Friday, October 31, 2008

Criminal indeed


So our illustrious Select Board, none of whom have any business background, asked ever so nicely for Municipal Department Heads who oversee our $65 million operation to come up with coping mechanisms for next years budget (besides drugs of course):

Cherry Hill—you know, that vital luxiourious game of golf—came up with a dozy:


8. List at least one area where efficiency might be improved for FY 10.


Utilize Department of Corrections inmates to a greater extent to provide no Cost maintenance work at Cherry Hill.

Wow. The NIMBY’s are just going to love that! (Especially battle ax Hilda Greenbaum). Sure, bus in the muggers, rapist and murders--as long as they work for free.

Since it was the immediate neighbors (especially the Greenbaum’s) that brought us Cherry Hill to begin with over 20 years ago, sounds like poetic justice to me.

In 2001 the cost of incarceration in Massachusetts was$37,718 annually while the national average was only $24,052. And I have got to believe it’s a lot higher now. Yeah leave it to a town bureaucrat to shift costs to some other (state) budget as long as it makes her look good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

All that glitters...


Like that old song lyric: "Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge."
UPDATE: Saturday, February 21, 2009 (Yikes) 'Comments' are the best!
And so it continues to go (but not for long)

UPDATE: Thursday November 13, 2009
I have been running a fitness center for 27 years and only been blogging since 3/17/07; and never have I gone back to a two-week old post to add an update (a day or two maybe, but never this long)

My sitemeter tells me I’m getting almost a dozen visitors a day to this particular post because you did an internet search for “leading edge fitness Amherst” or “Golds becomes the leading edge” or something similar.

And that only further proves my point! The local boys who originally founded Golds five years ago were supposed to be so hip, so cool, so cutting edge (maybe that’s where the new name comes from) using the Net, Facebook, email interaction with customers, etc.

But this name changed occurred so suddenly nobody thought ahead to take out a domain name under “the leading edge Amherst” and fill it with content so that when you did your search they would come up number one rather than my humble critique?

Original post: 10/30/08
Changing your name from the gold standard of health club franchises (not that there are all that many in the industry, as about 85% of fitness facilities are Mom-and-Pops) “Golds Gym” to “The Leading Edge” is kind of like that McDonalds in Hadley changing its name to “Billy Bob’s Burgers”.

And, of course, it has nothing whatsoever to do with paying the annual 5% of gross revenues franchise fee. Even at “only” 1,500 members paying $40/month that still amounts to a yearly overhead of $36,000.

When Golds first opened five years ago they revealed an astonishing target of 3,000 members. I say astonishing because if you added up the entire membership of established Health Clubs this side of the river (Hampshire Fitness, Kidsports, Ultimate Fitness and
Amherst Athletic Club) it would not total much more than 3,000.

But considering “Video To Go” located adjacent to Golds and about four or five times smaller in square footage was paying $5,000 per month rent (so you can imagine what Golds is now paying), they really do need that many members to break even.

And yeah, after Golds opened Kidsports and Ultimate Fitness closed--but the owners of Hampshire Fitness sold out to Perry Messer, owner of the oldest club in the Valley ‘Northampton Athletic Club’, and about as experienced a pro as you can get.

A recent Gazette article revealed that membership of both Perry’s clubs now number “about 3,500”. So the largest, oldest two clubs in the Valley combined barely exceed what Golds—I mean ‘The Leading Edge’-- all by itself needs to survive.

In an email to employees they herald “opening a second club in Greenfield soon!” Interestingly ‘Video To Go' moved to Greenfield (to escape the high Amherst rent and cutthroat competition from Blockbuster Video) and lasted less than a year.

And since the conditions placed on Newmarket Center in 1985 calls for sign review/approval by the Planning Board, you gotta wonder if the sign changes were recently approved.

One woman's experience

Previous post on the death of Ultimate Fitness

AC: The pillaging continues


So let me get this strait: during this economic downturn Amherst College can afford to pay $2.3 million for an office building in the heart of the downtown that is currently valued at less than half that amount, but they will allow the Lord Jeff Inn to go to seed?

Okay, new rule: whenever a tax exempt entity—especially the LARGEST landowner in town—buys endangered commercial property and takes it off the tax rolls, they should maintain the tax payment to the town that the private owner paid.

This year Mrs. Hastings paid the town $16,000 on that building; next year (or whenever the leases are up for the Doctors, Lawyers, and Psychologists and Amherst College sends them packing) the building will net zero tax revenue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

AC invokes Roseannadanna's "never mind"


So let me get this strait Tony: Amherst College still has about a Billion dollars in the endowment; and you are already half-way to the $425 Million fundraising goal only announced publicly this week (the first such effort since 2001) and yet you can’t come up with a lousy $20 million to follow thru on the much hyped, eagerly awaited renovations to the esteemed Lord Jeffery Inn, an anchor business (more like the Rock of Gibraltar) for generations in the heart of downtown Amherst?

Four months ago Amherst College “donated” $120,000 to the town (after public disclosure our ambulance/fire runs the previous year cost Amherst taxpayers about that amount). And the Lord Jeff paid the town $32,000 in property taxes and perhaps that same amount in revenues from the 4% local hotel/motel lodging tax.

So this coming year (and now it looks like the next couple years as well) Amherst College will probably still require the same amount (over $100-K) of emergency services provided by AFD--only now the Lord Jeff will pay zero hotel/motel tax and will probably ask for an abatement on property taxes since the business will be generating zero income.

Meanwhile they are abandoning the playing field to the Umass Campus Center Hotel –that just announced a $9.2 million overhaul (at taxpayer expense of course) and they pay neither property taxes nor the local hotel motel tax. And they are located FAR from downtown Amherst.

All-in-all, bad for the taxpayers of Amherst, bad for downtown business, and beyond bad for the image of the #1 Liberal Arts College in America.

Gee Tony, maybe you should have had that lunch with Dave Keenan a while back—he would have told you (in a most colorful way) that this is insanity.

And could you not have at least waited until after the November 4 election to drop this bomb? Now Mr. Hayden (I would hope a highly regarded Amherst College employee) is going to take a beating on this issue probably as early as tonight at the League of Women Voters’ candidate’s night.

Mr. Morales has already played the race card, likening Aaron to “John McCain.” Now with this awful announcement they will by tying him to the College and suggesting he helped pass out diseased blanket to the darn Indians.

Hey Tony, it's okay with me if you fly that majestic American flag on Chapel High at half-staff next week when the Jeff closes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rainbow over South Amherst


4: 35 PM (Crocker Farm School)

Hope springs eternal.

Another one bites the dust

So I and 146 other movers and shakers just received a depressing email. Curt Shumway, my former Amherst Redevelopment Authority compatriot and current Hotel/Motel Czar in the Happy Valley, is migrating from Amherst to South Hadley.

Yeah they can have Anne Awad, Barry Del Castilho (is he still acting Town Manager?) and School Superintendent Gus Sayer; but one of Amherst’s venerable founding families? Say it isn’t so!

And of course, that is a major problem with our fair town: Even multi-generational townies like Curt Shumway get fed up and move away.

Click to enlarge

Monday, October 27, 2008

Revitalizing the crop?


After the last Christmas tree is sold, the Amherst Pelham Boy Scouts always clean up after themselves at Kendrick Park. The same cannot be said for the out-of-town wheat growers. Well, at least we didn’t finance them with CPA funds.

Looked better back in June

Sunday, October 26, 2008

CPA snafu


So the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has decided: the precedent setting case is now the law of the land (Massachusetts land that is): A community cannot use CPA funds to improve or rehabilitate land that was purchased prior to the creation of the CPA.

Like our Plum Brook Weeds, errrrrr, I mean Soccer fields--land purchased in 1974 for conservation/recreation and thirty years later expensively fine tuned into a more specific recreational pursuit, although still not ready for Prime Time.

While the court did not decide whether to grandfather projects already illegally completed (such as Plum Brook) they did clearly say: “We also have been urged to specify that our interpretation will be applied prospectively such that our ruling will have no effect on CPA appropriations already expended by municipalities throughout the Commonwealth. This issue has not been raised by the parties, and we reserve opinion on the matter until it is properly presented.”

Either way, The People’s Republic of Amherst was greedy enough to leverage CPA funds by taking out a large loan repaid over ten years.

So now you have to wonder: where is Amherst going to find the $40,000 annual loan payment over the next five or six years to retire the original $500,000 loan?

If Amherst cannot expend legally and properly the money it gets with the 1.5% CPA tax, how can we trust them with doubling that tax burden to 3%?

My original "I told you so"

The Boston Globe Reports (yeah, the Crusty Gazette will get around to it)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This bumper sticker brought to you by...

Click to enlarge

Of course the funny thing is Mr. Obama will have no problem whatsoever winning the People’s Republic of Amherst, or Taxachusetts for that matter.

Even more hilarious, if you polled the entire DPW department--you know the men and women who do the actual day to day work--McCain would probably hold a slight edge (although the majority of them would not be Amherst registered voters because they cannot afford to live in the town they work for).

Eating for a good cause



10:30 AM
So I couldn't find any bake sales to benefit the next nuclear aircraft carrier but I did find the next best thing: A pancake benefit put on by the always-working Amherst Fire Department. All proceeds benefit SAFE (Student Awareness of Fire Education) an education program that teaches kids about a most formidable foe, fire.

The men behind the curtain

Friday, October 24, 2008

Grrrrrrrr


No it is not Anne Awad doing gardening in her "love nest" in South Hadley. It's a full grown black bear rumbling around the Bike Path in South Amherst (Mill Lane) around 3:00 PM. My wife called from her bike saying to get down her quick with a camera.

But when I went into the woods to get a decent shot she kept yelling to get the Hell back into the car and shoot from there.

The bear just wandered off into the brush. I would guess he was about 400 pounds or so--a lot bigger than me. Back in the day, I had a sidekick that stopped Andre Tippett dead in his tracks (when he was a Pro Bowl linebacker for the New England Patriots), but he probably only weighed in around 275. And that was 20 or so years ago.

So yeah, maybe Donna had a point...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

All politics is local


Yeah, that’s our antiquated almost-extinct Amherst Town Meeting, with over half the members already having one foot in the grave. The illustrious Select Board moved back the start date from November 5 to November 10 because they figured everybody would be soooooo tired from campaigning on November 4 and watching the election results that they would need a reprieve.

Of course if McCain wins, about half of Town Meeting will succumb to heart attacks thus making it hard to get a quorum.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The decline of downtown Amherst


UPDATE: 9:00 AM Wednesday

Talk about prescient headline. This morning’s crusty Gazette has a banner headline announcing the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop—a downtown institution for over two generations—calling it quits.

Interestingly Barry Roberts said he had two bookstores as tenants (must be the other two) and they seem “to do well”. Well, I guess they will do a little better now.

Original post: Tuesday 10:30 PM

If all roads lead to Rome then you better have ample spaces for folks to park their chariots.

Hometown developer Barry Roberts drove home that message in a 1.5 hour discussion with the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, a quasi-state agency with the power of eminent domain made up of four locally elected members and one Governor appointed.

Barry was the guest speaker at our meeting tonight (also attended by rookie Select Person Diana Stein) And since the undersized downtown parking garage was the last project the ARA had any involvement with, his message hit home.

He noted “A significant change in the atmosphere of the downtown,” for commercial rental property (a fair amount of which he owns.) “There’s just not the demand like 10 or 15 years ago. Most of the people are looking to open restaurants.”

But he noted that Amherst College and Umass are doing a better job with food service, so the students no longer flock to the down town as they did in the good old days (at least not for food anyway)

With downtown business overly centered on restaurants we simply “Don’t have a great mix of stores.”

Barry’s advice? “Amherst has to figure out how to be that special place” (that attracts people to the downtown.) And they will want to park.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

There they go again...


Amherst Town Center 8:00 PM
So yeah, once again I’m not overly worried a sitting President or retired President has died because with Amherst College flying the US flag at half-staff could be anything: the death of a lunch lady, or Pulitzer Prize winner.

Their prominent flag spends so much time at half staff most local folks no longer even notice when it is down in the position of mourning (that only a US President or Governor can order).

Belchertown gets it!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Override saber rattling begins

A Modest Proposal?

Mr. Jackson mistakenly referred to the May 1, 2007 amount as a “modest million”. Actually it was for an immodest $2.5 million. He also suggests s the need for a $3 million Override now and even then that would only amount to $3.3 million in five years. Of course the math he does not do is five years down the road the town will have had over $15 million in additional revenue if Mr. Jackson’s Override passes this spring.

He also mentions the “almost $5 million” we currently have stashed in reserves (not including the over $1 million the Regional School has stashed in their reserves) but, curiously considers that amount “unrealistic to think we can use it to bridge the budget gaps in any substantive way going forward.”

Well if the budget gap for next year is only $2.7 million and we have almost twice that amount stashed in savings accounts then that is a pretty easy gap to bridge.

Curiously on May 1, 2007 our reserves stood at $4.3 million. And the projected revenues shortfall back then was $3.7million (as opposed to the modest $2.7 million we hear about today) and of course after the Override failed the Regional Schools ended up the year with a $1 million surplus that they instantly spent on one-time big-ticket items.

Note to Phil: the sky is not falling and the wolf is not among the fold.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mixed Message


Yeah, and we know how those folks who dress in white sheets just love Obama. Yikes! Or better yet--Only in Amherst!

UPDATE 4:35 PM Since my long-time subscriber Neil briefly wondered if I were a red neck, racist schmuck let me point out: the photo is what it is--located on a very high profile public entryway to town center.

As fifth generation Irish born and raised in Amherst I’m quite comfortable discussing “race issues.” Remember, as a teenager Emily Dickinson whimsically wrote to her brother requesting he come home and deal with all the Irish that had washed ashore and flowed inland to Amherst (for work on the railroad) suggesting, “To kill some—there are so many now, there is no room for the Americans.”

Yet in her later years she became so impressed with the work ethic of her Irish domestic servants that she requested they escort her to her grave. A role my great, great grandfather was proud to fulfill.

As someone who prides himself on Public Relations and concern for the image of his town or country, I can’t think of anything worse than Mr. Obama becoming a victim of violence (as happened to Dr. Martin Luther King, or John and Bobby Kennedy)

Yeah, watch that criticism

This from tomorrow's Bulletin (headline 'Select Board discusses town manager evaluation'

This year each of the Select Board members will be writing reviews for Shaffer. This is a change from last year , when Weiss synthesized the comments, taking the other beard members' written comments and merging them into an overall review.

Weiss said he hopes this tactic will make the Select Board members increase the precision in their commentary and be more respectful in their criticism"


Hmmm...So I take it last year some Select Board members were disrespectful in their criticism?

But 'His Lordship' does not want to hear a Minority Report from the Facilitation of Community Choices Committee. I guess he considers that committee plain old pawns rather than Bishops or Rooks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No voices of dissent?

So this from the October 3 Amherst Bulletin:

Select Board Chairman Gerry Weiss said he has been pleased with the work of the subcommittee (FCCC), which has been meeting regularly since April. Weiss said he and Andy Churchill, who are co-chairmen of the Budget Coordinating Group, deliberately selected the 11 members of the panel to represent diverse viewpoints, with people both in favor of and opposed to tax-cap overrides or deep budget cuts.

"I think the committee has gelled and it's in sync," Weiss said.

This is perhaps best demonstrated, Weiss said, in that he doesn't expect there to be a minority report filed by the committee. Both the Bulletin and Daily Hampshire Gazette will feature coverage of this presentation and public reaction in future editions.


We really don't need a committee that is in lock step--errr, I mean "sync" with each other on a fundamentally critical issue like this. What we need is for folks who have a core to stand up and be counted (and I'm not so sure the Gazette/Bulletin is up to covering that in a fair and balanced way).
State slashes CPA funding to Amherst

Umass takes a hit as well

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

UPDATE: 4:00 PM So Amherst Select Person Stephanie kind of proves my point over at her blog as she, finally, updated yesterday; and when talking about the vote to increase the CPA tax from 1.5% to 3% (she co-wrote a column for this week’s Bully with Alisa Brewer opposing the tax increase and His Lordship Gerry Weiss and his water carrier Diana Stein writing one in support) blatantly admits:

“If we are going to ask people to accept higher tax bills, I think it ought to be for funding the essentials of Town government, not just open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation. I worry that making this increase now would jeopardize an override later, if one becomes necessary”

Yeah, “IF” (many people in this town never met an Override they did not want to take out for sushi)

ORIGINAL POST 10:00 AM
Subject: big time...
To: FCCC Committee (all 10 other members)
Date: Monday, October 6, 2008, 11:51 AM

OK...we have now made the "big time" in Amherst...we are featured in Larry Kelley's blog. http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/ I have been monitoring it ever since I emailed him to ask him if he would consider it. I wrote in a comment so that our actual web site address could be immediately accessible...Larry includes a link but the link says "Just Say No!" which might not be what some people want to hear so they might not click. Plus, it never hurts to be able to put a name to a committee. Check it out!

This makes appearances now in Mary Carey's blog, Stephanie's blog, Catherine Sanderson's blog, and Gavin Andresen's blog. But making Larry Kelley's really gives us a lot of visibility. And, at this point, any publicity is good publicity!
Alison Donta


Sooooo, somebody who got this email from somebody forwarded it my way (actually two people). It’s a public document--since it went to the entire Facilitation Of The Community Choices Committee including liaison, Assistant Town Manager John Musante.

Anybody who uses the internet regularly should know that when you send something to a listserve of 10 people (friends and family, committee members, or terrorist cell) chances are pretty good that some of those people will pass it along to one trusted friend, who in turn sends it along to another trusted friend, who….

But of course I’m glad to help publicize their survey--even if I do think it is flawed because of potential ballot stuffing. Over two years ago Select Man Robie Hubley came up with three non-binding questions concerning the beleaguered budget to put before the voters on the April annual election ballot.

One asked if the town should simply implement budget cuts (level funding), another asked if an Override was the way to go and the third asked if a combination of cuts and tax or fee increases (level services) was the solution. A little over 2,500 people showed up at the polls that year and about 1, 800 participated in the survey.

The results were useless to town officials, as the following year a $2.5 million Override went down in flames. Curiously the FCCC’s s three “scenarios” pretty much mimic Mr. Hubley’s previous questions to the voters.

Scenario 1 Level Funding (cuts)

Scenario 2 Level Services (no cuts, no additions) BUT requiring a hefty tax (or fee) increase.

Scenario 3 Priority Restorations/Additions that would require most of the gold in Fort Knox, or a HUGE Override.

The Bully reports

Gerrymandering

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And so it begins...

Our entire family attended--and 3 out of 4 of us competed in--the "4'th annual Larch Hill English Style Cross Country Classic Race" directly across the street from our South Amherst abode (with all revenues going to charity)

My almost-two-year old finished last--but hey, at least she finished! video

ca-ca-ca-ca colors

Friday, October 10, 2008

And Justice for all?

Click to read
The Gazette did a curious story prominently splashed above the fold on the break page about a controversy created by a column published in the Umass Daily Collegian calling into question the facts in the assault case of former Umass student Jason Vassell a violent incident with, gasp, racial overtones.

Now I say curious because one newspaper—especially a bricks and mortar traditional one--does not usually cover another newspaper creating a controversy via a column. Most news editor’s rate columnist just barely above bloggers.

The Collegian columnist relied on public documents for primary source material (probably more so than a typical reporter would) so I also find it curious the Gazette did not use and quote from the same material.

Thus far the response has included a Letter to the editor by Vassell’s two attorney’s lambasting the column and paper. Usually when contacted by a newspaper about a client in a highly public case most attorneys respond with: “I don’t try my case in the media.”

The President of the Student Government Association, who is Asian, also (over) responds to the column with an overly personal counterattack, and when the Collegian insists on editorial oversight an anonymous donor comes up with the cash to buy ad space so the vitriolic Letter would run without editorial filter.

Curiously the Collegian spiked the follow up effort by the columnist defending her original work by citing her reliable sources. Thus, they abandoned her.

A journalist’s (reporter, columnist or blogger) only weapon is their word. And a source needs to know that they will be protected. Reporters have gone to jail to protect a source that divulged information “off the record” and wanted it to stay that way.

If a newspaper will not stand behind a columnist, then maybe they should rethink their mission.

Original Collegian Column

Click to read

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Not getting the concept, continued...

From: amherstac@aol.com [mailto:amherstac@aol.com]
Sent: Wed 10/8/2008 8:17 AM
To: Bob Saul, FCCC Co-Chair
Subject: FCCC questionaire

Hey Bob,

Alison said on my blog that you decided not to implement controls to avoid duplication of results for the survey questions posted on the town web site and hardcopies at the Library. True?

Larry Kelley



From: "Bob Saul"
Subject: RE: FCCC questionaire
Date: October 8, 2008 6:12:25 PM EDT
To: amherstac@aol.com


Its not that we "decided" not to do it. We have no budget so we could not do it cost effectively.

Bob Saul
GMO Renewable Resources


You would think a sub-committee that was formed to act as economic seers to predict the next five years for our $65 million multi-national corporation would be given some spare change to cover certain critical costs—like protecting the integrity of this important poll.

Even the Select board seems to get it as they are numbering the Town Manager evaluation forms distributed to staff and department heads to avoid an overzealous anonymous individual from photocopying the form and stuffing the ballot.

Interestingly, according to Select Person O’Keeffe’s blog: “Mr. Musante (Assistant Town Manager and member of the Facilitation Of The Community Choices Committee) suggested being cautious about drawing broad conclusions from small samples, and it was noted that the same caution must be applied to public submissions.”

Yeah, you gotta watch that damn public.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

People who don't get the concept

I posted a Comment on the Town Manager's Blog Monday morning (that survived the "moderation" process) and received a response--but as a personal email rather than on the blog. And not two hours later o'reilly posted a comment asking the Town Manager "Do you read comments on this blog? Do you respond to questions posed about your post?" So, I guess, the answer is "yes".

(And the Facilitation Of The Community Choices Committee may not be impressed with his answer.)


LarryK4 has left a new comment on your post "ACTIVITIES THIS WEEK": I believe you spoke to a group like this almost two years ago and when the subject of an Override came up, not a single senior in the room was in favor. I hope you encouraged these folks to fill out the questionnaire issued by the Facilitation Of The Community Choices Committee.

From: "Shaffer, Larry"
Subject:RE: [Amherst Town Manager Blog] New comment on ACTIVITIES THIS WEEK.
Date: October 6, 2008 12:53:55 PM EDT
To: LarryK4

Larry,
I did not even mention the questionnaire to the group. Your memory is very good. I was at a Senior Center picnic about two years ago and heard from the participants their opposition to an override.
I hope you are well. Talk to you soon.
Larry

###############################################################################

Received this raging response to my Yahoo account (which I do not check all that often):

You know Larry, I would think you would be happy that we are SAVING the town thousands of dollars by hiring Rick Hood. And I don't mean thousands this year. I mean thousands every year. Isn't that a good thing?

Rick is an expert in Drupal, an open source product, and that is why I recommended him to Jerry Champagne. For you to suggest that I had other motives is just plain wrong. If I thought Rush LImbaugh knew Drupal as well as he knows OxyContin, well I might just recommend him. Rick is an experienced web developer and he is going to do a great job for the school system. We are lucky he was willing to do the project for that price. Projects that are under $5000 don't have to go out to bid. The bidding process itself costs money and delays start times, you know.

Why do you have to mouth off about everything, including things that you don't really know anything about?


Ouch! Let’s hope Rush does not read my blog.

I’m sure Rick knows all-too-well that $5,000 is the cut off for going out to bid. Hmmm…


Monday, October 6, 2008

A billion here and a billion there...

Joint Meeting Town Hall 6:30-ish
So State Senator Stan Rosenberg was his usual articulate well-dressed self, but he was somber—and I do mean somber. Even if Question 1 fails to eviscerate 40% of the state’s revenues he said things are still going to be dire.

When 'His Lordship' Gerry Weiss made a brief introduction and joked about his entertaining /humorous presentation coming up, Stan responded their was nothing funny about the position we are in.

After his presentation he took questions from twenty committee folks sitting in front of him as well as the audience seated behind him. I of course asked Stan about the local lodging tax and how a committee he chaired suggested Umass start paying it (six years ago they projected it would generate $70,000 annually to the town.)

I also mentioned the level playing field argument that every other hotel/motel in town pays it, including The Lord Jeff Inn owned by tax-exempt Amherst College, so why should the Campus Center Hotel have an unfair advantage.

Stan said the University does not like to be put on a slippery slope of having its tax-exempt protective status pierced, but the issue does come up every few years and most certainly would again.

Well let’s hope it is before the Grand Reopening of the Campus Center Hotel after the $10 million renovation.

Small town politics

Some of you political junkies may remember Rick Hood who led a losing charge for the May 1, 2007 $2.5 million Override in one of the more inept political campaigns in Amherst history. So it’s little wonder this $4,500 school web page consultant gig did not go out to competitive bid.

The Bully reports
#############################################################
And speaking of Overrides, the Facilitation Of The Community Choices Committee (yeah, that gets my vote for dumbest name) want residents’ opinions on upcoming budgets—five years worth no less.

The have an online survey questionnaire available on the town website, although I’m concerned one person can do the Chicago thing and “vote early and vote often”. And we know how dedicated liberal freespenders are to Overriding Prop 2.5

Just say No!
#############################################################
State Senator Stan Rosenberg gets a free campaign plug when he presents to a Joint Meeting of the Select Board, Finance Committee, School Committee and Library Trustees (damn, will the room be big enough?) tonight starting at 6:30 PM in venerable Town Hall. I wonder if Senate opponent Keith McCormic will show up and demand equal time (he probably has a slightly different view of the budget)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

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.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

When bad things happen...


Although I consider myself a journalist, one reporter job that I simply would not do is go knock on doors and ask complete strangers how they feel about a horrific tragedy that befell their neighbors such as what happened in North Amherst yesterday.

As I said a few months back, when Amherst police officer Ricky Arocho lost his two-year-old daughter, I can’t think of anything worse than losing a toddler; and if you can--I don’t want to hear it.

A private couple suddenly thrust into the glaring spotlight at the worst moment of their lives.

Yes, to a certain extent the public has a right to know. The bus and school are publicly funded. But these parents also have a right to grieve: privately.

In this particular case the public interest is mainly out of concern, wanting to help, wanting to make sure this never happens again.

Please send whatever you can (if only your prayers):

Abrahim Espinoza Memorial Fund

Contributions can be dropped off at any Florence Savings Bank branch or the Mark's Meadow school office, or mailed to Mark's Meadow School, Abrahim Espinoza Memorial Fund, 813 North Pleasant St, Amherst MA 01002.

The Springfield Republican reports

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

League of Women Voters backs down

UPDATE: 10:15 PM So I'm told the event went well. Although Pro-Question 1 folks did show up and got in a few hits. Senator Rosenberg also showed up but only acting as a "private citizen." Hmmm....

So I guess the only thing that surprised me about this morning's headline/article: "Question 1 panel goes on without Rosenberg," is that the League disinvited him rather than having Stan step down on his own.

Even though the LVM boycotted the July 4'th Parade (as did ACTV) this year I'm sure they heard about Mr. McCormic getting up on a soap box during the Parade and giving brief speeches along the way. Thus they did not want him out in front of their studio this evening with his soap box (maybe he would have dressed up as a Colonist/Indian and instead of a soap box used a tea chest)