Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Attempted Coup d'état

Tellers huddle with Moderator at June 2 Town Meeting

Apparently members collaborated before the final session of Amherst Town Meeting Monday night, although all the usual suspects were involved so probably not much more collaboration than usual.

The Planning Board wished to refer a hot potato zoning article they had placed on the warrant back to themselves for further study after it was not overly well received by the business community.

With Vince O'Connor absent, his mini-me Jim Oldham led the sneak attack by asking Town Meeting to vote down the "motion to refer" so the article would stay on the floor and he could then make a simple amendment (although with zoning nothing is simple) "within the scope of the article" targeting mixed-use developments in the downtown.

After an extra unanticipated 55 minutes of discussion, Town Meeting did pass the motion to refer 86 Yes 70 No, which actually sounds kind of close.  But since a zoning article requires a two-thirds vote to pass, not close at all.  Keep in mind this gerrymandering occurred in the final hour of the 9th and final session of the 256th Annual  Town Meeting, which started back in April.

The real scary overthrow of decorum occurred just before this article, when once again Vince O'Connor caused Town Meeting to waste over an hour-and-a-half discussing citizen petition zoning articles that had been ruled illegal the week before.

 Vince O'Connor strutting to the podium last year

Since O'Connor had submitted his 100 signature petitions too late for the Planning Board to hold a Public Hearing and issue their required report, the Moderator ruled the two articles could only be "refereed back to a committee" or "dismissed."

Mr. O'Connor demonstrated supreme hubris by not only refusing to make the motion to refer but he did not even bother to show up to Town Meeting.  The Select Board made the motion to dismiss.

 And then the drones took over and squandered even more time.

Each motion to dismiss was adamantly opposed and each required a Tally Vote (which takes up another ten minutes) because of doubters who could not accept defeat.  The first motion to dismiss passed 88-78 and the second one 87-77.

Usual Suspect:  Hipster Rob Kusner

Now put that together with the final vote (86-70) on Mr. Oldham's attempt to hijack the Planning Board article at the end of the night and you get an idea of the overall strength of the drone bees.

While 70 or so out of 250 is a distinct minority -- they are dedicated.  The average turnout on any given night is under 200, so those 70 can block any zoning article that requires a two-thirds vote.

Usual Suspect:  Mary Streeter

Unfortunately, any pro-development zoning article is viewed as a conspiracy to benefit the rich and powerful while trampling upon the rights of "the people." 

Or the folks with too much time on their hands.

 Jim Oldham at podium, David Webber, beleaguered Planning Board Chair in front


Aw grampy and granny, the clock is ticking! said...

Thank god for old age and heart attacks.

Now, if we can only make them angry.

Reeeeeeeal angry.

-Squeaky Squeaks and Squeaks and Squeaks forever and ever amen and AMEN!

Tom McBride said...

It's unclear why "pro-development" is considered a dirty word.

And call it really insulting, but I always have a question in my head as to where these people at the meeting came from. Yes, they're continuing a tradition, a tradition that stopped serving a purpose about 100 years ago. Have any of them even looked out of their own personal space to look at how big the town is, and why we need a completely different form of government? This is the most self-involved bunch ever.

Anonymous said...

Go push a mop in Loserville, Squeaky, your posts are getting really, REALLY old.

Dr. Ed said...

All you gotta do is tie the handouts to the zoning changes in a way that they can't be separated. Then if Vince & Co want their fistfull of cash to hand out, they gotta vote for a zoning change to get it.

Anonymous said...

Seems like town meeting is really getting out of hand. Anyway to bring back the mayor idea and vote again on it?

Anonymous said...

"Thank god for old age and heart attacks."

Harsh (and perhaps unwise) words from someone already past seventy...

Anonymous said...

To the 88 to 86 members for stood up to the insanity and stayed the course and sacrificed their personal time.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this group should spend a few hundred hours coming up with their own master plan, included cost, financial ramifications, and funding. Once done, share their vision of what Amherst should become. Maybe then these kinds of antics would make more sense. Maybe then, they could get better support from the body. This assumes people think their master plan is good of course.

What has been going on at Town Meeting is no way to have good governance of a town.

Yokal said...

What if someone has to take a poop and does not have the required number of votes? Do they have to just hold it or is there typically a motion to dismiss?

How sad that any group of adults moves to such a system of group decision making, essentially turning the people back into children. A vote is a fractional say in how your life will go, a decision is something an adult makes and proceeds on.

Amherst typifies the childification of our communities, with the result being obvious, no one is allowed to do anything without permission.

If you want a laugh, read the urban dictionary definition of Amherst. It is the link in my name.

Anonymous said...

"A coup d'état also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow, is the sudden and illegal seizure of a government, usually instigated by a small group..."

You're getting kind of over blown on this.

Anonymous said...

Instead, the BID-supported "tanks" rolled in and crushed "the usual suspects" like Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. The People's Republic of Amherst isn't all that different from the other (slightly bigger) People's Republic across the Pacific: a few wealthy and powerful oligarchs run the show while the rest of us squeak here....

Anonymous said...

"...while the rest of us squeak here..."

Yeah, all seven of us.

Anonymous said...

In my view there are two ways to remedy the dysfunction of Town Meeting:
1. New charter, with mayor/town council (almost impossible).
2. Those of us who believe in development must band together at local elections and elect sane members. As noted, the CAVE* party controls about 1/3 of Town Meeting. They all turn out to vote, and vote for each other. There will need to be a coordinated effort to get out the vote for three successive town elections, in order to replace them with sane members.
C itizens
A gainst
V irtually
E verything

Anonymous said...

As an aside, LK, how is the fundraising going? Are we still going to see the Recorder back up in digi-print?

Dr. Ed said...

Not to worry -- the modal age in this country is currently 22, nationally we have way too many seats in higher education and are starting to have nowhere enough 18-year-olds to sit in them.

The bottom is going to fall out of Planet UMass, and with it, the prosperity of Amherst. BID or not, the circa-1960 downtown will not survive, nor will much else.

For those of you who remember those few years in the early 1990's, think that on steroids.

Anonymous said...

it seems to me that Vince must/might have had a strategic plan when skipping these 2 meetings. Was it to test/gauge the loyalty of his followers? Was it to get some votes, so he could go to the planning board and say look "I got about 80 votes in support at TM"? Or is he just throwing pasta at the wall?

Anonymous said...

Are we forgetting that the Planning Board put 2 articles on the warrant, then pulled them off since they weren't finished or researched? And the whole reason there was a special town meeting on June 2 was because the Planning Board asked for it for one of these unready articles.

Yes, time was wasted by the Planning Board, who looked unprepared at best.

You will be moved said...

"Go push a mop in Loserville, Squeaky, your posts are getting really, REALLY old."

LOL, old?

See that site meter?

I wont be satiated till, oh,

250,000... maybe.

(And) in the process,

showing the ~whole~ world

as I wipe you & yours

clean off the table

as one

sweeping their arm

across a board game

knocks every-single-piece

onto the floor.





-Squeaky's triumphant will

Larry Kelley said...

My site meter will be hitting a pretty big milestone before this day is done.

Anonymous said...

And point was to JUST TALK about the inclusionary zoning article and try to pass parts that the planning board wanted to stop more big projects from being built without low income housing. Why would anyone stop them from TALKING about that?

What's wrong with town meeting members trying to do that? Town meeting is a legislative body. What was the fear of just TALKING about it. Didn't someone say they were afraid if people started TALKING about the article, he was afraid he might vote for it? Weird.

And how weird that we spent 55 minutes talking about NOT TALKING about the inclusionary zoning article?. And then, I recall, the planning board chair saying that they couldn't TALK about this zoning article that they themselves put on the warrant. Another weird thing.

Anonymous said...

Given that 150 people are involved it should be a general rule only to bring articles that are really ready.

Anonymous said...

The problem 2:02, was that there had already been too much TALKING much of which got us NOWHERE as usual. If people in Town Meeting didn't do so much TALKING just to hear themselves TALK, then there wouldn't be the kind of frustration and tendency to want to avoid, at all costs, MORE TALKING!

Did you ever notice the folks that TALK for the exact three minute maximum allowed EVERY TIME they TALK? Which, of course, is often, because they're the ones that like to hear themselves TALK! The rest of us just wish they'd shut up and try something new.

Like LISTENING, perhaps!

Larry Kelley said...

About 15 years ago Art Swift did a study where he rated all the speakers for frequency and duration.

I actually came in first for number of times speaking (but last on average duration) and Vince came in first for duration.

Anonymous said...

First in number of times speaking is nothing to be proud of. It means you should try listening more.

Larry Kelley said...

The reason why my average duration was low is because I was asking questions (oftentimes for info town officials did not want to give)

Like last week when I asked the Town Manager what was the selling price of Rolling Green Apartments.

Anonymous said...

What was the selling price of Rolling Green?

Larry Kelley said...

Good question (glad I thought of it).

He refused to answer.

Yokal said...

How does a govt official not answer a straight question that does not have to do with an ongoing criminal investigation and not answer?

This does not makes sense, was it just the two of you in the room or did dozens of people just let the meeting go on without an answer? I would assume they would boo the secret govt guy off the stage and kick him off his post for abusing his power?

What gives? How is it that they can refuse to provide public info, unless they simply had to look it up? Why doesn't someone that does that get kicked out of office asap?

Oh yeah, it's a republic, lead from the top down.

Larry Kelley said...

The rule of Town Meeting is you can ask any question you wish but town officials are not obligated to supply an answer.

Had the Town Manger not suddenly announced the name of the reputable affordable housing developer, I had planned to ask for that information.

After all, we were giving this guy $1.25 million of taxpayer money.

But since he made the surprise announcement that a deal had been struck I thought it only fitting we be told the amount of said deal.

ESPECIALLY since we were financing $1.25 MILLION of it.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, it actually is worse than that. What the Town Manager appears to have done is violate the public bidding laws.

Why wasn't he obligated to issue a PUBLIC RFP for people willing to accept $1.25M for purchasing Roling Green?

What if Company X had been willing to do this for only, say, $1M?