Tuesday, December 18, 2007

...duty to God and my country...

Ages and years ago when I lived in Alaska I was a Cub Scout (a "webelo"-- we wobbled but we didn't fall down). I still remember the Boy Scout Oath, and the part about "doing my duty to God and my country" seems relevant to the kerfuffle here in Amherst over the Scouts selling Christmas trees on Town property.

It seems to me that part of doing your duty to your country is to pay for public services when you use them.

"But it's not about money, it's tradition! And besides, they're popular!" Uh-huh. That's always the tricky thing with public property-- how do we decide who gets to use it, and for what?

What if... the Amherst Vegan-Pagan Cooperative asked to use that bit of land to sell Healing Crystals on the Summer Solstice as a fundraiser? When that bit of town was privately owned, the answer was easy-- the owner of the land gets to decide (well, restricted by zoning laws, of course).

The easy public property answers are to either auction off the rights to use the property to the highest bidder. Or to hold an election and ask the Public what to do every time somebody wants to use the property. Or to trust Elected Officials to make a reasonable decision.

But this is Amherst, so I predict the following will happen;

There will be at least three public meetings, involving at least two Town Committees, in a process directed by the Select Board. The outcome will be a vague policy statement that the Town Manager will have the unenviable task of trying to apply to specific situations.

And next year, the Boy Scouts will sell lots of Christmas trees and will pay the Town a modest amount of money for the privilege of doing it where they've done it for decades.

1 comment:

Larry Kelley said...

As that Chief Justice once said about porn: I don't know how to define it but I know it when I see it. Not that Boy Scouts have anything to do with porn, just that this specific situation should have been an easy call for anybody with a core.

This ridiculous, embarrassing episode demonstrates The Town Manager is a Johnny-come-lately carpetbagger coming to Amherst to coast thru his twilight years in public management.