Saturday, May 9, 2009

And that sure as hell ain't socialism

Close tie for strangest remark in Town Meeting this past week.

Part of what we do when it comes to housekeeping articles is fill in gaps that we missed in past local legislation or bring our local laws into line with required state practice.

• Select Board member Gerry Weiss caught our attention when he suddenly referred to his having bought a lawn tractor with which to mow his grass, only to find that it did not come with the necessary cutting deck. It was a bit surreal, because you had to put two and two together for yourself, so most people were simply confused.

One such instance of housekeeping--Article 10--involved our formally rescinding a rent control bylaw dating from the mists of political antiquity (which is to say, the 1980s) because such measures had been outlawed by the Commonwealth in the 1990s.

Now you would think that simply doing what the law requires--and in this case, only the wording, and no longer the practice, was out of whack--would not be controversial, or at least require extended commentary. Well, not in Amherst.

• Local blogger and political gadfly Larry Kelley felt impelled to speak. After referring to the hoary date of the bylaw--passed in 1986, and amended on May 1, 1989--and denouncing the power of subpoena accorded the Housing Review Board, he reminded us that we needed to remember another date, November 1989:
"The Wall came down. Socialism don't work. Get used to it."
In case that wasn't harsh enough, he later added on his blog that we had "experimented (in a Nazi sort of way) with "Rent Control" back in the 1980's."

(I don't recall seeing the concentration camps, minefields, and free-fire zones of either Hitler or Stalin, but I'm just a historian.)

• Harry Brooks then took the microphone and led us on a rather bizarre walk down memory lane, in which he, by contrast, extolled the Review Board's power to intimidate witnesses and extract truthful statements, which so concerned Larry. No one had a clue what he was talking about, because, as Moderator Harrison Gregg reminded both speakers, the issue under discussion was the rescinding of an antiquated law, not the resurrection of the Review Board.

And people wonder why neighboring Pelham and Hadley can hold their annual Town Meetings over only one to two days, whereas ours extends through both May and June. Still, it occasionally makes for good television.

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