Friday, September 30, 2016

Catch Me If You Can

Fox resting behind Fisher House in North Amherst

The sickly North Amherst fox made yet another appearance this afternoon but managed to elude APD and Animal Welfare officer Carol Hepburn yet again.

 Come out, come out wherever you are

The cute critter has a bad leg and appears to be blind but seemed to move pretty quickly when approached and was last seen high-tailing it across Pine Street heading north. 

APD has strict controls over when they can fire a weapon and although it's been 50 years or more since exchanging gunfire with a human, mercy killing of a suffering animal is not all that uncommon.  

When they can catch it. 

Free Speech But Not For Thee

Perhaps Amherst Region High School Principal Mark Jackson needs to take a refresher Civics course specifically relating to the most bedrock of sacred American values, the First Amendment.

And perhaps a basic psychology class as well because the best way to get teenagers to do something you don't want them to do is to directly forbid them to do it.

In his letter to the community Jackson clearly states in writing "These two chants are prohibited": "warm up the bus" and "if you’re winning, clap your hands."  So long as the kids are not chanting "fire" in a movie theater, that's a clear violation of the First Amendment.

What is a worse example to set:  kids being kids at a school sponsored sports event or a school system trampling their First Amendment rights?

 Maybe somebody should ask the ACLU. 

Vote Early, Not Often

Amherst will have early voting for the November 8th election

Now you have even less of an excuse to miss doing your civic duty November 8th as the Amherst Board of Registrars have approved "early voting" in Town Hall  for two weeks prior to the election October 24 through November 4th Mon-Fri (8 AM until 5 PM) and all day Saturday, October 29 (9 AM until 3 PM) at North Fire Station and Munson Memorial Library.

The Secretary of State estimates as many as 25% of registered voters will take advantage of this convenient option, so in Amherst that would be around 5,000 voters.

 The Amherst Board of Registrars

Since this is not a state mandate the town will have to pick up the added costs.  The voting station in Town Hall will be staffed by three extra personnel for the two weeks and each polling station on Saturday, October 29 will also have an additional three for a total cost of around $1,000.

Town Clerk Sandra Burgess is expecting a high turnout due to the normal enthusiasm always exhibited for a Presidential election combined with the added attraction of a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana and of course the $33 million Debt Exclusion Override for the new Mega School.
 Click to enlarge/read
 State suggested press release

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The $67,200,000 Question

League of Women Voters School Building Forum last night

Not sure too many minds were changed by the League of Women Voters forum on the new Mega School last night, which attracted parents, School Committee, Select Board and Town Meeting members in almost equal measures.

Although little to no college aged youth.  

Any yes surely the entire audience of about 100 will be voting on the ballot question on November 8th with probably the highest turnout in Amherst election history.

But continued status quo is not a good thing for proponents of the shiny new co-located school as recent school related chaotic events has eroded confidence in their overall administration.

Proponents of the $67 million project cited equity, health & safety, streamline efficiencies and of course the state's contribution to a little over half the project cost, while opponents zeroed in on the the high overall cost of the building and even higher cost of "grade reconfiguration" which  breaks up the neighborhood school concept in favor of a two grades 2-6 schools in one.

The Finance Committee presented facts that will make the average homeowner break into a cold sweat especially considering the other three building projects waiting in line behind the Schools.

The ballot question will not even have a number attached to it but the School Building Committee announced the state had approved the project at $67.2 million with the town share of $33.7 million.

 Click to enlarge read

The Finance Committee also pointed out that should the ballot question fail or Town Meeting turns down the authorization, the School Building Committee can try again with the same concept as happened in 1996 with the $22 million High School expansion that passed the second time around.

Or they can downsize the project and/or combine it with a renovation of one school and much smaller new school and resubmit a statement of interest to the MSBA.  The state agency does also fund two projects in one town (Granby for instance) as long as one is completed before applying for the second.

Necessity is the mother of invention.  Voting No on November 8 will certainly stimulate a little inventiveness from town officials and send a message about the other major projects lining up in the queue. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Clearly A Conflict

Amherst Select Board August 15

State Ethics Commission
Enforcement Division
One Ashburton Place, Room 619
Boston, MA 02108-1501

To Whom It May Concern,

I wish to file a formal complaint concerning a violation of state ethics law — especially as it relates to the “appearance of a conflict of interest” — by Amherst Select Board member  Doug Slaughter at the Select Board September 26 regular Monday night meeting.

Five hours into said meeting the Select Board briefly discussed taking a position on a $65 million Debt Exclusion Override question for a new elementary school that appears on the November 8th ballot.  

Member Connie Kruger made a motion to support passage of the Question, it was seconded by Doug Slaughter, and then all five voted in favor. 

Although at that time of night (11:30 PM) no member of the general public was still at the meeting it is broadcast by Amherst Media thus available for your perusal.  

Since Mr. Slaughter is a full time Amherst School employee he should have abstained from the vote, or at the very least made a public announcement of his school affiliation to avoid the "appearance of a conflict of interest."


Larry J. Kelley
596 South Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01002


Party House of the Weekend

Last weekend was a throwback to the bad old days of three or four years ago when the classic party house -- single family student rentals owned by absentee landlords -- reared their noisy heads.


 Click to enlarge/read

The town has been investigating 26 Allen Street for many, many months now as a suspected frat house and incidents like this only add to the evidence.

And 80 West Street was only purchased by Jamie Cherewatti two years ago and this is the second time it has made Party House of the Weekend (with some of the same perps).

 Picard (obviously not the Captain)

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday the Commonwealth originally was going to place each perp on "supervised probation" for four months with a $50/month supervision cost (paid to the Court) but the Probation officer told Judge Estes its never been done that way before.


So they switched back to the usual way of handling these by converting the criminal charge to civil with payment of a $300 fine.  They are still on (unsupervised) probation for four months.


After all eight were dealt with the Judge even mentioned that it generated over $2,000 for the town.  I felt like interjecting, "And the taxpayers of Amherst thank you."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Keeping The DPW In Check

Work has been ongoing near this intersection since late Spring

Everybody's favorite aging activist Vince O'Connor filed two citizens petition articles for the upcoming Fall Town Meeting, both of them directed at disrupting public works projects:  Blocking a new home for the DPW and the roundabout at Triangle/East Pleasant Street, a main gateway to our #1 employer UMass/AMHERST.

 Click to enlarge/read.  Each petition required certified 100 signatures 

And last night Mr. O'Connor was at the Select Board meeting to speak against their letter of support for the 130 unit Beacon Communities mixed-use affordable housing project in North Amherst, even though he admitted he had not yet read the letter because he doesn't use the internet. 

Yes if you are going to stand in the way of progress there's nothing better than using a quill pen to write by the light of a whale oil lamp and frequenting on foot ye old gathering places to acquire signatures to bring petitions before our archaic branch of government, Town Meeting.