Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"...the bombs bursting in air."

Click to enlarge

Just stole this response off of SelectPerson Stephanie's blog. Note to readers: I have reset my settings to allow for 'Anonymous Comments' so please, be nice.

neil said:

Mr. Shaffer is a public servant who has made new policy, with or without consultation with his boss Mr. Weiss. Why can’t the public obtain a copy of his rationale in writing? What are the moral, legal or political justifications and how does he weigh the competing interests of the Parade Committee, protest advocates and other interested parties such as the parade-going public? I ask these questions not as a rhetorical device but because if Mr. Shaffer would provide the rationale, the policy and whether it is grounded in well-reasoned principles could be tested by public review. Certainly most of the work has already been done, it’s just a matter of committing it to paper. The public - those of us who must submit to the policy - await.

The position held by protest advocates is absolute. They claim an absolute right to protest in the Parade Committee’s Independence Day Parade. Neither Mr. Shaffer nor his boss Mr. Weiss disagree. Neither Mr. Shaffer nor Mr. Weiss have asked protest advocates to consider an alternative form or forum for protest on that day. Both Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss require the Parade Committee to concede their free speech and their right of association to the demands of protest advocates.

Select Board members Ms. O’Keefe and Ms. Brewer want town government to discuss and debate the new policy on its merits, to understand Mr. Shaffer’s policy requirements and the reasons for them, to understand the Parade Committee’s purpose and the merit or lack of merit in excluding protest marchers, to understand protest advocates’ demands and to explore how protest advocates’ demands can reasonably and satisfactorily be met. I think Select Board members O’Keefe and Brewer are on the right track and I endorse the transparency and reasoned analysis they advocate. Please, sign me up for more of their style of government.

I was confused by the Select Board meeting minutes. Should I believe Mr. Larry Shaffer’s press release

and Amherst Leisure Services Parade Application for 4/7/9 9AM-5PM

that make it clear the town of Amherst has decided to disenfranchise the Parade Committee because the Parade Committee chooses to not include protest marchers or what Mr. Shaffer said in the Select Board Meeting?

“Mr. Shaffer said that there is still time before the 2009 parade and that he is happy to discuss with the parade committee how the parade might be run, and suggested that they talk about it. He said that the issues involved are very important but that the corrections for those issues are very small, and that he is happy to talk about it and would welcome a solution.”

What Mr. Shaffer means is that he "is happy to discuss with the parade committee how the parade...[must] be run” as a condition for getting the permit to run it on July 4, 2009. For Mr. Shaffer the “issues [separating the town and the Parade Committee] are very small” but he is being coy and he won’t spell it out. I will: Allow the 7/4/9 parade to be used by protest advocates and the town of Amherst will issue the Parade Committee a permit, otherwise the Parade Committee will be denied. I wonder if this condition as a matter of town policy is compelled speech and as such, misuse of authority.

It is clear Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss believe protest advocates are morally, legally or politically right and the Parade Committee are wrong. Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss cannot wrap their heads around the fact the Parade Committee has free speech rights too and that when balancing “competing interests”, a list of good solutions does not include giving the whole baby to one party.

Convinced of their own rectitude, Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss’ believe a conversation with Mr. Joy would rightly be a one-way street: Concede to protest advocates’ demands or the Parade committee will be denied a Parade permit for 7/4/9. Mr. Joy might consider sending Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss court decisions on freedom of speech and right of association. Mr. Joy did one better. He gave Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Weiss a copy of the Amherst 250th Anniversary celebration parade rules.

The Amherst 250th Anniversary celebration parade rules do not allow protest in the parade. And still, neither Shaffer nor Weiss recognize or agree that a parade celebration does not demand the right to protest. A blue ribbon panel of Amherst citizens produced the rules for the Amherst 250th Anniversary celebration parade, not a group of conservative-minded Amherst citizens like those who constitute the Parade Committee.

Here's my best assessment of Mr. Shaffer and his boss Mr. Wiess' official policy:

The Town of Amherst will not issue the Parade Committee a permit to conduct their Independence Day Parade in 2009 unless it consents to concede its right of association.

The Parade Committee's right of association has no authority when balanced against protest advocates right to exercise free speech including protest in the Parade Committee's Independence Day parade as marchers.

Let’s get Mr. Shaffer's policy rationale in writing and go from there.
April 30, 2008 2:35 PM

SelectPerson Stephanie O'Keeffe's Blog:

Public Comment

Kevin Joy of the Amherst July Fourth Parade Committee said that the committee had sought a permit last week to conduct the 2009 July Fourth parade, and were told that the Town had filed a permit to hold a parade on that day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mr. Joy said that the filing of the Town’s permit and the hours therein appeared to be a definitive determination by the Town Manager that the Town would take over that parade and that no other parade would be allowed on that day. He asked that the Town Manager state for the record that the current parade committee would no longer be running the July Fourth parade in 2009.
Mr. Shaffer said that there is still time before the 2009 parade and that he is happy to discuss with the parade committee how the parade might be run, and suggested that they talk about it. He said that the issues involved are very important but that the corrections for those issues are very small, and that he is happy to talk about it and would welcome a solution.
Mr. Joy said that the permit had already been taken out by the Town, and read the last paragraph of the Town Manager’s press release regarding parade plans, and called that “pretty definitive.” Mr. Joy spoke of how long it takes to plan such a parade, suggesting a year to a year and a half.
Mr. Joy showed a document containing three paragraphs of expectations and regulations for parade participants. He said that he had been asked to consult on the Town’s 250th Anniversary celebration parade, and had reluctantly agreed. He said that he received a 13-page document f that parade’s regulations, and read from part of it about marching units being able to carry a banner with only the group’s name and without any corporate sponsorship, that only the parade-approved banner would be allowed and that no additional signs, placards, literature or other messages would be allowed to be shown, distributed or shouted, and so forth. He said there were many pages of such regulations and said that he believed that they were more restrictive on people’s rights than the regulations put forth by the July Fourth parade committee.
Mr. Weiss said that the Select Board would need to determine what role if any it had in the issue, and that it would need to schedule time to do that, probably in June after the conclusion of Town Meeting, if we were to opt to address it as a Select Board.
I said that I thought we should do that and that an open and televised discussion of the issue would be helpful for the public to participate in and watch. Ms. Brewer said that the rules for 250th parade need to be addressed, and that they may have been put together by that committee without knowledge of the July Fourth parade issues.
Mr. Shaffer agreed that the 250th parade rules need to be looked at, and said that as keepers of the public way, that the Select Board certainly has a role in the parade discussion and that it is in the Select Board’s authority to be involved with this issue if it so chooses.
Ms. Awad said that while the Select Board controls the public ways, the Town Manager controls parade permits, and that the Select Board doesn’t control what takes place on the public ways once a permit for their use has been issued. She said she completely supports the Town Manager’s filing for a permit for the 2009 parade. She said she isn’t sure that the Select Board should engage in a public discussion on the issue, unless it does so as a public forum that invites people from both sides to present their concerns and arguments. She said she didn’t think the Select Board should vote or express opinions when receiving those comments.
Ms. Brewer said she wanted consideration of whether or not the Select Board would officially participate in the parade to be part of a future discussion.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Amherst Town Center Saturday night

10:00 pm (still early).
Nahhh, nothing major. A lot of police waiting for something bad to happen can get bored and gravitate towards the least little thing. Next two weekends, they will be more than busy enough...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dueling Parades

Click to enlarge.

You can tell LSSE Director Linda Chalfant was really enthused about running a July 4'th Parade a few years back:
From: Chalfant, Linda
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2005 4:45 PM
To: Del Castilho, Barry; Musante, John
Subject: The Parade

I just received two phone calls from Harry Brooks asking if LSSE would
handle the July 4th parade next year. Since he called twice - I told

- my knowledge of parades is nil

- this is an extremely busy time for the department and we struggle to
handle all of the special events that we currently have in addition to
the summer programs

- it is unlikely that we could handle this additional assignment without
adding staff

Linda Chalfant, Director
Amherst Leisure Services and Supplemental Education

Considering the town has not put on a July 4’th Parade in 32 years they are either overly confident, overly ambitious or overly naive.

The Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the largest most famous parades in America and it is all of three to three-and-a-half hours.

But little old Amherst is having their Parade from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm? And how much as that going to cost in hidden police labor? (We currently pay $1,200 for our less than two-hour parade). And note they check off “town crews” for cleanup…just another hidden cost.

A very exclusive Parade

click to enlarge.

So the Amherst 250’th Parade Committee has a 13-page list of rules and regulations concerning the town parade coming up in September 2009 compared to the Amherst July 4 Parade with only one page. They actually asked us not to have a July 4’th Parade that year because they were worried about fund raising and did not want the competition for private donations. Naturally we told them to make like Ben Franklin and go fly a kite.

“Participating Units must have an entertainment value to the viewer consisting of music, drill, choreography, uniforms or dress, floats or giant parade balloons or serve the purpose of being honored by the Parade Committee, or of honoring the objectives of the Parade Committee in presenting the Parade.”

Hmm, I guess the war protesters had better start practicing their act!

“Marching units are to be identified by a sign which contains only the name of the marching unit. Marching units may have no signs (other than their Parade Committee approved identification sigh), banners, placards or handouts, or other messages of any form in the line-of-march, nor may they distribute flyers, handouts or other materials or items. Marching units may not shout slogans or partisan messages, expressing support for any subject not reflecting the stated them of the Parade Committee.”

Hmm, anti-war folks will have to learn how to mime.

“The Amherst 250’th Celebration Parade Committee is trying to present the best quality event possible for the viewers. These Rules are intended to serve that purpose. That is the only reason for them and should be considered—as they are named—“standards”. We seek a quality event in its entirety.”

So I guess it’s okay to restrict folks First Amendment rights--as long as you are striving for a “quality event.”
Liberal Bloggers funny take

Sunday, April 27, 2008

To sign or not to sign, THAT is the quesiton

Click to enlarge

Chief Scherpa will sign our application Monday morning, and then it will be up to the Town Mangler...

Friday, April 25, 2008

The 7/4 Parade Committee Strikes Back!

April 24, 2008

Statements made at last night’s Selecboard meeting with town manager Larry Shaffer regarding meeting with the Parade Committee were grossly inaccurate. The entire Parade Committee is shocked that our First Amendment rights apparently are not in equal balance with the other private organizations who put on privately run events in out town such as the Amherst Town Fair, the Taste of Amherst, Extravanganja, etc. The 2008 July 4’th Parade Committee appreciates the outpouring of support following last night’s Selectboard meeting.

The current July 4’th Parade Committee which is made up of private citizens who revived the parade after 26 years, will continue to run the Amherst July 4’th Parade just as other private groups are granted the right to run their own private event on town properties and roadways.


Amherst July 4 Parade Committee
Springfield Republican Reports

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Declaration of War!

So yeah, you sagacious types may have noticed the hilarious political cartoon of the Boss Hogg town manager suddenly disappeared for three and a half hours.

Creative artist Kevin Joy received a call on his cell phone with a threatening message suggesting liability because the town manager is “appointed” rather than “elected”.

My attorney just confirmed Shaffer is a “public official” PERIOD—and it doesn’t matter if he’s elected or appointed.

Of course now we’re trying to figure out how this mysterious person got Kevin’s cell phone number. He did call the Town Manager a lot these past few days. Hmmm…
Conservative Canadian Web page picks up the story
Gazette Front Page Article (above the fold no less)
One Town Official's Take

Town of Amherst To Organize And Conduct July 4’th Parade In 2009

A group of local volunteers created the Amherst July Fourth Parade Committee. Since 2002, the private group has done a remarkable job in organizing and conducting a parade to celebrate July 4’th in Amherst. However, there has been controversy over the Committee’s refusal to allow potential parade participants from displaying signs protesting various actions by government. With that in mind, I have repeatedly urged the Parade Committee not to exclude organizations and individuals who wish to use the July 4’th parade as a means to protest certain government action or to advocate for a particular position. I have met frequently with parade organizers to promote the concept that July 4’th is a time that all Americans should celebrate the birth of this nation and the principles of freedom inherent in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill or Rights. In particular, the First Amendment of the Bill or Fights, generally considered to be the most important Article in the Constitution, guarantees freedom of speech with remarkable clarity. How is it that on the nation’s birthday, in Amherst, any American can be denied their constitutional right to freedom of speech on town owned streets during a celebration ostensible devoted to that freedom so denied? I am sorry to report that I have not been able to successfully communicate that irony to the July Fourth Parade Committee.

The Town of Amherst cannot and should not obstruct or prevent a private parade from occurring in Amherst. Consequently, I will not attempt, in any fashion, to prevented the Parade Committee from conduction the July 4’th Parade in 2008. I will continue to encourage communications with the July 4’th Parade Committee in order to achiever the changes that I believer are correctly sought. However, moving forward, I believe the proposed change will correct the problem excluding certain forms of free speech during the July 4’th Parade.

As a result, the Town of Amherst shall sponsor a parade in celebration of Fourth of July, 2009. All groups will be invited to participate, and with the exception of obscenities and hate crimes, freedom of speech will be allowed. The LSSE Department, which is responsible for the fireworks and community events on July 4’th, will be asked to organize and manage the July 4’th Parade, also. A July 4’th Parade Committee shall be formed by the town to assist in managing the many details associated with such an event.

For Questions:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And the answer is...

9:55 pm. In a stunning, despicable, display of Political Correctness (Only in) Amherst Town Manager Larry Shaffer singlehandedly decided to “Take Over” the July 4’th Parade in 2009.
Town Manager Report! 9:17 (only 12 minutes behind schedule):

Shaffer reads a press release about the Parade. Yeah, yeah, yeah we’re “remarkable”--but he quickly gets to “however”...

“First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech." The July 4’th Parade Committee doesn’t get the irony of this free speech situation. I will not mess with them this year (no rescinding their permit or pulling town apparatus). But here come another “however”:

The town will sponsor a July 4’th Parade in 2009. LSSE (the recreation empire) who runs the Fireworks will also run the Parade. And we will exclude competition by refusing a permit for any private group wishing to run an old fashioned non-political Parade.

All individuals should be allowed to carry whatever they want with the exception of hate crimes or obscenity.

Nice try. How the hell are you going to enforce that Mr. Shaffer? If the town runs the Parade then the KKK can march and anti-war zealots can march with a F_CK Bush sign... whatever. As a matter of fact, I may march in their parade with a sign saying “F_CK Shaffer.

Selectperson Alisa Brewer reads our statement sent to the board and Shaffer last week.

9: 30pm Select Person O’Keeffe calls Shaffer on his framing it as a First Amendment issue. It’s not. The Parade Committee has made many attempts at compromise…what has the town done?? Where’s the compromise on the town part?

Select Person Brewer asks about “FUNDING” the town parade???? You know the $15,000 it will cost to put on a professional production with PAID staff doing the organizing.

Ms. Brewer also mentions how Shaffer has come off as "bullying" the Parade Committee with threats. (Shaffer doesn't respond)

Weiss jumps in and says he never saw it as bullying. He also says he sees it as a 'Free Speech' issue. And finds it inappropriate for the town to participate.

The rookie Stein mumbles something about folks should have the right to protest Iraq and Awad talks about the committee yanking folks from the Parade who were carrying signs.

So if it had come to a vote it would have been 3-2 with His Lordship Weiss, former Czar Awad and rookie Stein voting to support Boss Hogg's draconian measure and O'Keeffe and Brewer opposing.

Bad Boy, Bad Boy...what's he gonna do?

So we know the Town Manager has no respect for the sixty year tradition of local Boy Scouts selling Christmas trees in town center; but will he also destroy the tradition of town participation in the most sacred of American holidays—the 4’th of July?

Since the Gazette heavily hyped the “Town Manager Report” to the Select Board tonight at 9:05 pm with a banner headline this morning reading “Shaffer to speak on parade-sign policy tonight”, it’s a safe bet we will know the answer by around 9:20 pm.

For you play-by-play types here are the options:

He plays the ‘Nuclear Option’ and pulls our permit.
He plays the ‘Shock and Awe Option’ and pulls town vehicles.
He plays the ‘Hippocratic Oath Option’ and does nothing.
He plays the ‘Sword of Damocles Option’ and recommends the Select board form a Committee to take over the July 4’th Parade (merging with the Fireworks that the town now runs), either as early as this year or certainly the next.

Tune in tonight as I will attend the meeting not as a July 4’th Parade Committee member but as a Citizen Blogger.

All Hail Purple and White!

So yeah, I suppose when you have $1.7 Billion in reserves--$100 million of that coming in over the past six months from only two donors--you can afford to repaint other peoples property with your school colors.

A graduation tradition, I’m told, for the past thirty years, as this railroad underpass is less than a stone’s throw from Amherst College’s side entrance.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Moon for the Misbegotten

High School Announcements?

Scheduled for the morning of 4/28 at (Only in) Amherst Regional High School:

"I pretend that because my dad is a minister, I CAN'T be gay. But then I can't keep my boyfriend." Frank Warren's PostSecret project invites people to write a secret on a postcard, decorate it, and return it to him anonymously. To observe this year's LGBT Pride Week, we are doing our own PostSecret project this week at ARHS. Please take an index card during lunch, decorate it, and write a secret about your personal relationship to LGBT issues and queer culture. We'll have details on where you can deposit your card tomorrow.

Of course this commercial doesn’t quite match the mid-January 'Morning Announcement':

* VAGINA! Vagina. Va. Gi. Na. Get used to saying it, because The Vagina Monologues is coming to the high school stage, Friday, February 15th! Mark your calendars, and get ready to become part of the worldwide phenomenon.

Now if they could just put these to music, we would have “High School Musical 3”. To Hell with Disney!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Even more revelry

1:30 AM. Just another warm Saturday Spring late night in Amherst. About a hundred revelers—most of whom just stumbled out of nearby bars—hang out in front of Antonio’s Pizza by the slice while an Amherst PD Mountain Bike officer keeps a close eye.

An hour earlier I watched three officers shut down a block party at notorious Hobart Lane that collectively included about 500 partygoers.

Captain Scott Livingstone pointed his flashlight with one hand and his trigger finger of the other hand and barked to a group of 25 or so “Go somewhere else!” And they sheepishly slinked away.

"What's in the cup, Missy!" he demanded from another young women gingerly holding a large plastic red cup that she quickly put down on the sidewalk in an upright postion and scampered off, her high heels clickety clicking. Livingstone swiftly closed the distance and swung his locked right leg in a perfect arc catching the cup at the very top, neatly knocking it horizontal (without getting any of the foamy contents on himself.)

Texas Rangers got nothin up on Amherst PD!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Great Example!

Click to enlarge Yeah, that's a lighter in her right hand and a bong in her left, she took a big hit, held it for 10-15 seconds and exhaled a dark cloud of smoke that smelled like--you guessed it--marijuana, then passed the pipe to the girl on her left, who repeated the drill.

So these kids are not old enough to smoke cigarettes, drink beer, see an R-rated movie (without an adult guardian) but yet here they are, in Amherst Town Center, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon--smoking pot. You have to wonder if the Amherst Town Manager would not be surprised--or bother him--that these kiddies are enjoying the herb at an event like 'Extravaganja'. Only in the People's Republic!
He's railing against Lord Jeff Amherst, calling him a "murderer". So we give these folks free use of the Town Common, don't charge them the extra $1,000 in police labor required to handle such a crowd and yet they stack manure on the town name. That's gratitude for ya!

Friday, April 18, 2008

On the road again (just can't wait)

Last night we had the best attended, longest and most contentious Amherst July 4 Parade Committee meeting in our seven year existence.

And in the end we decided to continue doing as we have always done. Put on a July 4’th Parade in the grand tradition extending back over 200 years to celebrate the birth of the greatest nation on earth (warts and all)

So bring your children, bring your flags and bring your good cheer. And leave home the slogans about war, abortion, Tibet, immigration, marijuana, gay marriage, etc.

Whatever the Town Manager decides to do about allowing Amherst police and fire apparatus to participate in the Amherst July 4’th Parade is his decision and he will have to live with it.

UPDATE: 11:22 pm. Just read Stephanie O'Keeffe Select person blog (needed something to help me sleep) and I notice the Select Board agenda for Wednesday (Monday is a Holiday for some folks) has the following

9:05 Town Manager Report – Fourth of July Committee Mr. Shaffer

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blue Whale in Amherst town center

No Wonder he's smiling...

Umass Daily Collegian

Larry Shaffer does think Amherst is more accepting of an event celebrating an illegal substance than other towns would be.

"Amherst does have an independent streak," he said. "We really don't want to be in anyone else's business. I see it as a matter of personal preference."

Shaffer also mentioned that marijuana is nothing new to him, and it wouldn't surprise - or bother - him to see someone enjoying the herb at an event like Extravaganja.

"Young people may find it hard to believe, but there was marijuana a long time ago," he said.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A sad anniversary

Nothing demonstrates the mood of a somber nation like the American flag at half-staff.

My post from one year ago. (Yes, this photo--the BIG flag at Big Y in Amherst--is my signature photo)

Declaration of Independence!

Mr. Laurence Shaffer, Amherst Town Manager
$ Boltwood Ave
Amherst, Ma 01002
April 15, 2008

Dear Mr. Shaffer:

For the past 6 years a loyal, devoted and diverse group of Amherst residents have worked tirelessly on a volunteer basis to conduct the Amherst 4’th of July Parade.

The Parade Committee has raised all the funds (thousand of dollars per year) to bring this event to Amherst citizens while dealing with swords in our side. The Parade Committee never anticipated that such a small but politically vocal group could influence the major policy board of our town in regards to our parade that was initially reborn in 2002 to honor veterans, active duty military, fire, police and other public safety personnel who worked tirelessly in the wake of 9/11.

In good faith, the Parade Committee has held 3 open forums for people to vent their concerns regarding any issues with the parade. In addition we’ve had 3 sit down meeting with you regarding inclusiveness in the parade.

We’ve always been inclusive to all who have wanted to celebrate the birth of our nation. What we never anticipated or wanted was offensive signage that would not be appropriate to be viewed by children or not in the festive spirit of the parade. I’ve said numerous times to Parade Committee members and the media that this is a parade and not a protest.

For the past 2 years the Parade Committee has been held hostage with the threat of pulling police and fire apparatus form our town parade. We the Parade Committee have done a great job and I’m proud to serve with this group of people who have successfully run this event for the town. We fell at this time that we’ve exhausted all resources for conversation and dialogue.

If you wish to pull public safety apparatus out of the parade, that is your prerogative. We have already been notified by public safety personnel for our town that they would march as a union if denied their apparatus.

In addition the Parade Committee has received calls from as far away as New York City that public safety personnel would not be allowed to march that they would augment any public safety contingents.

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”

Respectfully Yours,

Kevin P. Joy
Amherst July 4’th Parade Committee Chair
Cc: Amherst Select Board

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Colors of Spring

Shhhh...You'll awaken Miss Emily!

So about the only thing louder than the chainsaw used to unsnag the house as it tried to squeeze by the Dickinson Homestead was the collective sigh of the Shade Tree Commission.

UPDATE: 1:00 pm The Dinosaur has landed.
Almost there (another 50 yards or so)

Protecting the gold

Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change have a warrant article calling for Town Meeting to consolidate all the reserves (about $4 million) into the Stabilization Fund by transferring the vast majority money from the Free Cash Account.

Town Meeting can spend (and we know they love to spend) from Free Cash with a simply majority vote; but spending from Stabilization Fund takes a two-thirds vote.

Of course some of the dumber things this esteemed body has done (like spend $2.2 million in 1982 dollars for a Golf Course they could have had for free) has been done with over a two-thirds vote.

The Finance Committee will still have their own little 100-K slush fund for “emergencies” (like last year’s cost overrun at Cherry Hill Golf Course or the extra moving expenses for the Town Manager).
Last night the Select Board voted to appoint chief spokesperson for the Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change Stan Gawle to the Budget Coordinating Group’s (BCG’s) 'citizen facilitation team' (God, I hope he can hum "Kumbia")

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pissed off Pubbies...Oh My!

So even though I too used the comparison of 9/11 and gay rights (see video) and agreed that explicit how-to sex posters (straight or gay) should not be posted publicly at the Campus Center, I’m not with the Young Republicans on this one.

The Stonewall Center is an official Umass RSO group and as such should have access to the listserve.

Yes, Ralph Hexter is President of Hampshire College but he’s acting as the keynote speaker for an official Umass event. But I’m sure the Stonewall Center will love all the extra press this angry release generates.

And of course, now Mr. Hexter has got me wondering, “What if the President were Queer?”

UMASS-Amherst campus leadership:

Regarding the below message:

Why is the enormous (1000+ student) UMASS Signature Responsibility email list AGAIN being used for these ridiculous purposes???

Let me state for the record that the UMass Republican Club finds these emails being sent on the UMass server a *criminal and incomprehensible waste of valuable taxpayer-funded IT resources and unconditionally absurd*.

I have cc'd 14 state elected representatives - 8 state reps and 6 state senators - for their perspective on this matter.

I don't care about a "queer graduation invite" and if these gay rights activists at Hampshire College have access to the entire school SR email list here at *UMASS*, then why don't I – a fee-paying and taxpaying UMass student and citizen of the Commonwealth, and leader of one of the largest and most well-funded groups on this campus – have this same access ???

Dean of Students Joanne Vanin has consistently denied me access to this list for matters of disseminating information of patriotic 9/11 Veterans Day Flag Displays and legitimate UMass events, yet gay rights activists at A DIFFERENT SCHOOL are allowed use of this huge email list to promote an obviously exclusionary event at Hampshire???

UMass campus leadership continues to let nonsense like this go and then cries to the state legislature about being under-funded and ignored - something has to give.

Someone in Whitmore must have granted the approval to send this extremely unnecessary email: can someone inform me who that person was?

This is an obvious misuse of power and boggles my mind.

We, as a campus community, need to do better and be more aware than this, or else I strongly urge the elected officials of this state’s General Court to continue to cut our funding as a campus.

With administrators like the ones we have in charge apparently asleep at the switch yet again, we clearly don’t deserve any more funding from the hard-working taxpayers of this state.

For efficient tax-dollar and resource use,

Brad DeFlumeri

President, UMass Republican Club
Petty Officer, United States Naval Reserve

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Brett-Genny Janiczek Beemyn
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 11:27 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: [Rso-information] Queer Graduation invite

The Stonewall Center cordially invites you to The 10th Annual Queer Graduation & Awards Ceremony

Monday, May 12, 2008
Memorial Hall Lounge
6:30pm: reception, 7pm: ceremony

Keynote Speaker:
Ralph Hexter, “What If the President Were Queer?”
Ralph Hexter is the president of Hampshire College and one of the first openly gay college leaders.
Please RSVP to the Stonewall Center:, 545-4824

Amherst's Heartland

About 100 good folks converged on the VFW last night for a night of fun, food, dancing and prises with all proceeds going towards the July 4'th Parade. Former Umass Police chief Gerry O'Neil won the large screen flat panel TV, and I won a $25 gift certificate to 'Crazy Noodles' in town center (We're going to walk uptown tonight and use it).

No, not a single anti-war protester showed up.

Friday, April 11, 2008

An Expensive View

Last year Town Meeting spent $287,000 tax dollars to preserve the view of the Kimball House in North Amherst. Not to purchase the land leading from the road to the front door but a complicated buy out with the state of APR designation for the land out back.

Umm yeah, I guess you can still see the Kimball House.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another expensive view?

Barry Roberts bought the Henry Hills House and all the surrounding property from the Amherst Boys and Girls Club last year for $750,000 then paid $75,000 in moving expenses to bring a house from Kendrick Park that he bought from the town for $500 and then flipped everything for $1.12 million.

Now the new owners want to sell the Henry Hills House “as is” for $850,000 (with little land). They put some work in the Kendrick Park house and want $650,000. Amherst College gave them two old houses AND will pay for the moving expenses. They will probably want $650,000 for each.

Now the town is salivating over the two remaining lots down on Main Street (to protect "the view" of the Henry Hills mansion) with a price tag of $400,000. Hmmm.

This simple $750,000 transaction from a year ago is fast becoming a $3 million windfall. In Their Own Words

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Road to an Override?

So as of this morning both papers have covered the new three-year teacher contract for the Amherst Schools, the second largest employer in Amherst (behind that juggernaut Umass) and both articles do the complicated math, providing average salaries for all 400 teachers or the 14 at the top step but nobody does the simple math:

What is the total dollar amount of increase over last year’s 1% increase for salary/wages due to this blanket 2.5% raise and did the Superintendent factor that dollar amount into his budgets presented to the School Committees and coming before Town Meeting next month?

The combined school budgets are 49 million and colloquial wisdom is that employees account for 85% of that, or around $40 million. So a 2.5% raise comes to an extra $1 million (Hey a million here and a million there…).

My concern of course is NEXT year when it jumps another 3.5% from the NEW higher number, or $1.3 million.

I emailed Superintendent Hochman and longtime Finance Committee member Alice Carlozzi early Monday morning to ask what the dollar amount is and neither of them knew. Not a good sign.

UPDATE: April 11. So I heard back yesterday from Superintendent Hochman and the figures are: $294,701 for last year when the raises were only 1% and this coming year FY09 694,947 and next year at the 3.5% will top $1 million.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Freedom isn't free

Protestors climbed the Golden Gate Bridge to put up a “Free Tibet” banner. Now since San Francisco is the Mother of All refuge cities for illegal immigrants you gotta wonder if the perps were legal. And if one of them fell while performing the act of civil disobedience, could they suit the city?

Let’s hope His Lordship doesn’t get any ideas about Amherst’s downtown banner.

Breaking News! (Ho Hum)

Well I guess my slight boo boo on predicting the April Fool’s Day election is now vindicated. Long live His Lordship! But his Court will certainly be less regal calling the other four by their first names. But I like that rearranged seating. What’s that cliché about deck chairs on the Titanic?
Springfield Republican

Monday, April 7, 2008

Safe Bet!

Tonight’s Select Board “reorganization” will see Gerry Weiss retain his exalted title, actually both of them: ‘Chair of the Board’ and ‘His Lordship.’

What controversy?

The Regional School Committee tomorrow night will take up the discussion of “Controversial Issues In School” policy for possible revisions (after the way the Committee handled things in the past I’m surprised to learn they have a playbook).

I only have two suggestions:
Don’t ever cancel ‘West Side Story’ (no matter how many kids sign a petition) and don’t ever allow the school to sanction ‘The Vagina Monologues’ again.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Colors of Spring

So Betsy Gage, who lives nearby and inherited the “job” from another neighbor, every year about now loads this big green bucket located on the South Amherst Town Common with brightly colored flowers (in late summer she may replace them with mums). She doesn’t get paid to do it, and she herself finances the flowers purchased from a very local farm.

Yeah, even the People’s Republic has people who genuinely care (thank God!)
Click photo to enlarge.

Friday, April 4, 2008

His Lordship: "Not Ready" For Prime Time

Since Amherst Select Board Chair Gerry Weiss just released this update about his anti-immigration law folly on an ABD (all but dead) website, I thought I would give it the wider circulation it deserves.

No agent, officer or employee of the Town of Amherst, in the performance of official duties, shall assist or cooperate with the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the United States in the investigation or arrest of any persons for civil or criminal violations of the immigration and nationality laws of the United States.

“I've decided to pull the article from the warrant. In my mind, it is not ready to go, and I'm not interested in using Town Meeting time fighting over a document that is not ready. This is too important to allow that to happen. I've been in touch with lawyers from ACLU as well as immigration lawyers who will help craft this into something that will be ready for Fall Town Meeting; or not at all.”

Notice he declares "I've decided". Hmmm. Last I looked it took a majority of the Select board (3 of 5) to place an article on the warrant or call for an Override. Now you know why his nickname is "His Lordship.".

And if we take up this "Welcome Aliens" legislation this Fall perhaps Mr. Weiss will put some money in the budget so we can construct a UFO landing pad on the Town Common.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bomb the Bully?

So the buzz on the (privately owned by Mother Mary) Amherst Town Meeting listserve the past couple of days has been about the good ship Amherst Bulletin hitting an iceberg on their maiden voyage into political endorsements.
Amherst Town Meeting Buzz

One former Select Man suggested a boycott. Naturally Leo Maley the campaign manager of top vote getter and editorially supported candidate Diana Stein suggests everybody get over it and move on because, after all (and I can envision a Cheshire Cat smile as he typed this) “It is better to be a winner than a whiner.”

And talk about serendipity. Just after I point out it’s hard to “boycott” a free publication, I receive in my mailbox a plea from the Bully to send in this postage return paid postcard saying I want to receive the publication. This allows them significant reduced rates with their bulk mailing costs. Hmmm….

So even if only Hwei-Ling Greeney’s 1,393 supporters withhold that postcard it could tip the balance. Worse yet, they could check off the “No I do not wish to continue receiving the Bulletin” then wrap up a heavy brick in brown paper and tape the post card to it (with the “all postage is paid for by the Amherst Bulletin” showing).

Personally I liked my Abby Hoffman idea from a few days ago about wrapping a dead fish in the Bulletin let it ferment a few days and then mail it to them. Of course, now you could attach the post card and let them pay for it.

BUT, BUT, BUT: I’ve been there all too many times over the past 26 years in business. Last year after the Override failed a bitter woman sent me a snotty, condescending email saying she was forbidding her husband from renewing his relatively long-time membership to my club.

Fair enough…I guess. It’s one thing to suddenly decide you don’t like something a business owner has done (even though it has nothing to do with the business itself) and decide not to continue patronage.

But it’s another thing altogether to wage psychological warfare as punishment over daring to invoke my First Amendment rights.

Yeah, the Bulletin screwed up. And the good old boys in the ailing Bricks and Mortar newsprint industry never explain and never apologize.

As Freud once (hopefully) observed, however: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

End of a beautiful day

UPDATE: 10:30 pm It’s been an interesting if not L-O-N-G day. My forever business partner (as opposed to forever wife) is in L.A. cornering for an Ultimate Fighting women’s World Champ he trains, so I had to do a tad more work at the athletic Club than usual. And I’m still in a bad mood over yesterday’s election results.

So, he whispered soflty, just between us, this is what transpired over the past four or five hours:

Discussion on the Town Meeting Listserve (mistakenly called a blog by one poster):
On Mar 31, 2008, at 10:27 PM, wrote:

The editor of the editorial page of the Bulletin made a commitment to an op-ed writer several weeks ago that his column would appear in the March 27th edition. It did not. The editor also established in writing the process by which letters would be printed. He did not fulfill that promise either. One can only surmise that he was overruled by his superiors in Northampton who decided to arrange the page — letters and column — to support their endorsement.

Furthermore, it is generally considered to be an unfair practice
for a news paper to print attacks on candidates in the last edition
leading to the election. The Bulletin chose not to do this either.
Some editors in the interest of fairness would have shown the
letters/columns to the candidate and given him/her an opportunity to reply

And finally, we were told that letters in support of Greeney that
were supposed to be printed and that addressed a misconception of
her stand in regard to the budget and the schools were Online. But
it developed that the only way these letters could be accessed was
by doing a search using the name of the letter writer. Very cute. Freedom of the press has limitations in the same way that freedom of speech does.

From: Richard Bentley
Sent: Wed, 2 Apr 2008 3:37 pm

Can we get their side of the story on this blog? It would appear they
owe the town a HUGE explanation, and it might allay future mistrust.

Sent: Wed, 2 Apr 2008 5:33 pm

Bricks and mortar editors NEVER apologize and NEVER explain.


My comment on Tommy Devine's stellar blog this evening:

Yeah, let's hope the Big Shots that own the Springfield Republican can find a way to keep Local Buzz buzzing along. With only a cyber footprint it most certainly has a cheaper overhead than all that messy printing and distributing of heavy material that comes from trees Amherst folks so love to hug.

The Net was born out of Doomsday and has grown into the communication revolution that has ushered us into the 21'st Century. As the Dinosaurs discovered a few million years ago, adapt or die (or try to avoid those damn meteors)

Speaking of Doomsday, my very first notification on THAT awful morning came via an AOL Instant Message, something I usually declined.

I had just posted a flaming message to the Gazettenet forum (that at the time was way more popular than the Masslive Amherst forum) about the 'Only in Amherst' anti-flag events from the Select Board meeting the night before.

I accepted the call (AOL used to open a pop up in your top left corner of the screen saying "Do you wish to accept this I.M. from so and so) because I knew he lived in Boston and thought--since the Select board meeting had made the AP wire in the pre dawn hours of 9/11--that it had to do with little old Amherst.

He sent the text message "Are you near a TV?" I responded, "Flags in Amherst?" No he came back instantly "A plane impaled the North Tower of the World Trade Center".

I responded "Holy shit!" Again he came back: "Make that two--another one just hit the South Tower." I said, "I gotta go". Only then did I speed home to turn on the TV and see those searing images. My God!

Fast forward and look at Gazettenet now. They have been in cyberspace forever in Internet time (over ten years) but this new major revision is a disaster. They launched on February 20 and claimed the beta version would be fully in place within a week and here we are almost six weeks later and they still rely on the previous build.

The blogs are a joke. Chief editor Foudy posted once on Feb 20 and has not updated since.

Newspapers of New England recently purchased The Gazette and Valley Advocate and the new publisher Aaron Julien (who married the President's daughter) has no journalism experience whatsoever. Unfortunately for me he moved to Amherst (like a lot of carpetbaggers) and his wife has been politically active in ACE the pro-education group that can't spell.

The Gazette spent millions installing a new color printer and constructing a giganormous (ugly as Hell) building to keep it out of the rain in their headquarters in Hamp and they recently acquired a subsidy from the taxpayers in the form of a $630,000 state tax credit.

And not so surprisingly the Amherst Bulletin (also under the control of Pretty-Boy Julien) at the 11'th hour endorsed Stein and O'Keeffe just when their campaigns were starting to panic.

So yeah, in light of that last second meddling by the Bricks-and-Mortar, Powers That Be, it's not so surprising that Hwei-Ling Greeney lost (although that pose with Kerry probably didn't help...Yikes)

Posted by LarryK4 to Tommy Devine's Online Journal at Wednesday, April 2, 2008 7:08:00 PM EST

It's a beautiful day

Since I did not make the victory parties last night let me say congratulations to Select Board winners Diana Stein and Stephanie O’Keeffe. You will now join a board with very little diversity of thought or ethnicity or--interestingly enough--gender.

The ball is now in your court, run with it. But keep in mind the parameters of the playing field. If you want to be everything to everybody you will need way more money; thus requiring a Proposition 2.5 Override, failsafe legislation that requires voter approval.

Last May 2,650 Amherst residents voted down just such an Override. Yesterday, first place winner Diana Stein garnered only 2,200 votes. Do the math.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Let the gloating begin

10:15 pm Okay so what the Hell do I know? Actually my top three picks finished in the top three... only in reverse order. And 4'th and 5'th place I called perfectly. Stein, O'Keeffe and Greeney rather than the other way around. And Rhodes and Mr. Keenan (who got far more votes for Town Meeting in his home precinct as he did votes for Select Board)

But it really doesn't matter. Neither Stein nor O’Keeffe will serve out their three-year term. Because with bigger issues—like the Prop 2.5 Override getting blown out of the effluent last year--my predictions are a tad more accurate. Because it helps when we get a better voter turnout.

Amherst will change from this antiquated form of government that relies on part-time, amateur, do-gooders and come into the 21'th Century with a professional, full-time Mayor/Council.

But God help us until then.

Scenes from Amherst Town Center

UPDATE: 5:45 pm Well I guess if you drove thru town center today (as I did a few times) you would assume Blue Bloods, errr, I mean Blue Signs will capture the two coveted Select Board seats--not to mention the lone School Committee seat.

So if anybody is interested--and the 60% of you from outside Amherst probably are not—here’s my prediction for the election:
Greeney first (behold the power of the Red sign) O’Keeffe second, Stein third, Rhodes fourth and the most entertaining candidate Dave Keenan dead last.

Sanderson over Romero (in spite of the cool animatronic Marinette truck and her red, white and blue signage) for School Committee.
Amherst Redevelopment Authority: Peg Roberts and Aaron Hayden.

12:30 pm: Note the difference between unstaged photos A (above), where they had not yet spotted me; and photo B: obviously these folks get all excited when they think the results could get wider exposure.

Now I know why the Powers That Be, establishment coalition chose BLUE for all their candidates’ signs. You don’t get any more blue state than Massachusetts and out of the 351 municipalities you don’t get any bluer than Amherst.

The Chinese got it right: Red rocks!

Well I love that dirty water

With all the fun I was having in town center yesterday I neglected this smelly story; and appropriate because as of 8:00 pm Rob Kusner will no longer be a Select Man (there go a bunch of great posts over the next year).

Hey Larry,

I am in Germany now (yeah, you already know, since I know you check from where in the world people log into your blog ;-) and just got this in my inbox. I thought you'd get a kick that it is addressed to me of all people!

Best wishes from Berlin (and see you in Town Meeting :-),


March 31, 2008

Mr. Robert Kusner
Board of Selectmen
Town Hall
Amherst, MA. 01002

Dear Mr. Kusner:

I am pleased to advise you that Amherst will receive $22,575 from the Commonwealth Sewer Rate Relief Fund for FY 2008. The fund was established in 1993 to mitigate sewer rate increases due to debt service obligations for qualified sewer construction projects.

The balance in the fund from prior years and the FY 2008 appropriation provides for awards calculated at 6.567% of eligible debt service. The FY 2008 total state distribution from the fund was $23,025,406.

We are pleased to administer this important program to mitigate sewer rate increases in communitites across the Commonwealth.


Robert G. Nunes
Deputy Commissioner &
Director of Municipal Affairs

Well that $22,000 will somewhat make up for the $38,000 effluent waiver Mr. Kusner gave his employer, Umass; except of course this grant is only a one-shot deal while the sweetheart effluent deal for Umass is a five year gig.

And with no cap on how much they can use for free and with all that new construction coming on line, the amounts are sure to expand exponentially

Note to Greg Saulmon at Local Buzz: Yeah, like ACE, the Deputy Commissioner also has a spelling problem (communities, committees…whatever)