Thursday, March 6, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

Could Amherst voters decide fate of $15/hour Minimum Wage hike?

UPDATE (Friday morning):

The Town Clerk just confirmed that even if the Select Board set the referendum election for September 9, the date of the State Primary, it would only result in "minimal savings."  The cost for the Special Town Election would still be around $10,000 vs a normal stand alone election cost of $12,000.  

Separate ballots would still have to be printed and the number of check in and check out workers at every precinct would need to double.

After reading this morning's article Matthew Cunningham-Cook, the optimistic architect of the $15/hr minimum wage hike for all Amherst laborers, wished to add an interesting point:

If Town Meeting should reject his article at the March 19 Special Town Meeting he will "referendum" that decision by collecting 880 signatures within five business days and bring it directly to the voters of Amherst in a Special Election that will cost taxpayers $12,000.

Since he's already collected 200 signatures to force the $15/hour minimum wage warrant article on a Special Town Meeting, his threat is not to be ignored.

And when I mentioned how difficult it can be he responded, "That's true.  We're a big group and five business days afterwards would be the 26th.  Collecting signatures on election day(3/25)  is pretty easy."

The Town Clerk confirms his deadline analysis and agrees she can't stop folks from collecting signatures near a voting precinct unless they are interfering with voters.

The rule stating no electioneering within 100 feet of a voting precinct on election day would not apply since this issue has nothing to do with what's on the election ballot.

Since 1998 only twice has a Town Meeting action been referendumed by collecting the signatures of 5% of active voters:  The Parking Garage in town center and the Soccer Fields on Potwine Lane.

Both capital items had Town Meeting approval, and the referendum was an attempt to overturn that approval.

Both referendums failed.  In fact, in order to pass at least 18% of registered voters have to vote "yes," otherwise it automatically fails.  And Amherst only turns out over 18% at a local election if there's a (much needed) change in government question on the ballot or a Proposition 2.5 Override Question. 

The really interesting thing happens if Town Meeting fails to muster a quorum on March 19.  Obviously the lone article is then pocket vetoed, but there would be nothing to referendum.

And unlike the scene in "House of Cards," you can't send out police to drag Town Meeting members to the Amherst Regional Middle School to attain a quorum.

The Town Clerk has asked the Town Manager to ask the Town Attorney for guidance, since there's nothing in state law at the moment to address this quirk.  In other words, how long does the Moderator wait before he announces there's no quorum, and hence no meeting?

Perhaps the safest route would be for Town Meeting to approve the article (only requires a simple majority), thereby avoiding a $12,000 Special Town Election, thus sending it on to the State Legislature where it will be Dead On Arrival. 


Anonymous said...

So are you counseling a "yes" vote or a "no" vote at the Special Town Meeting? Are you saying that this article should not be decided on the merits?

And, if you are advising "yes", are you promising not to ridicule the membership of Town Meeting if it goes along with that?

Larry Kelley said...

Actually I am having a hard time keeping my tongue firmly in cheek on this one.

Larry Kelley said...

But since you asked:

I would counsel my esteemed fellow Town Meeting members to attend the meeting, listen politely to the petitioner, and then pass a "Motion to Dismiss."

If the "Motion to Dismiss" passes then there would be no referendum because all it would accomplish is to overturn the "Motion to Dismiss," but would not turn a "No" into a "Yes."

Anonymous said...

My family would move their construction business out of town immediately if this passed.

Anonymous said...

Can we back charge him if it fails at Town Meeting and at the Ballot. What an ass to admit that he is willing to waste tax payer money. Amherst really need to overhaul their town government to prevent this craziness.

Dr. Ed said...

Isn't the God-awful Excuse for an Organization (GEO) negotiating a contract this year?

Call me cynical but I'm thinking the real audience is in Boston.

SJA said...

How can anyone justify a minimum wage of $15/hour, does that come with good benefits and a retirement package. Students are not the only ones struggling in today's economy. How can you tell a skilled tradesman who holds a license or a teacher whom is needed by her students to learn that a new worker has arrived and starting pay is right next to yours. I know for I am an electrician and I struggle to pay my bills and the cost of my 15 hour code review/recertification classes and 6 hour professional development continuing education seminars keep going up with no reimbursement from my employer. So I advice the people of Amherst to vote NO.

Anonymous said...

I know of 3 businesses in town watching this very closely, 2 of which are actively looking at alternate locations for their businesses in Hadley and Sunderland should this idiocy pass. As a town that continuously amazes me with terrible and unrealistic decisions, I have an unsettling feeling that somehow Amherst will find its way to a $15/hr minimum wage within the year. The result would be catastrophic to its economy, downtown, and the residents whose tax revenue keep it afloat.