Thursday, February 26, 2009


"Beautify Northampton." What an idea. That statement is giving me a lot of ideas for the piece I am writing for our street show. What we have to understand is that gentrification is, in a sense, ethnic cleansing. Despite how frightened people are of that phrase, it doesn't just occur with machine guns out in the big scary world, it occurs right here, in our communities. Northampton is already gentrified, the BID is merely seeking to exponentially speed up the process, as well as clear out unsightly young folks. As a poor disabled brown artist, I know I am not a part of Northampton's new beauty routine. 

I remember when I went for a financial aid meeting at Pratt Institute after I was accepted into the undergraduate photography program. The assistant director of admissions, Mike Barry, was commenting on what a "nice area" this neighborhood of Brooklyn is now. "Do you feel any accountability about that? Gentrification isn't like a little blessing from God," I may have said. "Nah," Mike responded, "you know how the city works, it's a natural ebb and flow." Yes, yes, the ebb of property taxes and values with the specific intention of cleaning up an area and making it a safe place for college students and young white families, and the flow of poor brown folks to the margins. Do to this comment that he made and the fact that he tried to get me to sleep with him for the remainder of the aid that I needed, I did not attend Pratt. 

Number One: Poverty is not a crime. Number Two: Pushing poor, desperate people out of an area does not actually reduce crime, it masks it. 

The controversy surrounding Hampshire's divestment from the illegal occupation of Palestine has taught me that you cannot allow the administration of your institution to represent you. I am so proud of the Smith students attempting to hold Carol Christ accountable.

Love and Honey and Power to Us ALL! 

The Resistance - February 26th 2009 - On the Noho BID: Calling Out the Motives

The Resistance - Feb 26Th 2009 by Resistance Media  
Download now or listen on posterous
BID_The Resistance_Feb26th_NinaAA.mp3 (13314 KB)

Posted via email from theresistance's posterous

Ira McKinley Speaks Truth to Power

This is back in September 2008...

Anne Watanabe on the BID

Nina Ashanti Arundhati & Caty Simon appear on the Bill Dwight show speaking vs. the BID

PINAC helps create new meal

As this has been little publicized, we'd just like to note on this blog that Poverty Is Not A Crime's negotiation with Hampshire College Dining Hall allowed Manna to create one more free meal a week for the low income people of Northampton.
Yet another good critique of the BID from the blog Northampton redoubt.

coverage in Smith newspaper of our BID campaign

Students oppose downtown business development proposal
Christina Nyquist
Issue date: 2/19/09 Section: News

Today, Smith students will team up with locals to protest Smith College President Carol Christ's signing of the Northampton's Business Improvement District (BID) Plan. The protestors plan to gather at City Hall at 4:30 p.m., march along Main Street to College Hall on Smith's campus, and then march back downtown.

Local entrepreneurs launched their campaign to establish a Northampton BID on Oct. 7. The Northampton Downtown Web site defines a BID as a "contiguous geographic area in which property owners vote to initiate, manage, and finance supplemental services above and beyond the City's services in their district." The site states that supporters view the BID as "a powerful tool to enhance downtown and increase the likelihood of its long-term success and vitality." It also claims that, "for Northampton, the purpose of the BID is to return Downtown Northampton to a vital visitor destination that successfully competes as an entertainment, restaurant and shopping district." The BID calls on the City of Northampton to fund the plan at $35,000 [actually, $85,000] annually, to finance equipment and maintenance, provide police patrol and "enhanced snow removal policies" within the district, fund a capital program for street, sidewalk and park improvements, support the Academy of Music, provide funding for trash removal, implement bike paths within the district and continue its ownership and funding of decorative light poles was well as major maintenance and repair.

The plan's other program areas include maintenance and landscaping, featuring a CLEAN TEAM to sweep sidewalks, landscape and remove graffiti; parking and transportation; and Public Safety to "increase the sense of safety and security, [and] reduce crime, homelessness and aggressive panhandling in downtown Northampton." According to protest organizer Anne Watanabe '12, Smith's position on the matter is crucial to the plan's success, as Smith property constitutes 40 percent of Northampton's business district property and only 60 percent of property owners must sign before City Council can make its final decision.

When asked about her stance on the BID, President Christ said, "A vibrant and appealing downtown, with thriving retail, dining and cultural options, is important to keeping Northampton successful and economically viable. Moreover, it is an important asset in recruiting students, faculty and staff to Smith.""

Creating a BID is a proven way of regularizing the funding and initiatives needed to maintain and improve that asset. Students and their families appreciate the fact that, in Northampton, they can experience entertainment, shopping and restaurants in the context of a downtown that is walkable, lively at all times of day and night and only steps from their front door," she continued.
President Christ stated that a portion of what the BID will pay for are things "to which Smith already contributes on an ad hoc or year-to-year basis." She cited the holiday lights as one example.

"Downtown is a centerpiece of what makes Northampton an attractive and special place for faculty and staff to live - and it can be even better if it's cleaned and maintained in a more regular fashion," Christ continued. "We want to do our part to make sure Northampton continues to thrive and to be a welcoming and culturally diverse place."

Those who oppose the BID fear that because a private board of directors would govern the plan, it will not be accountable to the public and community needs. Furthermore, opponents claim the BID would raise taxes and rent for downtown residents within the district, thereby making that area unaffordable for many who currently live there, including Five College students.

However, according to President Christ, the BID plans were not made in a vaccume; the BID organizers held a focus group last year with Smith students to find out what they liked and disliked about Northampton. "Relatively few [students] showed up despite many and repeated invitations and confirmed RSVPs," she said.According to Christ, the focus group found that Smith students are interested in forming traditions between the college and town, such as Bag Days for students, student discounts, senior pub crawls and first-year nights at Herrell's. The group also found that students are concerned about the homeless population and need for shelters downtown, over-priced shops and the lack of crosswalk visibility. President Christ stated that many of these concerns would be addressed by the BID either directly or indirectly.

Nonetheless, many Smith students, as well as social justice groups, find fault with the BID. They are especially concerned with the BID's commitment to increasing panhandling intervention and regulation. "Smith already has something of a reputation of being an 'ivory tower on the hill,' and I would hate to see us be a part of a process to gentrify Northampton," said Watanabe, who credits her experiences in the Smith classroom with giving her a more critical outlook on social dynamics and social inequality.

At the City Council Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 5, Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins formally withdrew and indefinitely tabled the controversial Panhandling Ordinance, which seeks to restrict panhandling downtown and provide civil means such as fines to punish violators. This withdrawal occurred just before a public hearing on the BID, which included the ordinance in its plan.

In addition to the protest, the Smith opposition group held a "teach-in" at the Campus Center on Feb. 16 and 18, with representatives from social justice groups Poverty is Not a Crime and Arise for Social Justice, as well as a call-in to President Christ and City Councilor Paul Spector, who serves as a member of the Smith College Community Advisory Board."I just hope that Carol Christ will look out her window on Thursday to see a lot [of] Smith students demanding Smith's withdrawal of its signature from the BID," said Watanabe.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reasonable Demands?

BID proponents want to beautify downtown Northampton. They want more street lights, more street cleaning, more trees, and more flowers. Apparently they're willing to pay for it all. They want to convince other property owners and businesses to pay too, mind you; but anyway, reasonable demands, yes?

We're facing a global economic crisis. Sure, businesses will feel the pang, but can we deny that it is the poor and those who are already at the economic and political margins who will suffer the most? Can we deny this suffering? Will we? And where are our priorities? The state guide for forming BIDs in mass itself states clearly that the purpose of a BID is to improve the business climate. I'm skeptical that at a time of economic crisis, when, without a doubt, more people will be homeless, more people will go hungry, and more people will freeze to death, that we should be placing our priorities with enhancing the "business climate." It would seem to me that our priorities should lie with the formation of safety nets, in a society where the basic necessities of life are not guaranteed, whether by government or any other entity. We need to be turning to each other and to community.

Local businesses should be looking to a strengthening of the local economy for their survival in these hard times, not relying on an influx of tourists or other economic outsiders to sustain themselves. We then need to look towards improving community as a whole, which in light of systemic inequality must mean empowering the oppressed. The homeless need their own spaces, to live and to create. The hungry need sustainable food sources under their own control. The underserved youth need access to arts and music. Let's rethink our priorities.

BIDs Don't Get Dissolved

No BID has ever been known to be dissolved. This is why we must fight the initial formation of a BID so aggressively. Did anyone know that on the state government website regarding BID formation it states that "If after several public discussions and educational meetings there is still major opposition to the creation of a BID, a community should reconsider whether or not a BID is the right tool to manage its downtown or city/town center."

Given that opposition to the BID has only been increasing, I think it's quite clear a BID is not the right tool at all.

source: the Mass BID FAQ:

What's Up PINAC?

PINAC has its own blog now! Yea! You can follow the latest PINAC happenings and plans now without having to drown your inbox with the dreaded listserv...

What we're currently up to:

Fighting the Business Improvement District (BID) plan in Northampton. Although we squashed legislative efforts to criminalize panhandling, the BID still views panhandling as an inherent problem and Eric Suher claims that most of the businesses that signed the BID petition did so because the anti-panhandling ordinance was included at the time. In fact, we can see in the BID budget the real motives behind this BID plan. Looking at page 40, we see under the "Make a Change Program" $10000 for public safety, $75000 for marketing, and $85000 for advertising. We then turn to page 43 where it states that "Make a Change Program includes costs associated with the coordination of a program to reduce panhandling and homelessness." Yet as we saw earlier, only "public safety," marketing, and advertising are budgeted for. We can only assume then that, just like the anti-panhandling ordinance, the Make a Change Program does not seek to address the root causes of homelessness but intents to instead sweep away undesirable, unmarketable people from the BID through "public safety" initiatives. Indeed, all mentions of addressing homelessness fall under the public safety section of the BID plan.

Also, did anyone notice the mention of corporate sponsorship in the BID plan? What's to keep the BID from getting sponsored by Coca Cola and putting up a huge Coca Cola plackard downtown? Scary stuff...

Developing a Community Improvement District (CID) plan in Northampton. Although I don't really consider downtown Northampton dirty, I'm all for cleaner sidewalks, more trees, flowers, and lights where appropriate. But my issue with the BID is the fact that BID proponents hope to use forced labor to implement this beautification program. People ordered to do community service should do community service, not business service. If businesses want to beautify downtown in order to draw more customers in, okay, but you need to pay workers living wages for this labor. One of many issues I have with the BID... So we're developing a counter-proposal. Trees and flowers are nice, but wouldn't it be even more awesome to have some community gardens? And all this money laid out in the BID plan for marketing, it's kind of absurd to me. Here's what I think: the more inclusive and thriving a community Northampton is, the more it will market itself. So I'm more interested in taking that $75000 for marketing and $85000 for advertising and spending it on the construction of a community center in Noho. A place for art, music, and skill shares. And it could even be a free living space for the homeless, an empowering homeless co-op of sort where they make the rules and they maintain the space. The community center could be self-sustaining this way and a hub for diverse community activity.