Sunday, May 25, 2014

You Talk Too Much ...

Springfield Sunday Republican

Today's Springfield Sunday Republican lead editorial was already getting lots of shares five days ago when it first hit the Internet, but it's even better that it made the print edition on the highest read day of the week for any newspaper.

Besides, the folks who exclusively get their news via print newspaper these days are an older crowd, so chances are a fair number of Amherst Town Meeting members will see the editorial. 

Too bad the editorial writers did not hold off a couple days to incorporate Wednesday's session of Town Meeting into the mix as it perfectly illustrates one of the major problems with Amherst Town Meeting:  The entire two hour twenty minute session dealt only with  "citizens petitions" and all four of them were from one citizen:  Vince O'Connor.

 Petition A


Since it only takes ten signatures to get on the warrant for the Annual Spring Town Meeting there's little barrier to entry.  And as you can see from Vince's petitions the very same people can sign all four requests to get on the ballot.  So all you need do is host a tofu dinner party for ten.

Petition B

Town Meeting also has little barrier to entry for being elected as it only takes one signature to get on the ballot, and yes that one signature can be your own.  Nobody seems to care about the local elections demonstrated by Amherst's usual turnout of well under 30% on average vs Presidential elections every four years where turnout is always in the 65-to-70% range.

Petition C

This lowering of the bar (from ten signatures to one) was passed by Town Meeting in 1997 and gave the Select Board permission to petition the state legislature for the change as a means of stimulating interest in bringing in fresh blood.  Unfortunately all it did was make it easier for the same old activists to recruit birds of a feather.

Petition D

As the editorial points out most neighboring towns finish their Town Meetings in one night or two, while Amherst Town Meeting seems to drone on forever.  The current 256th Annual Town Meeting has already met for 8 sessions and will require at least two more for a final box score of 10.

Over the past ten years Amherst Annual Town Meeting has required an average of 8.8 meetings with a high of 12 sessions in 2006 and 2007 to a low of "only" five in 2010.

One ironic solution would be to file a petition next spring (requiring only 10 signatures) increasing the minimum number of signatures from 10 to 100 -- or better yet 200 -- to get an issue on the annual warrant.

And just to illustrate the point, file another one (using the same ten people) saying something totally ridiculous like changing the name of Amherst to "La-La Land." 

Or officially changing the spelling of Amherst to take out the H, thus ruining their favorite tag line "where only the H is silent."

Another vital change would be to cut in half the number of Town Meeting members thereby increasing competition for the honor of serving, and increasing accountability since there would be fewer members to keep track of.

Over the past ten years attendance has averaged 66.7%, so one-third of the body fails to show up anyway.  
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Attendance for the current Town Meeting (note 22 members are 0-8 and another 12 are 1-8 and only 68 members out of 251, or just 27%,  have a perfect attendance record)

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think cutting town meeting in half would definitely make it more competitive. Hopefully this would bring in more serious people.

Also having people get 10 names to run for TM seems only fair. If you don't have 10 friends in Amherst who are you representing anyway.

Finally I think 50 to 100 names on a petition to put an article on the agenda for TM would be a fair hurdle.

If that doesn't' work scrap the whole thing and get a mayor.

Dr. Ed said...

A serious proposal: Require that all speeches be reduced to writing and be posted on a specific (public) website 24 hours before the meeting.

ONLY permit people (anyone, including selectboard, TM, anyone) to (a) state that "I support/oppose/am neutral" on the motion and/or (b) reference what he/she/it has written so people can read it if desired.

You have WiFi in the room, right? (If not, put it in.) Between laptops and phones and whatnot, people can (do) access the web during meetings (you did) and hence everyone who has something can say he/she/it does, give people 10 minutes to read whatever they wish, and then VOTE.

This does three things. It keeps the intent of the town meeting concept, it permits people to indicate which way they are going on something -- and that often influences a lot of other votes and hence the (a) above, and finally it lets EVERYONE say WHATEVER he/she/it desires without forcing everyone to listen forever to it.

Reality is that we read a hell of a lot faster than we speak/listen, and that is even without skipping over the stuff we don't care about and skimming other stuff.

Larry, I'm serious about this. I sat through those meetings, and a lot of stuff could have been reduced to writing and I would have actually read much of it. But sitting there FOREVER is not something pleasant.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, someone that writes an endless stream of tiresome diatribes has a suggestion for cutting down an endless stream of tiresome diatribes. Right!

Larry Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Ed said...

"...cutting down an endless stream of tiresome diatribes..."

No, only enabling those who so desire to fast-forward through them.

Anonymous said...

No, only enabling those who so desire to fast-forward through them.

So why do you object to Nina's filter? Because it would enable those who so desire to fast-forward through your tiresome diatribes?

Anonymous said...

The attendance record documented here is a disgrace.

Hilda G said...

Zoning articles need a whole lot more discussion! Most are NOT thought through regarding all possible consequences, are difficult to understand and more difficult to enforce. We need a moritorium on zoning amendments in order to "planning" to occur first. Please note that the infamous Master Plan for Amherst was written by Mr. Tucker and approved by the Planning Board. This Master Plan never came to Town Meeting for discussion or ratification. YOu can probably figure out why!! Hilda

Nina Koch said...

to 8:30 am--

I never finished the user interface for other people to be able to use my filter, but I did recently discover that Blogger provides its own filter. If you hover your mouse over someone's name, you can click to collapse the comment. This should help people avoid scrolling injuries.

There is also a link at the top of the page that says "Collapse Comments" which collapses all of them. Then you can click on an individual name to un-collapse it. I don't know how long that link has been there -- I never noticed it 'til now!

Yokal said...

This is the fundamental problem when there is a lack of liberty.

As most educated people here know there are two types of exclusive rights...liberties and entitlements.

A liberty does not infringe on others, an entitlement must be taken from others. Liberties are, by definition, sustainable. Entitlements are, by definition, not sustainable. You must constantly feed entitlements with other people's rights. This is part of why govt is so expensive.

The people of Amherst need to focus on preserving their liberty....essentially making it so the people cannot vote away their rights. Preserve them as liberties.

Here is an example. Humans in Amherst have the right to marry right now, but they do not have the liberty to do so. We can vote away the right with simply having another vote. Liberties are not subject to the vote and are more secure. Perhaps marriage should be a liberty, but no one has pushed this forward, not even with the passage of homosexual marriage.

Too much is subject to the vote, when it should be left to the individual. Without voting on everything you can still have choice, it will be your choice in stead of a community choice. That is real choice, that is a real vote, you only have to convince yourself.

You got one thing right though.....lalalland, all high on the opiate of the masses.

Anonymous said...

NOte to Springfield Rupublican--Springfield is not so hot, to put it gently. And Amherst, really beautiful, full of restaurants, stores, museums, great colleges, safe streets, lovely land--all with town meeting! Go figure. So not looking for advice on how to run a government.

And you folks who find town meeting too long. Go home! Don't be a town meeting member! Didn't like one citizen's articles? Change the oldest form of democracy that has worked for hundreds of years! Think it through people.

Anonymous said...

Funny, Yokal sounds just like Ed.

Dr. Ed said...

So why do you object to Nina's filter? Because it would enable those who so desire to fast-forward through your tiresome diatribes?

I didn't object as much as I described it as "fascist" and I did that because of the way she presented it. I also had presumed that a supposed technology "expert" would already have known about the "collapse comments" feature that she mentions above -- not to mention the ability not to read that which you don't wish to.

I objected to her "trigger warning" mentality -- not that people so choosing could ignore my opinions, but that they had to somehow be protected from them. That competent adults had to somehow be protected from knowing my opinions even existed.

That the problem was not what I wrote but in knowing that I was able to do so and was.

That's why I called it "fascist."

I merely presume that every thing she writes is simply wrong and either dispute it or ignore it outright. I was offended by her presumption that others weren't/aren't capable of doing likewise. That they are somehow so incompetent that they need her babysitting service.

Were I they, I'd have been offended by that. And coming from a woman -- well, Nina, aren't you aware of how women once were considered something less than competent adults, how they needed husbands to, essentially, "babysit" them?

Dr. Ed said...

As most educated people here know there are two types of exclusive rights...liberties and entitlements.

You are on the wrong axis -- you need to think of "individual" versus "collective." The American versus the French Revolution.

American Revolution was Locke's (God-Given) INDIVIDUAL right to the INDIVIDUAL's "Life, Liberty & Property." French Revolution was "Liberty, Fraternity, & Equality." Very different concept, and very different outcome....

Imagine that two wolves and a lamb are having a vote as to what will be for dinner. In a Democracy, the lamb is outvoted 2-1 and *is* dinner.

But in a Republic (which is what we live in), minorities have rights. "Minority" defined as "less than majority" and not *just* in terms of ethnic/racial groups, although the same principle (at least when honored) protects them as well.

Think about it for a minute -- it doesn't matter that the lamb was outvoted, she still has a right not to be eaten. The "tyranny of the majority" is not permitted to trample her rights -- her right not to be eaten would still exist were there a million wolves voting for her to be society's dinner.

I don't think this concept is understood in Amherst. Social Justice Theory only protects those groups currently in power -- and only while they retain power, which no group does forever. It is only in protecting the rights of the INDIVIDUAL that we all are protected.


Anonymous said...

On Memorial Day we bow our heads and pray that Ed will shut up.

Anonymous said...

Just click on Dr. Ed and what he has to say disappears.

It's magic.

Anonymous said...

Here, in its entirety, is the comment from Nina that Ed finds so fascist:

"I am actually working on a program that allows people to filter blogspot comments, based on the name of the poster, if anyone is interested."

So tell me, Ed: How would you present this information in a less "fascist" way? Where is the implication that people need to be protected from your tiresome diatribes, as opposed to choosing to more easily ignore them ("...if anyone is interested")?

Oh, and for that matter, where are you mentioned at all? It's your raging self-regard, by the way, that makes you so tiresome -- not the content of your opinions.

P.S. Just wonderin' -- how come your "o" key sticks every time you try to spell "lose", but never sticks any other time? That sure is one krazee keyboard you got there...

Dr. Ed said...

On Memorial Day we bow our heads and pray that Ed will shut up.

I will when I get what I want.

And while I can (have) replaced the keyboard, how about the moron who didn't know that the "General Court" was a legislative and not judicial entity?

But give me what I want and I will go away. Not before, not until.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed, you lose, or should it be loose? You can fix the keyboard but you can't fix stupid.

LOSER!

Anonymous said...

I just clicked on "Dr Ed" for the first time and it was truly magic! I love it. Wish I had known about the click and poof a long time ago!
Larry's blog is now blessedly free from Ed! Hallelujah!

Anonymous said...

WWSD (what would Springfield do)? always guides me.

Anonymous said...

Ed, exactly what do you want?

Anonymous said...

World domination, and a hot chick.