Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Not In My Town Center

Vince O'Connor, one man protest

One of the huge downsides of The Retreat student housing development in northeast Amherst no longer being on the table is it frees up time for NIMBYs to concentrate their wrath at other proposed developments.

Like "1 East Pleasant Street" for instance, a proposed 5-story mixed use development with 78 apartments and retail for up to four businesses on the ground floor.   All plunked down on a 35,000 square foot parcel on the northern end of Amherst town center, currently known as "The Carriage Shops".

Tonight's Planning Board meeting on the subject (probably not the only one) will no doubt be well attended by the usual suspects, with the usual complaint:  not the right place for the project.

Of course with some people -- all too many in Amherst -- there's never a right place for any project. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Party House of the Weekend

Yes, as some of you may know Sunset Avenue (at least the northern end of it) is contiguous with UMass Southwest area where all the freshmen are packed into one pretty dense cluster.

But it is still a neighborhood made up of single family homes, some of which actually house families.

Colin McGuire, age 20, stands before Judge Mulcahy

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday the two arrested house dwellers, Derek Durouchel and Colin McGuire (both 20) thought they were going to simply get an easy plea deal for the charges of "Unlawful noise, Nuisance House, Receiving Stolen Property over $250, and Procuring Liquor to person under age 21."  But Judge Mulcahy warned them that one of the charges was a felony with potential jail time.

 Derek Durouchel, age 20

So they opted to hire a lawyer and come back to Court next month.

 Page 2 continues, "stopped both Durouchel and McGuire were placed under arrest."

MADD About You

 APD:  Police Department of the Month

Thank God for Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- the voice of moral outrage over a scourge that kills far too many innocent Americans every year.

And thank God for the men and women of the Amherst Police Department who somehow manage to find the time to get many of these potential killers off our roads.

In a noon ceremony today at the Amherst Police Station, Chief Scott Livingstone accepted the "Police Department of the month" award from MADD and cited the dedication to duty exhibited by his personnel in the face of stressful working conditions.

 Town Manager John Musante was on hand to express how proud he was of the department

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Fairness of Anonymity

Daily Hampshire Gazette version of Boston Globe story

I'm sorry but I find it odd the venerable Boston Globe went with this story (in a BIG way I might add) using anonymous sources -- the parents who endured that which no parent should endure.

Yes, I'm well aware of my exceedingly high percentage of commenters who wish to remain anonymous.  I struggle almost daily with publishing some of the nasty unfair criticism they hurl at people both in the public eye and sometimes not so much in the public eye.

In America one of our fundamental legal rights is to be able to face our accuser.  The Globe allowed grieving parents to criticize the UMass Police Chief and Assistant Chief while remaining cloaked in anonymity.

Sorry but you can't have it both ways.  Let's protect the parents' privacy so as not to further hurt their already battered feelings, but simultaneously allow them to hurt others' feelings by suggesting they screwed up, causing a young man's death. Cops are human beings too.

The reason I published the young man's death certificate four months ago using the killer quote "acute heroin intoxication" is because I thought people should be aware that heroin is deadly serious business, even in our bucolic little town.

And why shouldn't police protect their sources the same way journalists do?

If I take a photo in town center of a low-level town employee inappropriately parking in a handicapped zone and they offer me details of high-level corruption in exchange for not publishing it, what the hell do you think I'm gonna do? 

The "age of majority" in Massachusetts is 18, so police were under no legal obligation to contact the parents.  And it's a bit of a leap to strongly suggest that parental intervention with a 20-year-old is guaranteed to make a life or death difference. 

Last week a UMass student killed himself in an off-campus location.  The District Attorney does not comment on private deaths in private homes, neither apparently does UMass (except they did issue a statement on the day the drug informant was found dead in his off campus apartment).

Fair enough.

But what if the Phoebe Prince case was covered up in such a typical manner?  Massachusetts would not now have stronger anti-bullying laws.

And what if none of the 100 grieving relatives of those who died in the horrific Station Nightclub fire wanted it mentioned that their loved one died in a bar?  We would not now have stronger legislation to protect the public from such a fire ever reoccurring. 

And where would gay rights and AIDS research be today if Rock Hudson had not come out in 1985 to acknowledge he had the dreaded disease?

The greater good often comes at the expense of the very few.  Or the one.

"Clearly Has Issues ... "

Attorney John W. Drake (left) Nikolai R James (right) appear before Judge Michael Mulcahy

Nikolai R. James, age 21 (who lives with his Grandfather in Leverett), appeared this afternoon in Eastern Hampshire District Court for the serious charges of Assault & Battery on two Amherst police officers, both of whom suffered broken fingers in the process.

The prosecution requested Judge Mulcahy revoke his bail from a previous case of domestic abuse he was charged with only last week in Orange District Court.   And on the two current counts brought by the Amherst Police Department, the Commonwealth requested bail of $2,500 per count or $5,000 total.

 Greenfield Recorder District Court Logs (9/29/14)

The prosecutor told the Judge Nikolai James first drew attention to himself near Hobart Lane and North Pleasant Street around 2:30 PM Saturday by jumping up and down while grabbing his groin with one hand while the other hand was holding a bottle of champagne.

The officer pulled his cruiser over and when he approached him, James shouted, "Fuck you, I'm just drinking from my open container." He then raised the bottle over his head in a threatening manner.

The officer grabbed his hand and a struggle ensued.  James managed to break free and sprinted away from the officer, who only then noticed his throbbing finger, which turned out to be broken.

Later Saturday night at 8:41 PM on Triangle Street near town center another officer spotted James, who still had a bottle in his hand.  Again Mr. James ran, only this time he fell, rolled onto his back and when the officer was reaching for him he kicked upward with both feet.

The kick landed, breaking two fingers.  James was wearing work boots at the time.

The Public Defender told the Judge his client, "has long term psych issues.  He was at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital for a month this past summer and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia disorder."

Judge Mulcahey agreed with the prosecution about revoking bail from the recent Orange Court case, but set bail at $750 for each APD assault count, or $1,500 total.  The Judge also set up a "competency hearing" to be held before Mr. James goes to trial next month.


Note to readers:  Yes, both officers were named in court proceedings but I will not publish them because even though they are police they were still victims.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another Crazy Weekend For 1st Responders

McGuirk Stadium attracted upwards of 20,000

Yes with Umass annual Homecoming turbo charged by the return of football to a sold out McGuirk Stadium, the ever popular Apple Harvest Festival in town center, alongside the usual well attended Farmers Market, our little college town was pretty much bursting at the seams Saturday.

The Homecoming Parade started at the Haigis Mall at 11:00 AM and wound its way through most of the town center, although they took a right on Amity Street instead of finishing further south on the town common as they did last year.

AFD Engine 3 and Chief Nelson (black SUV) try to maneuver through parade

Only minutes after the parade hit the downtown a smoke alarm for a minor fire on the 10th floor of the UMass Campus Center brought a screaming response from Engine 3 at Central Station.

At first the lights flashing and horn bellowing seemed to be just part of the festivities, but when Chief Nelson in his black SUV maneuvered around the engine you could tell it was the real thing.

One of numerous calls AFD responded to at McGuirk Stadium

Crowd problems would roil AFD for the rest of the day, both at sold out McGuirk Stadium and again around midnight back at the UMass Student Union for a fire (false) alarm.

The morning started off badly for always beleaguered Amherst Police as they responded to a call from a woman at the North Amherst Mill River Recreation area reporting a Hispanic male "exposing his genitals".

The officer caught up with him but the (alleged) pervert put up a fight while making his escape.  The officer suffered a broken hand from the impact of a champagne bottle the perp was drinking from (at 9:30 AM!).

Later officers spotted the aggressor in town center and once again he put up a fight, breaking the hand of yet another officer with a kick, which will no doubt bring the charge of "assault with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot" in addition to A & B on a police officer.  

Two weeks ago another two Amherst police officers suffered debilitating injuries dealing with uncooperative assailants.  Thus a department stretched to the breaking point for lack of staffing, is now stretched even further.

Amherst Police would be kept busy for the rest of the night responding to noise complaints all over town as the summer like weather brought out foot traffic in droves. 

AFD had to respond numerous times to McGurik Stadium for a variety of emergencies above and beyond the expected overly intoxicated calls, although one ETOH case, where the young man was passed out in his locked car on such a hot day could have been a disaster.

 AFD on scene between Campus Center and Student Union near midnight for ETOH female

A more troubling incident occurred at the Student Union just after midnight after an ambulance was called for an intoxicated college aged female.  Almost simultaneously an alarm was pulled at the Student Union which was hosting a popular event that had attracted many hundreds of students.

 AFD Engines 2 & 3 at UMass Student Union around midnight last night

The evacuation sounded disorderly at best, and I detected some hesitation on the part of UMass officials to alert AFD as our fire engines had already responded in force 12 hours earlier to a fire at the adjacent Campus Center.   Plus we had an ambulance on scene just then for a drunk student.

Even more chilling,  however, it sounded like some exit doors had been locked preventing the easy flow of patrons out of the building.  Many of those that did evacuate congregated in front of the Student Union making it hard for the two fire engines to maneuver into place.

Within an hour the usual chilling scenario manifested itself as AFD had to rely on Northampton FD to come transport a drunk Amherst College student to the hospital as all five of our ambulances were busy.

Again the nightmare inducing scenario is for fire to chose that most inopportune moment to go on a feeding frenzy in, say, deep South Amherst.

Although fire is always nothing if not inopportune.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Obscuring Domestic Violence

Apparently NFL players who abuse their wives or girlfriends should move to Massachusetts if they want a better chance keeping their horrific behavior secret.

On August 30 a young lady was assaulted after midnight Saturday on Hobart Lane, located just off the UMass campus, a street predominantly populated by UMass students. 

She walked into the UMass Police Station with her brother to report the incident and they contacted Amherst Police who have jurisdiction.

No arrest was made, and that's pretty much the end of the story.

Two weeks ago, however, APD did arrest two individuals for domestic violence, and one of them even assaulted a police officer causing physical injury.  But apparently our taxpayer funded police can't ever release their names.

Every reputable journalist I know (and I know a lot) routinely redacts victims names, or even details that could lead to exposing their identity.

By making it harder to expose the (alleged) perpetrators of these despicable acts, we only encourage their continuation.

Click to enlarge/read