Friday, August 1, 2014

Amherst's Donald Trump?

Cinda Jones, W.D. Cowls, Inc President testifies before Historical Commission 7/22

Leaving aside for the moment the dramatic difference in age, gender and, well, overall looks (especially hair), will The Retreat -- after it finally happens -- make Cinda Jones the "Donald Trump of Amherst?"

Umm, no.

Cinda Jones is the President of W.D. Cowls, Inc, admittedly the largest private landowner the entire state of Massachusetts -- but most of it undeveloped woodlands.    The Cowls family kind of put the C in Conservation.

Her company has a purchase and sale agreement with Landmark Properties for $6.5 million to acquire 140+ acres in northeast Amherst, a small piece of their overall holdings.

Yes, if Landmark is successfully stopped by a swarm of angry NIMBYs chances are all but guaranteed the $6.5 million deal goes away.

But if The Retreat is built, it will have nothing to do with Cinda Jones.  Landmark, or one of their subsidiaries, will do the actual development (using local goods and labor when possible).

Yes, she -- or I should say her company -- is indeed a, gasp, developer:  The Mill District is an ambitious project that happens to include land the Cowls company already owns and wishes to recycle.

Ironically some of the same folks who packed the Town Room Wednesday night for the Planning Board hearing on The Retreat were also instrumental in the Historical Commission ordering a one year demolition delay on the Cowls barn at 134 Montague Road, at the gateway to the proposed "Mill District."

Resolving the "historic" barn issue is going to be an expensive proposition, and without that $6.5 million from The Retreat property, harder still. 


video
Nancy Gittleman at Planning Board hearing 7/30

Interestingly Ms. Gittleman posts her property on the UMass Off Campus Housing and Community web page but told the Planning Board, "I don't rent to anybody under 30."

North Amherst rental property (don't apply if under age 30)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MCAD Complaint Filed Against ARPS

ARHS: at peace on a summer day

So yes the NY Times probably would not use that headline without "on the record" corroboration from at least two reliable sources.

My two reliable sources divulged the information "off the record".  And if that was all I had, you would not now be reading this.

But ARPS did react to my public documents request in such a way as to confirm (sort of) that a "complaint" has been filed. 

Now if the Schools had a clever PR flack they would have responded, "We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a document, but feel free to take it up with Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination directly.  Good luck with that!" 

Naturally MCAD public documents folks are right up there with the Registry of Motor Vehicles when it comes to responsive service.  As of today I have not heard back from my 7/15 written request or numerous phone messages. 


Yes, Massachusetts Public Documents Law does require some sort of official response within 10 days, not that the Attorney General is going to want to mess with MCAD.

I have confirmed that the suit is not from the Akalis family seeking retribution over the terrible treatment of their son Dylan or the absurd firing of his dad, Steve.

Could be the family of the white youth who was "aggressively and seriously assaulted" by black students sometime last spring, but since they did not want APD to know about or investigate the assault, not overly likely.

Let the speculation begin ...

The Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee went into Executive Session at their circus-like  6/24 meeting to discuss strategy to deal with MCAD complaint

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blarney Blowback

Jared Dawon, age 21, stands before Eastern Hampshire District Court Judge David Ross

In a last second change of heart Jared Dawson, a senior at UMass, decided not to take chances with a jury this morning on the serious charge of "assault and battery on a police officer" during the infamous March 8 Blarney Blowout, where thousands of out-of-control college aged youth disrupted the entire town of Amherst.

Assistant District Attorney Bob Obsitnick told the Judge that Dawson was front and center of a large crowd that was being "volatile, aggressive and destructive."

Amherst and UMass police were trying to push a crowd of 3,000 from Brandywine Apartments/Puffton Village back towards the center of the campus just after noon on March 8th.

Dawson refused to disperse and was "hovering" while flipping officers the middle finger and yelling "Fuck you!"  This unruly behavior only served to incite further the immediate crowd around him.

He was hit with a one second burst of OC spray from 4 feet away and wrestled to the ground where he then assaulted an officer with a "meaningful kick."

His lawyer admitted that his client's conduct "was disorderly" and that the Blarney Blowout was a "black mark for the town and University" but Dawson has no prior record, works for his Dad, and is willing to do community service.

Judge Ross paused, then looked directly at Dawson saying, "The difficulty with these cases is with that many intoxicated people there's a real public danger.  Disorderly conduct has a whole different meaning in that context."

The Judge then said he would accept the plea but, "I don't want to underplay the significance of what you got involved in."  So he added an extra provision to the standard "letter of apology".

Judge Ross ordered the defendant to apologize in person to the officers involved and to write TWO letters for publication:  one to the Amherst Bulletin, apologizing to the entire town and the other to the UMass Daily Collegian to inform fellow students of the "consequences of this kind of behavior."

In addition Jarad Dawson was placed on probation for six months (with a $65/month charge), ordered to perform 20 hours of community service, pay $200 in restitution to APD, and a $50 witness protection fee.

At the conclusion of the hearing, out in the hallway, with his brothers and father alongside him, Dawson apologized and shook hands with the three members of APD who had come to Court ready to testify at trial. 

#####

According to DA's office, Blarney Blowout tally sheet as of July 7:

To date, there have been no jail sentences. 

There was a total of 60 cases, 20% (12 cases) of those are completely closed, 67% (40 cases) are still on probation, and 13% (8 cases) are still open and have PTH dates set.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sleeping Beauty


 Pugnacious Brandon Borghi, age 19, stands before Judge John Payne


In response to APD charges of assaulting officers (two), resisting arrest  and having a fake ID,  Brandon Borghi plead "not guilty" yesterday in Eastern Hampshire District Court.  Judge Payne continued his case until August 19, where he will be back in Court with his private attorney.

All in all, an expensive night/morning out in downtown Amherst.


I Fought The Law


 Yeshaq Warren, in chains, is sworn in before Judge John Payne

Yeshaq Warren is back on the streets he calls home (alternating between Amherst and Northampton streets) after Judge Payne denied a 58A, too-dangerous-to release, request from the District Attorney's office in the most recent incident of allegedly pulling a knife on a senior citizen in downtown Amherst.

Mr. Warren is what is known as a "frequent flyer" in cop lingo, arrested innumerable times over the past few years. 



During the hearing two Amherst police officers testified about the most recent Amherst incident where Warren is alleged to have assaulted William Lovett, a senior citizen who lives near the Bangs Center where the alleged assault occurred.

But under cross examination by Amherst Attorney Daniel Sandell, one of the officers acknowledged Mr. Lovett was not wounded and no knife was recovered.

The officers further testified that only one 911 call was made, while about 20-30 people were present at the Bangs Center around the time of the alleged incident, and no other witnesses came forward to corroborate the attack.

Mr. Lovett was a problematic witness as he had trouble answering the very first question put to him by the ADA, "How old are you?".  

The 58A would have allowed the Commonwealth to keep Yeshaq Warren locked up without opportunity for bail, for 90 days. But at least there were "conditions":

Remain out of Amherst, stay away from Bangs Center, no contact with William Lovett, curfew from 9:00 PM until 6:00 AM, report to Probation Department once per week, no drugs or alcohol (with screening to ensure.)



DUI Dishonor Roll



Yesterday in Eastern Hampshire District Court Jovany Rodriguez, age 25, had a plea of "not guilty" entered in his behalf by Judge John Payne, who continued his DUI case until August 13. 

 Jovany Rodriguez stands before Judge John Payne

Mr. Rodriguez will hire his own attorney, but since it's his first offense and he was inexperienced enough to take the official (legally admissible) breath test back at APD headquarters, chances are he will settle for the standard 24D disposition.


Monday, July 28, 2014

You Can Run But ...

 Zane Linehan (center) will be free on $500 bail

In this day and age when almost everyone has instant access to communication you have to be pretty stupid to rob an outdoor farm stand, in broad daylight, on a fairly well traveled street, in a close-knit community like Hadley.

That, or you have substance abuse problems.


In Eastern Hampshire District Court this morning Judge John Payne allowed a Section 35 addiction treatment commitment (90 days) for Daniel Bartusewich, age 31, aka "Ras Fire" (the Judge did not acknowledge the recent name change saying, "What is this, a comic book?"). 

His companion in crime, Zane Linehan, age 20, addressed the Judge saying he had  "enjoyed 1.5 years of being sober, but now drugs are destroying me."  His mother was said to be enroute and would be filing for a Section 35 addiction treatment commitment as well for Mr. Linehan.

The DA's office wanted bail revoked and for Lineham to stay in jail so he couldn't "continue to go on a spree."  Only the day before the Hadley theft Lineham had been arraigned in Holyoke District Court on another criminal matter.

The Judge set bail at $500.  

A neighbor of the farm stand called in the theft as it was occurring and gave Hadley police a good description of the car (with front end damage) including three digits of the license plate.

Within 10 minutes HPD had the vehicle, and in the center console they found $57 in wrinkled cash with only one $5 bill and all the rest $1 dollar bills.

The kind of thing you would expect to find in a farm stand cash box.

Farm stands:  A way of life in Hadley