Friday, October 21, 2016

Not A Threat

The answer to bad speech is more good speech, not censorship

As an unabashed defender of the First Amendment I bristle at even the hint of government intrusion into the marketplace of free ideas, even when those ideas are upsetting or obnoxious.

Speech that makes you comfortable is not what needs protection.  And it would be impossible for firebrands like me to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" when my speech is regulated by boorish bureaucrats.

So when more than a few people sent me the link about UMass having a "threat meter" for  costumes which would pretty much lead to a bland Halloween -- and I always look forward to scantily clad young women dressed up as Indians, err, Native American  -- I took notice.

But I also remembered UMass allowed the nitwit Westboro Baptist Church to freely demonstrated their bigotry on campus a few years ago.  So I was also a tad skeptical of this latest brew ha ha -- especially when Campus Reform said they ran with it prior to a UMass spokesperson responding.

My favorite UMass spokesperson, however, did respond.

From: Larry Kelley <>
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2016 8:48 AM
Subject: Halloween
To: Nancy Buffone <>

Hey Nancy,

So I'm always a tad skeptical when these stories first break wondering if perhaps they belong on Snopes.

Is this a University wide program?  (I'm surprised there's no mention of clown outfits.)

Is the University taking any special measures for Halloween weekend like limiting guests, parking, etc?



From: Nancy Buffone <>
To: Larry Kelley <>
Sent: Fri, Oct 21, 2016 10:45 am
Subject: Re: Halloween


The campus has been planning for Halloween and has communicated guest restrictions on the residential halls to our studends. There is information on line at:

As far as the posters go, here's a statement from the News Office:

University of Massachusetts Amherst statement on Halloween costumes
As part of the university’s continuing efforts to foster an inclusive and supportive living environment for all students, resident assistants at UMass Amherst this month created bulletin boards communicating those values and explaining how some Halloween costumes may be offensive to others. The guidelines used to create the bulletin boards are intended to educate students about cultural appropriation and help them make informed choices about costumes. UMass Amherst does not prohibit or ban any costumes.
In one residence hall, a “threat level flow chart” for choosing a Halloween costume was posted on a bulletin board. It is not part of the recommended educational materials that RAs were advised to display, but rather was downloaded from the Internet and was posted by a well-intentioned student staff member. The chart has been removed from the bulletin board.


Nancy Buffone
Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations

Thursday, October 20, 2016

If You Zone It ...

South Prospect Street

The Planning Board approved 1.5 of 3 petition articles all seeking to change zoning from limited business (BL) to general business (BG) on the outskirts of the downtown to encourage the development of mixed use buildings which would bring more employees and residents to the downtown while paying significantly higher property taxes.

Currently the Amherst property tax base is made up of 90% residential and only 10% commercial.  

The change to BG zoning would allow for denser development, aka taller five story buildings, with greater lot coverage, giving developers an incentive to put their property to a higher and better use.

 Triangle and Cottage Streets

The Planning Board unanimously voted not to approve the zoning change for the east side of Triangle Street because they were worried about the mostly owner occupied homes along Cottage Street.

But they did approve the change on the east side of South Prospect Street and about half of the requested change along North Pleasant Street but only for properties on the south side of Hallock Street.

These parcels are of course that much closer to the heart of the downtown and just last month the Planning Board approved Special Permits for 236 North Pleasant that allows developers Barry Roberts and Curt Shumway to have one addition floor, going from three to four.

West side  North Pleasant Street from Cowls Lane down to Hallock but not north of there

The Historical Commission enacted a one year delay back in January on the project so it would be kind of ironic if that delay ends up benefiting the local developers should the zoning change -- which requires a two thirds Town Meeting vote -- passes.

The zoning article petitioner, Jerry Guidera, confirmed he will trim back that particular article to only include the properties south of Hallock Street, but will continue to move forward with the Triangle Street rezoning in spite of the unanimous vote against it by the Planning Board.

And considering how Town Meeting often does just the opposite of Planning Board recommendations, that may not be such a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wicked Wonderful Wednesday

Off to a good start
Deep South Amherst
I see that train a hiding
Our favorite Flagship
Town center
Critters next door
Bucolic Belchertown
University Drive
The Evergreens
Miss Emily's 
Red, white and black

DUI Dishonor Roll

MADD:  every day in America 27 people die from drunk driving crashes

So it's good to know Amherst police can use their basic powers of observation (and smell) to bring charges of driving under the influence of marijuana, because I have a feeling we're going to see more and more of it in the not too distant future.

 Kyle Ferguson, age 20, arraigned before Judge Estes
Click to enlarge/read

And the case of Jackson B. Gale, age 19, goes to show UMass police do have the power of arrest anywhere in town.  At the time of the incident (3 AM) every available Amherst police officer was at the scene of the homicide in South Amherst. 

Jackson B Gale will automatically lose his license for 6 months for refusing the Breathalyzer

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Another Housing Hurdle Cleared

In Chapter 61A the property paid the town less than $100 annually

The Select Board, our ultimate political authority, voted unanimously NOT to to use their right of first refusal to purchase 5.79 acres on University Drive that Town Meeting recently rezoned from Office Park to Business Limited to allow the new owner, UMass New Build LLC,  to construct 32 units (3 of them "affordable") of high end student housing.

The town would have had to match the $660,000 price of the current purchase and sale agreement.

Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek also told the SB that the new owners would be making a donation to the town to help offset taking out of production the 3 acres or so of the property that is now farmed.

A Million Here, A Million There

Intersection of Sunderland and Montague Roads just before North Amherst Library

Option D turns end Sunderland Road into green space

In addition to the four major building projects costing upwards of $100 million in town funds in our near and intermediate future, Amherst is also undertaking costly infrastructure improvements all over town.

Last night the Select Board unanimously approved a Town Meeting warrant article calling for $660,000 to purchase the gas station behind the North Amherst Library to coincide with intersection improvements to the North Amherst Center intersection known as Option D.

Last month the town applied for a $1.1 million MassWorks Grant to cover the actual cost of the construction but last year a grant request to improve traffic signals at that intersection was turned down.

As was (twice) a $4 million request to reconstruct Pine Street which the town later did on its own.

Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek told the Select Board last night the town will probably know by the November 14th start of Town Meeting if a $400,000 PARC grant for the Groff Park spray park is approved.
The spray park will replace the ancient wading pool

Town Meeting already approved $550,000 from Community Preservation Act funds and if the PARC grant doesn't materialized the other $400,000 will be requested during the upcoming CPA funding cycle to be voted on this spring by Town Meeting.

And still no word how the town will fund the much talked about and much protested roundabout at Triangle and East Pleasant Street, a main gateway to our beloved flagship of higher education UMass/AMHERST.

Work has been ongoing around this intersection since late Spring

The current construction project in the north downtown that seem to be taking forever is the result of a $1.5 million MassWorks grant for removing ugly utility poles by placing wires underground.  But that money can't be used for the roundabout itself, which is sure to cost over a million.

And then there's that $17 million backlog in road repairs town wide ...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Our Gorgeous Valley

UMass, Amherst center, Amherst College
Hadley  (Click photos to enlarge)
North East Street
Deep South Amherst
 Groff Park
 Colorful Flagship