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.