Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wow, I'm somebody now!


The Valley Advocate, no less, gave me a Halo as opposed to Horn (which Town Mgr Larry Shaffer earned):

Granted, we wouldn't relish the idea of having Amherst blogger-provocateur Larry Kelley (onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com) lurking around our fence, snapping shots as we yank dandelions from the garden. But that doesn't mean that Kelley wasn't well within his rights to raise questions, and do some investigative reporting, about how Select Board member Anne Awad planned to represent the town now that she was selling her Amherst home and moving to South Hadley. Awad and her sympathizers branded Kelley's reporting "harassment," obscuring the very legitimate issue he raised.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why not Amherst?


You would think overly enlightened Amherst, where “only the h is silent,” could lead the way on issues concerning school improvement.

The schools are never very shy when it comes to asking for more money from residents, but an email suggestion box--that could turn up money saving ideas--is considered the Devil’s work.

Williamstown listens

Amherst does not

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A balmy New York excursion

The Chrysler Building beaming thru the flog
The Holland Tunnel was a sea of cars trying to become a narrow stream.
A New York Irish Pub. The perfect thing after a long drive in from Washington
A block from Rockefeller Center
The tree at Rockefeller Center
We take a Pedal Cab from the lights on Broadway to our car six blocks away

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Breaking News or Broken News?


Only in Amherst can you peruse a newspaper with nothing of note to report dated 12/26 on Tuesday evening 12/23.

Sooooooo…. if terrorists hijack a C-5 and torpedo Amherst Town Hall tomorrow, we would not read about it for a week-and-a-half in the venerable Amherst Bulletin.

Now you know why the bricks-and-mortar media (especially weeklies) are endangered.

Monday, December 22, 2008

When products compete...

So I of course have to wonder how all the folks who joined the original 'Golds Gym' in Amherst now ‘The Leading Edge’ (without a franchise fee) who are currently paying anywhere from $30 to $50 per month are going to like this new branch operation in Greenfield giving it away for $9.95 per month?



Not quite as large as the Amherst location but not that much smaller.

All That Glitters...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Amethyst Brook in a storm

1:30 PM
So there’s nothing like an hour-and-a-half -hike on snowshoes in the middle of a storm to clear out the cobwebs.
One of many bridges over the brook

With sharp teeth in front snowshoes allowing for easier climbing than with cross country skies.

A large meadow enclosed by forest

Ancient abandoned autos in the middle of nowhere

Downhill is also easier with snowshoes (at least to this non-skier)

One last bridge to cross

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When bad things happen

UPDATE Thursday 12/18 4:38 PM So I suppose if I were to headline this as a New Post I would use Shakespeare’s dark “For tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…” Because yeah, I’m depressed.

But if I titled this brief return-from-a posting-pause “Recovering,” local blog aficionados would remember the incident with pioneering guru Tommy Devine’s last upload a little over a year ago before he-- having entered rehab-- vanished for a month (and scared the Hell out of a lot of his devoted readers with such a L-O-N-G pause).

I have a wake to attend. And I would much rather cycle up Mt. Washington in the wintertime.
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Original Post 2 days ago:
So almost thirty years ago when I first thought about opening my karate school (that later morphed into a Health Club) a fatherly salesman gave me unsolicited counsel: the average number of funeral attendees was –I forget the exact number—somewhere around a dozen.

Therefor if you disappoint or anger a customer with lousy service, chances are they will share that gaff with at least the number of friends and relatives who will someday attend their funeral. Those folks will of course tell their friends and relatives, and so on.

These days on the Internet it’s called “going viral.”

I have been doing this blog for a little less than two years, so in Karate terms I’m still a Green Belt--and yeah--I’ve become pretty obsessed with my sitemeter (that is public by the way so feel free to click it.)

Sunday's "In Memory of..." post had the second highest number of unique visitors in my history (356), above weekly average by 100-125 (and more than double average for a Sunday, the slowest day of the week). But the number of folks who arrived here via a search engine was unprecedented. And over 100 of them (the vast majority) had sought information about 'David Pollack'.

They came from Amherst, Connecticut, Washington DC, California, the United Kingdom and lots of places in between. So I hope they found something of what they were looking for with Ed (all-things-UMass) posting under 'Comments' the heartfelt message from David's Umass Graduate Dean, or the link to Amherst Fire Department website. One great thing about the Net is you can tie together all these tiny islands of information.

Today the Gazette published his obituary (and Dick Johnson’s as well); but since they are a paid subscription operation (even on the Net) here's a Connecticut publication smart enough not to charge.

David Pollack remembered

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In Memory of...


So on some days I would just assume not open email or answer the phone or for that matter read the Gazette obituaries (yeah, I’m now at that age where I go there rather quickly.)

As of now I learned all three ways about that irrevocable thing we call--oftentimes only in a whisper--death. And the People’s Republic of Amherst is now ever so diminished by the loss of these three individuals.

From an email I learned of the sudden sad passing of Amherst Call Firefighter David Pollack (the song refrain “Only the good die young” springs to mind--but that would cast a shadow on the other two, who were not exactly young but still full of life the last time I saw them.)

I only met David a few times (the most recent 9/11 ceremony at the Amherst Central Fire Station was the last time) but we obviously shared that core respect for all things American that he was happy to tell me about and encourage me to fight on.

Homer Cowles, the quintessential Yankee Farmer, also passed last week that I was surprised to see in the Gazette. Strangely enough, in addition to forever farmer and long-time service in Town Meeting and a half-tenure as Select man he was also a former call firefighter who worked his way up to Deputy Chief in charge of training the Student and Call force (although retired by the time David Pollack came on board)

I can honestly say in my 15 + years enduring Town Meeting Purgatory, the ONLY person I ever looked forward to walking up to the podium to speak was Homer Cowles who just had that engaging homespun way of telling a story.

And my long-time neighbor--and even longer time commercial landlord--Dick Johnson, a larger than life kind of guy (who always wore a cowboy hat and at well over 6 feet tall let’s just say he stood out in a room) succumbed to cancer.

When I was a teen-ager living in the Amherst Irish enclave of Crow Hill, THE upper crust place to be (that my mother only dreamed about) was Echo Hill Development (built by Dick Johnson and his long-time partner Gerry Gates).

And as part of the attraction they had an indoor swimming pool and outdoor tennis courts that spun off from the housing development and became the stand-alone Hampshire Fitness Center, my main business competitor for the first ten or 15 years of my existence (now of course it is Ponzi scheme idiots like Planet Fitness)

Although he tried to stay below the radar over the past 40 years or so I did hear that in the late 70’s or early 80’s Dick ran for Select Board and lost. No big surprise since that was about the time Amherst started down the road to anti-business zealotry.

Rest in peace my three friends. You will be—and in fact already are--missed.


AmherstFD website

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Houston, we have a problem."

UPDATE: 11:50 AM Okay, as one or two of you noticed, I posted a hot link for Amherst School Committee contact info (apparently located on the old site) and for some reason the link just would not work. So then I simply went to the new site (you know the one that does not want an Electronic Suggestion Box) and was stunned to learn Amherst had cancelled school today regionwide. Yikes!

Hmmm…so I had no problem whatsoever getting my daughter to the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley this morning. What’s up with that? ‘The Powers That Be’ allow a health hazard to exist at Wildwood but they are ever so super-conservative about calling off school for a tiny snow dusting? And their security is such that anyone can walk in the front door unchallenged (well except for a sign saying report to the office first which is of course like a bank posting a sign at the entryway saying "please check masks and guns with the security guy sleeping in the corner.")

Well anyway, here’s the link to the fancy new District Web Page and somewhere on there you should be able to find contact info for the venerable Amherst School Committee. Tell them to do their job!

Amherst Regional Public Schools


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UPDATE: Friday morning 10:10 AM


So normally I update or correct at the Post in question. Somebody just emailed and wanted me to point out on my upload three days ago (an eternity in Internet time) about the School Committee nixing an electronic Suggestion Box should have mentioned that not all School Committee members voted against the common sense idea.

Well, I did reference Mary Carey’s article in the UltraCrusty Gazette (and will post hotlink to the repeat in today’s Bully). But she’s right. And I also think the entire issue is germane to this current controversy because parents with children at Wildwood could have used the Suggestion Box to request the schools abide by Public Health standards and provide hot water.

So just for the record: the two who voted in favor of hearing from the taxpayers who fund our expensive schools were: Catherine A. Sanderson (yes she’s also the ONLY one who voted against the School Committee's “retreat” next month--something that pushes the envelope on the Open Meeting Law.)

And Kathleen Anderson--who is nothing if not independent--also supported the idea of hearing from us little people (and apparently she will not attend the “retreat” because the facilitator is not of color.)

The Bully reports


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FINAL UPDATE
(for tonight) 11:04 PM: So the brand new Wal-Mart thermometer did not contain mercury and there was no broken glass to clean up (as it fell in the sink.) And—perhaps more important--I’m not a Pedophile, or a Stalker or even a “Town Provocateur. "

The initial Comment to this post (that published at 3:20 PM) occurred at 3:48 PM with great concern (not about the cold or dirty brown water that apparently has been the norm since September) but about the possible “mercury poison” from a tiny thermometer.

And when Co-Superintendent of Schools Al Sprague (who splits $125-K with his wife) called me at 4:18 PM on my unlisted home phone number he initially ranted about the mercury thermometer (and almost seemed disappointed to learn it contained no mercury). I particularly liked his antiquated line admonishing me to “act like a man” and talk to school officials “face to face”. Something I may soon take him up on.

When all is said and done, however, the simple fact remains: Wildwood’s “HOT” water temperature was ONLY 70 freaken degrees! How many of you nitwit Anon’s (or Gazette editor's for that matter) take a shower or bath in 70 degree water? And would you frequent a restaurant that washed dishes at such a sub-tepid temperature?

Sure you need to worry about scalding children (Co-Superintendent Sprague was shouting something about that as well) or even saving money on energy, but the cursory Google research I did on hot water and children’s safety routinely states: “If your water-heater setting is at a safe level (between 120°F and 125°F, you don't have to do anything. There is no advantage to setting the thermostat below 120°F.”

And what the Hell was the all that brown crap that came out of the other sink? When the Amherst DPW “flushes the lines” they always warn everybody there may be some sediment stirred up and to let the water run for a little while longer. I did not see that town-wide advisory this afternoon.

Former Czar Anne Awad tried to have me arrested for proving she moved to South Hadley (and where is she now?) to no avail; so school officials should forget ‘Attacking the Messenger’ and get down to solving the real problem: Wildwood has no hot water!
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UPDATE: 8:00 PM: Well the Comments are still coming fast and furious. I had to teach my wife’s Karate class (she’s in Mexico doing her other job—the one that pays) and I had children to feed (my own) and now need to put them to bed. But I will have one more UPDATE before the night is done.

UPDATE: 5:58 PM: The ‘Comments’ are coming fast and furious. I agree, in this post 9/11 world an adult should not be able to just waltz into an Elementary School and do whatever they please (even if only going to the bathroom).

Spin it any way you want: the need for more money via an Override to “save our schools” or “what the hell is going on here where water temperature is only 70 degrees and the color is a tad scary.” And if you can believe those damn anonymous folks on MassLive, this has been going on since SEPTEMBER!

So go ahead: beat up on the messenger (I can take LOTS of punishment); but something certainly ain’t right at Wildwood Elementary School in the People’s Republic of Amherst.
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UPDATE: 4:45 PM So I just got a call from Al Sprague “Interim Co-Superintendent of the Schools” who seemed a tad perturbed. He demanded to know if the thermometer contained mercury (and of course it did not) because he was about to send out a Hazmat Alert (can you imagine how much that would cost state taxpayers?)

Then he asked if I “signed in” to enter the building, which of course I did not. I pointed out that if you tried to enter the Pioneer Valley Chinese Charter Immersion School at 2:00 PM you would have to ring a buzzer to get in (the doors are only open at 8:15 AM for drop off and at 3:30 PM for pick up and the Principal is usually standing in the doorway greeting parents.)

He then threatens to get a “restraining order”. So I verbally assured him (with my almost 2-year-old daughter as witness) that if I ever feel the need to return to Wildwood Elementary School I would be happy to “sign in”. No restraining order necessary (that too cost money.)
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ORIGINAL POST 3:20 PM

I entered Amherst’s Wildwood Elementary School (the one my daughter almost attended if Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School had not found a roof over their head two years ago) at 2:00 PM with my camera in one hand and an empty clean glass and thermometer (brand new from Wal-Mart at 99 cents) in the other.

And I figured the kids all would all have had lunch by now and the Men’s bathroom probably had not seen a lot of use over the past hour or so. I was, once again, the only one in there for the entire time (about 6 minutes)

At my house, where I have a brand new home heating system including new water heater (my old one died about a month ago) I set the thermostat on my new water heater as low as it would go. Then I ran the hot water for 60 seconds captured some in a glass and gingerly lowered the thermometer in and waited 2.5 minutes. Temperature came to 98 degrees


Repeated that same exercise at Wildwood Elementary School: Temperature came to 70. Kind of a big difference.

Sorry for the blurry photo but I was holding the thermometer and white paper background in one hand and taking the photo with the other and then dropped the thermometer (and it broke) so I could not take another shot or two with different light settings. But trust me, the temperature read 70 degrees.

In the other sink (this bathroom had two) I ran the hot water and got that nasty looking reddish/brown water--and it felt as cool as the sink that I used in the temperature test.

Something is definitely amiss in the People's Republic.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do as I say! (Not as I do)


UPDATE: Thursday, 9:20 AM

So the Crusty Gazette did not cover /expose the health hazard going on since September at Wildwood Elementary School in this morning’s edition. Now you know why I call them Crusty.

But they did cover the “restructuring “ of our elementary schools proposal that somebody posted as a Comment yesterday (so I’m not sure if that qualifies as scooping them or not).

The article by Mary Carey is of course a lot more thorough than what you might find in the blogesphere but then that’s why she makes the big bucks. There was a, perhaps inadvertent, odd juxtaposition of paragraphs that I found illuminating:

Just keeping the schools running at the current level would require an increase of 7 to 8 percent in the $20.6 million budget. The schools will instead be aiming to increase the budget by only 2 percent over last year.

"I've never dealt with decreases of this size," the co-superintendent said.

Only in Amherst is a 2% budget increase considered a “decrease”
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ORIGINAL POST: Wednesday afternoon
So if you can believe those damn anonymous “spurious” and “ugly” comments posted on local online forums; well actually there’s only one, Masslive (Amherst) Forum, as the Crusty Daily Hampshire Gazette spiked their lively one seven years ago: Wildwood Elementary School (built in 1970), entrusted with over 400 Amherst children, has no hot water.

And furthermore, if you can believe another anonymous commenter who provided (in a journalistic sense—if you acknowledge anonymous sources) corroboration, they have been running on cold water since September!

I decided to be that investigative journalist I always wanted to be and took a trip up to Wildwood this afternoon, figuring a formal Freedom of Information request could take weeks.

Sure enough, no freaken hot water! And then I went back to recheck over an hour later (figuring maybe multitudeness kids used that bathroom and temporarily overwhelmed the hot water heater). The video is from the second visit.

Now if Puffton Village or Southpoint Apartments lost running hot water in the wintertime, the People’s Republic of Amherst Building Inspector would instantly shut them down. And since private management knows that, the problem would be corrected overnight.

Last month the US economy shed over 500,000 jobs--mostly from manufacturing, construction and retail. But, education and government actually experienced job growth. Ahhh…the dramatic difference between 'I'm-here-to-help-you' Government and the 'source-of-their-funding' Private Sector.

God help us!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Hear no evil


This from Mary Carey's article in Saturday's Crusty Gazette about the School Committee voting down an online suggestion box: " We don't see a need for a blind suggestion box, a blog site for people to complain," said Alton Sprague, interim co-superintendent, summing up the view expressed by a majority of School Committee members.

In his 40 years working in public schools, "nothing good has come from a suggestion box," Sprague said. Comments about school employees on local online forums have been "spurious," he said. And the tenor of some of the email officials have received in response to a fatality involving a school bus earlier this year and the coming closing of the middle school pool has been "ugly."

So you gotta wonder how the Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee, feels about that Old-School statement denigrating anonymous surveys—after all, the FCCC relied almost exclusively on the 497 responses from Amherst taxpayers to formulate their budget recommendations to the Select Board and Finance Committee.

Perhaps Mr. Sprague was a tad unhappy with the Masslive Amherst Forum “discussion” of the tragic bus accident that took the life of a toddler. Somebody questioned why the Sprague’s were on vacation at the Cape at the beginning of the school year; kind of like a Health Club owner taking off the first two weeks in January--the best month of the year for the industry (New Year’s resolutions.)

And somebody offered up as a defense their (slightly) advanced ages. Yikes!

The recent anonymous survey of town employees turned up problems with the Town Manager’s style of leadership and resulted in the Select Board at the very least suggesting he work on it.

Many industries specifically solicit employee feedback for cost containment and often will reward good ideas with a chunk of the money saved. That way everybody wins. If you don’t like what somebody writes then don’t act on it (other than to delete).

But how are you going to know what you don’t know if you refuse to even listen?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday, December the 7'th


Another one of those dates we should never, never, never forget.

Even if your knowledge of the awful event only comes from Hollywood movies, the sights and sounds reinforce the Hell that was “A date which will live in infamy”.

Had their never been a Second Wave of fighters and bombers swarming like angry bees—but way less effective because all the smoke from dying battlewagons now obscured the fleet--and even if the First Wave broke off the attack ten minutes into it, about half the personnel damage had been done.

The Arizona had already become a tomb for 1,177 of her crew.

UPDATE: 7:30 PM

So amazingly the People’s Republic of Amherst, unlike last year (or the previous twenty or so) actually remembered to bring the town flag to half-staff. Not so for the blue blood private colleges like Smith, or Amherst College and even our public flagship Umass (although they remembered last year but maybe those budget cuts axed the flag protocol person).






Or even the town of Hadley.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Yes, Virginia, even in Amherst.


UPDATE: Monday, 12/8 9:30 AM As Mary Carey pointed out the great thing about a blog is that you have expert readers who can set the record strait. So I just received an email from an overly reliable member of Amherst PD who wanted to correct one of Ed's comments about traffic control:

The Univ. Police Dept. is ENTIRELY in Charge of the Traffic Detail for Commencement. It is THEIR plan and they hire us. (APD). They tell us where they would like officers to be and which direction they want traffic routed. I believe they use a plan that was designed by the students themselves.

ORIGINAL Post 12/5 8:00 PM Okay so this year the Merry Maple (not to be confused with a Christmas Tree)is a tiny bit more merry than last year when it looked like the poster tree for a North Korean anti air raid illustration. The Umass band under the amiable direction of George Parks was outstanding as always.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The politics of a terrible tragedy

Pelham (population 1,440) Police Chief Ed Fleury

UPDATE: Saturday 2:45 PM

So my forever buddy Izzy just jokingly emailed that she was gonna suit for my use of Chief Fleury’s photo (above). I had done a Google Image search and found it (so I assume it’s free game but now that somebody has used a bunch of images from my blog in his youtube trailer for a Hollywood screenplay I’m actually going to research the legality of using Google images without permission of the original owner)

I just now redid the search and realize the Google credit was to ‘MassNews’ and not ‘Masslive’. I had wondered why the Springfield Republican (the owner of Masslive) used the Gazette mug shot of Fleury and had to credit the competition on the Front Page of yesterday's paper.

So the photo credit goes to: Isabel Lyman former (and probably only conservative columnist) for the venerable Daily Hampshire Gazette, a tireless champion of home schooling and former co-owner of a private, Christian Middle/High School in the overly education-oriented People’s Republic of Amherst.

And yes, I’m certain her article from over five years ago will not go a long way toward engendering sympathy for Chief Fleury. But again--it points out that he never tried to hide anything when it came to machine guns (note photo of Mount Holyoke co-ed using one, which I’m now sure was illegal.)
Fleury Gun profile from 2003


ORIGINAL POST THURSDAY 12/4/08
Tomorrow the hard-copy news will be front-page banner headlines all the way. Gazette, Springfield Republican, probably the Boston Globe and Herald as well: “Crusading DA indicts small-town Police Chief for involuntary manslaughter in child’s machine gun death”, or something like that (you can tell I don’t normally do headlines)

Of course the DA is quoted saying that Machine Gun Shoots are "clearly a violation of the law.” Well gee Mr. DA, where the Hell were you over the past few years when these things having been routinely promoted—and I mean PROMOTED—in this state?

It’s not like they were secretly holding cock fighting in a basement somewhere. If you did your job and shut these events down a year ago that child would be alive today.

If you are going to indict somebody then how about the father who picked out the gun? Or your office for dereliction of duty.

The jury will never convict. But another life has been destroyed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How quickly they forget.

So I was about to post a comment/response over on Ms. O’Keeffe’s blog—or whatever she calls it—but then thought if she is no longer going to post, why bother?

As most “inside baseball” aficionados know, Ms. O’Keeffe first came to public notice via her blog ‘Stephanie’s Town Meeting Experience’ started in the Spring of 2006 when she won a seat in Amherst Town Meeting back when nobody really paid attention to the antiquated 240 member body, most of whom are AARP members in good--if not longtime--standing.

Then after the public limelight started to shine Ms. O'Keeffe added “InAmherst” where she tried to be “another source for local news and information,” and oftentimes succeeded.

Within a month of winning her Select Board seat she stopped posting at both sites. Of course a month or two before the election she started ‘Stephanieokeefe.com’ which was even more instrumental in winning her Select Board seat.

It’s what I jokingly refer to with fellow bloggers as “behold the power”.

But now that she’s become the Star Trek equivalent of “Captain Dunsel”, the Select Board recaps and summaries may go the way of her previous two websites. Hmmm...

Hey Stephanie (sorry, I mean “Madam Chair.”) Remember where you came from, remember what made you: communication is key!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rearranging deck chairs


Okay so our illustrious Select Board is under new management…but will it make a difference? Well of course it will--a houseplant could replace His Lordship to make things better. But will Ms. Okeeffe’s meteoric rise to Chairwomen of the most important elected position in town make a significant improvement in this time of fiscal crisis?

Hell no! Because at this point, she’s taken command of the Titanic ten minutes after scraping an iceberg.

Only in Amherst would someone snatch the premier position of political power based on having “the time.” If Amherst moved to a professional Mayor/Council then perhaps others would decide to make “the time”

One of the hidden gems peppered throughout the survey responses from Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee's outreach to Amherst citizens is the underlying belief that we need a lot more from our local government: More professionalism, more accountability and more creativity.

And that simply can’t happen with our fragmented current form of government populated by part-time, volunteers (no matter how many hours they are willing to donate) where ultimately the buck stops nowhere.

The Springfield Republican reports

Monday, December 1, 2008

Changing of the guard


6:32 PM Select Board meeting Town Hall

Looks like no Questions during the 6:30 Question Period

6:34 PM Gerry cuts to the reorganization chase, but is reminded (by Diana Stein) that Alisa Brewer is not here yet.

6:35 PM She just walked in. All five present and accounted for.

6:40 PM Alisa nominates Stephanie for Chair and Mr. Weiss seconds.

Ms Brewer gives him parting gifts--even though they have not taken the vote.

6:45 PM Vote is unanimous. The gavel has been passed!
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In other news from this evening: The Town Manager had good news/bad news concerning recreation. The Town Attorney's opinion is that the town can get away with the CPA spending on Plum Brook Soccer fields mainly because they already did the expensive renovation and legally committed to the ten-year loan before the Seidman vs Newton case was decided by the SJC (but it certainly sounds like in the future that spending would not fly)

Town Pools may not fare as well as soccer: A new Federal regulation spurred by a horrific hot tub drowning of a child requires a retrofit that could cost $100,000 per pool--the Middle School indoor pool and both outdoor pools (Mill River and the War Memorial). Ouch.
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The Select Board decided to post on the town website all the working written materials concerning the Town Manager's evaluation from the five members of the Board . Sound like a cure for insomnia to me.
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And the Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee managed to make their December 1 deadline and presented the first chapter of the Final Report, containing almost no good news at all.

Community Choices Suggestion Box

Of the almost 500 folks who took the survey to provide feedback to town officials on the budget over the next five years a couple hundred had written "suggestions". The FCCC will publish them all unedited in an appendix of their Final Report (presented this afternoon to the Budget Coordinating Group and this evening to the Select board.) I culled these ten in no particular order of importance:

The town needs to become business friendly and develop means of generating income through technology and tourism.

Make hard choices without compromising ESSENTIAL services -- fire, police and schools.

Ask employees for a giveback on their raises

We must stop subsidizing ambulance services to Hadley and the other towns, and not accept a long-term contract in lieu of actual cost payments. We must foster economic development and business growth so that property owners are not the principal source of revenue.

No increase in budget. Aggressive initiative to change our form of government. It is dysfunctional to try to make choices by surveys. The results don't reflect to true political will of Amherst. The results only reflect those who go to meetings and fill out questionnaires . . . and there is no way for those who do participate to be assured that their concerns will be addressed our can they hold anybody accountable for choices made. Who will be held accountable for the choices made? Town Meeting? The community Choices Committee? Who and how and what consequences? Why not put all your efforts to finally changing our form of government to a fully accountable government of professional politicians that are paid and held accountable for their choices. It is the way the State, US and hundreds of thousands municipalities govern themselves. And please, don't respond that we have to work with the government we have. If you er-call, the first vote on the charter lost by 14 votes in an election where 9,000 registered voters didn't vote. If the "Choices" committee put their efforts into changing town government, perhaps two years from now we may still be in this mess, but we can be assured that choices will be made by people we know and who we can hold accountable. Jim Pitts

Prioritize better, focusing on maintaining public safety and education -- everything else is frosting on the cake. Close the branch libraries! Eliminate bus lines with low ridership; increase fees on remaining lines. Eliminate the human rights staff position, if it still exists. Increase LSSE fees to better cover costs. Close the Cherry Hill golf course. Open only one public pool in the summer, and/or charge a per-use fee (perhaps with summer pass option). Work very hard on business development, and on making sure we retain the businesses that currently exist (and generate revenue!). Quit using tax dollars for charity donations, that's inappropriate when we can't pay our own basic bills. Charge the farmer's market sellers a fee for use of the land each week. Pay attention to the fact that Hadley doesn't have a revenue problem -- I don't want to live in Hadley (weak schools, poor zoning), but they are very smart to use business development to create a strong tax base. We can be smarter about zoning, but still see some business growth.

Close branch (North and South) libraries Reduce budget at main library Negotiate for more money (PILOT) from UMass, Amherst and Hampshire colleges Renegotiate town employee’s wages/salaries and health insurance to lower cost Elementary Schools Reduce Special Ed program Make fee based ALL after school programs (academic and extra curricular) Regional Schools Eliminate and/or make fee based Russian and German language programs and Make fee based ALL after school programs (academic and extra curricular) Reduce Special Ed program

Increase tax base through business development, focus on core services, move to a mayoral form of government that provides greater accountability to the budget process.

Stop spending! This is not easy, nor is it popular but it must happen. Our town asks too much of its taxpayers. When times were more prosperous, we could better afford the wonderful services we have. Now, times are tough in the US and the world and we need to be satisfied with much less. We are ready for a mayor who has the skills to make the really difficult and unpopular decisions that need to be made. Amherst can remain a beautiful, New England college town without all the "extras" we have come to expect in the past. Please act responsibly and stop overspending!


Town should lives within its means--like any family budget.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yes, Virginia...(especially in South Deerfield)

Not all corporations are cutting back on public service promotions. Yankee Candle pulled out all the stops to entertain the kids with Santa and Mrs. Clause dropping in by helicopter. The huge crowd--most with children in tow--loved every minute of it (nice to see those expensive full-page, full-color ads in the bricks and mortar media still work)

And yeah, I'm sure some of the folks went on to buy candles.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cinderalla Committee Expires at Midnight



UPDATE: 2:20 PM
According to the Select Board agenda posted on the town website the FCCC "report" is scheduled for 7:40 PM but the main attraction--"Select Board reorganization: Election of Officers" is scheduled for 6:40 PM. Maybe I will live blog it (although it will be hard to type and simultaneously pop the cork on champagne!)

Original Post 12:30 PM
So the Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee, one of the goofiest named Committee's in a town know for goofiness, ceases to exist this Monday night. I"m told their Final Report will be ready after a final meeting at 9:00 AM for presentation to the Budget Coordinating Group at 1:00 PM.

Nothing like cutting it close; but, they did their job. Now it's up to the Select Board--hopefully under a new Chair.

The Amherst Bulletin gives a misleading impression with today's Front Page headline (the article itself is fine) strongly suggesting that the committee is endorsing an Override in the near future. Unfortunately all too many readers simply scan the headline and don't bother with the article.

Obviously "budget cuts" are going to happen immediately (and in fact already have), so with a headline screaming "Cuts and Override" that gives the impression that the FCCC was also equally endorsing an immediate Override. What they actually said is that one will be necessary over the next five years--but the cuts are needed yesterday.

And for next year they overwhelmingly supported a "Level Funded Budget", which by most people's definition means no use of reserves and no Override.

The Bully reports

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Story (one year later)

UPDATE: 11/27/08 Olga Hagelberg had to leave the home built by her husband so long ago. The electric candles in the windows that have come on at dusk since Dick died in 1993 now shine for her as well. She is currently receiving care at the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington, in her beloved state of Vermont.

(11/21/07) Only in Arlington would posing for the greatest illustrator in American history on assignment for media juggernaut The Saturday Evening Post pass for routine.

Richard (Dick) Hagelberg returned to the family dairy farm after surviving five years in the 9’th Army Air Corps, flying 65 treacherous daylight bombings missions over Europe, including D-Day.

One summer morning he sat beside his 51-year-old mother Saara (Finnish spelling) for an hour of modeling; and two generations later, the scene still resonates.

Rockwell desperately recruited the Hagelberg’s at deadline. Initially they refused, but acquiesced when he offered them each $15. After publication, as he often did with models, Rockwell offered to gift Dick the original painting. He respectfully refused.

Last year Rockwell’s ‘Homecoming Marine’ sold at auction for $9.2 million and ‘Breaking Home Ties’ (a farmer sitting on the running board of a pick up truck with his son dressed in Sunday best clothes heading off to college) brought an astonishing $15.4 million.

Rockwell’s 1943 ‘Freedom from Want’, an extended family gathering around a sumptuous turkey dinner, would prove more popular than the minimalist “Thanksgiving, 1945: A mother and son peeling potatoes.”

But the earlier Post cover had a distinct advantage.



Part of Rockwell’s public relations war effort, the epic series of illustrations based on FDR’s 1941 State of the Union speech, ‘The Four Freedoms’ heartened a battered America still reeling from Pearl Harbor’s infamy.

The US Government originally rebuffed Rockwell’s sponsorship proposal so he settled on his regular employer, The Saturday Evening Post. The blockbuster results appeared over four consecutive weekly covers from February 20 to March 13, 1943.

‘Freedom From Want” hit the stands on March 6, 1943, so unlike ‘A mother and son peeling potatoes’ that appeared on November 24’th, 1945, it was not simply a seasonal Thanksgiving tribute.

The Office of War Information printed and distributed millions of full-color reproductions of the ‘The Four Freedoms’ and sponsored the originals on a War Bond Tour of major cities that raised $130 million.

Americans adored ‘Freedom from want’; but with Europe in ruins our struggling and beaten allies didn’t want a reminder that America’s heartland escaped war’s devastation.

For his Thanksgiving, 1945 cover Rockwell journeyed to Maine for a change in scenery, starting work in mid-August--the day Japan surrendered.

Rockwell drafted a 16-year-old boy for the veteran and a friend’s wife acted as his mother. When the illustrator returned to his Arlington studio he couldn’t make it work—the young man didn’t exude the stress of war.

Rockwell recruited two more locals but once again didn’t like the results, considering it too staged. Fortuitously, Dick, recently returned from battle, arrived to deliver milk fresh from the nearby Hagelberg farm. The illustrator had his subjects.

Rockwell originally posed Dick in a wheelchair striking a pensive pose imitating Rodan’s ‘The Thinker’, but decided it was too sad. The selected scene is still slightly incongruous, as Dick is performing one of the military’s more despised chores—KP duty—yet he radiates contentment.

Saara Hagelberg’s loving expression—the look only a mother can give—to a son who survived the ravages of a conflict that had claimed so many sons, personifies Thanksgiving.

Rockwell rejoiced: this time the handsome young man had weathered the misery of war; this time his real mother sits by his side.

So why refuse to accept the original painting? Rockwell, as he often did with models, took liberties with Saara adding twenty pounds and twenty years to her appearance. In fact, Hallmark later used her Thanksgiving image for an “I love you Grandma” card.

The dutiful son knew his mother—although proud of the overall result—was mad.

Saara Hagelberg died of cancer only two years later, a few months before the birth of her first grandchild. By then a priest had purchased the painting and he donated it to an American Legion Post in Winchendon, Massachusetts.

A Rockwell Museum expert rediscovered Thanksgiving, 1945 in the late 1970’s; aghast it hung in a smoke filled building with no fire suppression. The Museum borrowed it, where it remains to this day.

In 1988 the Hagelberg family returned from Stockbridge, Massachusetts disappointed the painting was not on display.

In an apology letter curator Maureen Hart Hennessey explained, “The museum has almost 500 paintings in its collection and can only exhibit 40-50 at one time. We also rotate paintings for conservation reasons to help preserve them for future generations.”

A few weeks later the Hagelberg’s enjoyed a private showing.

In 1993 Dick Hagelberg, after helping build a home for his daughter Nancy high on a hill overlooking the family farm that he also built, succumbed to cancer. His wife Olga, a proud WW2 Marine veteran, still lives in that home in Arlington, Vermont.



And lately, even around Thanksgiving, she briefly struggles…but then vividly recalls—keeping alive those magnificent memories.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Torch will be passed (Thank God)

Perhaps if he spent more time on town affairs?

His Lordship Gerry Weiss, venerable Chair of the illustrious Amherst Select Board will lose his royal aura Monday night as rookie member (and you know how those young rookies can be hungry) Stephanie O’Keeffe will lead a coup d’├ętat by forcing a mid-year “reorganization” of the five-member board.

The vote will be 3-1-1 (with former Chair Weiss having the good sense to abstain, and his water carrier Diana Stein voting against)

What an auspicious evening! The Facilitation Committee will turn over its Final Report calling for a ‘Level Funded, Core Budget” thus making it impossible for town officials to use as cannon fodder for a property tax Override this coming year.

But with this Select Board reorganization and the rise of the “new majority,” perhaps the town will start operating more efficiently, lessening the need for a taxpayer bailout.

The Bully reports (sorry I missed it live)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cruch Time

7:15 PM Bangs Community Center Final "working" meeting of the Facilitation Committee as their Final Report is due Monday night before the Select Board (and if they don't get this done the SB may send them to bed without their supper).

7:20 Let the arguing begin. Irv Rhodes vs Kathy Feldman: about having the University cooperate with an accounting study of how much money they cost the town. Kathy (A Umass employee) says no way in hell (in so many words) will Umass cooperate and pay half the cost of that.

7:33 Bob Saul, co-chair, is worried they are getting into micromanagement with some of their suggestions for "closing the budget gap." Stan Gawle had suggested cutting some of the over $2 million in Capital spending and throwing the lions share of it to the schools (the town tries to keep Capital spending at about 7% of the overall budget).

7:37 Rich Spurgin wants them to recommend that town officials " develop a plan to reduce the pension and retiree health care costs." The motion passes unanimously.

8:07 Now discussing the many suggestions from private individuals that came out of the survey of almost 500 residents. Some FCCC members to keep the Committee's recommendations very general, but these suggestions are very specific (damn public!).

8: 12 Kathy Feldman does not like the Committee making official suggestions based on a sample that may not be representative of the population.

8:15 John Musante suggests all the suggestions from folks be placed in an appendix to the report.

8:20 Some are having second thoughts about the official recommendation to the Select Board to consider cutting Capital expenditures and reallocating it to operations (especially the Schools).

8:23 Alison thinks they are being "inconsistent" If you are going to "micromanage" the Capital budget then why not look at some of the other areas of the budgets and micromanage them (as in make very specific, concrete suggestions based on what respondents said in the survey).

8:27 Martha Hanner makes a motion "to let the open comments (from the survey) speak for themselves." Hey, it works for blogs!

8:36 Bob Saul wants to extract from the survey comments "just the facts" and include those in the Final Report. The word "sanitize" gets thrown around a lot. Martha wants to see it in writing before approving it. Stan suggests they meet on Monday morning to look that over.

8:40 Martha's motion to let the entire comments stay in the Final Report fails. Alison moves to have Bob reduce these 'mini recommendations' to their essential pieces.
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That's all folks (battery is dying)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blind Justice


So the “Justice For Jason” roadshow came to Amherst ‘s taxpayer funded Bangs Community Center this evening for one of those organizational –community-activist- outreach –strategy- sessions. First of all, they could use some work on their signage.

Only a handful of folks attended compared to the mob that marched on District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel’s office last Wednesday to publicly pressure her into dropping charges against Vassell.

Yeah, now there’s an antic even PT Barnum would have had second thoughts about. Trying to physically intimidate a female DA while searching for self-styled justice reminds me of that old anti-war slogan from the 60’s: “Killing for peace is like Fu_king for chastity.”

Whatever happened to “give peace a chance”?

This and That (and not enough of either)

So I see by yesterday’s Springfield Republican that South Hadley may appeal the state Architectural Access Board recent ruling that their WalMart quality, quickie golf Clubhouse out at 'The Ledges' does indeed require handicapped access, but they will let them slide with just a $50,000 wheelchair lift installed by 2010.

A dozen years ago KidsSports fitness center in Hadley, now home to the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School tried to get around handicapped access law and lost; and they also ended up installing a vertical wheelchair lift—that certainty was cheaper than installing an entire elevator. So it would be a tad unfair now if the state treats the town of South Hadley any differently.

In fact they should come up with a new rule: if you appeal a decision and lose you not only have to abide by the original decision of the Architectural Access board but you also pay a $10,000 fine. Maybe then folks would think twice about appealing these decisions.
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I see by today’s Gazette the Amherst School Committee is questioning the Chinese language program (financed by a three year Federal Grant), now in its third year at Wildwood Elementary School.

Back when the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School was fighting to get a charter from the state (becoming only one of five finalists to survive the process that year) the Amherst Public Schools used their (part-time) Chinese program as a weapon to say that the (full-time) Immersion School was unnecessary because Amherst had this “pilot” program starting at Wildwood, one of four elementary schools in town.

Of course my concern then was that the program was only guaranteed for three years, and because of budget constraints may not continue after the Federal money runs out. And since the person who originally wrote the Grant Proposal—Wendy Kohler—has now retired, it’s unlikely another grant will be forthcoming.

Today’s Gazette article makes it sound like the program may indeed not continue after this year. Although one parent had a good suggestion: collaborate with Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (who has already made overtures to Hadley).

Nice way to show there are no hard feelings over the previous war.

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The Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee met this morning to hone their Final Report, due December 1, to the Amherst Select Board about what they will recommend for next years budget (besides a level funded "core budget" that reflects absolute priorities) and the following four years worth. Ouch!

Amazingly, for an Amherst committee, they have actually endorsed concrete revenue enhancement ideas that could (if anyone listens) make a BIG difference:

Formalize Payment In Lieu Of Taxes with the BIG three educational institutions--Amherst and Hampshire Colleges and Umass. But first commission an independent accounting audit to ascertain how much these tax exempt institutions cost the taxpayers of Amherst and then craft a PILOT to cover those costs.

Request the town seek legislation to require the Campus Center Hotel at Umass to stop circumventing the Local Option Lodging Tax that according to a committee Stan Rosenberg chaired would bring the town $70,000. And the committee also recommends town officials request the state increase that tax from its current 4% level.

The Committee also endorses the concept of a Local Option Meals Tax that will probably raise the hackles of restaurateurs (but hey, they have not been rankled since the 1999 Smoking Ban in bars war--so I guess they're due.)
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Couldn't help but notice over on the (privately owned) Amherst Town Meeting listserve Robie Hubley responded to an email sent to Rob Kusner thinking it was intended for him (the original sender accidentally hit "send all"). Yes, this would be the same Mr. Hubley who resigned from Town Meeting as of 8/31 because he was now ensconced in South Hadley (golf anyone?).

So he's still part of that listserve--but I'm banned? Hmmm...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Who knows why in Hell the bells toll?


So at high noon the bells, bells, bells of Grace Church directly in downtown Amherst pealed 8 or 9 times and then fell silent. In the distance I could hear the bells of St. Brigid's, perhaps a 1,000 yards north, still pealing to announce the end of Catholic mass. Hmmm...

But a moment or two later Grace Church started clanging once more--and this time a tad more forcefully--with a quicker rhythm (maybe the bell ringer was trying to keep warm as my auto's temperature gage read exactly a freezing 32 degrees). Yeah, this must now be the protest against Global Warming, 150 rings no less.

Of course ringing church bells at high noon on a Sunday is kind of like letting off fireworks on the 4'Th of July--par for the course. So I wonder how many people in downtown Amherst who heard the bells ring at noon-plus-3-or-4 minutes realized this was a Global Warming protest?

Last year the Grace Church faithful jumped into the waters of Puffers Pond in early December to protest Global Warming. At least that had a bit of contrast--so you could figure out something less-than-normal was occurring.

Next year they should invite Al Gore to see if he will get naked and jump into Fort River, Mill River or Puffers Pond. Now that would turn heads (if only to vomit.)


Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22'nd


I guess the downside of blogging is that, like cable news it, becomes a twenty-four/seven, 365 days a year blank canvas with space to fill (at least for some of us). And certain days of the year call for comment--or at least remembrance. This is one of them:

What more can I say?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Six of one, A half dozen of the other

The Facilitation of Community Choices Committee meeting this morning attracted the same seven-of-ten members who attended Tuesday’s meeting. Thus nothing changed. The declarative statement essentially saying no way in Hell attempt an Override this coming year has been watered down like cheap wine.

The Committee, however, voted 6-1 to support “Level Funding” as opposed to “Level Services,” with Level Funding meaning what you see is what you get: state aid plus regular property tax revenues that stay within the limits of Proposition 2.5.

Level Services of course would require an Override.

So why they would not underscore the “Level Funding" recommendation by spelling out the obvious—No Override—is a mystery.

The Committee also agreed that sometime over the next five years an Override would be necessary, BUT they endorse the use of a “Menu Override” where each item or department is individually spelled out so a voter can support some but not all the expenditures.

Call it a private sector concept: when products compete they get better.

And he's in charge of the People's Republic?

Amherst Bulletin
Letters
Published on November 14, 2008

Filled with pride

To the Bulletin: I know that the flying of the American flag in downtown Amherst has been a controversial subject; I confess that I have not paid that much attention to the issue.

On Monday, Nov. 10, I drove into town and was struck by the beauty of all the flags flying to commemorate Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

The sight filled me with pride and love for my country, which has just achieved the amazing feat of electing Barack Hussein Obama president.

Our country is an ongoing endeavor but on Nov. 4 we progressed farther than I would ever have thought possible.

Let us hope, pray, and work for such progress to continue throughout the-hopefully-eight years of the Obama administration.

Amy Mittelman
Amherst


Reader comments :

I’m glad somebody gets it! Actually, I honestly believe the vast majority of Amherst citizenry also gets it; unfortunately it’s our exalted leaders the former-Czar and now thankfully former-resident Anne Awad and her understudy Gerry Weiss that do not.

That American flag can represent whatever you want it to. Like you, I prefer to see it as indeed representing our "ongoing endeavor."

And yes, 'Only in America' would the Horatio Alger story of Barack Obama come true.

God bless him, our great country and all who serve her.
Larry Kelley Friday, Nov 14, 2008 at 03:15 PM

How about we fly the flags on inauguration day?
Gerry Weiss Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 07:56 AM

Well if you did your homework there 'Your Lordship', you would know that the Select Board of 9/10/01 voted the six "holidays" AND Inauguration Day.

So yeah--you damn well better fly them!
Larry Kelley Thursday, Nov 20, 2008 at 10:37 AM

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wolves in the fold

UPDATE: 9:00 PM

So Kathy Feldman has now wimped out and decided not to “shut the door” on an Override this coming year. Looks like that’s a tiebreaker--and this Committee’s ticket to oblivion.

----- Original Message -----
From: Joan Golowich
To: msh_jwh@yahoo.com ; adonta@mtholyoke.edu ; bob.saul@gmo.com ; gawles@verizon.net ; isaacbenezra@yahoo.com ; jerryjolly@comcast.net ; kvorwerk@psych.umass.edu ; musantej@amherstma.gov ; rhodesamherst@aol.com ; RSPURGIN@CLARKU.EDU ; 'Andrew Steinberg' ; stephanie@okeeffe.com
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 10:56 AM
Subject: RE: inputs for Thursday

Hi All:
I started with the four paragraphs we discussed last night and made some changes based on what I heard then and inserted some other changes of my own. I still do not want to completely shut the door on a possible override for FY10. That decision is for the elected officials.
Joan

----- Original Message -----
From: Katherine E. Vorwerk
To: Joan Golowich ; msh_jwh@yahoo.com ; adonta@mtholyoke.edu ; bob.saul@gmo.com ; gawles@verizon.net ; isaacbenezra@yahoo.com ; jerryjolly@comcast.net ; musantej@amherstma.gov ; rhodesamherst@aol.com ; RSPURGIN@CLARKU.EDU ; 'Andrew Steinberg' ; stephanie@okeeffe.com
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 4:01 PM
Subject: Re: inputs for Thursday

Joan.

I really like what you, and the Committee, have done. It is strong and direct. It must have been a fruitful meeting.
And I agree with your position on an FY10 override.
Kathy
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ORIGINAL POST 11:30 AM
They were supposed to be the Leading Edge, Vanguard, Tip of the Spear--the opening salvo in a campaign of Shock-and-Awe to pummel taxpayers and make them surrender to yet another Proposition 2.5 Override this coming year.

Ah, but as the Chinese would say, “be careful what you wish for” or better yet a British take: create a Frankenstein and it could turn against you.

The Facilitation of Community Choices Committee
Summary Findings and Recommendations

Override, Short Term: The Facilitation of Community Choices Committee does not recommend that the Select Board seek an override vote for FY 2010. In the current fiscal climate, the feedback from our outreach efforts indicates that there is little support for higher property taxes at this juncture. It is the opinion of the Committee that a general override for FY2010 is likely to be defeated.

Kind of says it all (lead paragraph no less), eh?

But, like most boards and committees, they had second thoughts about the, errrrrr, directness of the lead bullet for their Final Report, due December 1. Mainly because they know it will be a bullet to the back of the head for next year's Override.

And at last night’s sometimes heated meeting where 7-of-10 members attended, three members strongly agreed to keep in the succinct statements (Irv Rhodes, Stan Gawle, Alison Donta-Venman) and another three strongly wanted it out (Richard Spurgin, Joan Golowich, Gerry Jolly).

Co-chair Martha Hanner sounded like she could go either way. So we had a tie. Members Katherine Feldman (who at a previous meeting said she would not support an Override this coming year) was not present and neither was Isaac BenEzra, who probably never met an Override he did not embrace. So again we’re tied.

Co-Chair Bob Saul also was not present, but in written comments for the meeting suggested: “We blame the public (or at least our perception of the public sentiment). This wording avoids having the committee take a specific stand.”

Yeah, the old blame the public routine.

The Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee meets again Thursday morning for a final crack at the most important paragraph in their entire report. Will it stay or will it go? Stay tuned!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Much Ado...


Click photo to read

UPDATE: 9:00 AM

So our anonymous friend seems to have targeted at least one other Town Meeting—Brookline, so I guess it wasn’t John Calipari. Now I’m thinking Elvis.
Springfield Republican scoops the Gazette (again)
Brookline Tab scoops the Gazette
The watchdog who did not do it

Original Post 10:00 PM (yeah, I left early)

So the buzz on the floor of Town Meeting this evening was not the usual microphone feedback, or the snide murmurs one sometimes hears when certain speakers stroll to the microphone: everybody was all a twitter tonight about a “mysterious” anonymous post card that arrived in the mail today with a Tennessee postmark (pretty good timing.)

Apparently two versions exist (I received the longer version) one stating Town Meeting attendance would be recorded and mailed to all of Amherst and the longer one where “vote positions” would get the same treatment (and obviously you have to be in attendance to vote).

The Moderator asked for a show of hands and a little over half the members present confirmed receiving one version or the other. Amherst has 247 Town Meeting members so even at 100% saturation the weirdo would spend $67.

But sending the voting or attendance results to all of Amherst with about 7,000 mailboxes (and another 1,500 PO Boxes) would be over $2,000. Hell, I’ll publish it all here for half that.

From: "Town Meeting Coordinating Committee"
Subject: Peculiar Postcard
Date: November 17, 2008 4:31:01 PM EST

A Message from the Moderator: Many, if not all, Town Meeting Members have received a peculiar postcard postmarked Nashville Tennessee. The writer voices an intention to attend Town Meeting this week, record everyone’s votes, and “mail your vote positions to all citizens in town of Amherst.” Nothing illegal or violent is threatened in this message and I don’t believe there is any reason for members to be alarmed. But I have informed the Amherst Police and they are looking into the matter. I look forward to seeing all of you tonight.

Harrison L. Gregg

Town Moderator, Amherst