Thursday, May 31, 2007

Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

So in spite of spelling my name wrong (it’s Kelley with two e’s) and number of appearances on Bill O’Reilly (it was exactly two, plus one on The Today Show) the article came out okay, although I find the title a little odd.

I was a little worried after I went to the The Buzz website to check out the publication figuring by the articles, ads, and hip title it targets 18-25 year olds. Not that in my graying years I can’t still relate to that dynamic age group.

Instead of mentioning “multiple times” that I’m a karate expert I should have pointed out that in the 35 years as a black belt I have never once used martial arts outside of a sporting or teaching context. Although last week I came very close to engaging a moving automobile.

I should have added to my socially liberal list that I’m pro women’s right to chose, and I alienated many of my conservative compatriots by strongly supporting the smoking ban in bars (voted most controversial issue of the year in 1999 by the Amherst Bulletin) where Amherst was in the forefront of something now considered routine.

Perhaps the title Lonesome Cowboy comes from a President Reagan reference or, of course, my final quote. Oddly when Mr. Peters first contacted me via email at the beginning of May he seemed to be doing an article on conservatives as in the pleural sense:

“Mainly, we've decided to do a story about the conservative population in Western Mass simply because we rarely, if ever, read about conservative culture in this area. We're hoping to shed some light on the conservatives that do exist in this area, and discuss their engagement with the local political process.”

Maybe I was the only one they could find? Makes me even lonelier…

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Jack Wilson can take the heat

From a hundred miles away Umass is simply considered part of the town of Amherst, albeit a large busy part. They have their own zip code (01003) but you still write Amherst, Ma on the envelope.

Like most townies, I view UMass as separate from the town. Although many students are registered to vote their involvement in local politics is nil and most don’t even bother to register their cars here, thus denying the town excise tax revenues.

So when something flares up at the University—like the Red Sox riots or graduation protests over Andy Card’s honorary degree--I view it more as a reflection on the University than the town. After all, Amherst has enough PR problems of its own.

Recently students and staff denied President Jack Wilson and Mr. Card their First Amendment right to speech by creating a highly public wall of sound to drown them out at graduating ceremonies (not to mention holding up a banner to intrude on visuals), thus embarrassing the University and spoiling a happy occasion for many who worked hard for their Graduate degrees.

While the honorary degree was probably not Jack Wilson’s idea, the controversial restructuring of the UMass system with him taking a more active role in the management of the Amherst flagship sounds like him.

Since Mr. Wilson has a strong background in entrepreneurship he undoubtedly understands the 80/20 principle: 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your product line. Therefore, try to identify that lucrative niche and invest more of your time and energy there rather than less important things.

UMass is the gem of higher education in Massachusetts. If anyone can identify places to invest more time and money for better returns it’s Jack Wilson. And while Chancellor Lombardi has been good for the University, a more hands on approach from a talent like Jack Wilson will be great for the University and by extension great for the town.

Considering the faculty now voting “no confidence” in Jack Wilson are probably some of very same who denied him the right to speak at last week’s graduation ceremony, I have little confidence in them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Entering Amherst from the west

Appropriate on any day of the year, this shining symbol atop a hill, but ever so appropriate today.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Road Rage In A School Zone

I can’t even remember the last time I bent both knees just subtly enough to enhance balance to set for the potential launch of shuddering force into another human being. Today’s incident, however, I will long remember.

On Friday’s, Crocker Farm Pre School dismisses at noon. The school sits atop a slight hill a ways up from the access road on Rt. 116, a busy highway.

As I started to drive down from an upper parking lot immediately adjacent to the school with my five-year-old daughter safely strapped in back, I had the window open to circulate air until the AC could kick in.

The unmistakable whine of a motorcycle and a car both gunning their engines caught my undivided attention as a bright yellow bike and a dark two-door passenger car whizzed down the hill towards the stop sign at Rt. 116, with the motorcycle parallel and dangerously close to the driver side of the car.

The speeding vehicles came to a stop just in time and Evel Knievel initiated a heated exchange with the car’s driver. Suddenly the stationary car erupts in REVERSE speeding all the way back up the hill until directly in front of the school easily hitting speeds two or three times that allowed in a school zone.

He then shifted back into forward and once again gunned his engine and hurtled down the hill passing me a tad too fast to get off a well-placed sidekick into his passenger window as I yelled, “It’s a school zone pal!”

The potentially catastrophic aspect of this irresponsible stunt is that it occurred during the busiest time of the day for children, parents, or guardians as well as school personnel.

Since it was so busy witnesses may provide the license plate number to Amherst Police (many of whom were at Umass backing up UMPD in case there is any graduation disruptions over Andy Card’s honorary degree) so they can track down the culprit.

I, for one, would love to have a brief chat.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Let the riots begin

Northampton, our sister city to the west, ADDS seven police officers bringing NPD to 63 or a ratio of 2.1 officers per 1,000 Amherst last night decided to SUBTRACT two cops reducing APD to 48, or a ratio of 1.4 per 1,000.

According to the FBI, the national rate of full-time law enforcement employees to inhabitants is 3.5 per 1,000.

Now yes, his Lordship, the new Select board Chair Gerry Weiss will cite Umass’s police force of 60 and then add them to Amherst’s police department as though the two could become one seamless entity.

Override buster Stan Gawle tried to increase the budget by $150,000 to retain the two officers and add back in overtime for riot control and 4 bulletproof vests. The voice vote was so overwhelmingly negative nobody had the nerve to suggest a standing vote.

Former long-time Finance Committee and Select Board member (considered part of the “sensible center”) Eva Schiffer offered a neat compromise motion, using the $100,000 the Select board freed up last Monday that would have at least saved the two officers.

Like the vote against flying the flags on 9/11, it was not even remotely close. By a greater than two-thirds margin, Town Meeting voted (133-60) to make Amherst a more dangerous place to be. Like the vote against flying the flags on 9/11, it was shameful, irresponsible and downright embarrassing.

Unfortunately, far too many jaded Amherst Town Meeting members view American flags and police identically: as symbols of tyranny and oppression.

Interestingly, the next budget discussion concerned the Department of Public Works where the Select board wanted to spend 10% of that $100,000 previously banked savings on road line painting, because according to Ms. Awad the crosswalks were so faded that pedestrians were simply using “their memory” to attempt safe passage.

The DPW chief then reported that within weeks all the lines and crosswalks would be painted (using this year’s budget money) and the paint lasts two years. Even the Select board could do that math.

His Lordship immediately admitted to being “embarrassed” and Ms. Awad rescinded the Select Board motion to add $10,000 for the redundant item.

Yeah, that’s our exalted leadership--throw money at unnecessary items while cutting Job One for any government: maintain public safety.

When government loses its way this profoundly, it’s time for a new government.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Well I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. Superintendent Jere Hochman (finally) caved in to public pressure and will allow the Gospel Choir to sing at ARHS graduation.

Can you imagine the fallout if the ban stayed in effect?

Only in Amherst (somebody would say) can High School girls publicly use the C-word and perform a skit that glorifies statutory rape, but God forbid we allow a largely minority member choir to belt out a song where the word God comes up.

Yes, they did learn from the ‘Vagina Monologues’ debacle. One of the girls who performed in the 2004 edition, wanted to bring it back for an encore presentation this past February (why not in 2005 or 2006?) and the principal wisely said “NO”. But he should have said “No fracken way!”

Although only indirectly citing the tsunami of bad press, Mark Jackson claimed the production required too much time of faculty advisors, and with those looming budgets cuts…Hey, they could have tapped some of the $1.5 million they have stashed in their savings account.

Maybe at next year’s graduation we can get a couple of songs from ‘West Side Story’?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Global Village

Okay, close enough. It was supposed to say “"Happy Wedding Anniversary. I love you. from Larry and Kira".

Today is our 24’th wedding anniversary, but since Donna is half a world away in Korea (13 hours ahead) for her it is almost over. Probably an appropriate metaphor for our relationship—as in opposites attract.

We talk twice a day, about 12 hours apart, and of course there’s email. She prerecorded readings from a few books so I could play them back to Kira every night at bedtime.

Yesterday I tried to send flowers via an Internet company that promised “same day delivery”. They could not, however, deliver them until Wednesday and then were going to charge enough to balance our trade deficit with that peninsula.

So I emailed her co-teacher Hyun Suk Lee (American name Jane) who Donna sponsored (more like adopted) at Babson College years ago because nobody else wanted to deal with her shaky English. Jane set up the teaching seminar at Korea University and is acting as interpreter, tour guide, fitness training partner and now our relationship coordinator.

Last year on her Korea expedition Donna was able to tour the mountainous area where her dad was wounded in that “Forgotten War”. On the front lines for less than a day a mortar shell detonated near his shallow foxhole (the frozen ground having the consistency of concrete). He crawled over a mile back to his lines and spent months recovering in various hospitals. To this day he carries charred metal reminders in his body.

Yesterday a town meeting member emailed Donna to complain about me; saying he found it “ironic” that I tried to institute fines for Open Meeting Law violations and yet Donna had sent an email from Korea to her committee that would have garnered a $50 fine.

There they go again thinking Donna—because she shares my surname-- is just like me, preoccupied with local politics. The fines I had in mind were for knowingly and willfully violating Open Meeting Law, something I think happens all too often, and not for the naïve “send all” email discussing your thoughts on a (somewhat ridiculous) issue coming up at a public meeting you can’t make.

Although a white, female, tenured professor who calls The People’s Republic of Amherst home Donna does not exactly fit the mold. Unlike me, she’s a registered Republican, grew up working on a farm in Southwick, doesn’t eat meat (but doesn’t mind cooking it or wearing leather shoes) and until a few months ago didn’t give a damn about local politics.

Last night at the chaotic opening to Town Meeting’s budget discussion when the Moderator called the Select board and Finance Committee behind the curtain to discuss procedures more than a few folks in the audience mentioned the Open Meeting Law, and suggested I crash the party.

A testy exchange occurred when (former Czar) Ann Awad accused the Moderator of a “conflict of interest” because he appoints the Finance Committee and she thought his new procedural protocol gave the Finance Committee an edge over the Select board.

Considering the close vote last night that favored the Select board version of the budget amendment, I guess Ms. Awad was wrong. Certainly not the first time.

And this narrow victory for the Select Board over the Finance Committee sends a powerfully pernicious signal of things to come.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Yeah, I'm still teed off!

So I hate to move on, but move on I must. The flag issue will never, never, never go away; and by this coming 9/11 highlights of the Town Meeting vote that turned Amherst into the Village of the Damned will be available on Youtube.

So what better subject than the beleaguered Cherry Hill Golf Course (to steal Mary Carey’s lead in this morning’s Gazette) for shifting gears?

Sounds to me like the rookie Town Manager is getting a tad testy about our municipal albatross: “It’s really a red herring, a straw man. It’s taken on a dimension and scale it doesn’t deserve. I’m sick of Cherry Hill being put on the Cherry Hill Cross.”

Of course Mr. Shaffer also insists giving up on Cherry Hill will have “zero effect” on this years budget. Really? First off, Shaffer must not have read the Special Town Meeting warrant article because it “strongly urges” him to accept $30,000 a year for the next three years to lease out the White Elephant.

Thus, rather than losing $59,000 like Cherry Hill did last year we could gain a guaranteed $30,000 or an $89,000 turnaround that could fund police, firefighters or teachers.

The Finance Committee told department heads to stick to a 1% budget increase. Cherry Hill’s FY08 operation budget increases $15,000 but that increase does not include another $15,000 in capital improvements hidden elsewhere in the General Fund budget. So while public safety and school budgets are limited to 1% increases, Cherry Hill bloats by 15%.

Cherry Hill is a symbol. It’s a symbol of waste, highlighting a ludicrous and irresponsible attitude about priorities.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hall Of Shame!

Politicians Who Voted Against The (American) Flag:
Nancy DeProsse, David Robson Gillham, Patricia Holland, Peter Jessop, Mark Jackson, Stephen King, Randa Nachbar, Vince O’Connor, Kenton Tharp, Carolyn Bentley, Anne Sterling Bush (obviously no relation), Howard Ewert, Irene and Seymour Friedman, Irwin Friman, Grace Griecci, Joesph Lynn, Patrick Robert McCarthy, Judy Simpson, Robert Biagi, Barbara Ford, Lynn Griesemer and Bryan Harvey (Umass should be so proud), Edih Nye Macmullen, Renee Moss, Kristin O’Connell, Fil Valunas, Sharon Vardatira, Alice Allen, Leeta Bailey, Dorwenda Bynum-Lewis, Steven Dunn, Thomas Vlittie, Janet Lansberry, Larry Orloff, Catherine Porter, Marcy Lala, Patricia Blauner, Michael Giles, Alan Powel, George Ryan, Baer Tierkel (sensible center, eh?) Cheryl Zoll, Donna Zucker,Florence Boynton, Pat Church (flag thief), Fred Levine, Leo Maley, Margaret Nunnelly, James Oldhan, Alan Root, Christina Rose, Merrylees Turner, Mary Wentworth, Jeff and Maralyn Blaustein, Silvia Brinkerhoff, Harry Brooks, Gloria Chang-Wade, Gordon Freed, Michael Greenebaum, Mary Kersell, Lisa Kleinholz, Constance Kruger, Joan Ross Logan, Andrew Melnechuk, Faythe Turner, Marilyn Gonter, Carol Gray, Jeffrey Lee, Alice Morse, Robert Quinn, James Scott, Andrenne Terrizzi, Jane Ashby, Bart Bouricius, Pamela Crotty, Robert Todd Felton, Frank Gatti, Ruth Hooke, Jennifer McKenna, Eric Nakajima, Sonya Sofield, Mary Streeter, Barbara Berlin, Joseph Bodin, Felicity Callahan, Ben GROSScup, Mangala Jagadeesh, John and Peg Roberts, Amanda Singer, Molly Whalen, Edith Wilkinson, Anne Awad.
And to the other 50 Town Meeting members who checked in that night but abstained from this vote: If you don’t have the courage of conviction on this issue, how can we trust you to handle the mega-million budget discussions coming up next week?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

So typically Amherst, so very sad

Only in Amherst would town officials fly the rainbow flag in town center to celebrate gay marriage but reject flying American flags in the downtown on 9/11 to commemorate the 3,000 Americans killed (many of whom were gay) on that awful day.

On May 10, with no discussion, the Amherst Select Board voted unanimously to replace the United Nations flag (Yes, Amherst is one of a handful of municipalities that routinely flies the UN flag) in front of Town Hall with the Rainbow flag to celebrate the second anniversary of the State Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Last night over two-thirds of Amherst Town Meeting voted down the following resolution:

“To see if the town will strongly urge the Select board to allow the 29 commemorative flags to fly downtown (at half-staff) every 9/11 for as long as the Republic stands to commemorate the most devastating attack in our history.”

On the night of September 10, 2001 when the Amherst Select Board was setting the policy for when the commemorative flags could fly, Umass Professor Jennie Traschen branded Old Glory“…a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and repression.”

As she ambled back to her seat, Phyllis Daley said in an angry motherly tone: “Shame on you!”

A sentiment that now applies to Amherst town government.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Let the Invasion begin...

After twenty years of mostly sniping interspersed with an occasional all out battle I’m used to reaching down deep for a little extra determination when the going gets tough, so having the Town Clerk reject a dozen or so names out of just over 200 on a Special Town Meeting petition article was no big deal.

Yesterday morning I turned in more than enough to cover what I thought was the remaining 11 needed. So I called the town clerks office at 1:30 figuring it should not take long to check the dozen names submitted, but was told they were busy and to check back the next day (today).

Then I get an email from the Select Board executive assistant Gail Weston saying the Special Town Meeting to discuss the deal the town manager rejected on the Cherry Hill Golf Course is set for June 6’th.

I called back the Town Clerk’s office and ask for verification that the names were okay and I’m told they cannot confirm or deny anything and to ask Gail Weston. Now that was weird.

Gail then confirms that since the Select Board had scheduled a Special Town Meeting or two anyway all I needed to get on the warrant was 100 signatures, not the 200 eventually turned in.

Oh well, the hotter the fire the stronger the steel.

The warrant article (sponsored by Amherst Taxpayers For Responsible Change) for the special town meeting reads:

To see if the town will strongly urge the Select board to strongly urge the town manager to accept the recent bid of Niblick Management for privatization of the Cherry Hill Golf Course with a new condition allowing for a three year contract; and if Niblick is no longer interested, to reissue the new RFP (with the three year provision) before September 1, 2007
From: Weston, Gail Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 3:01 PM
Cc: Musante, John;; Harrison Gregg; Shaffer, Larry; Chalfant, Linda; Carlozzi, Alice
Subject: Special Town Meeting Petition Article

Your Cherry Hill petition has been inserted on the STM scheduled for 7:30 p.m., June 6, 2007.

Sent: Tue, 15 May 2007 3:09 PM (reply all)
Subject: Cherry Hill Petition

Larry Kelley --

I'm sure you'll make something of D-Day the sixth of June.

Please be aware that articles 39 and 40 will definitely come up this Wednesday night.

Harrison L. Gregg
Moderator, Town of Amherst

Wed, 16 May 2007 8:53 AM (reply all)

Yes Mr. Moderator, I do consider the historically significant date of June 6’th a good omen in my 20 year war against the public subsidy of an expensive recreational endeavor.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Suicide is Painless

Last night as the economic summit between the Select Board, School, Library, and Finance Committees met next door (they got the bigger room) the Amherst Redevelopment Authority voted 3-1 not to commit suicide by passing my motion to oppose Town Meeting Warrant Article #32, calling for our “abolishment.”

Vince O’Connor, who crafted our death sentence, showed up fashionably late and insisted he had no personal feelings one way or the other about the ARA. But, of course, he also insists he did not know anything about acquiring 18 write-in votes in the March 28 election where I knowingly ran a successful last minute campaign with 67 write-in votes.

Mr. O’Connor thinks the ARA (4 elected and 1 governor appointee) has “too much power for folks to get elected by write in." I pointed out that the two most recent examples (going back a decade) consist of Curt Shumway, who was originally elected with over 1,000 votes but then forgot to get his nomination papers in on time for reelection; and little old me who was the governor's appointee for over 10 years.

Mr. O’Connor also thinks that since the ARA has not met in two years to exercise all that “power” we should be put out to pasture.

Let’s hope for consistency sake Mr. O’Connor’s next target for extermination is the Cherry Hill Advisory Committee, who have not met in THREE years (when the ailing Golf Course is critically in need of “advisory” help) and currently has SIX vacant positions out of seven.

Interestingly the town provided legal council for the meeting and we were informed that the ARA powers likely extend beyond only the downtown. So we could get involved in Village Centers in North or South Amherst or that somewhat run down area coming in to Amherst from the east.

But even is we simply stick to town center, there’s lots to be done. And with the Town Commercial Relations Committee now revived we could make a potent one two combo for commercial development—something Amherst desperately needs.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Where have all the flowers gone?

Darkness descended on our contented neighborhood. Ann, affectionately known as Annie, John Gedmin’s wife of 57 years, and somewhat lesser years in other roles: Mark’s mother for 52, Amherst Farmers Supply bookkeeper for 44 and my neighbor for 16, is gone.

No longer will she perch on that seasonally enclosed front porch in her rocking chair and watch the world go by, or shout her unmistakably warm greeting to me as I cycle past returning home after another tour of our Happy Valley.

And at age 81, having lived her entire life in that house, she witnessed so many changes…some good some not so good.

Originally our house in back was the storage barn for the 19’th century Trolley that connected Amherst to Sunderland, Northampton and Holyoke. Currently the brick building is occupied by Amherst’s Department of Public Works. Just after the War (WW11)Ann’s brother converted the barn to a residence. We are only the third family to call it home.

John Gedmin spent his working career as an Amherst Police officer. Between the wake and funeral almost the entire Amherst police department turned out to pay their respects. Former Chief Don Maia and current Chief Charlie Scherpa acted as pallbearers, and as the motorcade crossed the intersection on the Hadley border officers directing traffic stood at attention and snapped off a salute.

Yes, Amherst has grown and changed dramatically since Annie commenced and concluded her life nurtured within those comfortable, safe surroundings--now left so hollow by her departure.

But the lilacs she so loved were in bloom, as their radiant lifecycle continues…

Friday, May 11, 2007

A road runs through it...

The most expensive lawsuit in the history of the town is, finally, finished. Last week the Supreme Judicial Court denied the application of Leigh F. Andrews for Further Appellate Review of the Appeals Court overturning his expensive, longshot victory against Amherst in Boston Land Court for Spot Zoning.

The good news for Amherst taxpayers is Mr. Andrews separate million-dollar damages lawsuit in Hampshire Superior Court is now moot. The bad news for Amherst taxpayers is that NO property owner is now safe.

If the part-time, do-gooder, too-much-time-on-their-hands Amherst Town Meeting can rezone land that floods after once-in-a-lifetime Hurricane Floyd, they can now “protect from development” almost anything.

With costs like this nobody came out a winner: Amherst taxpayers lost $125,000 in legal bills and Mr. Andrews’s tab, astonishingly, topped $500,000.

This even longer shot of taking it all the way to the Supreme Court (they agreed to review only 2 of 57 cases recently) cost a couple thousand more. But, after you hit the half-million mark, you have nothing to lose.

And Mr. Andrews had powerful allies--known as “Amicus Briefs”-- in this attempt: The Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and Attorney William Hovey who literally wrote the encyclopedia of Massachusetts Real Estate Law.

With the legalization of FPC Zoning (Flood Prone Conservancy) NIMBY’s now possess the ultimate WMD. Somebody call in the Marines!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Great Lawn Sign Caper: Robin Hood Excuse

The kid says it was nothing but mischief but he still justifies it by suggesting he was doing the schools a favor. And if it was just mischief why go to the trouble of cutting out the “No” on the signs?

Of course he did the schools the ultimate disservice because some pundits would argue the resulting PR could have cost Overriders the margin of difference in the election.


Teenager linked to Amherst theft of override signs
By SCOTT MERZBACH staff Writer
AMHERST - Police have brought charges against an Amherst teenager they say may have been responsible for the theft of dozens of political signs last month.

A 17-year-old Amherst teen will be summoned to court on a charge of larceny under $250 as the result of his being identified in the theft of at least one "No More Overrides" sign from a West Street home on the night of April 21.

Because he is being summoned, his name has not yet been made public.

More than 75 of these political signs were taken from lawns between April 21 and 22, thefts that came little more than a week before the May 1 Proposition 21/2 debt-exclusion override for $2.5 million was defeated by voters.

Police Lt. Ron Young, head of the detective bureau, said the charges were filed after police recovered a cell phone found by the West Street homeowner.

"The cell phone recovered by a resident at the scene of the larceny produced information that tracked us back to this 17-year-old youth," Young said.

Young said the motivation for the boy's actions appeared to be primarily to cause mischief, though he said the boy attempted to justify the theft by expressing concern about the impact on the schools if the override were defeated.

Many of the signs, of which 150 had been placed on Amherst lawns on April 20, were later located at the high school, where they had been dumped and the word "no" had been cut out.

Young said other people may have been responsible for the thefts, but the boy that is being summoned has not identified any people who may have helped him.

"The investigation is continuing and we will follow any leads," Young said.

Being summoned to court means the boy will face a show cause hearing before a clerk magistrate, who will determine if an arraignment should be held.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Override Rage Continues

Richard Hood wrote:
Mon May 7 14:20:05 EDT 2007
I’m not sure I disagree with Larry on this (see his post and his last

I think it may make sense.

Richard B. Morse wrote back:
Mon May 7 17:14:44 EDT 2007:
It's up to you to assess the ethics of this, but every time you log on
to Larry's blog, you feed a beast in town, that is, Larry's addiction to
attention. He really has no interest in anything other than pissing you off and getting you to respond to him. He absolutely has no interest in solving our fiscal mess. He doesn't give a damn about your kids. He didn't attend ARHS and he has no intention of sending his daughter there. That does not disqualify him from commenting on Amherst matters, but.......

His blog is not about Amherst: it's about him.


OF course Mr. Morse is being a tad hypocritical. He did not attend Amherst Regional High School either. And he did not take his own advice about starving “a beast in town”. Because he lazily used the link Mr. Hood sent him I was able to get into their cyber war room.

My favorite early morning election dispatch, or “note from the field”, came from Select person Alisa Brewer titled: “Digital cameras are the devil” along with a link to this blog showing the van illegally parked at a polling station.

Another women reported a “heated debate” I was having with Middle Schools kids in town center that early afternoon. Three girls had crossed the intersection in town center towards me yelling to Overriders on the other side of the intersection, and when they got behind me one said in an extra loud tone “He shouldn’t be so f_cking ignorant!”

Yeah, nice talk from a pre-teen. But hey, Amherst was also the only High School in the nation to allow young girls to use the C-word in public.

That little Catholic school my mother had me bused over the river to taught: “As you sow so shall you reap.”

Monday, May 7, 2007

Thanks For The Advice

This morning’s Daily Hampshire Gazette, you know the paper that refused to defend Max Karson’s First Amendment right to say stupid things, is giving advice to Amherst town officials now that the Override (which they didn’t take a stand on but advised voters to vote since it was important) failed and Town Meeting starts tonight.

Of course in Saturday’s Gazette we read where Selectman Rob Kusner called Amherst School Committee chair Andy Churchill and threatened him (leaving a voice mail message; almost as dumb as dropping your cell phone at the scene of a crime) because he didn’t like Mr. Churchill’s frustrated comment immediately after the Override about the town having “no leadership.”

And we recently had Select person Hwei-Ling Greeney ask for Regional School Committee Chair Elaine Brighty to resign after she had spread malicious gossip about a School committee candidate she obviously didn’t want to get appointed (Chrystel Romero was appointed anyway).

Amherst town officials remind me of crabs in a bucket all trying to escape and when one almost makes it to the top the others grab and pull it back down.

Here’s the response I emailed this morning to the Gazette’s editorial writer:

In a message dated 5/7/07 5:59:17 AM, Amherst AC writes:

Yes, Amherst reserves are now at "3 Million" but a few one-time revenues are coming in or already have (Crocker Farm School State reimbursement and employee health contributions) that will elevate reserves to $4.3 million on June 30. So if on July 1 (first day of new Fiscal Year) we spend $1.3 million to help balance the budget then reserves drop back to $3 million. And if Moody's has not penalized us this year so far for only having $3 million in reserves (and I believe Northampton, a "community the size of Amherst" only has $2 million) why would they do it in FY08 for maintaining that very level?

The Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change is only suggesting a modest tapping of reserves (probably under $500,000) along with cuts of nonessential services.

Larry K

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Amherst's Great Lawn Sign Caper: Busted!

Under Police questioning (yeah, they work on Saturday's) the High School boy admitted that the harvesting of 75 political lawn signs was an orchestrated effort. Having run around South Amherst on election night retrieving signs and having only 25 or 30 to show for a couple hours of work, I figured one delinquent couldn't snatch overnight 75-100 spanning the 26 square miles of the People’s Republic of Amherst.

So tomorrow he will be summoned to court on a charge of larceny. Let’s hope the same judge who sentenced a rowdy Umass student (charged with disturbing the peace) to standing out in front of the Amherst Police Station wearing nothing but a toga hears this case. In addition to paying for the signs ($300) make him stand in town center at high noon for a couple hours on a Saturday holding a “No More Overrides” sign.

And I hope his Dad confiscates his cellphone.

Friday, May 4, 2007

We Got Him! (Amherst Cops did, that is)

The Lawn Sign Thief, an affront to the political process so important to this opinionated community has been bagged. Although… he claims that the sign where he dropped his cell phone and cigarettes was the ONLY one he stole that night (yeah, right), as part of a High School prank.

Interestingly enough, his High School just happens to be Amherst Regional High School main beneficiary of the $2.5 million Override the bright yellow and black lawn signs so declaratively opposed.

Obviously, since 75 to 100 signs disappeared overnight and this particular Perp is only admitting to snatching one, a larger conspiracy must have been afoot.

A janitor (who must not read the newspapers or Blogs) confirmed that he discovered numerous “No More Overrides” signs in the High School dumpster.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Override Post Mortem

So yeah, I’m a tad disappointed in the Override results (of course I would have blown my brains out if Yes won) because like President Johnson in the 1968 NH primary, we should have won BIGGER. The Town Manager previously stated (although I’m sure he’d like to take the arrogant comment back) that if the Override were not a blowout he would “give it a haircut” and return with a smaller one.

And I find it troubling that ‘The Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change’ did everything right and the Overriders did almost everything wrong, and they still came within a “moderate margin” of winning. Some of those last minute votes, however, were won via shady tactics.

For instance, a last minute oversized postcard direct mailer stole our yellow and black bumblebee design, so successfully used in our “No More Overrides” lawn signs.

Particularly troubling the postcard using all the clichéd Spin carried the following prominently placed statement: “Endorsed by Amherst Town Manager, Amherst Select board, Amherst Superintendent of Schools, Amherst School Committee, and Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee”.

Now leaving aside for the moment that the Select board only voted 3-2 in support of the Override, that statement makes it look as though those important boards endorsed the Postcard itself. Like those political television commercials that now require the candidate to say “and I approved this smaltzy ad” at the end of the commercial.

‘The Amherst Plan Committee’ also raised and spent money before they were legally authorized to do so.

Fortunately we asked our contributors at the very beginning if we should spend all our money now or hold some in reserve for the NEXT Override (everybody except ‘The Amherst Plan Committee’ seemed to get why we specifically used the pleural “Overrides” on the lawn signs.)

The almost unanimous response was to use it all now and they would recontribute the same amount if the Override returns in the next year or two. So we’re ready, and since the second wave of lawn signs had an unusually low rate of theft, we probably don’t even have to reorder any for the next battle.

Although I’m sure ‘The Amherst Plan Committee’ will not make the same monumental blunder twice, and will order lawn signs. Let’s hope they don’t steal our angry bumblebee motif again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Override Epilogue (by the numbers)

Precinct 1: 138 Yes, 120 NO
Precinct 2: 301 Yes, 361 NO
Precinct 3: 139 Yes, 151 NO
Precinct 3-A 1 Yes, 0 NO
Precinct 4: 148 Yes, 106 NO
Precinct 4-A: 1 Yes, 0 NO
Precinct 5: 165 Yes, 251 NO
Precinct 6: 382 Yes, 395 NO
Precinct 7: 278 Yes, 366 NO
Precinct 8: 456 Yes, 584 NO
Precinct 9: 257 Yes, 207 NO
Precinct 9-A: 0 Yes, 3 NO
Precinct 10: 114 Yes, 106 NO
Precinct 10-A: 3 Yes, 0 NO

NO win 2650 to 2383 a difference of 267 votes from 5,033 votes cast. Total turnout 31% (about as good as it EVER gets for a local election). 2004 Override won by much narrower margin 90 votes and had only 4,000 total votes cast (28% turnout)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

And the winner is...

So the results are in: We won. Out of over 5,000 votes cast the ‘No More Overrides’ side garnered 2,647 to the freespenders 2,378 Yes votes, a difference of 269. And in America, the rule simply says 50% plus one. The turnout was greater than 30%, which is almost double that of a normal local Amherst election and greater than the turnout in 2004 when a $2.5 million Override narrowly passed (by only 90 votes).

God how I love to live in America, where every individual (voter) counts.

Overriders are going down fast.

So the polls closed less than an hour ago. As of this posting (8:45 pm) the NO side won BIG in two LARGE precincts (out of 10):

Precinct 7: 278 YES, 366 NO with a 42% turnout (that's great by Amherst standards).
Precinct 8: 456 YES, 584 NO with about a 50% turnout (that is tremendous).

As Frank would sing: "And now, the end is near...and so I face the final curtain..."

What's it all about Alphie?

Voter turnout thus far is better than average. Heavy in Precinct 8, a conservative precinct.

Calling all cars, calling all cars

Whoever owns this vehicle, parked to increase visibility for the Overriders but dangerously decreases visibility of folks pulling out of Crocker Farm School (and voting precinct) you better move it. The Precinct Warden is calling it in.

Go Ask Alice...

-----Original Message-----
From: abnm@XXXXXXXXX
Sent: Mon, 30 Apr 2007 8:27 AM
Subject: No Override Signs

I have been following the sign saga and think it’s pretty low of someone to take have taken them.

I also would not think too highly if money from my husband’s Amherst Athletic Club dues helped pay for them. If the No Override prevails I will be working on him to join me at Gold’s Gym.

Charter schools are terrific. However, the same people who send their kids there knowing it takes money away from the Amherst Public Schools might think about also supporting the education of ALL kids in any way they can. That means supporting ‘The Amherst Plan’ and not hanging the rest of us out to dry.

Alice B. XXXXX

So in spite of childish threats like this I hope and pray that today’s outcome is the most decisive in the history of local politics in The People’s Republic Of Amherst.

I suppose if Alice can afford family memberships at Gold’s Gym (their rates are significantly higher than mine) she can afford this Override. Unfortunately many folks in town, many of whom have lived here their entire lives, cannot afford this significant tax increase.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”