Friday, December 19, 2014

DUI Dishonor Roll

The rate of drunk driving is highest among 21 to 25 year olds (23.4 percent) - See more at:
 The rate of drunk driving is highest among 21-25 year olds (23.4%) MADD statistic

Christmas time is certainly a time for good cheer, but unfortunately for all too many folks, that takes the form of too much alcohol.

In this case Amherst police arrested 21-year-old Laquan Wood after he crashed into a telephone pole on Snell Street, a busy cut through connecting Rt 9 and Rt 116, the two busiest roads in town at a somewhat busy time of night.

Click to enlarge/read
Laquan Wood is arraigned before Judge Michael Mulcahy in Easter Hampshire District Court yesterday

Festival of Light

Amherst Town Common 12/18/14

As per tradition the public menorah has joined the Merry Maple on the Amherst town common, as this year Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish celebration, started on Tuesday, December 16 and concludes on Christmas eve, December 24.

For those concerned about separation of church and state, the town does not ban religious symbols in the public square, so if someone wished to put up a Christmas tree or erect a manger (but probably not with live animals) Town Hall would not deny such a permit.

After all, anti-war protesters demonstrate in town center every Sunday for the past five decades , so why not a symbol commemorating a battle for religious freedom?

Dedication monument a few feet from the menorah

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Caving In To Terror

NASA Space Station photo taken 1/30/14

Normally,  I would not be in favor of our government spending tax dollars on Public Relations, prefering to let actions speak louder than advertising.

But in the case of a rogue nation invoking 9/11 in a cowardly anonymous threat to trample the First Amendment rights of a major private business, I'll make an exception.

The United States government should buy out the rights to "The Interview" from Sony Pictures Entertainment and release the movie for free on Christmas Day via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and any other Internet or TV provider.

That way all Americans can, in the safety and privacy of their own home, send Kim Jong-un a collective "Fuck You."


"We are not going to tolerate … attacks from outlaw states by the strangest collection of misfits, loony tunes, and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich."  President Ronald Reagan, 1985

Atkins North Delivers

134 Montague Road

The shopping experience at Atkins North, a proposed bookend satellite operation of an iconic South Amherst mainstay business, will be a tad more pleasurable -- not to mention safer -- thanks to the Amherst Planning Board, who voted unanimously last night to allow commercial use of the driveway at 134 Montague Road for deliveries.

 Amherst Planning Board 12/17/14

The Site Plan Review, Special Permit permission applies only to Atkins North and limits deliveries to smaller type vehicles (no 18 wheeler semi-trailer trucks), so it's not a carte blanche approval for all future businesses opening in The Mill District.

Those businesses will still have to come before either the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals to get the same permission to use the more convenient access via Montague Road for commercial deliveries, something W.D. Cowls, the current owners, have done for centuries.

 Atkins estimates only 10 deliveries daily 

According to Planning Board Chair David Webber:  
This is a great example of two highly successful Amherst businesses, Cowls and Atkins, creating economic growth by providing much-needed services in North Amherst. Hopefully Atkins North will serve as an “anchor” tenant for further redevelopment of the Mill District. 
The Planning Board also voted (mostly) 6-1 to allow around a half-dozen Mill District commercial signs (some of them illuminated)  for the convenience of the general public being able to more easily find their destination. 

Cinda Jones President W.D. Cowls, Inc largest private landowner in Massachusetts

Mr.  Webber also pointed out the business signs may slow traffic as drivers will realized they are coming into a commercial zone and may watch more carefully for pedestrians and other vehicles entering or exiting the 12 acre emerging development.

Montague Road current traffic is 5,712 cars per day

As this is only the first step in the commercial revitalization of North Amherst, the former "dirty hands district."

 A not overly happy Louis Greenbaum

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Applauding Historic Preservation

Festive, patriotic Lord Jeffery Inn

The Amherst Historical Commission -- not to be confused with the Amherst Historical Society -- awarded three local landowners with a certificate of merit demonstrating the town's appreciation for how they maintain the historical look and feel of their property and as such, adding to the beauty of Amherst.

Three categories were covered:  Retail, residential and institutional.  The winners were all invited to the 12/15/14 Amherst Select Board meeting for a public presentation.

Amherst College, the town's largest landowner, won in the institutional category for the picturesque Lord Jeffery Inn "on the Amherst town common."

Even though they are tax exempt on all their academic buildings and property Amherst College is still the town's largest annual taxpayer due to all the houses they own and rent to faculty, plus the commercial Amherst Golf Course (that puts our municipal one to shame) and Lord Jeff.

Historical Commission Chair Michael Hanke highlighted how Amherst College recently did many millions of dollars in renovations, yet the exterior of the Lord Jeff looks the same as it has for the past 60 or 70 years.

He also mentioned that same exterior attribute when presenting the award for retail to the Cushman Market in North Amherst.

And in the residential category the Historical Commission awarded Henry Hills House, LLC (Jerry Guidera and Russ Wilson) the award for saving historic old houses previously owned by Amherst College, (and another one owned by the town) that were moved to their current location on Gray Street adjacent to the historic old Henry Hills House.

38 Gray Street, Henry Hills House built 1863

14 Gray Street, historic Tuttle homestead

32 Gray Street, historic Chapin-Ward house

Fanning The Flames

Opening Christmas Day.  What could go wrong?

"But you always risk offending people when you open people's eyes to the way the world is. Sometimes the truth is a bit unpalatable."  So said Peter Dale, the head of an entertainment company defending the release of a controversial film depicting the assassination of a sitting world leader.

No, he's not talking about the current controversial comedy depicting the North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's head exploding from a tank round.  Back in 2006 a British documentary style TV film, "Death of a President" showed a realistic assassination of our sitting President, George W. Bush.

So the concept of a fictional film showing a head of state suddenly sent into the afterlife in a rather gruesome manner, has been done before.  And the unprecedented horror of November 22, 1963 -- forever preserved in living color -- serve to remind us that truth is more powerful than fiction.

The attack on the First Amendment rights of Sony Entertainment to release movies as they see fit has taken an ominous turn with the cowardly terrorist threat to physically assault movie theaters showing the film.

Invoking 9/11 as a psychological weapon -- especially in broken English -- against the most sacred freedom we Americans enjoy, is doubly sacrilegious. 

I had not planned to see "The Interview" at the Hadley Cinemark, mainly because it's not the kind of movie I could attend with my kids.  Now, assuming they have the backbone to show it, I may see it twice. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Have App Will Travel

Coming soon:  Amherst town website version 5.0

Have you ever wanted to report a pothole soon after hitting it, or a traffic control signal not working properly after it delayed you at an intersection, or a tree limb hanging precariously over a wire? Well now you can do it from the convenience of your smart phone (after pulling over of course) because: there's an app for that!

In addition to unrolling a new and improved main town website early next month our award winning IT department will also unveil "Amherst Connect," a part of the wider state program called Commonwealth Connect, which allows citizens to instantly report and track non emergency problems.

Amherst first unveiled the main town website back in 2001 with a whopping 3 pages.  Today it has over 10,000 with almost 30% of users now accessing it via a mobile device.  Hence the new minimalist reversion of the main page.

Last year Amherst won second place in the Massachusetts Excellence in Technology category, but over the past year upped their game enough so that two weeks ago they were awarded first place.