Friday, October 3, 2008

I'll see your white elephant...


So my friend and fellow small business owner and of course blogger Max Hartshorne put up a fascinating post the other day about one of my favorite countries—North Korea.

Seems there’s this skyscraper/hotel they “tried” to build that would put them on the map for tourism and entertainment (yeah, just the place I would like to go on vacation).

But they ran out of money (if it was our government we would have simply printed more) and the concrete quality was so poor that it was downright dangerous.

So there it sits, a hulking monument to all things communist.

But before we get all high and mighty remember Umass/Amherst (as opposed to the other four locations) has this $10 million dollar heating plant built in the 1970’s that never threw a BTU of heat. If, however, Mel Gibson reprises the Mad Max series--this would be a great location.

Let’s hope the new $130 million--or whatever it ends up costing--Cogeneration Power Plant fares better (let's also hope those angry skies in the background are not an omen).


And this is the original photo I uploaded thinking--for almost 35 years now--it was the $10 million White Elephant. Damn! But that is what is great about a blog; corrections are like Vice President's: only a heartbeat away.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right story, wrong plant.

This is a picture of the CURRENT steam plant, actually the second (of four) that UMass has had. (The first one was on the other side of the gulch -- the outfall of the campus pond -- which is what they used for water for steam back before Amherst had a municipal water supply.

The Tilson Farm Plant, 1.8 miles to the west and quite a bit uphill, is the one that was never used. And it wasn't the plant as much as the pipeline down Eastman Lane that failed. Turbines don't like water drops in the steam and some say that the steam essentially was hot water when it got down to the pictured plant, where the turbines are located.

The newest plant is located next to the Mullins Center, adjacent to the sewer plant and the very same brook that was used in the 19th Century for water for steam.

Ed

Anonymous said...

WTF larry, you tossed this one right in ed's sweet spot: Umass. jeebus.

Anonymous said...

Uhm, thanks for saying Umass and giving Ed another chance to pretend he knows all the facts there.
What exactly are you studying there Ed???

LarryK4 said...

Come on guys Umass is (even though they might not like it) a part of Amherst.

And the illustrious Amherst Select Board did not meet this past Monday night, so it's been a slow news week for all things dumb in the People's Republic.

Bill Peters said...

That skyscraper, however, looks like it'd fit right in with UMass's concrete-slab and oversized-cookie-cutter approach to architecture...

LarryK4 said...

Hey Bill,
Indeed! You would think folks who live in the North would prefer Blue over Grey.

And maybe it's just me, but that Big 'Ol Umass phallic smokestack seems to be listing slightly to--God forbid--The Right.

Anonymous said...

First, Larry now has the right plant, the Tilson Farm one which was the third of the four plants, the one located near the UM siding/coalyard except that this plant burned oil.

Second, my MEd is in Higher Education and I used aspects of the history of this campus for several of my "history" and "policy" courses. I interviewed folk like John Lederlie, dug through the archives up on the top of the library, read the Ward Commission Report (on the 6th floor) and interviewed folk here at the time.

Basic, solid academic research.

Now that was two degrees ago, but one doesn't purge all one knows once the envelope arrives in the mail....

Ed Cutting

Anonymous said...

Ed has his masters in Education from Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass

What did he learn about education by studying the Ward Commission Report, and not study Wards leadership and educational philosophy as college president... I mean it was an Ed degree not government, no?

Anonymous said...

Why does the blogger spread this nonsense: "Come on guys Umass is (even though they might not like it) a part of Amherst."
Where does he get the idea that UMass (whatever that refers to.. the overpaid administration, the overpaid cappuccino-sipping faculty, the free-loading off of our taxes staff, the problem students?) doesn't like Amherst. I have heard tell that some of them (just like the rest of us) don't like particular people all that much, but where does the blogger get his crazy ideas that they don't like Amherst? And I hear that some of them don't like those people that are constantly complaining about UMass. But I remain confused and wonder where the blogger gets the misinformation he continues to spread. I guess if you say it enough times, eventually you believe it. What happened that gave him this impression?

LarryK4 said...

Damn, late Friday afternoon and you are still reading (pretty good for a Umass Bureaucrat)

About 8 or 9 years ago Umass airbrushed out the word "Amherst" from their official Umass/Amherst logo (if you don't believe me ask Mary Carey who wrote an article for the Umass Magazine).

Now they (or at least some idiot Alum) want to remove all reference to Amherst when talking--or I should say writing--about the flagship.

Symbols are important. That is why the freaken Towers crumbled.

Anonymous said...

What REALLY is behind the removal of "Amherst" from the logo.

What you have are five campii and four are not like the fifth, although they would like to be. If they are all a UMass-at-somewhere, they are all considered equal. If only one gets to be UMass and the others are @somewhere else.

The seven campus UMaine System is a better example -- the Orono campus was the University of Maine from 1865-1969 and the other six campii were county normal schools. Well they then made them all UMaine-at and bad blood flew.

They called their version of the President's Office the University of Maine.

Less than 20 years later, the legislature re-named it the "University of Maine System" and UM-Orono back to just UM.

And that is what is happening here - as in Maine, the rival smaller campus is located in the state's largest city (Portland) while the "flagship" campus is located near the state's second largest but much smaller city (Bangor).

Amherst is going to be facing the same problems as Orono, without the benefit of having two interstate highway exits within town borders. Increasingly young people want to either be in the city or to commute from home -- neither of which is going to help Amherst much, nor UMA either.

Ed

Anonymous said...

Why I studied the Ward Commission Report.

My MEd was in educational administration, I had an interest in operations. Well if you want to know why things are like they are now, you need to know how they came to be like that.

And my point then was that much of every college in the country was built between 1965 and 1974 and was built with a 30-40 year life expectancy which then meant....

And that has come to pass....

Ed

'bach said...

yes 30-40 years later now, so umass figures, why don't we just wreck all of these 100+ y.o. buildings too, as long as we're at it.

Anonymous said...

The '60s were a different time and I wasn't here then.

But the point to remember is that they were tearing down perfectly good WPA-built buildings that were then only 30 years old. For example, the reason why UMass has two buildings named Dickinson is not that the one housing the police station is named after a UM grad who died in WW-1 while the dorm named after his likely relative Emily, but that the 2-story building was slated for demolition.

Lederlie told me that the initial plan for the library was to expand from Goodell (the then library) to the west but he couldn't tear down Dickinson because he needed it "one more year" for ROTC. And there were quite a few more of these well-built WPA buildings being demolished at the time (I saw an era newspaper article about this).

So if you are tearing down perfectly good buildings that are only 30 years old - that had been built in the 1930s by the WPA - then it is reasonable to assume that the next generation would be tearing down the stuff you built.

It was the height of the throw-away culture. It was how the people then were thinking - and you need to understand that to understand what they did -- and understand that to figure out how to fix their messes...

ARHS '76 said...

Damn! But that is what is great about a blog; corrections are like Vice President's: only a heartbeat away.

Larry, are you saying you favor Palin's candidacy for VP? To me, the idea of Sarah Palin presidency is a shock to the senses and her selection is a sign of the advanced cynicism of what remains of the conservative party. Bush has destroyed it in eight short years. Turning to Palin, a gimmick, is more of the same.

Here's an estimate of the stakes of passing Q1, for Amherst:
18,000,000 cut from school funding.
7,000,000 cut in town aid.
That's a structural deficit of 25,000,000 per year.

If you think Amherst residents would vote down a prop 2.5 petition to save their schools you are wrong.

LarryK4 said...

I’m trying to figure out how you translate my use of the clich├ęd line for VP’s “heartbeat away from the Presidency” into an endorsement of Governor Palin?

What I found interesting about the debate is that she did not screw up in a major way (84% in a CNN poll agreed saying she exceeded expectations) nor did the other guy. So in that sense--she won the debate.

CNN poll shows only 51% thought the other guy won (to Palin’s 36%) but more interestingly they also thought that she was “more likable” by 54 to 36%

So again, in my PR eyes (public relations not Puerto Rico) she won.

And forget the gloom and doom over Question 1. The legislature will do exactly what they did with the roll back of the income tax a few years back and IGNORE it.

Anonymous said...

Two things on Question #1

First, it is worse than Larry says -- if the question fails, they will think that the taxpayers are willing to pay EVEN MORE and thus increase taxes even more. Possibly reinstate turnpike tolls out here. Etc...

Second, at some point, the convergence of home schooling, charter school interest, concerns with the expensive/but/failing public schools and taxpayer sticker shock will provoke people to say "No More!"

What they will do is pull their kids out of the public schools and educate them cooperatively amongst themselves in some manner and then tell the ARSD that they can have all the Vagina Monologues and Pagan Chants and whatnot they desire, they just are going to be funded at the absolute legal minimum.

That the schools are now irrelevant to those with political power in the community. (THIS is why the teachers unions so fear charter schools...)

At some point, the majority of UM students, should they ever vote, would vote against overrides because it would directly raise their rents. The only thing that would be problematic is if the student tenants were to be replaced by Sect 8 tenants (who would not pay the increase if their rent went up).

Otherwise, the pay-or-else mentality of the school will implode soon.

Ed

Anonymous said...

SARAH!

Andrew Jackson put it best, the mechanics of government are fairly simple. You just hire the right people for your cabinet (etc) and make sure they stay loyal to your ideals. Hence the only three qualifications for POTUS are to be a good judge of character, to have solid inflexible ideals, and to be strong enough to head into the popular storm. Sarah Palin has all three qualities and a demonstrated history with them. Reagan and FDR both had them as well.

Ed

ARHS '76 said...

Palin won the debate if you handicap it based on expectations. Her's were lower than the floor. She also won it on talking points delivered rapidly and snarky digs at her opponent. On substantive issues, like having a command of the facts, she lost.

Whether she won or lost is really immaterial. That John McCain picked a VP candidate who is so provincial and so poorly informed about the national issues of our day, in a time of unprecedented turmoil, says to me, he's lost it.

Karpinsky has something to add.

Anonymous said...

At some point, the majority of UM students...- ED

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Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass

Anonymous said...


Candidate polling

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Ed is stupid enough to think that UMASS won't face cuts if Question 1 passes. I'd also like to know what proof he has, other than a completely different situation years ago, to back up his assertion that the legislature will ignore a Yes vote on Question 1. This is a binding resolution if it passes this means if it passes it is law, legislature or no legislature. Even if by the small chance they don't roll all the way back or do it slower than planned, the first place they will cut will be Higher Ed. just like everytime before. Hey Ed, you pass yourself off as an advocate for college students, but tuition and fees are going up and financial aid is going down at all public schools, and here you are supporting Question 1? I would be careful who you mention that to at UMASS, if Question 1 passes and those students you champion have their tuition and fees raised as much as $6000 and then see their financial aid shrink down even more, they may look around to you and other supporters of Question 1 for a little cash to help to make sure they can get an education.

Anonymous said...

When you are talking about eliminating the income tax first, we need to start with the $30 billion budget number and work backwards and start with what is “off limits” for cutting.

Public Education Spending: The education reform initiative that started back in the 1990’s was a result of a court case; Hancock v. Driscoll so, presumably any cut in education funding would be constitutionally off limits or most likely reversed by the Supreme Judicial Court through anticipated suits anyway. $4 billion that cannot be cut.

Debt Service and Pensions: Pensions, school building construction debt, MTA and MBTA debt costs the commonwealth $5 billion a year that we must pay. Between public education and debt payments, that is almost one third of our budget that is untouchable. If we were to avoid paying our debt, the commonwealth’s credit rating would be impacted and our ability to short term borrow to keep the government operating, or invest in infrastructure projects would be in peril.

Between just these two examples, this leaves us with $20 billion left in our budget where we can take the $12.7 billion out of.

Welfare, Social Services, Higher Education and PORK: These are popular items with some in the “vote yes” column, especially welfare. There seems to be a disconnect between what is actually spent and what some think IS being spent on social programs. So, for the sake of argument lets cut ALL social programs such as welfare and then cut ALL substance abuse, prostrate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS prevention programs then close ALL of our prisons then cut ALL public housing programs then cut ALL services for the physically and mentally disabled and then cut funding to ALL of our state colleges and universities and while we are at it let’s add in every “pork barrel “legislative earmark too. PHEW! We just saved roughly $4 billion TOTAL. Only $8.7 Billion to go!

Local Aid: We could cut the local aid distributions that go to our communities to pay for everything from seniors programs to police and trash collections. That move would cut $1.3 billion from the budget. Only $7.4 billion to go!

Even when we cut out the often cited “fat” in our state budget; social programs, earmarks and the like, we are still very far away. Even when we make drastic cuts like closing our colleges, prisons and public hospitals we are not even halfway to our $12.7 billion goal.

Other items to cut: Should we not pay unemployment benefits, Stop plowing state roads, or eliminate the Department of Environmental Protection? Should we eliminate the Department of Conservation and Recreation stopping all environmental programs and give up protecting open lands, lakes, rivers and ponds for generations to enjoy? Should we eliminate the Department of Agriculture, abandoning our local farmers?

Once we start to take a clear and sober look at what can be cut from the state budget the realization comes very quickly what the choices are and that the elimination of the state income tax would be devastating to our communities.

Vote No on Question One. It's a reckless idea.

Robert said...

This question is the passage of a law, immediately effective Jan 1. While the legislature can in THEORY pass ANOTHER law to change that outcome, there is no guarantee that they will, especially in the face of this climate and we should not put OURSELVES at risk with a yes vote. Instead, if you're mad at the legislators, GET MAD (call, meet, write, vote them out) but this is not the answer since we're the ones who will pay the price, not them.

Anonymous said...

Three things.

First, you look at past practices. The legislature has ignored all past referendums and/or prevented them from even going to a vote (gay marriage anyone?). They could not do it this time, but they could also all go for a naked beer bash on the common. There are too many of them in bed with too many political interests for them NOT to reverse this.

Second, Carla Howell pointed out some time back that the entire Commonwealth budget of 1990 could be funded by just the raised fees and additional taxes without the income tax. And that was *before* MittFee came in...

Third, if UM students found their tuitions going up by $3000 and their parents getting $3000 in additional income, it would be "revenue neutral" to them. If it actually went up by $1000 then the familes still gain $2000...

Further, you assume two falsehoods - first that the majority of UMass is state money when the state now provides a VERY SMALL portion of the budget and further that education is UM's biggest expense. There are a lot of things that UM could cut - to the chagrin of the adjacent communities - that wouldn't affect education at all...

See http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2008/10/05/up_up_and_away/

Enough said?

Ed

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ed, for the love of God, enough said.