Saturday, May 30, 2009

When bad things happen...

UPDATE: Monday 2:20PM

So the Daily Hampshire Gazette must feel bad about Friday's (below the fold) front page puff piece on the 75-year-old hit and run driver. This morning they published an (above the fold) front page sympathetic piece on 33-year-old
cyclist Misty Bassi who was tragically killed on Memorial Day morning, written by Nick Grabbe their most experienced reporter; and the Gazette also did a somber editorial on the "tragedy in Amherst".

Original Post: Saturday morning

Having trained for ten consecutive years to summit Mt. Washington on a bike, I spent a lot of time in the saddle. And over the past 25 years probably cycled up or down University Drive a thousand times.

While 'Swift Way,' the bike path connector to Umass, has only been around since 2002 I have never used it; and not simply because of my prior habit of using the shoulder of the road but because of all the activity on the east side.

The west side has its own access road, so it seems less conjested for cars entering University Drive. But yeah, it can still get hairy with folks coming and going to the Post Office or Big-Y supermarket. On Memorial Day morning I took my two-year-old for a ride on the back of my mountain bike, but fortunately went uptown.

Ten years ago when I was on a training ride near Hadley center a driver backed out of his driveway directly into me. And while he was only going 5 MPH or so and I was doing close to 20 MPH a 4,000-pound car vs. 19-pound bike always results in a TKO'd cyclist.

My business partner said the man called the Athletic Club and was so distraught as to be almost unintelligible. And while I did little damage to his car a fully-grown body cascading over the top of a vehicle is pretty hard to ignore.

But apparently that’s exactly what a 75-year-old Amherst woman did when she left her lane, crossed into the southbound lane of University Drive and hit Misty Bassi, 33, who probably died instantly.

Yesterday the Gazette published an overly sympathetic front-page profile—not of the innocent 33-year-old victim going about her daily routine, but of the woman who ran her down and fled the scene. Although a friend did admit it was a tad out of character considering her Mother Teresa persona.

Yes, we all make mistakes and for most of them folks deserve a second chance. Misty Bassi did not make a mistake; yet she gets no second chance.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury...

The Springfield Republican Reports:

So my friends at the Republican are having a ball with this story--and I'm sure readership is W-A-Y up.

I was a little surprised that the court did not allow the more serious charge of "assault and battery with a dangerous weapon" and that is usually followed by "shod foot". After all, Susan Dawson is the Mayor of Agawam (at least until the next election anyway.)

Not often a woman does not remember what kind of shoes she has on, but the point is any shoe on a foot when that foot is repeatedly kicking a downed opponent to the head is dangerous.

That's why Billy Jack always removed his boots before taking out the bad boys.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A night on the town

I was a little surprised--but more disappointed--that my overnight “ride along” with Amherst Police on a warm Saturday night (Umass Graduation day) did not immerse me in more mayhem, people pyrotechnics or maybe a high-speed chase. Although we did get to zip up Main Street at almost 90 MPH with blue lights flashing for a possible domestic disturbance.

I reported to the Station at 9:00 PM with my trusty old digital camera, new flip video camera, my wife’s i-phone and a good old fashioned notepad and pen. The Patrol Supervisor I was riding shotgun with could go anywhere he pleased, so when trouble occurred we would arrive quickly—as would back up.

First up, a possibly breaking-and-entering on Owen Drive in a large, expensive house still under construction. The new owner told dispatch the lights were on (his family had yet to move in) and he could see two men moving about. They fled into the nearby woods or drove off in a small red car depending if you believed the Dad or his two young children.

We took a fishing trip to a Gatehouse Road condo/apartment complex (a hot spot for calls) because the Supervisor wanted to demonstrate how stolen cars from Holyoke or Springfield end up in Amherst. He typed in one plate number for a 4-door gray Nisan that looked like it had been sitting a while (build up of pollen) and sure enough it was reported stolen in Holyoke about a month ago.

Stolen car (one of many)

And another five cars parked adjacent to it lacked license plates. The bad guys bring them into their apartment making it harder to “run the plates,” and when they want to go out marauding they simply reattach the plate.

Hobart Lane in North Amherst, scene of the infamous Hobart Hoedown was quiet (although we did note broken glass in the parking lot and empty cardboard case of cheap beer.)

The center of town was busy—especially the bars and Antonio’s pizza but not overly so. Around midnight it seemed to get busier. We passed thru town center dozens of times and the Super pointed out that by keeping on the move folks see you a dozen times they might think it was 6 or 8 different patrol cars.

And it’s a good thing he uses smoke-and-mirrors to multiply, because this evening (expected to be a busy night) only six cruisers total (one cop per car) patrol the entire 27 square miles of the People's Republic of Amherst.

We are called out to a house on the Amherst/Pelham border where a mother—the owner of the house—had called the day before saying she was going out of town for the long weekend leaving her teen-aged son home alone for the first time and could the police keep an eye on the house.

Well…she had just called back a few minutes earlier saying a party was happening and could police please break it up. This could tie up officers for hours because if underage kids had been drinking you couldn’t let them drive and they would have to call parents and baby sit them until a parent or guardian came to get them. Hence the request for a Supervisor on scene.

It was still before 11:00 PM and the house was dark and quiet. Another patrol car arrived moments after we did and the Super told the young officer to go around back. He returned a few minutes later and said he could see a teen-aged couple on the couch in what you might call a delicate situation.

The Supervisor had rung the doorbell numerous times and even knocked loudly. Both officers used their powerful flashlights to scan the side of the house, windows and back yard. Dispatch informs the Super of a 911 call coming from that exact neighborhood. The Super laughs as he replies, “Let me guess, it is house number XXX and a kid is calling about possible intruders?” Yep!

When he finally comes to the door wearing only pajama bottoms, he looks startled at the sight of two police officers. He must have thought they were magicians since he had only called for help a minute earlier.

I guess the mother will be happy no party was happening. The son will probably yell at her for not trusting him (assuming she doesn’t discover the tryst). And Amherst PD got to be private security and babysitter all in the same call. Taxpayers should send Mom a bill.

The Super mentions the “Open container By-Law” is exceedingly effective because they can arrest anybody on the spot for public drinking. As crowds gather police can pick a few of the boisterous ringleader tough guys and cart them away--sending a clear message to the remaining crowd.

A house on lower Main Street fits the bill as perhaps 100 young folks spill off the front porch onto the front lawn with loud music blaring and everybody drinking. We had passed it earlier in the evening and the Super said confidently “We’ll be there before the night is out.”

Sure enough around 1:00 AM neighbors called to complain about the ruckus. Five patrol cars respond (leaving the rest of town protected by just one) and Amherst PD goes into crowd control mode. They move quickly and confidently among the crowd barking short direct orders: “Party’s over!" or "Go home!”. The kids pretty much don’t know what hit them.

It helped that the party host was standing on the porch bellowing, “Everybody get out of here!”

This time Police were only outnumbered 20-1 by the boisterous drunken crowd. It’s those nights when they are outnumbered 100-1 when things can get hairy.

The Amherst PD blog reports, “The most frequently committed violent crime in the United States is drunk driving.” Fortunately these kids seemed to be walking (staggering) back to their apartments.

And since I repeatedly heard the word “graduation,” I assume most of these partiers were Umass students. During my entire 9:00 PM – 3:00 AM shift I did not see a single Umass patrol car (or State Police for that matter.)

And if APD did get into trouble at that party scene, the Super could not even directly communicate with UMPD. He would have to radio dispatch and have them call Umass for assistance.

Meanwhile back in town center we pull over in the very public parking lot between Charlie’s and Bertucci’s and the Super bellows out his window “You gotta be kiddin me!?” while directing a spotlight on a youth in a Red Sox t-shirt urinating against a parking meter who slurs something about “just graduating”.

The Super responds “Do you want to start your job search with an arrest for indecent exposure?” “No sir” he quickly responds and then apologizes profusely. Earlier in the evening the Super had suggested that if Amherst passed a Public Urination By-law with a $200 fine the town could make a fortune.

Before the night is out we counted up $1,400 in violations.

A call just past 2:00 AM also involved alcohol. A neighbor in North Amherst on a very busy street complained a party getting out of hand. As we pull up, directly in the middle of the main road, the remains of a rather large 40oz beer bottle.

The Super is not pleased. He bounds out of the car and heads around to the back of the house where another officer is already knocking on the door. A 20-something kid answers and almost before he can say anything the Super says “I want to show you something: follow me!”

The kid almost starts to tremble at the sight of the mound of broken glass. “I… didn’t…do…that!” he stutters. “Well go back in your house and find the one who did and clean it up now,” barks the Super. “Yes, sir” he responds sheepishly

Driving back to town center past just 2:30 with all the bars and Antonio’s closed things are quiet to the point of dead. We get a call that a PVTA bus driver is in a confrontation with a passenger over money.

They are in the center of town the driver said a 20-something Hispanic youth dressed like a hip hop singer had flagged him down (the bus was empty heading back to Umass). The kid was obviously drunk and tells the Super he does not have the $1.25 fare to Northampton but would repay it tomorrow.

The Super responds: “No money, no ride.” The bus driver responds, “I don’t want to smell your breath all the way to Northampton.” And of course I’m thinking that one passenger on a huge PVTA bus paying $1.25 for that 7-mile ride, is not exactly big business.

The youth starts to stagger towards Amherst center. Then turns around and says, “Northampton is this way?” The Super responds: “No, that a way” and points in the opposite direction.

And so ended my night shift. The distant storm that generated heat lightening dancing across the northern sky now briefly produced rain, an Amherst cop’s best friend, but only for a moment or two. By then the crowds had dissipated.


I witnessed a police department comprised of men and women who all toil as a team. In every incident mentioned --and a few I skipped--nobody ever called for back up, but another patrol car almost always instantly appeared.

APD is also made up (48 total) of a unique upper-echelon of highly trained, very experienced, dedicated officers and newcomers who are eager, in shape, respectful of their supervisors and the general public they serve.

Folks like Chief Charlie Scherpa, after 40 years of exemplary service, are almost impossible to replace. Nobody knows this unique town better than officers who have served and protected Amherst for many, many years.

Let’s hope the local civilian committee to select a new Chief takes that into consideration.

And yet the state will defund the Quinn Bill?!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Amherst Remembered

Arriving in town center at 9:30 AM for the Memorial Day Parade Ceremony I couldn’t help but notice the main town Amherican flag was, finally, brought down to its rightful position of mourning for this solemn day.

Also noticeable: when Amherst wishes to allow town equipment in a Parade they pull out all the stops. And apparently Hadley did not hold it against Amherst for missing their Memorial Day observation as the Hopkins Academy marching band put on a great show.

Amherst Regional High School does not, of course, have a marching band (too militaristic)

The Amherst July 4’th Parade Committee made both events as did indefatigably piper Ryan Willey.

The photo below was taken at 1:45 PM. What's wrong with it? Let me count the ways. On Memorial Day the American flag goes down to half staff only from dawn till high-noon. And the US flag should never be lower than a foreign flag.

Amherst College Remembers

7:45 AM

Town of Amherst forgets

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hadley remembers

And no, although Hadley has a mutual aid pack with Amherst for Police and Fire our departments--unlike Umass and State Police--did NOT show up for the Hadley Memorial Day Parade.

Although off duty Amherst call firefighter Ryan Willey was there with his haunting bagpipes and of course the (private) Amherst July 4'th Parade Committee.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

And a very sad response

You know the drill: Click the photo to ENLARGE/read

Bad boys, bad boys what ya gonna do?

12:30 AM, 70 degrees

So yeah, today is Umass graduation which of course reminds us townies of just how BIG the University truly is. I'm doing a "ride along" tonight with Amherst PD's embattled night shift (with a few State police thrown in for good measure.)

Got my new Flip digital camera and stand-by Kodak with only 3-X optical zoom but I plan on getting up close and personal so zoom shouldn't matter. Also have Donna's i-phone, but do not expect to have to send out any Mayday's.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Short but sour

Click to enlarge/read

UPDATE: 5:00 PM:
So there's hilarious Comments (always my blogesphere favorite) over at Princess Stephanie's "blog" or whatever she calls it (that would be O'Keeffe--with two e's two f's and another e)
Princess Stephanie "reports":

Masslive Amherst Forum:
Gotta love uber-lib Lloyd Loar's all too typical response:
Yes Lloydy, anti-aircraft guns (or better yet Patriot missiles) would have come in handy over the skies of lower Manhattan on that awful morning.
Original Post: Yesterday

Sent: Wed, 20 May 2009 10:32 pm
Subject: Public Documents Request
Could I please get a copy of the memo you issued to Fire Chief Keith Hoyle on March 27 concerning Amherst fire trucks not being allowed in the July 4 Parade?


Larry K

Sent: Thu, 21 May 2009 6:20 pm
Subject: FW: 4th of July Parade.FD participation.032709 - RESPONSE FOR INFORMATION REQUEST

Thank you for your e-mail communication to the Select Board. Each member of the Select Board has been sent a copy of your e-mail; however, any action by the Select Board in response to your e-mail must be deliberated and decided upon in a posted and public Select Board meeting. E-mail communications with departments and officials are public documents under State Law. Thank you for your interest and involvement in our community.

To:; SelectBoard@amherstma.govSent: Thu, 21 May 2009 7:01 pm
Subject: Re: 4th of July Parade.FD participation.032709 - RESPONSE FOR INFORMATION REQUEST

Thanks Larry. Keep your head down.

What a difference 20 years makes

As the 20’th anniversary of the slaughter of protesting students at Tiananmen Square approaches, my wife Donna sent me this photo from yesterday. Looks peaceful enough now but Chinese authorities are not looking forward to June 5’th. And security will naturally be tight (or I should say tighter, as security in China is always tight.)

She took my good Kodak digital camera with high optical zoom, but even so I told her not to point it in the direction of any of those ubiquitous folks in olive green uniform.

Too bad male Amherst town officials could not show such balls.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An accident...a horrible, horrible accident

Update 8:30 PM

So yeah, as you can well imagine, the DA’s office received at least two—possibly three—calls from newspapers’ and maybe one from a local TV station within hours of this upload.

The official comment was “the investigation is still ongoing.” Hmmm…

What that really means in bureau-speak is the State Police Reconstruction Team issued their report to the DA saying NO negligence involved and she can of course overrule that and file charges if she so desires.

Thus, while she’s thinking it over, the “investigation is still ongoing.” And as a result it’s currently immune to a Public Documents request (you know that transparency-in-government law her office is charged with upholding.)
Original Post 1:45 PM

My ultra-reliable sources (note plural) are telling me (off the record of course) the State Police Accident Reconstruction Team finally finished their investigation of the horrific death of 2-year-old Abraham Espinoza almost 8 months ago under the wheel of an Amherst School Bus, and forwarded the results to Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel.

No criminal charges will be filed, no negligence on the part of the driver or maintenance personnel. Although, school officials are bracing for a civil lawsuit.

It was an accident--a horrible, horrible accident. And why it has taken THIS long for state officials to release those results is anybody's guess.

What else can I say?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

July 4 Parade fiasco: the prequel

The Republican reports--again!

Princess Stephanie Reports: Comments are the best!

So I feel a tad like the new Star Trek movie: earlier I uploaded the 7:35 PM 'Town Manager Report' and now (a few minutes past midnight) I've just uploaded the opening 6:30 PM 'Question Period'.

But ACTV screwed up the live broadcast, so I only just now got ahold of the digital version of the first part of the meeting (although obviously I was there in the flesh).

With "friends" like these...

So I guess Fox News would come up with a great graphic and run this as a Cable News Exclusive: People's Republic of Amherst disses Public Safety (yet again)!

Since ACTV (operated on municipal funds) screwed up yet again, the illustrious Amherst Select Board meeting from last night will not air until 9:00 PM this evening. And of course the bricks-and-mortar newspaper media did not find much of interest to relate in today's black-and-white print editions. Although the Springfield Republican, as usual, scooped the Gazette covering this controversy a few days back.

The Springfield Republican reports

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Town Mangler's final solution

Well, at least we know who wears the pants in that room
(Original post, a little after midnight)


So yeah ACTV screwed up yet again; nothing of the Select Board meeting went out live last night. I must be jinxed, because the last time I set up a strafing run and was going to have someone capture the 'Question Period' on a flash drive so I could instantly upload on the blog, ACTV sent out only audio for the entire live meeting.

Luckily I just purchased a 'Flip Camera' that does two hours of video.

I believe the Town Mangler even made an issue of ACTV's amateur-hour coverage last winter at the following Select Board meeting. Keep in mind this organization is essentially a town-owned, tax supported $250,000 per year business .

Have tree will travel

Groff Park 10:00 AM (two more are comin)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Slow news day

So my Amherst “Institutional Memory” is like a point-and-shoot digital camera. There’s rock solid “optical zoom” and beyond that (pushing the envelope) enhanced, slightly blurry, “digital zoom”.

I realized this when I stretched my older Kodak camera to the limit to get a recognizable photo of former Select Board Czar Ann Awad (at the time an AMHERST town official) w-a-y off in her South Hadley garden, and it came out blurry.

Fortunately she has an oversized distinctive body, instantly recognizable (even from a good distance) and yeah; you don’t even want to see the few I did not publish.

My “institutional memory” (‘optical zoom’) dates back to 1982 the year I opened my small business in what was then called “The Dead Mall” in bucolic Hadley, the next town over.

Wal Mart moved in a dozen years or years ago after I relocated to my hometown ‘The People’s Republic of Amherst’ and these days that “dead mall” is about as lively as you can get.

But for pre-1982 events I rely on “old timers” I trust and—God forbid—the Gazette, and sister publication Amherst Bulletin. And of course the Amherst Record (a 200+ year old publication killed by the Amherst Bulletin)

Got an email this afternoon from a fellow Town Meeting member about a water outage at Puffton Village, the second one this year. But by the time I got there on my bike it was already repaired. The joys of dealing with the private sector.

My slightly foggy (“digital zoom”) memory reminds me that Puffton Village was constructed in the late 1960's early 1970’s in response to the dramatic growth of Umass/Amherst and received a pass from the Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning Board.

BUT, the Zoning Variance was only good for 25 or 30 years and the complex was originally envisioned as “temporary housing” and upon expiration the buildings would be terminated. So you can imagine the original infrastructure was not exactly constructed to the highest standards.

WELL of course once the vital housing owned by Steve Puffer, a famous long-time Town Meeting member, came into being and served a purpose (not to mention generated lots of money) …

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just a little respect

And let's remember Army Maj. Steven Hutchison as well

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Fri, 15 May 2009 3:09 pm
Subject: Your majestic American flag on Chapel Hill

Hey Tony,

So Wednesday was one of those state-wide local edicts issued by our Governor to fly the flag at half-staff, commemorating the ultimate sacrifice of Massachusetts resident Explosive Ordinance Disposalman John Trahan, age 22--and with that "job description" you can imagine how he died (at least it was quick

today is Peace Officers' Day--and the President of the United States has ordered all flags to half-staff to commemorate those men and women in blue who have also given up their "last measure of devotion" to keep us safe.

Your flag on Chapel Hill is the most prominent in Amherst. Could you maybe please (since the College tends to bring it down to half-staff for employees) subscribe to the
Mass state listserve for those rare occasions when the Governor orders it down, and also observe the Federal ones as well (also rare) for flag protocol? Memorial Day is coming up.

Top be perfectly honest, it's kind of embarrassing.

Larry Kelley

Previous Amherst College observances

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And who pays???!!!

The cell tower in the background pays Amherst $1,697/month and actually serves a purpose.

Soooooo…. this portable office trailer has been sitting here at the town owned Ruxton Gravel Pit unused since around Thanksgiving. The town received $1,200 total from the contractor to rent the land but according to Mass Highway budget book the state pays the contractor $2,400/month rent on the trailer itself—and in all probability is still paying it now six months later.

And you wonder why the state has to defund the Quinn Bill (so police officers will have no incentive now to pursue higher education), or nix entirely social programs aimed at poor/at-risk kids or increase the state sales tax that will probably cost thousands of retail jobs from the lowest end paid workers.

But my favorite is the Meadow Street Bridge--the other North Amherst renovation completed two years ago, where state taxpayers paid a Umass Professor $15,000 to perform an “endangered species” study in the river (i.e. clams) that was accomplished on a Saturday morning and turned up only one clam (that he either relocated or had as an appetizer that night.)

Only in Massachusetts!

Mass Highway reports:

Project Description: AMHERST- BRIDGE REPLACEMENT, A-08-020,
The existing bridge will be replaced with a single span prestressed concrete deck beam structure on new abutments. Location: Town of Amherst

Construction Begins: Autumn 2007
Resident Engineer: Scott Pellerin
Construction Contract Value: $667,940.50
Construction Bid Price: $629,940.50
Initial Construction Estimate: $548,644.00
MassHighway District: District 2
Current Status: Bridge under construction (as of 03/28/2008)
Additional Info: Bridge closed for the duration of the project. Traffic detoured to Leverett Rd., Amherst Rd., Depot Rd., Shutesbury Rd., to Cushman Rd. (as of 04/24/2008)

Hey, what do you want for $630-K?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not bad for Amherst

They even lowered the UN Flag. Kind of ironic in that the UN was its useless self in Iraq.

Rest In Peace Explosive Ordnance Disposalman Petty Officer Second Class Tyler John Trahan--you did your job and only God knows how many civilians and fellow soldiers you saved.

Al Anbar Province, Iraq-Explosive Ordnance Disposalman Petty Officer Second Class Tyler John Trahan age 22 years died Thursday April 30th just two days short of his 23rd birthday. He was killed while conducting combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tyler was the son of Jean-Pierre and Maureen Anne (O’Malley) Trahan of East Freetown. Brother of Molly Jean Trahan of East Freetown, Tyler was also the grandson of Claudette Mae (Allain) O’Malley of New Bedford and the late John J. O’Malley Jr., Antoinette (Gaudette) Trahan and Roger Trahan. Tyler leaves many Uncles, Aunts and Cousins and Loving Friends.

He was born in New Bedford and lived on Long Pond in East Freetown all his life, until he started his military career. He graduated from Freetown Elementary, Freetown-Lakeville Middle School, Old Colony Regional Vocational High School in 2004 and also attended Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He entered the United States Navy in May 2006. Tyler was a member of the National Honor Society during his school years. He was the quarterback of the Old Colony ”Cougars” football team.

Tyler enlisted in the U.S. Navy May 16, 2006 and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL., in July 2006 He then attended the Center for Naval Engineering in Great Lakes before reporting to the Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, FL.

Tyler continued his training at the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School at Eglin Air Force Base in FL. from November 2006 to October 2007.

In service to his country Tyler continued his training at his next duty station that was Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit ONE in San Diego from November to December 2007, and then on to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit TWELVE in Norfolk, VA. In December 2007. Tyler would then join on deployment with an East Coast based SEAL Team.

Tyler’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”(Valor) Distinguishing Device, Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

EOD Petty Officer 2nd Class Trahan’s Funeral will be Wednesday May 13th. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Saint John Neumann Church East Freetown at 11 A.M. At the families request everyone is invited to meet at church. Visiting hours will be Tuesday May 12th from 3-8 P.M. at the Perry Funeral Home 111 Dartmouth St. New Bedford, MA. Following the Mass the funeral cort├Ęge will be traveling to Massachusetts National Cemetery at Otis Air Force Base in Bourne where EOD Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler John Trahan will be buried with full Military Honors.

Please Omit Flowers a Donation may be made in his memory to: EOD2 Tyler John Trahan Memorial Fund Navy Federal Credit Union P.O. Box 3000 Merrifield, VA. 22119-3000 on the check please put for Acct # 3017793997

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Let's try to get this right

Subject:Half-Staff Notification for May 13, 2009
Date: May 11, 2009 4:39:41 PM EDT
Good Afternoon Everyone,

Governor Patrick has requested both the Commonwealth and American Flags be lowered to half-staff on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 from sunrise to sunset in honor of Petty Officer Second Class Tyler John Trahan who was killed in action in Iraq

Pursuant to gubernatorial protocol which states,

"The U.S. flag shall be flown at half-staff at all state buildings from sunrise until sunset on the day of interment of any service member from Massachusetts who is killed in action in a war zone while on active duty,”

Please be advised that Governor Patrick has ordered that the United States flag be lowered to half-staff at all state buildings from sunrise until sunset on Wednesday, May 13, 2009, in honor of Explosive Ordnance Disposalman Petty Officer Second Class Tyler John Trahan of East Freetown, Massachusetts who was killed in action in Iraq on April 30, 2009.

If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you,

State House Event Coordinator

Sometimes a Stand Up Guy

Left to right: Shaffer, SB Princess Stephanie O'Keeffe and rookie Aaron Hayden.

So on some things Town Manager Larry Shaffer is a Stand Up Guy.

Certainly not when it comes to basic American values like a good old fashioned Rockwellian July 4’th Parade, or allowing the Boy Scouts of America unfettered access to property they have used for sixty years to sell Christmas trees, or even flying American flags in town center to commemorate the victims of 9/11.

But he did stand in support of the $20,000 in Article 18 of Community Preservation Act money to improve the landscape of the West Cemetery (you know, the final resting place of the Dickinson family including of course Miss Emily.) The article passed fairly handily 108-51.

And I assume when the recorded Tally Vote (a step up from a standing vote) is released for full-funding of the Civil War Memorial Tablets (a much closer vote at 91 to 84) he will also have voted in favor.

Town Manager Barry Del Castilho (now South Hadley’s acting Town Manager) never once voted on the floor of Town Meeting in his twenty-year tenure. And the Moderator, Harrison Gregg can--but never has--voted. I even think State Senator Stan Rosenberg could show up and vote if he wanted, but never has.

If you construct a budget, as Town Managers are supposed to do, then why would you not support individual items within that budget?

Escape from Oz

Amherst Town Meeting (that also runs on hot air) is on hiatus until June 15. I will be in Korea (the good side). Double yea!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A captain without a ship

So the July 4'th Parade Committee was put on notice last year that no town vehicles would be allowed in the procession unless the private committee acquiesced and allowed war protesters in the line of march.

Of course almost simultaneously the Town Manager announced town government would run (take over) the July 4'th Parade in 2009 and the private committee would just have to pick another day. Then that pesky ACLU changed his mind about shutting down the private committee's July 4'th Parade (always held--you know--on JULY 4'th)

AND--that was well before both the long-time Police and Fire Chief's announced their retirements from the Public Safety organizations they helped build, and are proud to serve.

The July 4'th Parade Committee (tried to) bestow the honor of Parade Co-Grand Marshal's on AFD Chief Keith Hoyle and APD Chief Charles Scherpa. When Chief Hoyle asked the Town Manager if he could have a fire vehicle for escort he was told "No!"

As a result, he will not march.

Sooooo...we can use the Ladder Truck--the biggest most expensive piece of equipment in the AFD arsenal to escort Santa Claus to the Merry Maple (not to be confused with a Christmas Tree) festivities in December, but will not allow any vehicle to escort the outgoing Fire Chief in a Parade celebrating the birth of our great nation?

Only in Amherst!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gross indeed!

So yeah, this is after all the People’s Republic of Amherst form of governance: give these Uber-Libs any opportunity, any microscopic opening to climb up on their soapbox and they will fire off that tired 'Holier than Thou' philosophy.

Hmmm…by all means, abolish jails and prisons (somebody please cue the soundtrack to “Born Free”) eject all the murderers, rapists, and muggers to roam free.

And while we’re at it, tell those overpaid, lazy-ass sheepherders to surrender their weapons and cage their border collies in case a hungry coyote or wolf should come calling.

Mr. Grosscup of course voted against flying the American flags in the downtown on 9/11 to commemorate the 3,000 Americans slaughtered that day.

Amherst's Uber-Lib "Hall of Shame"

Friday, May 8, 2009

Amherst's own Napoleon.

So along with Cambridge, the People’s Republic of Amherst experimented (in a Nazi sort of way) with “Rent Control” back in the 1980’s. Naturally this being the United States of America where supply and demand rules, it did not work.

Yet it took us this long to put a bullet in the back of the head of the 'Housing Review Board.'

Notice how former Chair Harry Brooks (still drunk on the power he once possessed) delights in retelling the story of brow beating and intimidating a women he describes as a “friend of mine”. Yikes!

Mr. Brooks is currently one of seven members of the “Town Meeting Coordinating Committee” (they come up with new rules and regulations for the antiquated body); and he’s one of three members of the Amherst Registrar of Voters (the folks who sided with former Czar Ann Awad after she moved to South Hadley but wanted to remain an Amherst town official to bolster her retirement pension benefits) and his wife Paulette Brooks, also a town meeting member, is Executive Committee President of ACTV (the cable access TV folks who consume $250,000 annually to broadcast Amherst government functions).

Double yikes!

The hardest working man in (state) politics

State Senator Stan Rosenberg paid the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School a visit this morning to talk about all things education. Stan is the hardest working politician in the state and if the entire legislature were made up of folks like him we would not be in such a dire condition today.

He had a perfect quote in the Gazette today where he was describing “revenue enhancement” measures for cities and towns and how they could—if implemented--bring in $400 million, which he described as “not a ton of money.”

And at first I thought how could you say that about $400 million? But with state revenues off by $3 BILLION, it’s not too hard to understand.

I first met Stan back in 1991 when I was elected to Amherst Town Meeting with 5 write in votes (mine, my wife and three others). Back then the (usually elderly) constables would bring the locked ballot boxes to Town Hall from all the hinterlands of Amherst and sometimes the last one would not arrive until 9:30 PM or so (polls closed at 8:00) and the results had to be tabulated.

So I’m alone in the Town Clerks office around 9:00 PM waiting for the results of Precinct 7. In walks State Representative Stan Rosenberg. I introduce myself and say “what are you doing here?”. “I’m a political junkie , he replied.

A while later the Springfield Republican reporter who covered Amherst , Mike Plaisance, showed up for the results. He asked me how I felt about winning an election to Amherst Town Meeting? “Now I know how President Reagan felt after Grenada”, I replied tongue in cheek.

After all, the island of Grenada was no match for our military and I had just been elected with 5 votes (mine, my wife’s and three others)

But I was always impressed when everybody else--including the voters--had no interest in a local election (no major contests were on the ballot) our State Representative did. And I’ve watched Stan‘s career closely ever since. And he continues to earn the moniker “hardest working politician in the state.”

Naturally this morning I followed him out to his car and mentioned that Amherst’s share of the 4% local hotel/motel tax was down $40,000 because of the Lord Jeff Inn closing. So even if we raise it to 6% (which would have generated $60,000 last year) it will not help. BUT if the Umass Campus Center Hotel would START paying the tax—even at 4%--it could raise $75,000 or so.

“We’re working on,” Stan replied. And that is a good thing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yes time, time, time is on my side, yes it is

So it’s safe to say nobody in the 250-year history of Amherst, has absorbed and wasted more time on the floor of Town Meeting than Vince O’Connor. But tonight was a new low, ironically enough, fairly brief.

When Article #13--Vince’s advisory article championing Governor Cadillac’s 19 cent per gallon gas tax increase--came up in normal rotation about an hour into Town Meeting, Mr. O’Connor did not have the exact wording of the motion because he has been “busy" and did not “have the time,” so he asked Town Meeting to postpone the article to come up after #20 next week.

Hmmm…So Mr. O’Connor’s time (and it's not like he has a dayjob) is more valuable than the 150 or so Town Meeting members in the room trying to get through the Warrant as quickly and efficiently as possible?

Gotta wonder if it had anything to do with PR. Next week is, after all, national bike week.

Home sweet home

Click to enlarge/read

Well I suppose if the town can buy an American flag for the Town Room (where the Select Board meets most of the time) they can spend a few bucks adding this folksy photo of the current Select Board to the main entry of Town Hall.

But did they have to use a permanent plaque to ID the current members, rather than one with slots so you could simply replace just the single name tags?

After all, Mr. Weiss is TOAST in the next election (if he has the ego to actually run.) So not only will they have to reshoot the fancy LARGE color photo but will also have to recommission another bronze plaque (at least the fancy oak frame will still work)

Guess who's coming to town?

Forget the economic meltdown, swine flu pandemonium, and boring Town Meetings--the fair starts Thursday! And nothing--except perhaps a Rockwellian July 4'th Parade--represents all that is good with small town America better than a Fair.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Take a hike

So with business failures becoming a pandemic, unemployment skyrocketing, and those who still work for a living looking at wage freezes and feeling good about it since at least they still have a job, Mr. Vince O’Connor the social activist who thinks he’s Robin Hood, wants Town Meeting to endorse Governor Cadillac’s 19 cents per gallon gas tax hike.

Thus making us #1 in the nation for gas taxes, a return to the good old "Taxachusetts" days.

If you are some poor schmuck who commutes a l-o-n-g way to your job (not within cycling distance or on a PVTA bus route) that hike alone could cost hundred$ per year, money that could otherwise go towards a health club membership, golf lessons or beer.

Maybe the Gov and Vince should institute a special tax on Swedish cars, wine-and-cheese, and avant-garde movie houses. Or liberal excess—in the People’s Republic that would generate a fortune.

Don't mess with God

So according to aging activist Vince O'Connor, somebody (a former Select Board member and long-time Town Meeting member--so my guess is Rob Kusner) will move to divide the CPA article (you already know about the Civil War tablets restoration reduction of $20,000 coming up) to cut the entire funding for the North Congregation Church Slate Roof repair.

You know, that quaint, gorgeous old building that dominates North Amherst center. And gee, the request is all of $7,000 (approved 7-0 by the Community Preservation Act Committee) And for that the town gets a legal permanent promise to maintain the historical preservation of the property.

That way no Frat House could buy it and erect neon Budweiser signs in the belfry. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Glory, glory

Amherst's "Sacred Dead Tablets" in storage

So as Civil War battles go the losses at Fort Wagner (under 1700 total with 90% of them Union attackers) were relatively minor; like the damage done to the Empire of Japan’s capital city of Tokyo by Doolittle’s B-25 bombers only four months after Pearl Harbor.

But they both made history because of a far greater symbolic meaning. And as such should always be remembered.

The ill-fated attack on Fort Wagner led by the 54'th Massachusetts Volunteers dispelled the notion that black soldiers couldn’t (or wouldn’t) fight. And the daring air raid on Tokyo sent a message to Japan early on: you messed with wrong country.

Amherst Town Meeting will take up the issue of restoring the Civil War tablets and placing them back in Amherst Town Hall where they were proudly displayed back in the early 1900’s. Two members of the Community Preservation Committee issued a minority report suggesting the total cost to clean all six and display two tablets at $65,000 is $20,000 too high.

Hmmm…Amherst spent almost $300,000 to preserve the Kimball House in North Amherst (now dwarfed by the aircraft carrier sized house behind it) but we can’t spend one-quarter of that to restore and display these donated tablets to honor locals who served--especially those who gave their "last measure of devotion"?

West Springfield City Hall

The Kimball House in North Amherst

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The only thing we have to fear...

Yes, my daughter attended her final swim lesson at Amherst College. Living in fear is no way to live. One of the great advantages of living in the greatest county on earth is that when we declare war on something, we win.

Sent: Fri, 1 May 2009 2:52 pm
Subject: Saturday Swim Lessons

Greetings from the Amherst Pool!

We will be having the final Saturday lessons as scheduled tomorrow. We are aware of the cases of swine flu on the Amherst campus but after speaking with administrators who have been in constant communication with medical personnel, we are comfortable conducting lessons as usual since none of our instructors have been affected. We are encouraging them to take all necessary precautions and to find a substitute instructor if they are not feeling well.

If you and your children are healthy we encourage you to come for the last day but if you have doubts about your health we ask that you please do not attend your lesson.

We hope to see you healthy tomorrow!

Thank you again for participating in our swim lesson program!


Karin Brown
Assistant Men's and Women's Swimming Coach
Amherst College

Well I guess not everyone showed up:
Monday, May 4:
Thank you for your notification. As I'm sure with other parents, we decided
to keep our children home. We were not comfortable sending our kids after
reading all the precautions that are being taken to protect other AC
students from infection. The swimming classes have been great and it was
unfortunate that you could not have postpone the lesson for the following

We also were not comfortable with your statement, "We are encouraging
them to take all necessary precautions and to find a substitute
instructor if they are not feeling well." It would have felt better if you
said something like, "Any staff who is not feeling well will not teach."
Parents need clear supportive statements. Thank you.