Monday, March 30, 2009

BIDs don't fullfill promises to area businesses

"BIDs don't fulfill promises of services to businesses"

A great article about BIDs not living up to their claims and not providing the services they promise to area businesses. This is in New York, but remember, in Northampton we already have a good idea about how Dan Yacuzo, Joe Blumenthal and other BID steering committee members manage public money, because many of them are on the Citizen's Advisory Committee which controls the city's Hospital Hill development project. $22 million has gone in taxpayer money has been spent on the hill, but little of what the group originally planned has come to fruition.

So, here's how BIDs manage their members' money and city funds elsewhere:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

a citizen speaks out against the BID

Here's a viewpoint from a Northampton citizen, as posted in the Paradise City Forum. The comments on the panhandling ordinance are especially noteworthy, given main BID proponent
Dan Yacuzo's vow to bring the legislation up again.

A long time ago, when the BID was just a twinkle in the eye of some of our downtown businesspeople and their most ardent supporters, I said on the pcf that I had concerns about what the program would do TO Northampton, aside from what it was supposedly going to do FOR Northampton. Since then I’ve been very stressed out by various generations of family stuff, so It’s only very recently that I retrieved from under the bed and looked at the 62-page report on the BID that the Chamber of Commerce had given me long before. But long ago, someone replied to me personally and said that she would like to know my thoughts on the BID, so I'm giving that comment now, even though late.I am aware that Northampton’s proposed anti-solicitation ordinance has been officially separated from the BID proposal. However, this does not mean that the two are unrelated.For those who haven’t seen the report, I’m typing in a few paragraphs from the “Public Safety” section, pp. 28 and 29 of the report.

“Overview“The sense of personal safety has an enormous impact on the comfort of residents, employees and visitors. The ability to make an area inviting and safe is the bedrock of any successful downtown. While Northampton is generally considered a safe and welcoming community, several troubling and difficult issues negatively impact the sense of safety and security. The City of Northampton, Chamber of Commerce and local residents and businesses work continuously to develop an ongoing educational and comprehensive homeless services campaign, coupled with enforcement and ordinances. The BID will take a leadership role in managing downtown strategies as they relate to public safety, working in close cooperation with the City of Northampton . . .

“Public Safety Program“The BID acknowledges that Northampton’s public safety and panhandling issues are complex and require a multifaceted approach to be successful. The goals of this program are to increase the sense of safety and security, reduce crime, homelessness and aggressive panhandling. . .”

The report goes on to advocate homelessness services and “Make a change” meters and deposit boxes so that people can help by giving to the services instead of to those who are directly and personally soliciting help on the street.Under the subhead “Long Term,” the report describes the possible development of an “Ambassador Program . . . uniformed, trained individuals who are actively on downtown streets to greet, guide, and assist visitors and customers,” concluding the public-safety section of the report in these words, “Ambassador programs are very successful in other BIDs and prove to be a cost effective way to increase security and hospitality programs within the district.”

We have been assured that the BID will have no police functions; these duties remain in the hands of our elected government. The Ambassadors’ description here does not indicate that they will officially interact in any way with those undesirable people who have no ability to buy things and yet will stray onto the downtown streets. And yet, and yet . . . Personally, I think that if I were to be confronted by a uniformed, trained individual when I went downtown, I’d be forced to rethink my “Buy from a local and locally owned store whenever possible” strategy. I would feel that my personal space was being invaded if such a person even entered my field of vision . . . and furthermore, that my downtown had been reduced to a mall for sure.

Moving back from the long-term possibility of an “Ambassador” program, just to the preconceptions of the BID in general, it is noteworthy (again, to me! Perhaps to no one else) that it is “the sense of personal safety” that the BID is concerned with—not real safety. If one’s sense of personal safety is enhanced by not having to come into contact with poor people, or ill-dressed people, or panhandling people, perhaps one would be better off in a mall.

It seems to me antithetical to the notion of a town—even a 21st-century town—that it should actually *cater* to people’s desire never to be challenged by interaction with people unlike themselves in superficial ways, such as clothes and money. And again, speaking very personally, I believe that intensive studies should be conducted to determine whether “aggressive panhandling” occurs indiscriminately, or whether the aggression is in response to people who indicate by a determined refusal to make eye contact that they refuse to acknowledge the other as a fellow human being. (Perhaps the new economy means we will all be more willing to believe that beggars are fellow human beings—but I doubt it.)I don’t believe that a refusal to acknowledge others as fellow human beings should be catered to as a necessity in giving them “a sense of personal safety” on the public streets of any town, especially not *our* town. And this is why I believe that the BID will do TO Northampton as well as FOR Northampton.

Virginia Schulman

Friday, March 27, 2009

Please come to this anti-BID demonstration and show your solidarity with the Northampton 2

Please come to this anti-BID demonstration and show your solidarity with the Northampton 2

A statement by Poverty Is Not A Crime organizer Beatriz Bianco (BB Sunshine)

Hey Y'all,

Many of you heard about/attended the rally I spearheaded that took place on Friday, March 13th. The objective of the protest was to raise awareness aboutthe BusinessImprovement District, which passed both its votes in City Council 8 to 1, thesecond deciding vote taking place on March 19th, over spring break, and to showcase the joyful beauty of the diverse street folk of Northampton. We gaveout free food, we played music, we sang, we danced, and as we began to march,some of us took the streets. Three police officers followed us, yelling at us and threatening us for peacefully protesting. One activist, Arturo, wasarrested inches from me, while he gave no provocation and no resistance, three officers violently tackled him to the ground, repeatedly shoving his face intothe asphalt. Our cry of, "Food shelter freedom, No new station, No more cops!"*became, "Who do you serve? Who do you protect?"

We continued down Main Street, pausing on the corner and crossing to the raised sidewalk under the bridge. The raised sidewalk is only accessible in one spot,and so my friend and fellow protestor David, who was pushing my wheelchair andI continued to march in the street as close to the side as possible (completelyout of traffic). The police parked their cars in the middle of road under thebridge, and tried to corner us against the wall, all the while yelling at us toget into the sidewalk and ignoring me when I addressed them. The officers wrenched David off of the back of my wheelchair, arresting him as coldly as ifthey were separating him from a shopping cart.

And even after this arrest we kept fighting, marching up Pleasant Street and dancing and chanting, "Poverty is not a crime, Stop the BID!" in front of HotelNorthampton and A-Z Science and Learning, both businesses on the BID SteeringCommittee. By the time we marched back to City Hall, fifteen cops had surrounded us. They had called for reinforcement from Easthampton as well as the state police. The cops called in multiple vans for mass arrest, and were heard saying "park it where they can't see it, it's crowd control."These kinds of violations of human rights are indicative of a systemic sickness and cannot be tolerated in our community.

*A component of the BID allots17.5-19 million dollars plus millions of dollars in interest payments to creating another police station downtown. More cops? More arrests? As asolution to poverty and homelessness? I don't think so. They want to make the city cleaner, more profitable, more beautiful? We are not garbage. We want that money invested in accessible food, job training, low-income housing, a community center, the arts!On April 2nd, the next City Council meeting, we are mobilizing once again.However this will be a silent protest. Come dressed in all costumery and regalia, face paint, body paint, bring flowers, signs stating your opposition. Carry your hearts and souls with fervor and pride.


In Solidarity, BB Sunshine

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

great coverage from the Advocate

An article written by the Advocate's managing editor, Mark Roessler, on the disproportionate and unneccessary show of force by the police at our last event:

Monday, March 23, 2009

the ridiculous Gazette story

For those of you who can't access the page on the site for some reason, here's the Gazette story I linked in the last entry with the erroneous & biased police POV about our last event & the arrests of protesters that took place there. Remember to check out the last entry for all the latest links on Poverty Is Not A Crime & the BID.
Rally raised prospect of mass arrests
By JAMES F. LOWEStaff Writer

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
NORTHAMPTON - Anticipating mass arrests during a protest march Friday, city police called in backup from Easthampton and the state police.
In the end, police arrested only two people in the downtown protest, staged to decry a proposed business improvement district.
Police estimated about 40 people took part in the march, which briefly blocked rush hour traffic on Main Street.
Capt. Kenneth A. Patenaude said protest organizers spoke with police ahead of the event, but did not apply for a parade permit or indicate they intended to disrupt traffic.
However, Patenaude said officers responding to the demonstration about 5 p.m. Friday came to believe organizers were contemplating large-scale civil disobedience.
"There was talk of a mass arrest by the people involved in the march, and we didn't have the personnel to handle a mass arrest at that point," he said.
All available on-duty officers were dispatched to the march, as were a handful of state troopers, a state police van, an Easthampton Police officer and cruiser. Off-duty Northampton officers were called in to handle other calls in the city during the rally, Patenaude said.
According to a report by Sgt. Jody Kasper, many of the marchers were hostile toward the responding police officers, shouting curses and anti-police slogans, taking their pictures and demanding their badge numbers.
The marchers ignored orders to stay on the sidewalk and crossed the main downtown intersection twice, blocking traffic, according to Kasper and an arrest report by Officer Timothy J. Satkowski.
Satkowski alleged one marcher who refused to get out of the road also pushed him. Arturo Castillon-McCarty, 20, of 74 Bridge St., Amherst, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and assault and battery on a police officer. He is identified in court papers as a University of Massachusetts student.
Castillon-McCarty pleaded innocent to the charges Monday in Northampton District Court, and was released on $100 bail. He is due back in court April 16.
Police said they also arrested a 15-year-old boy who is a student at Hampshire College. He was to be charged in Hampshire Juvenile Court with disorderly conduct after ignoring officers' orders to get out of the road, police said.
Some protesters also questioned the construction of a new police headquarters downtown. That proposal will be discussed at a meeting of the Police Station Building Committee Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Northampton Senior Center.
City councilors voted 8 to 1 earlier this month to support the creation of a business improvement district, also known as a BID. The plan calls for participating downtown property owners to pay for services including landscaping and maintenance, marketing, enhanced public safety and other special projects. The city would also chip in $35,000 annually from parking receipts.
The business district proposal advanced last month after Mayor Clare Higgins tabled a proposed city ordinance to regulate panhandling and solicitation.
Councilors are expected to take a second and final vote on the business district proposal Thursday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

list of relevant recent links on BID & PINAC

The Northampton Business Improvement District was adopted on Thursday night in a council vote of 8 to 1 (Ray La Barge of ward 7 was the lone dissenting vote.) The council also voted for the city to sign a memorandum of understanding with the BID, 7 to 2 (Ray La Barge and Michael Bardsely, at large councilor, being the 2 dissenting votes.) This memorandum obligates the city to pay $85,000 a year for the BID, and also includes many unspecified in kind contributions, such as footing the bill for collecting the BID's monies, $35,000 for a new street sweeper and the cost of storing and fueling this machine and other equipment the BID may ask the city to purchase, as well as many other expenditures that have not been identified yet.

Our opposition to the BID has not ended. We will be encouraging businesses to opt out, forming a coalition with local businesses, citizens, and organizations to protest, and publicizing a boycott of businesses associated with the BID steering committee. We will be keeping a close watch on the BID to make sure it does not violate any group's civil and human rights.

Here are some recent links concerning the BID, PINAC, and PINAC's event last week in which two protesters were arrested.

The Republican's article on the BID's adoption:
Here is the Gazette's coverage:

Daryl Lefluer, of the Advocate sponsored blog Northampton Redoubt, besides publishing our press release, has a lot to say about the BID, why it passed, and what that says about our city:

Tom Vannah at the Valley Advocate talks about our and others' opposition to the BID:

The Valley Advocate's editor Mark Roessler critiques the mayor's defense of the BID:

Editorial in Smith paper by Smith student about why the college should oppose the BID and Smith's participation in it:

Coverage of our latest event and the 2 arrests that took place during it:
22 news, video and text:
ABC 40's biased and not entirely accurate coverage, video and text:

The Gazette, the police's side, which is biased:

We were taking pictures and demanding badge numbers because we needed to know whom to hold accountable for the disproportionate force the police utilized (15 officers, one state trooper, one detective snapping pictures of all of *us*, a few cars--three police officers wrestled Arturo to the ground to arrest him, and charged him with assault and battery of a police officer when he hadn't even *touched* them--and David Beyer was arrested while pushing another marcher's wheelchair, even though he had to go into the street in order to push her around an obstacle.) That is within our rights as citizens. We were chanting our disapproval of Arturo and David's arrests, which was also our right to do--we weren't being "anti-police" per se, as Sgt. Jody Caspar claims we were in the article. I don't know about any cursing.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stop Gentrification! Resist the Police State! - BID Protested on March 13th, Police Respond with Arrests

Yesterday at 4:00, sixty people gathered to protest the highly controversial Northampton Business Improvement District (NBID).  While playing music and serving free hot food and bread outside city hall, participants passed out informational cards about the BID, encouraging passersby to boycott BID businesses and call their councilors. After this, the crowd marched peacefully down Main Street, dancing, jamming, and chanting their opposition to the NBID and its agenda.

During the march, Beatriz Bianco, a formerly homeless poet and activist, read a spoken word piece about her vision of what makes a city beautiful.  Her poem espoused a vision of the city's underdogs—such as the poor and homeless—as a source of beauty, rather than a threat to be removed by the NBID's business-run, tourism-oriented plans for "beautification."

The demonstrators paraded along Pleasant St, stopping by the storefronts of two businesses on the BID Steering Committee—Hotel Northampton and A2Z Science and Learning—asking that they revoke their signatures from the BID petition.

Many participants were upset that their concerns were not heard, but silenced.  Onlookers and demonstrators watched with surprise and frustration as police responded vigorously against this peaceful protest with threats and arrests.  One activist was grabbed and taken to the ground by three officers and arrested.  They later cuffed and arrested another demonstrator while he was pushing another activist's wheelchair.  The police then prepared for mass arrests, with about fourteen officers (one of them a state officer), five cars, and multiple vans. A detective in plainclothes was also on the scene photographing everyone.

One demonstrator currently faces a charge of disorderly conduct, while the other has been charged disorderly conduct and assault and battery of an officer (a charge commonly brought against arrested protesters as a scare tactic).

Demonstrators surmise that the BID 's backing by powerful business owners has resulted in this unusual and disproportional response to free and peaceful assembly.

The participants of this march were motivated by alarming concerns about BID's corruption and lack of oversight.  Complaints include the counting of residential property owners on the BID petition—illegitimate by Massachusetts Common law, the gerrymandering of the BID to include Smith College property, and unusually high salaries for its administration. 

Many Smith students and faculty are suspicious about the timing of major BID decisions, which have occurred while the campus is empty. " President Carol Christ signed Smith College onto the BID during January, when most of us weren't here" says Smith student Geri Hubbe, "and now City Council plans to vote on the BID during spring break, when the college, again, will be completely vacated."

The text of the BID plan also states that it will promote intervention efforts to combat the "problem" of panhandling and aggressive solicitation. This is widely viewed as an attempt to curtail free speech and kick out the homeless.  Dan Yacuzzo—the chair of the BID steering committee—was a major supporter of the panhandling ordinance (Ordinance 285-53). Although the panhandling ordinance has been tabled indefinitely as a result of vigorous opposition, Yacuzzo has publicly stated his plans to propose it again later.   

Forgery of signatures to the BID petition, a document that makes the BID legally viable, is also a major concern.  One person has found his signature on the BID petition without ever signing it.

In short, the opposition to the BID is concerned that the private board of directors of the BID would not be accountable to the wider community, which poses a serious corruption problem. This concern is warranted by the severe lack of any democratic process thus far in the instatement of the BID.

Despite threats, arrests, and pending charges, this BID opposition group has pledged that they will continue the boycotts of BID businesses and peaceful demonstrations.  "The BID is corrupt," says local activist Nina Ashanti, "otherwise, the police would have no need to silence us."

More photos and video of the demonstration and arrests will be sent as they become available.

~ Poverty Is Not a Crime 

see here for video coverage: