Sunday, September 30, 2007

Go to Hell "Sgt." Anderson!


In a message dated 9/29/07 8:26:30 AM, x2general8@hotmail.com writes:

With a very desperate need for assistance, I have summed up courage to contact you.I am an army Sgt. from FortHood Tx. now serving with the third infantry contingent mission stationed in Iraq. I actually found your contact in a business journal. I am seeking your experience and assistance to evacuate the sum of $5.5 Million United Sates Dollars to USA or any other safe country. This is no stolen funds, and there are no risks involved.
SOURCE OF FUNDS:
During the third month of the raid here in Iraq, myself and some few other soldiers while conducting a routine search in a location near one of Saddam`s old palaces, uncovered large sums of money buried in barrels with piles of weapons and ammunitions which we believed must have been part of Saddam's hidden treasure. We agreed not to turn over the cash or declare it to our superiors since there is noting we could do having considered that there is no amount or kind of compensation that can make up, quantify, or justify the risks we have taken with our lives in this hell hole.
I was given the sum of $5.5 Million Dollars as my own share out of the large sums discovered, and had nowhere to conceal such bulk monies here, so I had to employ the services of a contact by a British colleague. The said contact facilitated the movement of the funds to a safer location entirely outside Iraq. One passionate appeal I will make to you is not to discuss this matter with a third party, should you have reasons to reject this offer, please destroy this email, as any leakage of this information will be too bad for me. I do not know for how long we will remain here, and I have survived two suicide bomb attacks by the grace of God.
It may be difficult for us to communicate on phone for security reasons, so as soon as I am sure you are willing to help, I will guide you with more information. But only when I ascertained your seriousness to commit your time in seeing to the success of this. We shall also discuss about percentage when it is convenient to do so,until I hear from you, more information shall be supplied to you.
Respectfully,
Tanner Anderson.

Tanner,

If indeed you are a member of the US Military—which I most sincerely doubt—you have embarrassed yourself, your family, and your country. And as they say in our national pastime, “three strikes and you’re out.”

To use the Iraq war and the thousands of casualties produced when men and WOMEN have given their “last measure of devotion,” as new wrapping on an old scam is disgusting.

I can only hope the Military Police, FBI and CIA are equally offended.

Disrespectfully,

Larry Kelley

Friday, September 28, 2007

Abracadabra: vanishing tax $



Frat Row Then: (when privately owned)
Total amount property tax paid Amherst in FY07: $32,309.44




Frat Row Now: (Publicly owned by Umass)
Property tax Amount will pay in FY08 and the rest of eternity: $00

Stick THAT up your "strategic agreement."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A shortsighted (blind as a bat) editorial

Perhaps I should stop referring to the Gazette as “crusty” (a term I stole from reporter Mary Carey). Yesterday’s editorial was hardly supportive…amazing! Most newspapers consider Conflict Of Interest and Open Meeting laws sacred.

And crusty--I mean the Gazette--has yet to weigh in on the ridiculous circumvention of Open Meeting Law by Umass Trustees powwowing at a private "retreat."

The editor seems to buy the spin generated by the Umass Public Relations Department (most notably former Gazette political reporter Pat Callahan) and they continue to use the $140,000 per year as the net “unanticipated revenues,” failing to factor in the loss of $37,800 with the effluent water waiver.

But the real loss is FAR greater than that. Umass paid Amherst $37,800 last year for the effluent used in their tired old steam plant (to provide heat in the winter). The new Super Plant will provide both steam heat AND year-round electricity. So their use of Amherst effluent will AT THE VERY LEAST DOUBLE.

And Amherst just increased across-the-board the water rates by 25%, so even if usage stayed the same Umass would pay $50,000 next year. But since usage will now DOUBLE the Select board with their 3-2 vote on 9/17 flushed down the toilet $100,000 per year for the next five years.

Hadley charges top water users $4.85/100 cubic feet or better than 50% more than Amherst charges Umass. If our illustrious water/sewer commissioners simply decide to institute that rate for high-end users in Amherst, Umass would pay us an ADDITIONAL $500,000 for potable water and $150,000 for effluent water this year.

Now that would really encourage conservation.

UPDATE (9/28/07): The Umass Trustee's saw the light and decided to open to the public their upcoming "retreat". Maybe Crusty had a little to do with it as they at least mentioned the controversy on Page One not to long ago (but their editorial department was asleep at the wheel)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A stinky case of conflict: the pressure builds


So the crusty old Gazette is keeping up. And I love the placement of the two related stories in today’s edition (both above the fold): ‘Early Call on Amherst gap: $1.9M’ and my conflict of interest story: ‘Complaint Widens On Board Vote.’

Yeah, it all comes down to money. And nobody in bureaucracy (that runs on tax dollars) seems to give a damn about the taxpayers.

For instance, Town Officials insist on using the $140,000 figure as an annual net gain from the Umass “strategic partnership” completely ignoring the $37,000 in effluent water freebies they gave Umass in return.

Duh! So according to this taxpayers math, Umass is only paying us $100,000--on an annual impact of well over one million.

The first question reporter Scott Merzbach asked was why I filed another expanded complaint? Well...since I did bet the Town Manager on this blog on Saturday that the state would overturn the 3-2 Select board vote of 9/17, I am simply hedging my bet in the million-to-one chance the reticent Town Manager actually takes my bet.

Now there are three good reasons that vote needs to be redone: Ms. Brewer did not file her disclosure with the Town Clerk , Ms. Brewer made the motion that night and it was seconded BEFORE she whispered her public disclosure, and NO MATTER WHAT Professor Kusner should not vote PERIOD.

And if the Select board is not trying to cover its tracks and rewrite history then why did Ms. Brewer and Mr. Kusner sneak into the Town Clerk's office two days ago to file the disclosure form they should have filed on the 17’th? I use the word sneak because if they thought there was nothing wrong with that then why not call a press conference for the occasion? This blogger would certainly have covered it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

In their own words: A conflict of interest.

State Ethics Commission, Enforcement Division
One Ashburton Place
Room 619
Boston MA 02108
September 24, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam,

I wish to amend and expand my original complaint filed 9/20/07. About an hour after I faxed the document the Amherst Town Clerk called to say they had found a third disclosure form filed by Selectman Kusner dated 4/19/05, (unrelated to the Umass effluent water issue voted 9/17/07). Mr.Kusner also filed another form today thus bringing his current total to four.

Curiously, in his public disclosure on 9/17/07, Mr. Kusner claimed to have a single “blanket disclosure on file” (with the town clerk). The one he filed today does have a caption "Categorical Disclosure."

I also wish to expand my complaint to include Selectman Alisa Brewer because her husband is a full-time employee at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Ms. Brewer acknowledged (although not very clearly and barely audible to the television audience) her potential conflict at the Selectboard meeting 9/17/07 but only after she had already made the motion and it had been seconded by Select Board chair Gerry Weiss (both who later voted in favor) and only after prodding from Selectman Greeney (who voted “no”).

And on 9/21/07 at http://alisaforamherst.blogspot.com/ she admitted, “While my written disclosure is not yet on file at the Town Clerk's office (and yes, of course I agree it would have been ideal to have it there already), it will be soon.” She, too, filed her (first) form this afternoon.

Since this admission shows a violation of the “appearance of potential conflict of interest” I would also ask the Ethics Commission to void Ms. Brewer’s vote taken 9/17/07.

Sincerely Yours,

Larry Kelley,
460 West St, Amherst, Ma. 01002
Amherst Town Meeting member, Amherst Redevelopment Authority, http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/
CC: Amherst Town Clerk, Amherst Select Board/Town Manager

Kira's BIG day


Couldn’t ask for a better day to celebrate a milestone for my little girl, as she turns six. Donna (the red head) and her "visiting scholar" Christine (Chinese name Zhengxin) put icing on the cake.




Muddy Brook Farm’s (and ubiquitous homegrown developer) Barry Roberts leads a wagon ride around the farm next door.



What do you expect as a gift from parents who own a Health Club? We test rode around the barriers on Lincoln Avenue (just kidding). And yes, she ALWAYS wears a helmet.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wanna bet?

So the lapdog Town Manager seems to think the State Ethics Commission will absolve the Select board of any conflict of interest and allow the 9/17 3-2 vote to gift Umass $200,000 in effluent water to stand. Okay, I’ll bet you $10,000 that the vote is negated (all proceeds to charity of course). What say you Mr. Shaffer?

http://www.masslive.com/hampfrank/republican/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1190446477244660.xml&coll=1

Friday, September 21, 2007

Let the chips fall...

So my “sensible center” friends (meaning they lean to the left but not enough to fall over) are suggesting I pick my battles more carefully. Hmmmm.

While Town Meeting is exempt from state conflict of interest law (because of a large membership) I would still abstain from a vote on the school budget if I were a teacher, or the public safety budget if I were a firefighter or cop. That’s just the way I am. In fact, anytime I speak against Leisure Services recreation empire I always remind folks that I run a private sector health club business—you know the kind that pay taxes to the town rather than consumes them.

But is this whistle blowing purely political? Am I targeting Mr. Kusner for political extinction? And could it backfire by generating a groundswell of support for the poor math professor (who absent mindedly forgot to file the disclosure form with the Town Clerk this time)?

No, no, and no way in Hell!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tell it to the Judge



State Ethics Commission, Enforcement Division
One Ashburton Place
Room 619
Boston MA 02108
September 20, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam,

I wish to file a formal complaint and request a ruling by your office on a conflict of interest regarding Amherst Selectman Robert B. Kusner concerning a crucial vote taken Monday, September 17’th.

That night the Amherst Select board (acting in their role of Sewer Commissioners) voted 3-2 to waive effluent water charges for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for an annual savings of $37,000. Since this is a five-year agreement, Amherst taxpayers forfeit $200,000.

Robert Kusner is a full-time professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (thus a “special state employee”); therefore his decisive vote significantly benefited his employer.

On two previous occasions (7/25/05 and 3/1/06) where the “appearance of potential conflict of interest” may have existed, Selectman Kusner filed a disclosure form with the Amherst Town Clerk as required by M.G.L. c. 268A outlining the mitigating facts to explain why no such conflict exists.

In this particular case, however (which I believe goes well beyond merely the “appearance of potential conflict of interest”), Mr. Kusner did not file any such form with the Town Clerk. Since Professor Kusner’s vote was the tiebreaker-deciding vote, I would ask the Commission to void the action taken by the Amherst Select board.

Sincerely Yours,


Larry Kelley, 460 West St, Amherst, Ma. 01002
Amherst Town Meeting member, Amherst Redevelopment Authority, http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/
CC: Amherst Town Clerk, Amherst Select Board/Town Manager

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Send in the clowns


http://www.inamherst.com/

Having just read Stephanie’s stenography of the illustrious Select Board meeting Monday night I now regret leaving so quickly.

At least two of them (former-Czar Awad and Greeney), FINALLY, get it and voted against giving Umass free gray water when previously they paid $37,000. YES, they should simply reinstitute the higher charges for water consumption, at the rate Hadley charges for it’s top level water users (that some households fall into); and that alone would equal the entire net gain from this ludicrous “strategic agreement.”

The diffident town manager thinks Umass would walk away from the “deal” if the Sewer Commissioners (that would be our illustrious Select board) didn’t support the gray water fee waiver. Now if the vote had been 2-2 then it would NOT have passed.

And last I looked Rob Kusner is a highly paid professor at Umass, Amherst. Hmmm…

Later Mr. Kusner (what’s with the dress shirt and tie?) defended his meddling in the Lincoln Avenue speed cushion experiment by trotting out a ten-year old Amherst Town Meeting resolution praising cycling and encouraging bike lanes.

But did they say you had to have a three-foot wide bike lane the entire length of the route? Unless you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol any idiot can negotiate a one-foot wide by three-foot long safe passageway around the cushions. Yikes!

And of course his Lordship Mr. Weiss closed the meeting with a plug for the “Public Forum for Budget Priorities” tomorrow night at Town Hall. Yeah, like they’re going to learn something (and even if they did, would they act on it?).

ALL the “Public Forums” seemed to indicate overwhelming support for the May 1’st property tax Override; and we see how well that turned out. Sometimes tealeaves are simply tealeaves.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Smells like...victory

So I was two for two last night at the illustrious Amherst Select board meeting.

At 6:40 pm I was on the agenda to request the SB (that’s shorthand for Select board) designate the intersection in South Amherst, where the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School just opened, a “school zone” so the DPW can go nuts with signage. They unanimously agreed, but thought there may be a step or two more in the process so they would get back to me.

And at 7:00 we had the joint meeting between the SB and Amherst Redevelopment Authority a quasi-state agency thankfully independent of town government to replace an open seat. Great minds must think a like as we unanimously voted in Peg Roberts (an icon in downtown development).

And nothing should be made of the fact that she was the only applicant. Since it was known very early on she had applied anybody else with lesser qualifications--that would be the entire town--would have thought twice about even bothering. And (Schools take note) qualifications count.

All in all a great night for a troublemaker like me, who occasionally receives “payback” via a totally different issue: For instance, I think the shameful two-thirds vote of Amherst Town Meeting not to fly the flags on 9/11 was more an anti-Larry Kelley vote than it was against the flag, coming only two weeks after the May 1’st property tax Override (to “save our schools”) went down in flames.

Well at least kids will be safer in South Amherst; and now we can get to work expanding the downtown-parking garage.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

To Hell with Bank of America, and their little branch too.


With a footprint less than the width of two parked cars my 5-year-old daughter once again summed it up best dubbing the new-and-definitely-not-improved Bank of America “A Kira sized building”.

Maybe for a Grand Opening they could hire the remaining ‘Wizard of Oz’ munchkins and—if they can still skip around—change their tag line to “follow the red brick road.” Or if Linda Carter is still available she could squeeze into her ‘Wonder Woman’ costume and be the official sliding door greeter (a la Wal Mart).

But yeah, I have to agree with Mary and her daughter; it also looks like a bad crosspollination between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut; either of which, at least, would have live human beings inside.

And I guess it’s no coincidence that Bank Of America (#1 nationwide for ATM locations) just raised ATM fees to $3. Considering this Amherst location, at the gateway to Umass, attracts lots of students and the bank has almost zero overhead, this facility will be highly profitable—for Bank Of America. Not, unfortunately, for our community.
http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/2007/07/to-hell-with-bankofamerica.html

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lassie come home!


Okay folks, anybody from outside Amherst just keep moving along…as the cops at an accident scene say: “Nothing to see here.”

BUT: if you live around my old Amherst stomping ground—High Street, Gray Street, Main Street (otherwise known as “Crow Hill”, where the Irish hung out) could you keep an eye-or-two out for this pooch?

She’s an “indoor dog” with medical problems and her owner has terminal cancer (No, I’m not writing a screenplay here--oftentimes truth is stranger than fiction)

Call Amherst PD at 259-3000 (and please hurry as the police will have their hands full later this evening with noise/party/riot situations).

Drive Fast and Die! (only in Amherst)

Police with guns would certainly drive home the theme. So all the residents of Lincoln Avenue need do to slow down traffic is leave lots of food outdoors to attract the bears that in turn will attract lots of police with guns.

And then we can expand the marketing concept to address rowdy late night partying in the immediate neighborhoods around Umass: "Party Fast and Die!" Hobart Lane (non-student) residents should leave out lots of food to attract the bears…

Thursday, September 13, 2007

9/13/07

In my Umass journalism class twenty-five years ago (taught by a Springfield Union News reporter) I was taught that editors “never apologize and never explain.” Her other favorite saying was “Don’t mess with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

In today’s Daily Hampshire Gazette, editor in chief Jim Foudy, in a rare appearance in ink, came as close to an apology as a veteran editor ever comes for their idiotic placement of the 9/11-conspiracy story that dominated the Front Page on the anniversary of that awful Tuesday morning.

And based on the volume of flack they so deservedly received, it’s clear that their other story that day about the significance of 9/11 fading in folks memory also missed the mark.

The Gazette should simply have run this comic strip to apologize:
http://www.beetlebailey.com/images/flag.swf

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9/12/07


So before ‘The Day After’ concludes I wanted to post this addendum--my last concerning 9/11…well, at least until next year.

After snapping this photo today at Big Y, my favorite grocery store, I stopped in to get food for home and paper supplies for the athletic club and reluctantly mentioned to my favorite bagger (a long-time Amherst resident) that the flag should probably come back up to full staff.

In a reverent tone the cashier related to me that yesterday, on 9/11, at 8:46 am they observed a Moment of Silence in the store (chain-wide I’m sure.) Just another reason I love the Big Y.

And yesterday in Amherst town center, standing in the rain holding an American flag (although not nearly as large as the one at Big Y) at about THAT very moment I had already received about a half-dozen positive responses from drivers, when I received my first negative—the middle finger.

Yikes! About then I thought if I finished my two-hour observance with a 10-1 positive response ratio, that would be fine. Another idiot (with tie-dye t-shirt, anti-Bush, anti-war bumper stickers on his Volvo) pulled over to complain I should not be exposing an American flag to the rain. Yeah, like he was coming from a position of reverence.

All in all the thumbs up, car horn beeps, or smiling waves numbered 46 and the negatives (middle finger and the yahoo who complained about the flag in the rain) amounted to only three.

Not bad, not bad at all. There’s definitely hope for the People’s Republic of Amherst after all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11/07: Some remembered

I’m glad it rained today, that way nobody could discern the tears as a group of Amherst firefighters came to attention and saluted the flag hanging limply at half-staff as a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace”.

I took time out of my vigil in town center marking the two hours of the attack to attend the somber ceremony at Central Station--also attended by the Town Manager and only one of five Select board members.

No, it was not Anne Awad who told Town Meeting on May 16’th (the night they decided against flying flags on 9/11) how she considered having the main town flag at half staff sent a powerful enough signal, and reverently reported having brought the flag down to that symbolic position with her very own hands.

But as of 10:30 this morning (the end of the attack), the town flag was still at full staff. And so it goes in the People’s Republic of Amherst.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

One American's response to Osama Big Laudanum


Anytime, anyplace you despicable, vain coward. No AK-47's, no blades, no grenades. Just us two: mano e mano. Your cave or mine.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Evel Knievel rides again!

As usual, the glitch with anything relating to transportation in Amherst rests with Select Man Rob Kusner. He pressured the DPW into abandoning the normal installation specifications for the “speed cushions” on Lincoln Avenue out of concern for cyclist.

Well, as you can see, that concern was ill founded. But it also has to make you wonder: if a 19 pound bike can deal with these obstacles at 25 mph then multi-thousand pound vehicles will not be overly impressed.

And the bumper sticker campaign is a tad wordy and whimpy: “Drive slowly to respect Amherst neighborhoods”. How about the more declarative: “Drive fast and die!”
video

(Easily) Running the Lincoln Ave Gauntlet

If you consider 45 mph calm then the new traffic cushions on Lincoln Avenue work great…but somehow I don’t think that’s what Phil Jackson and neighbors have in mind.

Tomorrow I officially become a “soccer Dad” (ugh) so naturally for the occasion we purchased a new Town and Country mini-van. So maybe it has the same axle width of a fire truck (but somehow I doubt it) in order to straddle the speed cushions as easily as I just did.

But I also witnessed some small sedans and compacts straddle the bumps as well. Can we get our money back?
video

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What are they afraid of?


Did they worry I would stage something symbolic: arrive bearing American flags or perhaps wearing a parody T-shirt (the pirate flag over town hall) or just that I would feel compelled to mention that Monday, September 10’th marks the sixth anniversary of the Select Board’s ill-timed decision to restrict the display of 29 commemorative flags in our Rockwellian downtown?

Wednesday morning I noticed a Select Board meeting posted for that night. So I emailed Katy and was told it had been cancelled. I had forgotten that because of my Open Meeting Law complaint the Select Board now posts the Zoning Meetings they wish to crash (and two did last night--but that’s one shy of a quorum).

So then I requested time for the next available routine meeting of the Select Board that just happens, coincidentally enough, to be the evening of September 10—The Eve of Destruction.

A Umass Physics Professor once tabulated everyone who spoke during an entire Town Meeting ten years or so ago. And yes, I came in #1 for number of times speaking BUT I also came in #1 for least amount of time, on average, per speech. Vince O’Connor, not surprisingly, came in as the most longwinded.

I’m brief and to the point. It would have taken me less than three minutes (standard time allowed on the floor of Town Meeting and recently suggested quota for Select Board public discussions) to press my case for declaring this busy intersection in South Amherst a School Zone.

But then, that would have left me an extra minute or so, at an open microphone, on live TV, on an auspicious anniversary. Hmmm…


In a message dated 9/5/07 9:44:52 AM, Amherst AC writes:
Hey Kate,

Can I get on the agenda for September 10'th to talk about making Pomeroy Lane intersection with Rt. 116 a School Zone so the DPW can paint a crosswalk and put up a "school zone" sign???
Larry

From: Seaman, Katherine
To: AmherstAC@aol.com
Cc: gerryweiss@comcast.net; Manager, Town
Sent: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 12:00 pm
Subject: Agenda Request

Hi Larry,

Your item will be heard at the September 17, 2007 Select Board meeting; more information about times, etc will follow. If you have any questions, please contact Gerry Weiss, or Laurence Shaffer.

Thank you!
~Kate

Ask and you shall receive!


The DPW gremlins were busy last night! Thanks guys (and gals)!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Yet another Amherst DPW request


Now that the Groff Park Comfort Station is, finally, done and all the potholes have been filled and the $8,000 Ski Jumps, errr, I mean Speed Cushions have been deployed on Lincoln Avenue...



can we get a Crosswalk, School Zone signs and maybe a flashing yellow light down here in South Amherst at the bustling intersection now home to three schools?

The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School has to cross the street to get to their recreation/recess space (sometimes twice per day), and some parents also cross the same busy street on drop off or pick up.



I’ll be happy to paint the crosswalk myself but as you can see from yesterday’s upload, construction projects are not my forte.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why they call it Labor Day


Okay, so I didn’t spend Labor Day cleaning up my office (God knows it could use it, however). But I did spend a few hours repairing the wood floor in the cavernous downstairs Aerobic Room.

We installed about 600 square feet (who needs professionals right?)to the existing 1,200 square feet six months ago and five or six feet buckled (earthquake perhaps). But now that the Chinese Immersion Charter School uses the room for Physical Education, I want it to be perfect.

Or as those famous House builders would say: “close enough for South Amherst.”

Saturday, September 1, 2007

They're Baaaaaaack...


The 29 flags in town center and thousands of students. And I missed them both.

Yeah, it’s a certain sign that summer is coming to end when Amherst swells to its full population of 34,000 unchanged since 1980. What has changed in the last three decades is the summer population of Amherst is a lot higher—around 20,000—so we no longer simply roll up the streets after Memorial Day and our small businesses no longer hang signs on front doorways saying “gone fishing until Labor Day”.

The students (and staff) revitalized the economy and the social scene in equal measure.

When I was a bouncer at The Pub 25 years ago the townies loved the summer because they briefly became Lords of the Manor. But on Labor Day the throngs returned and you had to wait in line to enter or to get a drink or even go to the bathroom.

And that was about the only time I had to get physical: to break up turf wars over this chair or that corner table, as the townies initially tried to hold on to summer memories.

But this morning the sun is perfectly radiant--the sky a stunningly clear light blue--and for a brief shining moment, all's well in the People’s Republic of Amherst. Welcome back.