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Membership in Northampton BID should be voluntary

To the editor:

I can’t agree with either the assumptions or the conclusions of your recent editorial (“Stronger BID law has merit,” Nov. 2) concerning radical changes in the Business Improvement District (BID) legislation.

The BID approved by Northampton City Council enabled downtown property owners to form a voluntary private organization. If you didn’t want to join, you didn’t have to. Every elected official cited the voluntary nature of the organization as one reason to vote for it. Three years later, the legislature has silently reversed this basic agreement. Current members of the Northampton BID may vote to make participation mandatory.

Of the approximately 330 voting members, only 83 pay a fee. In this carefully gerrymandered district, residential, educational, church and nonprofit organizations are exempt.

The Gazette’s use of the term “free ride” does nothing to promote the conversation — it only inflames it. We all benefit from a strong downtown. This commercial vitality has been growing for the last 30 years built on the vision and hard work of many people. Whatever the BID’s contribution since 2009, it will be lost in the ill will created by the change your editorial supports.

Alex Ghiselin


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