable.

As Gomer Pyle wold say, shame, shame, shame.

Anonymous said...

This is all actually the consequences of governmental interference with the real estate market. There are a lot of people who have a lot more than they otherwise would because the government first artificially inflated the value of real estate by vastly increasing the size of UMass in the 1960's and then responded to that by placing something like 30% of the land in town into conservation no-build areas and defeated the proposed Route 9 by-pass through Mark's Meadow and then responded to the issues of overcrowding (and hence problematic parties) by yet more government action ---

And now people are fighting over what action of the government will most benefit them personally. No one is even questioning if the government ought to be involved in the property market in the first place -- the fight is over which particular governmental action will benefit whom, notwithstanding the costs incurred by others.

Think about this for a minute folks -- how is this any different than large corporations having the Federal government do things to benefit them at OUR expense.....

Tom McBride said...

After a while the town starts to look like a fancy prep school. The cost of entry for education is extremely high. And we seem to have a town manager that is fixated on getting the town's name in any magazine or other publication he can, named as "the hip place to be" or some other fancy title. I'm pretty sure his salary is directly related to the number of high profile publications in which the town's name appears.