May 16, 2017:- Town Meeting concluded last night, which means that Amherst’s legislative body will not convene again until the Fall. Attendance had started to drop off anyway, and the Moderator warned that if we had to re-assemble on Wednesday we might not manage to muster a quorum. If 80% of success is showing up, Town Meeting is flirting with failure.
As for Town Meeting’s permanent work in hand, i.e. trying to manage the pace of change, the assembled members rejected a citizen petition to rezone several parcels near the Mill District in North Amherst and another citizen petition to give tax credits to landlords who rent to Section 8 voucher holders. A majority voted in favor of a Planning Board proposal that would allow more than half the bedrooms in a rental property to be of the same size so long as all the tenants meet the Town’s affordable-housing criteria. Yes, in Amherst there is a rule prohibiting equal bedroom sizes.
We made relatively short work of a motion from Michael Burkhart, a representative from Precinct 6, who moved to reconsider the public safety budget so as to claw back $5,000.00 from the Police Department. Mr. Burkhart referred to a recent allegation of bullying at a local school and said that the police had spoken to one of the students involved, who is a student of color. Therefore the Town Meeting should cut a chunk out of the police budget. Admittedly, I may have missed a step in the syllogism, but I really was paying close attention to everything Mr. Burkhart said. I distinctly remember him declaring that this was exactly the sort of thing Black people had fled the South to escape, or words to that effect. The motion failed, I am pleased to report.
Town Meeting endorsed a carbon-fee program modeled on the one adopted in British Columbia (BC) in 2008. Since 2008, greenhouse gas emissions in BC have gone up rather than down. But based on experience I concluded that this inconvenient truth would not have swayed more than a handful of votes, not when there was an opportunity to publicly espouse a policy whose proponents said that it would do something to stop climate change. So I conserved both time (a precious non-renewable resource) and CO2 by keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself. For progressive critiques of the BC carbon-tax click here and here.
At a little after 10 o’clock, we learned that the petitioners who had put an article on the warrant in favor of “universal background checks for weapon ownership” had asked to have the matter dismissed. I suspect that by “weapons” the petitioners meant firearms, and that they did not really want background checks for citizens who buy other kinds of weapons, e.g. crossbows, longbows, knives, batons, and the multitude of other objects that can constitute weapons in the eyes of the law, including (and I am not being facetious) footwear. Sadly, with the matter dismissed, we may never know.
More next Fall.