Friday, August 31, 2007

Not in my backyard!

Okay, so we had our first “incident” near the Public School that my daughter attends in the Village Square of bucolic South Amherst far from the bumper-to-bumper traffic of downtown Amherst now clogged with returning college students.

Some twit neighborhood teen-ager decided to grasp his crotch, probably a hip-hop version of extending the middle finger, in public within spitting distance of three institutions that deal with young children: Montessori School, Kunon, and the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.

Police response—a black and white cruiser and a 4-wheel drive jeep-- was what you might call swift, and the perp was sent on his way after a stern reprimand.

I have been assured that Amherst police consider this intersection a “school zone” (and this rapid response certainly belies that) so if anyone is caught dealing drugs within the area they would be charged with the more series offense of distribution within a school zone.

And any other calls for assistance will be handled as though a child’s safety depends on response time.

Just one more reason I’m such a fan of the Amherst Public Safety men and women, who work 24/7 to protect this town.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What a difference

A Billion dollars makes. Picture above is Amherst College's ($1 billion in reserves) new athletic fields.

Now take a look at the town of Amherst ($4 million in reserves) new recreation fields on Potwine Lane in South Amherst. Yikes!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tired cheerleader

As usual the Daily Hampshire Gazette issued one of those wishy-washy, two-thumbs halfheartedly up for the recent town/gown agreement between Umass and Amherst that will generate a paltry $100,000 per year for the next five years to our beleaguered town.

Of course a hundred grand is nothing to sneeze at; but, when it could have and should have been FIVE TIMES that amount it’s just a little hard to celebrate. Obviously the crusty old Gazette lacks excitement, so the least little thing gets them up on the party dance floor (to the strains of Lawrence Welk no doubt).

Okay so if I were the Mayor of Amherst, how would I have handled the negotiation? Let them eat cake! I mean, let them drink beer! Or…we could have threatened to raise their water rates to the level that Hadley charges (what are they going to do boycott water?).

Last year that would have raised an additional $400,000 on water payments alone. And then we could have threatened to charge a differential between water and sewer (as we did for everybody EXCEPT Umass all during the 1990’s) thus raising another $150,000.

So it’s either pay $550,000 more for water/sewer OR make out a check to the Town of Amherst General Fund (so the money can be used for anything) for, say, $400,000 and we will leave your water/sewer rates alone, thus saving you $150,000. Everybody wins--especially the citizens of Amherst.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A question of priorities in the People's Republic

So the People’s Republic of Amherst can subsidize a Golf Course but not an Indoor Pool? The same public recreation superstar Barbara Bilz—the ace reliever called in to save Cherry Hill--was formerly charged with reviving and expanding indoor pool operations at the Middle School Pool.

The first thing marketing whiz Ms Bilz did was to change its name to the ‘Amherst Community Aquatics Center’ and hyped the “expanded hours and programs” and “warmer pool temperatures.”

Of course, something as huge as an Olympic pool is pretty expensive to heat and the swim team (the reason the pool was built in the first place) actually prefer the cheaper-to-maintain cooler temperatures, as they tend to work pretty hard in the water.

Last year the total overhead for the pool was $85,000 (vs. $243,000 for Cherry Hill) with the schools utilizing it slightly less than half the time and LSSE, our Recreation Empire, occupying the lion’s share.

The Schools cut them some slack on overhead charging them only $30,000 for FY07. The town has yet to pay that bill. I hope the schools charge the same 12% interest rate the town is currently charging Dave Keenan on his back taxes.

Interestingly when Ms. Bilz took over the ailing Cherry Hill Golf Course (if you consider her one-quarter time commitment taking over) the first thing she did was hype new programs to attract more customers—specifically women and children (note cover of the current issue of the LSSE brochure).

Last year, however, the Golf Course required $24,432 in tax support and currently is on target to lose at least that amount this year. Interestingly this year we could have had a GUARANTEED $30,000 in profit if the Town Manager had accepted the Niblik Management bid to privatize Cherry Hill.

That way the golf course could have stayed open and the town could have simply redirected that $30,000 to the schools to keep the Middle School Pool (now that LSSE gave up on it, I assume its name reverts back) available for all Amherst citizens—especially children.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Umass to Amherst: Pennies on the dollar

Why is it when Amherst negotiates with Umass it’s always a three-steps forward and two steps back scenario? At first the $425,000 in annual payments for Fire protection sound pretty good…but then read the fine print.

Umass takes credit for the $100,000 state Payment in Lieu of Taxes we get anyway so now we’re down to $325,000; and they were also paying $181,000 anyway for ambulance/fire service, so now we’re down to $144,000; and Umass got the town to donate wastewater that would have cost them $37,800 this year so now we’re down to about $100,000.

Amherst educates 50 or 60 children of Graduate students living in tax-exempt housing at an annual cost exceeding $500,000. The Campus Center Hotel has refused to pay the local 4% sales tax that everybody else including the Lord Jeff Inn (owned by tax exempt Amherst College) has paid since 1995. Next year that would generate over $50,000 to the town, IF Umass paid it.

And Umass recently purchased and leveled “Frat Row” on the entryway to the campus, thus taking $5 million worth of property off the tax rolls. Thus denying Amherst the $60,000 paid last year by those properties.

And I would guess at least the same 18% of the Police budget goes to Umass related events, as does 18% of the Fire/Ambulance Budget. So with a $3.6 million Police budget in FY07 Umass share would be well over the $450,000 cost of Fire protection.

Since Town Meeting axed two police officers this year to save $80,000, perhaps that extra $100,000 Umass money from heaven could be used to reinstate those officers?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Enough is enough!

Well this should do it.

When the Amherst Regional High School shamefully cancelled a production of ‘West Side Story’ in 1999 they said it was not because they actually believed the play was racist but that the controversy had gotten so out of control that it was hard for education to take place among that kind of turmoil.

If Mr Sadiq is a stand up guy he will, for the good of all concerned, announce his resignation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

PC pattern? (Well, this is Amherst)

So the obvious question is did Talib Sadiq’s skin color make A (or I should say THE) difference in winning the job of Amherst Regional Middle School counselor? Since no one has seen the semi-final list of candidates (yet) it’s a little hard to judge, not knowing the ethnicity of his competition.

But we know his Gulf War veteran status certainly was not a factor. Since this is Amherst, some folks probably view his military service even more disapprovingly than his arrest and conviction on a felony armed robbery charge.

Three years ago the nine-member Regional School Committee voted unanimously to require CORI background checks on all volunteers in the schools who could come into contact with children.

Only a week later, the Amherst School Committee voted 3-2 to oppose it, with three members having changed their vote from the week before (The Regional School Committee has 5 members of 9 from the Amherst School Committee, making Amherst the dog and the other three towns the tail.)

So why the flip flop after only one week? Well, they are all Democrats.

But seriously, Alisa Brewer said some concerned parents had called her worried about past criminal offenses like being arrested at a protest march; and one even suggested that possible “racial profiling” by police could lead to negative CORI results.


Current Amherst School Committee Chair Andy Churchill had also changed his vote. So I’m not surprised he would let a hiring committee stay in the dark about a candidate’s troubling background.

(What's interesting about this article is that if Talib had simply waited one year his 15 years would be up and that conviction sealed for all time)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Out of service

So first they closed Inspection Services on Thursday’s so all the players could have a pow-wow to make nice and better coordinate the permitting process so a new business could get down to doing business.

Then they decided—as payback for the May 1 Override failure—to close the rest of Town Hall offices on Thursday mornings until noon.

The Police Department took a hit this Fiscal Year absorbing a cut of two officers. Maybe they should have a half-day where they are closed to the public as well. When you call 911 a recorded message would announce: “Sorry due to budget cuts we are unavailable for the next five hours, if this is an emergency start praying.”

And now, today, Town Hall is closed entirely for “annual clean up day”. Hmmm, in the private sector a small-business owner uses Labor Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas as a “clean up day.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


In Tennis a “do over” is no BIG deal; in major construction however…

Accessible crosswalks in Amherst center were the first that had to be redone because of the initial use of inappropriate materials problematic to wheelchairs; and most recently the sidewalks on College Street were also done twice in one year because the angle of the slope was a tad too steep.

Yeah, the College Street boo boo may have only cost $5,000 to rectify, but a few months ago the Town Manager was willing to let ubiquitous potholes go unfilled for a prime-time month to save $10,000.

Practically the first thing the Select Board “new majority” --lead by then Czar Anne Awad, her hubby Robie Hubley and neophyte Gerry Weiss-- did in 2004 was sabotage the $1.2 million bond issue for sidewalk accessibility improvement that would have sent the entire project out to bid so private professionals could do the project all at once.

Instead they came up with a nickel-and-dime approach that essentially turned our DPW into a construction company, spending $250,000 here and $250,000 there applying a multi-year approach to the project--kind of like Eldin, Murphy Brown’s painter.

The Finance Committee voted unanimously against the penny-wise approach saying it would “result in higher materials costs, less effective management of staff and uncertainty as to when/if this phase of sidewalk improvements would be completed.”

But Town Meeting voted 108 to 42 to support the Select board micromanagement scheme and Charter Mayor/Council remnants (now known as the “sensible center”) suddenly realized just how out of touch Town Meeting had become.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The wheels on the bus...

I’m reminded of Steve Martin in ‘The Jerk’ where he gets overly excited by his name appearing in the new phone book: “I’m somebody now, I’m somebody now!”

Well folks, the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School has a BUS (what my daughter refers to as a “Kira sized bus”). We are definitely somebody now! Of course, going from zero to $500,000 in start-up year of operations also makes you a somebody.

Amherst rezoned this South Amherst intersection “Village Center” a few years back. Come September, with all the young children flocking to this building, it’s going to look feel and sound like a Village—a Global Village.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Take that superficial Select Board

Whoever said big-city newspaper editorial editors don’t have a sense of humor? Saturday’s Republican slams the Amherst Select Board yet again for their triple crown of Open Meeting Law violations. And if memory serves, the Republican (the third largest newspaper in Mass) also editorialized against the first two infractions as well.

Nice to know The Fourth Estate is paying attention!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bring your own popcorn

Yeah, Elvis is alive and in seclusion (eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches), Apollo 11 never landed on the moon--it was a video feed from Arizona--and the earth really is flat.

So I should have guessed Emily Lewis would be involved in a 9/11-conspiracy flick showing in Amherst tonight. She is one of the flag critics who testified against the stars and stripes before the Select Board on 9/10/2001—The Eve of Destruction.

No she wasn’t the one who branded our flag a “symbol terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression”—that was Professor Jennie Traschen. Ms Lewis simply deemed the flag a “military symbol.”

So the Twin Towers came down from explosives set from within? Perhaps the busiest two buildings on the planet, yet somebody had time to plant precise explosive charges (presumably you take your time when dealing with high explosives) without anybody noticing?

One of these buildings was bombed a few years earlier so I would imagine any employees who survived that would be sensitive to strange activity like somebody sticking wires in objects bigger than a breadbox.

And if the plot was that well orchestrated how come no explosives were set inside the Pentagon or the Capital Building, where flight 93 was heading before heroes brought her down in that Pennsylvania farm field?

Norman Mailer said it best (in response to the Apollo 11 moon hoax conspiracy: “that the event if bogus was as great a creation in mass hoodwinking, deception, and legerdemain as the true ascent was in discipline and technology. Indeed, conceive of the genius of such a conspiracy. It would take criminals and confidence men mightier, more trustworthy and more resourceful than anything in this century or the ones before. Merely to conceive of such men was the surest way to know the event was not staged."

Amherst Bulletin, Column 9/29/2001

As a veteran flight attendant the 35-year-old mother of two would have realized the wayward jet was moving way too low and fast. The unmistakable image of the #1 World Trade Center Tower certainly provided the final, fatal clue: “Oh my God! Oh my god!”

An exclamation gasped by millions of fellow Americans who activated their televisions to whatever station they viewed the previous night to behold majestic twin towers of glass and steel billowing black smoke. Hopelessly trapped workers choosing death by impact over smoke or fire. Oh my God!

At a contentious Selectboard meeting, only 12 hours earlier, Town Meeting member Jennie Traschen's monotone manifesto was as chilling as it was (extraordinarily) mistimed: “What the flag stands for is it’s a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and repression…It’s not something to be proud of.” My God!

In Afghanistan that said about the Taliban flag (publicly or privately) would be a dying declaration. And how many Afghani women grow up to be well-paid professors?

The next morning Amherst arose to a brilliant blue sky--the onset of yet another stunningly beautiful day. Downtown bustled: workers in front of St. Brigid’s church jackhammered concrete, causally dressed business folks crisscrossed the main intersection, moms pushed baby carriages, and on every corner smiling college students flaunted their youth.

Sipping cappuccino at Starbucks while glancing over North Pleasant Street Francis Scott Key would have lamented “Our flags were still not there.” And perhaps cried when, later that day, the Queen ordered Buckingham Palace to play our national anthem.

In Houston, Texas a businessman picks up USA Today and reads the Amherst Selectboard decision from the previous night in ‘Across the USA’ . So how did that make him feel?

“I shook my head and once again was embarrassed that I was a native of Amherst and that such an issue was nationally defining my hometown. Minutes later, the TV in my hotel room began to show the unfolding horrors against our country and its innocent people.”

With a mixture of tremendous pride and tearful remorse the 29 American flags went back up…but now at half-staff. And the bells, bells, bells of St Brigid’s Church provided a haunting backdrop for the duration of that despicable day--the bleakest morning in collective memory.

At twilight's last gleaming, three New York firefighters hoisted a glistening American flag “in full glory reflected” over the dark rubble hiding hundred of their partners and thousands of everyday people. 57 years earlier Old Glory went up, not to claim Iwo Jima (because the struggle was still in doubt), but to rally the troops bent on avenging Pearl Harbor.

This too was a treacherous sneak attack….another morning of infamy. Only now the soldiers who required rallying and reassurance to overcome exhaustion and despair were civilians: police, firefighters, EMT's, construction workers, doctors and nurses.

On Sunday evening the bells of St. Brigid's beckoned folks of all denominations and colors, young and old, healthy and infirmed to an interfaith service for all of the victims both living and dead.

As Congressman Olver spoke somberly about public safety personnel--New York’s finest and bravest--sprinting into dying buildings, the mournful baying of a firetruck resonated from town center. Amherst’s finest, just doing their job.

One of the arguments against Amherst's prolonged public flag-display was anti-militarism. Yet those critics endorsed flag display on the 4'th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans day or any other holiday commemorating military events.

Unfurling the flag exclusively around "appropriate" military holidays, simply reinforces the stereotype that our flag is merely a military symbol.

The Town Manager distributed a private email from the Veterans Agent to him dated 8/13/01 that says "I thought I would leave them up until after Labor Day." In his memo dated 9/4/01 Del Castilho ordered the flags down "…because they have not been authorized by the Selectboard."

So why didn't Del Castilho order them down on 8/14 when the Veterans Agent first put them up? And why did Del Castilho tell this newspaper (8/24) he wanted to gauge residents reaction on the four month display saying "I don't know if people will think that's too much."

The Town Manager felt less is better. "I must say there are more flags than I expected and that, in my opinion, the display is great for special occasions but seems a bit too much for an extended display."

Echoing this minimalist philosophy, graduate student Leo Maley-- just 12 hours before New York’s skyline became lonely--sarcastically suggested: "Why stop at 29? We ought to have 50…we ought to have 100…we ought to have 2,000. Maybe we ought to have the largest flag in the United States flying from the town common. Ah, but--I don't know--maybe that wouldn't be enough."

Obviously Maley never encountered the Chinese proverb "Be careful what you wish for…." Or Mr. Key’s stirring finale:
“And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Amherst Bulletin: Scooped again

Only in Amherst can I scoop the local newspaper on the Internet using their very own paper. But hey, at least this time (unlike the Gazette a few days back) they put the article about the violation of the Open Meeting Law by our repeat offender Select Board above the fold.
UPDATE: (1:10 pm). Okay, it's been a little over two hours since I posted this week's Amherst Bulletin and they still are not up on the web. Chop-chop!
UPDATE (4:20 pm). Well, it's about time! Gotta check out this article that appears on page three: It's all the fault of an unnamed zealous individual (wonder who it could be?)

Cherry Hill: Sinking in a sand trap

Cherry Hill Golf Course is already on a downward spiral generating only $24,345 in revenues for July, the first month of Fiscal 2008 compared to FY04 when they collected $34,950. And in FY04 Cherry Hill went on to require $127,000 in tax support.

Although better than last year’s (FY07) $19,627 in revenues the overall result is still far worse since last year expenses for July were $12,708 for a net profit of $6,919. This year’s (FY08) $24,345 July intake required expenditures of $24,234 for a net profit of only $111.

Interestingly enough, last August, the rookie Town Manager announced to the Select board a “revenue hole of $15,000” based on July’s disappointing numbers. Cherry Hill went on to require $24,432 in tax support in FY07 to cover employee benefits and insurance.

This Fiscal Year Cherry Hill overhead costs skyrocket $30,000 over last year: $15,000 increase in Operation Budget and another $15,000 in Capital Improvements (a security fence and underground storage tank).

And FY08 will also be the first year the Niblik privatization deal, IF the town manager had accepted it, would have been in effect--guaranteeing the town $30,000.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Scene of the crime

Yeah, I sometimes feel like the saboteur operating behind enemy lines on a dark moonless night who just launched a mortar round into the middle of an ammunition dump. The secondary explosions are continuing… and as the Klingons would say, “Glorious!”

But, as usual, Select Board (former-Czar) Anne Awad doesn’t get it. But then she’s the one who two years ago on election night after her rout of non-candidate Dave Keenan cited the “transparency” of her regime and even had the audacity to brag about setting up an Open Meeting Law Seminar with the DA’s office for all town committee members and elected officials (you have to wonder if she paid attention that night).

Today’s Gazette editorial hammers the Select board yet again, reminding readers this is the THIRD time this Board has been found in violation of the Open Meeting Law, and also citing an instance of Public Documents Law transgression where former Town Manager Barry Del Castilho refused to release the names of semi-final candidates for the job of Conservation Director (mainly because he had pre-ordained Mr. Ziomek's appointment).

Of course the Gazette (since they did not file the complaints) forgot to mention the OTHER two recent documents cases where Supervisor of Public Records Alan Cote ordered the town to release lists they tenaciously wanted kept secret:

The roster of Cherry Hill Season Pass holders--mainly because half of them are not from and do not pay taxes to Amherst--and the list of citizens who applied for the Town Manager Search Committee, because the Select board didn’t want anyone to know they had stacked the deck with their appointments…and look who we ended up with.

So rather than take their medicine, the Select Board is squandering tax money assigning the town attorney the task of finding fault with the DA’s recent admonishment.

Anytime someone attends a public meeting and they sit at the same table with all the committee members then they are participating in that meeting, whether they speak or not. And as you can see from the photo, the table in that Town Hall meeting space dominates the room.

Next time town officials schedule a joint meeting possibly attracting spectators they should book the larger Town Room with plenty of seating in the peanut gallery (not to mention ACTV cameras) for folks who simply wish to observe.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Great Lawn Sign Caper concludes

In a show cause hearing in Hadley District Court yesterday morning 18-year-old Ryon Bourdon was, essentially, put on probation for six months for the crime of larceny: stealing and destroying about 75 bright yellow political lawn signs costing over $200.

While certainly not up there with armed robbery, assault or arson this particular act shouldn’t be ignored or cordoned simply as “boys being boys.”

Democracy dies without Free Speech and snatching lawn signs under cover of darkness tramples on the First Amendment rights of all those homeowners.

I only wish the court had put pressure on Mr. Bourdon to give up his accomplices, as I’m virtually certain one kid could not have harvested ALL those signs, from ALL over Amherst overnight.

And you have to wonder why they ALL ended up in the dumpster at Amherst Regional High School.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

DA to Amherst: Keep it legal!

District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel spanked the Amherst Select Board for yet another Open Meeting Law violation warning “For the future, Select Board members should ensure that a quorum of its members do not attend and speak at a meeting on subjects about which they may be ultimately called to take a position unless such meeting is posted as a Select Board meeting and the other requirements of the Open Meeting Law are met.”

On August 1, 2007 three Select Board members (of five) crashed a joint meeting of the Planning Board and Town Commercial Relations Committee unannounced. While only two loquacious members—Rob Kusner and Anne Awad—participated, the common sense DA concluded, “Deliberation occurs even if one of the three members has chosen to remain silent. The issue is whether the public should have been apprised that the Select Board would be discussing a matter over which they have jurisdiction.”

She continues: “As a practical matter, enforcement of the Open Meeting Law can not hinge on a retrospective review of the number of members of a Board who actually spoke at the meeting.” Duh!

In my complaint I also mentioned Rob Kusner’s OTHER excuse: that all three Select Board members were attending/acting as “committee liaisons” rather than as individual Select Board members. The DA probably thought that absurdity unworthy of comment.

Since the Charter Revolution succumbed, the sanctimonious Select Board has relentlessly purged any vestiges of that (common sense) reform movement.

Committee members—especially those on the more influential boards—and even town employees (or whatever the town attorney is considered) have been targeted for termination.

The Amherst Select Board’s scheme is to sabotage pro-development zoning articles scheduled for Fall Town Meeting, and they will go to great lengths to achieve that dubious distinction.

The next joint meeting of the Planning Board Zoning Sub-Committee and Town Commercial Relations Committee is scheduled for this Wednesday. Unfortunately, Open Meeting Law violations are not currently punishable by fines, but it’s a safe bet the Select Board will legally post their intentions.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The best laid plans..

Slumped low in the tribars, a position that reduces wind resistance at the expense of control and reduces visibility to about five yards directly in front, I glanced up for a moment to do a long distance scan and when I returned to my tuck noticed the black pavement below replaced by green grass.

Looking back up confirmed I had drifted to my right off the road onto a narrow swatch of grass leading to a solid wall of tall weeds that instantly parted for me and my flying machine.

Luckily the farmer had overturned the field the previous day so I landed in relatively soft black earth. Not so lucky, however, was the location of the field: a good six or eight foot vertical drop from the road above.

As I took flight my body turned horizontally and disconnected from my bike and I landed fully on my right shoulder, tumbling two or three times and ending up flat on my back, hyperventilating.

For most of my bike accidents I have someone else to blame--the homeowner who careened out of his driveway, the woman 5 miles up Mt. Washington who traversed directly in my path, or Mother Nature for providing a swath of black ice on Bay Road late one March.

But on Sunday, at the Greenfield Triathlon, under a picture perfect blue sky at perhaps the easiest part of the course a moments inattention brought disastrous results.

Last year my team came in first and I covered the 30 mile bike route at an average of 19 mph. This year I had a slightly stronger swimmer and runner so I didn't feel pressured but wanted to at least match last years performance.

The course is 7.5 miles and you do it four times. I planned to take the first lap slightly easy at 18 mph and then ratchet up to 19 mph for the next two. And the last one with adrenaline flowing you simply hammer.

With less than a half mile to go in lap one I switched my computer from distance to average speed and was pleasantly surprised to read 20.4 mph. So I decided to shoot for 21, since the remainder of the course was one third-level and two-thirds downhill.

The last thing I saw on my computer, as the road turned to grass, was a current speed of 25 mph. About the only thing more battered than my upper body at the moment is my ego.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

History will little note...

Satchel Page said it best: “Don’t look back something may be gaining on you.”

So when Tonia Sutherland contacted me last year saying “The Department of Special Collections at Umass Amherst is involved in a long-term project to document the efforts by individuals and groups to effect positive changes in their society, whether politically, economically, spiritually, or socially,” I was deeply honored—but a tad weirded out.

Although she was quick to add: “we understand you are still active in your career.” Hell yeah!

We met for coffee at the Lone Wolf in town center and talked non-stop (not due to caffeine) for over an hour.

I turned over files I considering “inactive”; events that had played out and unlike Halley’s Comet would never return…or so I thought. Six month ago I could have used my ‘Vagina Monologues’ file after an incident in New York where three young women got their 15 minutes of fame over the issue and naturally a washed up Eve Ensler jumped into the limelight for the first time in a while.

I have not yet turned over—and it will be the hardest to part with—my Flag Flap file as that awful anniversary fast approaches (and Amherst shamefully embarrassed itself once again in mid-May). And, of course, the Cherry Hill Golf Course—at twenty years and counting—my oldest, most active and largest file.

And what I love about Blogger is I assume at some point I can easily back up on a hard drive everything I have posted since St. Patty’s Day.

But will having the Special Collections folks peeking over my shoulder create a Hawthorne effect, causing me to act differently? Nahhhhhh…as Popeye would say “I yam what I yam.”

In a message dated 7/20/07 1:05:16 PM, writes:


Thanks so much for reviewing this for us so quickly, and for finding the errors you listed below. I'm attaching the file again and I hope you won't mind re-reading those two paragraphs to see if the corrections are accurate.


From: []
Sent: Friday, July 20, 2007 10:26 AM
Subject: Re: Finding Aid (brief corrections)

Hey Danielle,
2’nd Paragraph and final paragraph flag issue:

Included in the Kelley papers are over 100 newspaper clippings, either his editorials, letters to the editor, or guest columns, about issues ranging from the use of town safety services by Amherst College, his objection to the Civil Rights Review Commission's right to subpoena, his fight to fly the American flag on Amherst Town Hall both on the Anniversary of September 11th and on the day Osama bin Laden is captured, to his objection over the Amherst-Pelham Regional High School's production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues.

Finally, Kelley's papers include material on the Amherst board's decision to limit the number of days the town would fly the American flag. The decision was made on September 10th, 2001 to fly the American flag only on designated holidays, which Kelley felt was insufficient. After the terrorist attack of September 11th, the board agreed unanimously that the flag should be raised, and it flew until November 26th. Kelley took the same flag to Ground Zero a week later, on December 1st, and was able to get a photograph of himself and a police officer flying the flag over a pile of rubble. The flag was then sent to Washington, where it was flown over the Capitol building. The photograph is now autographed by Ted Kennedy, John W. Oliver, Jane Garvey, Jane Swift, and George W. Bush. The flag itself is now in the hands of the Amherst Historical Society.

The issue concerned (and still concerns) the flying of 29 small commemorative flags in the downtown from lightpoles, not the main flag in town center, which does fly 24/7 365 days a week (and I was instrumental in getting the town to illuminate it for night flying about two years ago). The one I took to Ground Zero was one of the original 29, because I felt that outdoor flags only last a few years and then must be destroyed. And I wanted to preserve this one for posterity sake (especially since it was flying THAT day.)

Also: my God given name is Lawrence but I never use it. Everybody on the planet knows me as Larry. Although my Mother tried endlessly to get me to use Lawrence. But since you are a formal institution maybe you wish to agree with my mother (she will be smiling in Heaven for sure.)


In a message dated 7/20/07 3:08:19 PM, writes:

Excellent! We'll make these changes and I'll upload on Monday and send you the URL then. We're not that formal, so I'm going to side with you and change the collection title to the Larry Kelley Papers!

Thanks again, and happy weekend,

Friday, August 3, 2007

More Select Board Skullduggery

Elizabeth Scheibel, District Attorney
One Court Square
Northampton, Ma. 01060

Dear Ms. Scheibel:

According to the Open Meeting Law: “When quorums of two or more bodies meet jointly, it is a meeting of each of the governmental bodies, and therefore both bodies must give notice of the meeting.”

On August 1, 2007 I briefly attended an Amherst Planning Board and Town Commercial Relations Committee joint meeting (duly posted by each board with the Town Clerk) and observed a quorum of the 5-member Amherst Select Board present: Rob Kusner, Anne Awad and Hwei-Ling Greeney.

The town clerk confirmed that the Amherst Select Board did not provide notice of such a joint meeting.

When I mentioned this to Mr. Kusner (who deliberated at length at that joint meeting, as did Ms. Awad) he replied that Ms. Greeney unexpectedly attended BUT, did not speak.

If the Amherst Select Board is operating under that assumption then perhaps a refresher on the Open Meeting Law is warranted.

Larry Kelley
Amherst Town Meeting Precinct 5
Amherst Redevelopment Authority
UPDATE (9:45 AM)The dog at it, the check is in the mail, The sun got in my eyes.
So the excuse the Select Board will use is that they were attending that 8/1 joint Planning Board/Town Commercial Relations Committee meeting not as “Selectmen” but as Select Board “liaisons” to those committees, Greeney to TCRC and Kusner and Awad to Zoning Subcommittee.

Hmmm, let’s see. That means all five can show up to a Joint Meeting without posting it, giving them the element of surprise. On 7/23 Ms Awad became the second “liaison” to the Zoning Sub Committee. The Budget Coordinating Group also has two Select board liaisons.

Gee, I can’t wait to see whom they will assign to be our ARA liaison. Or Perhaps two.

Obviously what THEY are doing is trying to nip in the bud any and all of the Town Manager’s zoning initiatives to stimulate economic development.

And when elements of the Select Board combine this early in the process with the NIMBY’s like Mary Streeter and Fred Moseley, it’s a very bad sign.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A (sad) tale of two Larry's

Okay so I guess there was a third option to yesterday’s puff piece in the Springfield Republican on the cheery Cherry Hill golf report where the Town Manager crowed: “the course didn’t have to draw on tax support to help off set costs”.

Because $24,000 in tax money was most definitely required (just ask the Finance Committee) this angry Irish blogger, wrote yesterday the Town Manager either lied or the reporter was incompetent and misquoted him (highly unlikely since she has been covering Amherst for seven years--but doesn’t use a tape recorder, so it would be easy to claim misquotation)

Well, after last night’s Select board meeting I have a third option: Town Manager Larry Shaffer is incompetent.

So I bent the rules and during the 6:30 Question-The-Illustrious-SelectBoard Agenda item I instead questioned the Town Manger: “Did you really tell a reporter yesterday that no tax money was involved in Cherry Hill for FY07?” And I, of course, stated it with a voice dripping in incredulity.

Not only did he confirm it, but also he went on to repeat it. Yikes!

And when I pointed out that FY07’s $219,440 was comparatively poor citing FY02 (when a dollar was worth 15% more due to inflation) revenue total: $245,000. Shaffer then erroneously stuttered that $50,000 or $60,000 of that was taxpayer’s subsidy so this past year business was better. Hmmm…

Well yes, in FY02 Cherry Hill did require $82,650 in tax support (sandwiched between $136,417 required the year before and $127,210 the following year) but the $245,932 in total revenues still far outpaced FY07’s $219,440. In FY02 Cherry Hill, as an Enterprise Fund, showed ALL expenditures and that year they spent $328,582, thus requiring the $82,550 in subsidy. But they still took in $245,932 in golf related revenue.

Interestingly in FY02 Cherry Hill generated $8,767 in “food sales” and $23,707 in “beverage sales” (Mmmm, beer) for a grand total of $32,474 compared to last years’ pathetic total of $5,336. In fact, that difference alone would have neutralized the $24,000 subsidy approved by the Finance Committee on July 11.

Considering this “new and improved management” the Town Manager is trumpeting consists of one Leisure Services and Supplemental Education (fancy term for Recreation Department) employee working TEN hours per week (the other thirty spent running the Leisure Services empire) perhaps she should be bumped up to, oh say, 20 hours per week at the terminally ill golf business.

Or far better yet, take the Niblik private management deal for a guaranteed $30,000 return.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Amherst Town officials scam Spfld Republican

So either the Town Manager lied or the reporter is incompetent. Because if Shaffer actually stated that Cherry Hill “did not have to draw on tax money to help offset cost” it’s completely incorrect; and if he didn’t say it, they why would the reporter use it--especially so high up in the article?

AMHERST - With improved playing conditions and additional programs to attract a new group of players, the Cherry Hill Golf Course ended fiscal year 2007 nearly $7,200 in the black.

This was the first time in years the course did not have to draw on tax money to help offset costs, Town Manager Laurence R. Shaffer said today.

And in my interview with her yesterday I NEVER said the course “budget was in the black”. I continuously stressed that it was $24,000 in the RED. Period. And taxpayers don’t care if bureaucrats classify tax dollars as “direct or indirect costs” or ‘sewer fund dollars’ or ‘community preservation fund dollars.’ A tax dollar is a tax dollar.

Most homeowners consider insurance a routine operation cost. The Cherry Hill clubhouse insurance (one of those hidden “indirect costs”) was $5,712. And any business owner considers “employee benefits” a regular cost of doing business. Last year (another one of those hidden “indirect costs”) Cherry Hill consumed $21,858.

IF Cherry Hill WERE in the black then how about repaying the Finance Committee Reserve Fund $23,000 required to close out the fiscal year? On May 31 the Town Manager told the Select Board Amherst couldn’t afford to fill the potholes until July because there was no money left in that “emergency” Finance Committee controlled fund.

Since Ms. Bilz has a marketing background I expect her to tortuously push the envelope for positive spin. But the town manager is a different story. And if he lied about this (a golf course for God’s sake!) then what else is he covering up in our $60 million budget?