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