Thursday, February 26, 2009
Okay so both newspapers have now justified their existence and reported the resignation of our acting co supers. And of course the School Committee thanks them for their service and wishes them well in the future and all that bureaucratic BS. By next week, like the Anne Awad affair, nobody will remember their name.
So now the announcement Monday night of the new full-time, non-acting Superintendent (where this same School Committee will screw up again) can stand (or fall) on its own merits.
UPDATE: Friday (2/27) 3:30 PM:
Yeah, now the truth can be told: From the Illustrious Select Board no less (auto generated "as a rule"):
From: Alisa V. Brewer[AVBREWER@COMCAST.NET]
Sent: Friday, February 27, 2009 3:02:39 PM
To: Select Board
Subject: Clipping Service: Interim Amherst superintendents Helen Vivian and Alton Sprague quit, health reasons
Auto forwarded by a Rule
UPDATE: Friday (2/27) 7:00 AM
Well amazingly the crusty Gazette caught up, written by illustrious editor Noah Hoffenberg himself (hopefully the Gazette has not laid off all the reporters). Of course School officials would neither confirm or deny the Supers demise but that in itself is confirmation.
Catherine Sanderson made a good point saying the full-time staff had to step up anyway when the interim folks came in suddenly, so they will be able to handle things for the next few months. My two year old had a "bacterial respiratory ailment" recently and the antibiotics cleared it up within a week. Hmmm...
UPDATE: 10:45 PM
Gotta wonder if the Gazette managed to get some school official to go “on the record” about this (Thank God!) breaking development. We will know in about six hours. Although sadly, folks who read the hard copy edition will know before Gazettenet.com internet readers.
And yeah, you gotta love the irony: the highest paid position in the People’s Republic of Amherst occupied by a formerly-and-should-have-stayed- retired married couple who despise this newfangled blogesphere, have their demise first telegraphed via the web.
UPDATE: 3:00 PM Hell No, I did not call the former, acting, not-so-super Co-Superintendents to confirm this news bulletin. But, as I'm sure you all know, I have reliable sources (and lots of them.) For the record, it will be made official Monday night.
ORIGINAL POST 1:30 PM
So the Amherst Bulletin will need to replace the “Super Column” written (I hope not on town time) by married couple Helen Vivian and Alton Sprague, former ‘Acting Co-Superintendents’ of the venerable Amherst School system.
After verbally agreeing to take the rudder in Greenfield they jumped ship and signed a one-year contract with Amherst thru June 30 at a cool $135,000. (With a two-month severance clause so they will get paid for March and April but not May and June)
They got off to a bad start. After the tragic death of a 2-year-old child in September run over by an Amherst School bus, it was revealed the Supers were at Cap Cod closing up their summer cottage.
Then, when the budget crisis caught fire, they melted like a cheap candle.
In response to a School Committee member suggesting a ‘virtual suggestion box’ so concerned folks could email the School Committee or school staff from the convenience of their computer, Mr. Sprague famously responded that in his 40 years working in public schools, “nothing good has come from a suggestion box.”
Then they were late with data unanimously requested of them by the Amherst School Committee. And a major flip-flop on reorganization plans, and maybe a tad too much support for the relatively small number of vocal parents decrying the Marks Meadow School closing.
Add it all up and they were, quite simply, in way over their heads.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
So what would have happened if that Airbus 320 that desperately ditched in the freezing Hudson with 155 souls aboard last month had consisted entirely of Amherst School teachers and administrators?
They withdraw to the wings and some science geek calculates that if they all stay put the plane will sink enough to place them into freezing water up to their chests; but if they throw six or seven overboard they will stay comfortably high and dry?
And of course even first time flyer's know that when an air traffic controller frantically reports that they lost a blip, emergency response is instantaneous--and in this post 9/11 world--pretty well coordinated.
If the Teachers Union forgoes their COLA (cost of living raise) it will save well over a million dollars—enough to keep the venerable Amherst Schools treading water. Or they can sacrifice their compatriots.
Although I'm sure nobody could confuse the actions of that heroic pilot with the "Acting, Interim Co-Superintendents" of the (once) venerable Amherst School System.
And I bet the Cops, Firefighters, DPW and Town Hall union folks would all follow suit. And at least the Town Manager (the second highest paid employee right behind our not so Super School Supers) is showing some leadership in this issue by refusing his COLA.
A stand up School Committee member reports:
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Okay, so you would think when the illustrious Select Board agenda has this item under Town Manger Report: Recent Select Board Meeting Broadcast Issues (like when they sent out only audio for an entire recent meeting) that ACTV would go out of their way to make this production the most perfectly transparent, seemless broadcast ever.
Well...they start out by airing the view of an empty chair and table for the first five minutes (although the audio of Princess Stephanie came across perfectly.) Then Mr. Root does a surprise presentation from the peanut gallery and no one tells him to come to the microphone so folks could hear what the Hell he was talking about.
Finally they got the cameras pointed in the right direction—just in time to show Dave Keenan’s three card monte, shell game production.
While ACTV receives only $4,000 in direct funding from the town it does get 5% of Comcast’s revenues from the roughly 8,000 subscribers that adds up to over $250,000 annually. Money that would otherwise go to the town.
So it is in every sense of the word Amherst taxpayers’ money (only picked from a different pocket)
Of course the hilarious thing is Mr. Root is babbling something about a new Internet Bank debuting (and he suggests maybe the town could invest taxpayer funds) and you can’t really hear a word he is saying because ACTV, once again, screwed up.
And notice the pernicious pregnant pause over the word “profits”. His Lordship Gerry Weiss clearly says, “we heard you!” (Socialist that he is); but in fact, NOBODY else did. Perfect metaphor for Amherst town government: living in a bullet proof bubble.
Sooooooo just what we need now (at a precarious time in history for the banking industry) a new, multi-level marketing Internet banking scheme. Yikes!
How scary is this! (at least in the United States of America?)
UPDATE: 11:30 PM
Okay, since some of you asked nicely here's a clip of Dave Keenan's presentation.
Yes, he did shuffle the 3 cups around a few times at the very beginning and middle of his Dog+Pony Show, and No Princess Stephanie did not want to hazard a guess as to where the candy laid (or is it lied?) at the very end. (Although I think Bill got it right)
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
So I find it a tad bit odd that the Governor would encourage cheating (but hey, he's a Democrat) to decide what national/state treasure in Massachusetts gets forever remembered on the back side (not to be confused with ass end) of a US Mint quarter.
For instance, I know a Umass Math Professor who like to auto-generate phone calls to the Daily Hampshire Gazette (to overwhelm and shut down their phone lines) when they publish a non-flattering story about him (although now that he's no longer on the Select Board that probably no longer happens)
But I'm sure it has to be even easier to set up an automated system to vote continuously for your choice via the Internet. I only voted once, and of course I voted for Miss Emily.
Vote here: (as they say in Chicago: "early and often")
Thursday, February 19, 2009
So on this auspicious occasion –my 100,000 visitors—it’s time for a blogging retrospective. First off, I feel about blogging the very same way I felt about my first hip replacement surgery: what the Hell took me so long?
As for my hips, simple vanity: I was too young for that (and would rather limp badly and take forever to climb a simply set of stairs than spend a week flat on my back zoned out on pain meds and then six weeks on crutches)
As for blogging, I actually worried about not enough material for a decent numbers of posts per week (with my initial target being three or four.) Now I worry about too much material.
Yesterday for instance I did four posts (and actually had a 5’th—a photo of 'The Evergreens'--but never got around to it, besides Mary Carey scooped me on that although you can tell from her photo that she took it later in the morning because the snow is still showing in mine).
The thing I liked about radio advertising—either for my business but especially for politics—is the immediacy. I would cut a commercial and within an hour or two it was on the air.
Blogging is the ultimate combination of text, photos and video instantly uploadable. And you can go back and change anything and republish instantly. Plus, cheap point-and-shoot digital cameras are so easy to use and are small enough to hide in a pocket until needed (but only used on/from public property of course).
A rundown of the last two years highlights:
Highest number of hits: The day the Associated Press issued a national story about my blog bringing down former Czar…. what’s her name? Oh, yeah Anne Awad, ensconced in South Hadley but wanting to keep her locally elected town position in the People’s Republic of Amherst. (414 hits.)
And of course without this blog she would still be a sitting Amherst Select Board member (even though commuting to South Hadley) 'His Lordship' Gerry Weiss would still be Chair and 'Princess' Stephanie (the former blogger) would still be stenographer/secretary rather than Chair, with a “new majority” of fairly normal folks.
#2 (coming in around 375 hits): a tribute/post that I dreaded doing because it concerned a young Amherst firefighter David Pollack, who died suddenly at age 27. I rolled it into a mention of Homer Cowles, the ultimate Yankee farmer and former Deputy Fire Chief who died the week before (but at a more acceptable age of 83--if death is indeed ever acceptable), and my landlord and long-time neighbor Dick Johnson who also passed that week (and did more for this town than most folks will ever know).
But my sitemeter told me the vast majority of folks were coming to me looking for information about David Pollack.
#3: The death of a child. One by bus accident the other by drowning in a back yard pool. It just does not get any worse than that; as I stated both times, if you can think of something worse please don't tell me.
Post with the most legs, meaning it still gets one or two hits per day and every time I see it on my sitemeter I'm depressed. Let’s call it a terrible tie:
The suicide of Jenny Kim, a promising Amherst College student; and “Hall of Shame” where I simply list all Amherst Town Meeting members (by an overwhelming majority) who voted against flying the flags in town center to remember/commemorate 9/11, the worst day in the last two generations of American history.
Quickest response ever from a high-ranking town official to an upload: The 2’nd in a series of three posts (over six weeks) showing the People’s Republic of Amherst is too cheap to provide hot water at the lavatories at Wildwood Elementary school.
47 minutes after uploading a blurry photo of a brand new thermometer clearly showing a bathroom water temperature of only 70 degrees, Acting Interim School Co-Superintended Alton Sprague called me spitting-and-swearing, threatening to have me arrested (and suggesting I was a pedophile).
Only time I hesitated about hitting the “publish post” button: In China, last summer, after we had toured my first daughter’s orphanage and I could tell we took them by surprise and--unlike five years earlier--got an actual glimpse of the kids routine overcrowded existence.
And I could have sneaked a photo or two (the “guards” escorting us were not exactly highly trained) but I figured things were so bad I should be able to get that across with just words. But still, I did not want to put my family in danger either.
Biggest victory due to the 'power of the blog': The flags in downtown Amherst flew this past 9/11, for the first time since 2004 (that too had a lot to do with Ms. Awad no longer a player). And damn well better next year or there will be Hell to pay.
Oh yeah, that May 1, 2007 $2.5 million Override that I helped knock down and thus far has saved taxpayers over $5 million and counting.
Biggest regret? Lost personal relationship with media friends—reporters and editors—who probably now consider me the enemy because of this newfangled Blogesphere/Web that threatens their existence.
Plans for the future? A political revolution! And this time, I have the power...
Amherst Center High Noon
UPDATE: 5:35 PM
On Feb 19, 2009, at 3:53:00 PM, "State House Events (BSB)"
From: "State House Events (BSB)"
Subject: RE: Half Staff Notification. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.....
Date: February 19, 2009 3:53:00 PM EST
The Bureau has setup on our website a flag status page you
can find it at www.mass.gov/bsb on the
right side of the page currently it has “flags at half staff” when they are not
it says “flag status” I don’t know if that helps, but you can always find
information about the flags there.
I am currently working on sending out a clarification
email because we have a lot of people in the Commonwealth who are being “difficult”
and I hope to clear up a lot of stuff. Keep an eye out tomorrow for it.
I hope this helps in some way,
On Feb 19, 2009, at 5:28:48 PM, email@example.com wrote:
Subject: Re: Half Staff Notification. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.....
Date: February 19, 2009 5:28:48 PM EST
Yes it does!
Just that fact that someone in state government cares...that helps.
And obviously your ultimate boss the Governor (who I voted against) DOES CARE, otherwise he would not have taken the time to issue the order in the first place to bring down the flags for 12 hours today.
For those "difficult" nitwits, you should remind them that Jonathan R. Roberge of Leominster, Massachusetts who died Monday, February 9, 2009 in Iraq was only 22 years old! He had a long life ahead of him--especially if he decided to work at McDonald's rather than enlist.
He was not even supposed to be on duty that day, as he was covering for a fellow soldier who asked him to fill in.
AGAIN: we need to do a better job! Your doing your job for sure
(thank you) but can we get a few more folks to do theirs?
UPDATE: 2:45 PM
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 1:14 PM
To: Events, Sh (BSB)
Subject: Re: Half Staff Notification. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.....
So I still can't figure out why the People's Republic of Amherst
figured it out on Tuesday but not today. As I say in this most recent
post: there'e got to be a better way! Every town/city in the state
should direct somebody to subscribe to your half staff email service;
but until then the Governor might want to issue a hard-copy press
release to all the major media. This man gave his life, can't we make
an extra effort to remember that?
From: State House Events (BSB)
Sent: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 2:05 pm
Subject: RE: Half Staff Notification. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.....
I feel your pain! I am going to forward your email to the Governor's Office and
ask if it would be possible for a press release to go out. Keep in mind,
sometimes we get the confirmations very last minute.
State House Events
Bureau of State Office Buildings
State House, Room 1
Boston, MA 02133
Sent: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 2:37 pm
Subject: RE: Half Staff Notification. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.....
I appreciate that. But WAY more importantly, so will the families
living in our Commonwealth who have to deal with an infinitely bigger
I called the Public Safety line a moment after emailing you and they
just called back and said the flags are now at half-staff. Better late
than never I guess.
ORIGINAL POST: HIGH NOON'ish
The Governor ordered all state and local flags to half-staff on this day to honor and remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by Jonathan R. Roberge on Feburary 9 in the far off land known as Iraq.
Umass got it right. Amherst College, Big-Y (my favorite flag because it is so BIG) and even Police, Fire, and Schools did not.
Come on folks, there's got to be a better way. The bricks-and-mortar media on the day before Daylight Savings goes into or out of effect always puts on the Front Page "remember to reset your clocks".
Because yeah, if every worker in America was an hour late for work how much would that cost the economy? But then six months later if they arrived an hour early it probably would be a wash.
Can't we get a little news blip saying: the Governor has ordered all flags that he controls at half staff, and maybe--just maybe--everybody else would join in? I'm sure if they knew about it they would.
This man gave his life to protect our way of life. REMEMBER THAT!
What's wrong with this picture? Let me count the ways. Click to enlarge, but even then--since it is LIMP (a perfect metaphor)and Soooooo faded, you many not be able to figure out that this is the UN Flag--also at full staff.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to be the flag protocol expert--but I had no idea why the flags were are at half-staff today @ Umass and Amherst Town Center (but, unfortunately, not in a lot of other places):
THIS JUST IN (from mass.gov.com)
Flags are currently being flown at Half-staff.
Governor Patrick has ordered the American and Commonwealth Flags lowered to half-staff on February 17, 2009 from sunrise to sunset for Staff Sergeant Alex R. Jimenez who was killed in action.
I only wish this sad scenario attracted the same audience as TV broadcasts from the late 1960’s where anti-war protester's chanted: “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching.”
Thank you Sergeant Jimenez! For doing your duty, protecting our country, my family, our way our life.
The AP and Army Times Reports:
UPDATE. This Just In:
On Feb 18, 2009, at 9:54:18 AM, "State House Events (BSB)"
Governor Patrick has ordered the American and Commonwealth Flags lowered to half-staff on Thursday, February 19, 2009 from sunrise to sunset for Jonathan R. Roberge who died 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 soldier 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 Thursday, February 19, 2009 in honor of Jonathan R. Roberge of Leominster, Massachusetts who died Monday, February 9, 2009 in Iraq.
There have been some questions about public buildings and state buildings below are the definitions.
Public Buildings: Buildings containing government offices, such as the State House, city and town halls, public schools, police and fire stations, municipal and county offices, offices of public agencies, commissions and authorities, public works facilities and senior centers. Clubhouses and other buildings at publicly owned golf course. Even if a building is privately own but occupied by government offices is considered a public building. Property owned by a public entity such as the state, a city or a town.
State Buildings: Property owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.
Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 12:23 PM
To: State House Events (BSB)
Subject: Re: Half Staff Notification
Tell the Governor I said "thanks".
On Feb 18, 2009, at 12:35:41 PM, "State House Events (BSB)"
From: "State House Events (BSB)"
Subject: RE: Half Staff Notification
Date: February 18, 2009 12:35:41 PM EST
So you would think the People’s Republic of Amherst--giving away this prime advertising banner location in town center for under $100/week (non-profit entities only of course) when it's worth ten times that--would maybe mention/advertise that it's vacant for an entire month!
But hey, the DPW has better things to do these days: make that damn Kendrick Park skating rink happen!
Homeless man found dead in Amherst apartment
By Scott Merzbach
AMHERST - Police are investigating the unattended death of a 43-year-old homeless man at a South Amherst apartment Sunday.
Detective Brandon Seymour said Monday that the man's death does not appear to be suspicious and that there is no evidence of foul play.
At 12:18 p.m., police were notified by other homeless people staying at an apartment at The Boulders, 188 East Hadley Road, that their friend had not awoken with them.
The medical examiner was expected to complete an autopsy Monday in an effort to determine the cause of death.
Okay, so I’m a tad confused here. Could some Gazette editor ask the intrepid reporter why somebody “staying at an apartment” is homeless? Sounds like a home to me. I lived in the complex next door for many years and always considered it a home.
And why would it take until after high-noon on a Sunday for “other homeless people staying at the apartment” to finally notice that their “friend had not awoken with them” Hmmm… Can we say (or spell) IMPAIRMENT?
And who exactly pays for that apartment? A kindly George Soros (moveon.org) or the taxpayers of Massachusetts via Section 8 subsidies?
Inquiring minds wants to know.
Too bad the Israeli Air Force does not hire out as mercenaries for a preemptive strike.
On another similar, albeit smaller, note: You would think the Collegian would teach their cub reporters to ask questions like “Hmmm…don’t you need a state license for this?” Or “Don’t you think this is unfair competition for barbers who do pay for that license--not to mention renting commercial space that pays property taxes and all those other associated costs of doing business?????
The Collegian Reports (as a puff piece, not an expose)
Monday, February 16, 2009
After all, when the town decided to nuke a few crabapples in the downtown a couple years ago all Hell broke lose.
The Bully reported
Kelley Square (just down the road).
My Great, Great Grandfather Tom purchased land in 1864 from Edward Dickinson for $1,216 and four generations of Kelley's grew up there (believe it or not three houses and a barn fit on this very small parcel). He worked for the Dickinson's as a "domestic servant" for over 20 years and acted as lead pallbearer (with five other Irish servants) for Miss Emily.
Although on his death certificate his job is described as 'Night Watchman, Amherst College.'
A long, long time ago
Saturday, February 14, 2009
So sultry Cinda Jones sent this to my Club six weeks ago and it sat on my desk unopened until very recently as I simply assumed it was a flyer for last week’s Winterfest, and I knew with my (ultra sultry) wife in South Korea that I would not be able to attend.
Of course I’m not sure her Grandmother kept it (note the Bully used to come out on Wednesday’s) because she thought I was a complete idiot, or completely agreed with me.
But…here we are 21 years later: still talking about a Fire Station in South Amherst, still subsidizing the expensive game of golf; although, finally, considering cutbacks in the Leisure Services Empire.
And so it goes…
Friday, February 13, 2009
Okay that's it. Governor Deval Patrick is definitely not invited to our 500'th anniversary birthday bash. Sheeshh. I mean, you only turn 250 once! And you don't get more liberal, Clinton-like left of center than the People's Republic of Amherst. Maybe the Gov figures he's doing such a great job that he does not need the outreach.
Top photo: Stephanie O'Keeffe behind podium using semi-prepared remarks (only looked down 2 or 3 times.) Armed elf behind Stephanie is Harrison Gregg Amherst Town Meeting moderator (running unopposed this year.) Far right: Hadley Select Board Chair Gerry Devine (who I'm sure was tempted to say Hadley was glad to be rid of us 250 years ago.) On Queen Stephanie's immediate right townie developer and 250'th Chair Barry Roberts, guy in front right of him Vice President of Hampshire College Aaron Berman (who did a one minute commercial for all the wonderful things the college does for the town...of course he knows we are going to hit them up soon for a payment in lieu of taxes for all the services taxpayers currently provide them).
Non-New England native standing in front of American flag: Rober Holub, Umass Chancellor (with two children in the public schools costing Amherst taxpayers $25-k per year) , to his right appropriately dressed Amherst College President Tony Marx; and you gotta love the way the venerable Amherst Select Board lined up in descending order from most seniority to least: Gerry Weiss, Diana Stein, Alisa Brewer (nice shoes), ultra-rookie Aaron Heyden, also running unopposed for reelection. And at the very bottom (no metaphor intended) Amherst Town Manager Larry Shaffer.
Even when I still thought the Governor of Taxachusetts was going to make an appearance, I was not concerned with security as both Amherst Police Chief Charlie Scherpa (left) and Captain Mike Kent (right) were on duty.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
On Feb 12, 2009, at 12:06:08 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Subject: Appeal for Public Documents denial
Date: February 12, 2009 12:06:08 PM EST
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Public Records Division
McCormack Building, Room 1719
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
I wish to appeal Amherst Town Manager Laurence Shaffer’s denial of my Public Documents Request dated 1/26/09. The document in question is an email of complaint to the town manager with job related criticism including the possible disappearance of town equipment; that statement was also copied to all five Amherst Select Board members. Therefor I believe it is a public document.
That whistleblower is no longer working as a municipal employee and will be receiving money (either tax money or insurance money) as severance compensation. I firmly believe the general public has a right to know.
And because that individual signed a “non disclosure” agreement with the town, he cannot tell his side of the story or make those potentially serious allegations public.
Amherst Town Meeting member
Amherst Redevelopment Authority
From: Shallow, Joanne (SEC)
Sent: Thu, 12 Feb 2009 12:32 pm
Subject: RE: Appeal for Public Documents denial
your case number is SPR09.044. In app one week you will receive a formal
acknowledgement letter in the mail with the case number and name of the attorney
assigned to review your appeal. What is you mailing address
On Feb 12, 2009, at 1:02:33 PM, email@example.com wrote:
Sorry, I should have included that (and today's date):
460 West St.
Amherst, Ma. 01002
Thank you for a prompt response.
Memo: Town Manager
Re: Complaint from municipal Information Technology Department worker
Dear Mr. Shaffer,
Could I please get any written or electronic correspondence during the calendar year 2008 up to today’s date concerning a complaint by an Information Technology municipal employee on how the department is/was being managed including his communications, and any response from your office to him, the IT manager or the Amherst Select Board?
Cc: Amherst Select Board
From: Shaffer, Larry
Sent: Mon, 26 Jan 2009 4:22 pm
Subject: RE: Public Documents Request
Dear Mr. Kelley,
Could you be more specific with your request?
Sent: Mon, 26 Jan 2009 4:27 pm
Specifically an email sent to you and Cc'd to the Select Board, I believe in November, from XXXXXX who is now no longer employed with the town.
From: Shaffer, Larry
Cc: DJENKINS@K-PLAW.COM; Zlogar, Kay
Sent: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 5:12 pm
Subject: FW: Request for Documents
Please let this acknowledge receipt of your e-mail of January 26, 2009, requesting production of an e-mail from XXXXXX to myself and the Board of Selectmen in November 2008. Although record responsive to your request exist, such documents may be withheld from disclosure pursuant to the Public Record Law.
The document may be withheld pursuant to:
Exemption (c) of the Public Records Law. Exemption (c) permits a custodian to withhold records that are:
Personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
The Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) has defined personnel records to include any records that would be helpful in making determinations regarding hiring and firing. Wakefield Teachers Association v. School Committee of Wakefield, 431 Mass. 792, 798 (2000). The court specifically noted that employee work evaluations and promotion and termination information pertaining to a particular employee fall within the definition of personnel records. Thus, certain responsive records are exempt as they fall within the definition of personnel records and relate to specifically named individuals.
Exemption (d). The document relates to the development of policy. Exemption (d) is intended to avoid release of materials that could taint the deliberative process if prematurely disclosed and applies to:
Inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters relating to policy positions being developed by the agency; but this sub clause shall not apply to reasonably completed factual studies or reports on which the development of such policy positions has been or may be based.
The application of the exemption is limited to recommendations on legal and policy matters found within an ongoing deliberative process. Babets v. Secretary of the Executive Office of Human Services, 403 Mass. 230, 237 n.8 (1988). In considering exemption (d), the court in General Electric Company v. Department of Environmental Protection, 429 Mass. 798, 807 (1999) stated, “The purpose of exemption (d) is to foster independent discussions between those responsible for a governmental decision in order to secure the quality of the decision.” Id. Accordingly, premature disclosure of the document may jeopardize the Town’s ability to analyze the issues, consider the recommendations of the employee, and reach a decision as to how to proceed in this matter. As such, responsive records are exempt pursuant to exemption (d) of the Public Records Law.
Exemption (f). Further, the requested report contains innumerable details regarding voluntary complainants and witnesses. Exemption (f) of the Public Records Law allows a custodian of records to withhold from disclosure those records that are:
Investigatory materials necessarily compiled out of the public view by law enforcement or other investigatory officials the disclosure of which materials would probably so prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement that such disclosure would not be in the public interest.
One of the purposes of this exemption is to encourage people to come forward and co-operate in matters under investigation. Globe Newspaper Company, 419 Mass. at 863; Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington, 371 Mass. 59, 354 N.E.2d 872 (1976). Thus, exemption (f) permits the permanent withholding of any details that would tend to identify complainants and voluntary witnesses, even in those instances where an investigation has concluded.
As noted, the responsive records are replete with details that would identify complainants, as well as witnesses that voluntarily provided information and cooperated with the investigation. The SJC has held that, “[t]he inquiry as to what constitutes identifying information regarding an individual . . . must be considered not only from the viewpoint of the public, but also from the vantage of those who are familiar with the individual…” Globe Newspaper Company v. Boston Retirement Board, 388 Mass. 427, 438 (1983). Considering the content of the responsive records from the perspective of the public, as well as those who are familiar with the subject matter, the names and identifying details of the voluntary witnesses and complainants are inextricably intertwined with the remainder of the information contained in the document. The identifying details cannot be redacted in such a way so as to permit disclosure of the records without identifying the individuals involved.
Stated differently, due to the small number of individuals involved in the investigation and their involvement with the matters at issue in the document, the document may not be redacted in such a way so as to avoid the possibility that the unredacted portion of the records may indirectly identify these individuals. Accordingly, the responsive documents will be withheld from disclosure pursuant to exemption (f).
Based on the above your public records request is denied. You may appeal this decision to the Supervisor of Public Records.
Very truly yours,
I of course hit "reply all," and since the Town Manager is a veteran I'm sure he gets the reference:
Sent: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 5:41 pm
Subject: Re: Request for Documents
To: Amherst Town Manager
From: Larry Kelley
Re: Public Records hoarding
Very truly yours,
I then get a hit on this blog at 5:55 PM (less than 15 minutes later) from someone in Boston doing a Google search: 'Open Meeting Law, Public Records Law, Amherst Town Manager'. And of course, the only folks outside Amherst on that email 'reply all' list was the town law firm, those Big City Boys, Kopelman and Paige, P.C. Hmmm... But you would think Big Time lawyers would do their research BEFORE giving their paid opinions.
You may want to turn up your volume slightly to catch all of this because not only did ACTV SCREW UP the video portion of Monday night's SB meeting, I think they also forgot to turn on my microphone (hey, what the Hell do you want from a $250,000 publicly funded operation)
But we can't send a positive message to our employees?
Let's hear if for whistleblowers
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Kendrick Park today 1:00 PM
And I'm not even going to ask--or theorize--what the Hell that yellowish hue is in the middle to upper part of the photos (click them to ENLARGE, if you dare). Yikes!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Amherst Middle School auditorium 7:01 PM
So tonight I violated my official “trespass order”—hand delivered by a Sheriff at taxpayer expense--three times in under a half-hour. That has got to be a freakin record!
First I went to, oh you know, what we townies still call the "Jr. High School" now designated the "Middle School" where School Committee Chair Andy Churchill (but he works for Umass so what the Hell does he know) previously said tonight’s tumultuous SC meeting was taking place.
A location I have reported to for duty as a venerable Amherst Town Meeting member for the past 18 years.
I found former math teacher, former head of the teacher’s union Sy Friedman leading some sort of dance class to about a dozen people (in an auditorium designed to hold hundreds).
Then I went to the Amherst Regional High School, and the peanut gallery was empty. From my ‘Vagina Monologues’ days I know that auditorium seats 800. Yes, some activity was taking place on the stage, but not much. Looked, smelled and sounded like they were building a set for a theatrical production (thankfully not ‘Vagina Monologues’).Amherst High School Auditorium 7:09 PM
And then I thought WOW they could not be that obvious and that lame to reschedule at the last moment to bring hundred of people to a venue that some consider “expendable” in these trying economic times.
Of course the main Marks Meadow supporters seem to be the folks who send their kids to that particular school (the smallest of four elementary schools and the only one not owned by the town)
But sure enough, that’s where the packed meeting occurred. I had to leave (not because the cops were arresting me--although since Umass owns MM I’m certain the not so Super Amherst School Superintendent’s trespass order is invalid at that location.) My wife is in Korea (the good half) and I promised to Skype her at 8:00 PM our time.
Marks Meadow School 7:17 PM
So you can read about the meeting (and maybe even see a decent photo) in tomorrow’s Ultra Crusty Gazette.
Life is never boring in the People’s Republic of Amherst--or Korea.
A little background (comments are the best)
UPDATE: 11:30 AM So I'm told the numbers have materialized (and--Thank God--they were assembled by staff other than our acting Super Supers so they are meaningful)
ORIGINAL POST: 9:30 AM
So will our not so super, acting interim Superintendents cough up the data unanimously requested at the School Committee’s February 3'rd meeting (called specifically to pass one motion requesting the damn data) by tonight’s School Committee meeting, after failing to provide the material by Friday’s deadline?
This will be even better attended than an Amherst Town Meeting (maybe somebody should sell popcorn and beer to raise money)
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
At a meeting a few years back when the DPW was defending the taxpayer cost of adding a fire alarm system to their ancient brick building one of the Finance Committee members joked that they don’t need an expensive system since Larry Kelley lives next door (and yeah, once you inhale smoke from a major structure fire up close and personal you NEVER forget it)
So I’ve been hired to protect the damn sand. And I’m authorized to enforce limits with a shuffle hook kick upside the head (aka Billy Blanks good night kick).
Come on folks, there’s no such thing as a free lunch! Only in Springfield! (And the rest of America)
The Springfield Republican reports
Meanwhile intrepid School Committee member Catherine Sanderson is now both perky and pissed. And she has every right to be (pissed I mean).
Apparently the acting, interim Co-Superintendents cannot or will not do their $135-K job; so much for the Regional Chair’s "We're really getting two for one,” enthusiasm over their hiring 7 months ago.
The School Committee asked them (or told them) to run numbers on the all the options they need to look at for dealing with the current economic meltdown, and they did not do it.
Worse yet, they may actually have the numbers but simply will not cough them up. Maybe 40 years ago you could treat your bosses like mushrooms and keep them in the dark, but not any more—especially in overly enlightened Amherst.
Seems a little odd that School Committee members need to do a Public Documents request to get pertinent information to allow them to do the job they were elected to do.
So far the only good thing about Amherst’s interim Superintendents is the word interim.
Ms. Sanderson's Sunshine
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
UPDATE: 12:10 High Noon.
So apparently the original poster at Masslive Amherst Forum (not the followup "sniper") was not somebody from the Amherst Chamber of Commerce or Cinda Jones, which I originally assumed. Because now the nitwit is ragging on me for not entering the race. But notice he does not confirm if the Town Manager was going to race in the first place (I believe last year when he begged off it was not due to a sudden injury but a chronic one.) And it's not like I"m withdrawing (which the Town Manager did last year). I never agreed in the first place to do it this year.
And of course this nitwit better arrive REAL early to make his effigy of me or use a Romulan cloaking device, as I will probably attend the event...
3466.1. Paper Tiger
by JohnEight32, 2/6/09 11:42 ET
Re: Winter Fest 2009 by JohnEight32, 2/6/09
Looks like the big race is off, according to Larry K's blog, (Only in the republic of Amherst) he will not be entering a box into the race this year. Why are you wimping out Larry? Too much animosity b/w you
I'll still planning to build an effigy of Larry Kelley in the snow sculpting contest, to raise money for the town of course.
Don't be a zhi laohu.
ORIGINAL POST 10: 15 AM
So no, even though my name (spelled wrong) appears on the Winter Fest website (using last year's template) I will not defend my prestigious downhill box race co-championship, with my daughter Kira as co-pilot. And I also have a feeling the Town Manager was not going to race anyway as last year he begged off with a bad back.
Of course now that an Anonymous poster at Masslive Amherst Forum threatened (or was joking) to "hunker down with a sniper rifle" after someone posted to come watch Larry Kelley and the Town Manager race, I'm actually more tempted to defend that title (without my daughter of course).
3466. Winter Fest 2009
by JohnEight32, 2/5/09 9:07 ET
Looks like good weather for this weekend's festivities, 43 degrees and sunny! Watch Larry Kelley and Larry Schaffer in the box sled race. Fireworks at 6pm, chili cook-off and much more.
Here is a link for more info: http://winterfestamherst.com/index.html
by dueced, 2/5/09 14:17 ET
Re: Winter Fest 2009 by JohnEight32, 2/5/09
Good lookin' out! I'll make sure to get there early in order to camo up and hunker down with my sniper rifle....
by LloydLoar, 2/5/09 17:36 ET
Re: Winter Fest 2009 by JohnEight32, 2/5/09
3422.214.171.124. Don't bother
by joeya44, 2/5/09 20:09 ET
The cops will be givin that guy a boost to his tree stand...################################################################
No Children were injured in the making of this movie.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Since allegedly "institutional racism" is their main gripe with the American Jurisprudence system, why would the 'Justice For Jason' mob employ race baiting to promote their umpteenth rally earlier this week?
They want Lt Thrasher disciplined by UMPD for using the term “donkey”? And have the audacity to suggest that it is a racial slur against African Americans!
Well, being Irish I couldn’t help but remember the only ethnic group targeted by that term would be my ancestors--and they probably would not even take offense (since it denotes a hard worker performing a thankless task).
This is the only listing for “donkey” in the extensive ‘Racial Slurs Data Base’: “It was cheaper to hire an Irishman than a donkey in the Pennsylvania coal mining days of the 1800's”
Of course, the donkey also represents the (often asinine) Democratic Party.
I think Thrasher used the term as a synonym for “ass,” especially since:
Lt. Thrasher asked Officer Antonmarchi whether he was “gonna get a story out of this asshole.” When Officer Antonmarchi responded that he just conducted a fifteen-minute interview with Vassell, Lt. Thrasher asked: “What’s this donkey say?”
But Vassell's lawyers see it a tad differently (let's hope they're unpaid volunteers spewing this amateurish crap):
Within hours of the incident, Lt. Thrasher labeled Vassell a “donkey” and an “asshole” and characterized his account of the event as “horseshit.” Given the history of racial stereotypes against African-Americans and the prevalent one of African-Americans as animals . . . , it is a reasonable -- perhaps even an obvious -- conclusion that [Thrasher] intended [a] racial insult.
Wow! When I was attending Umass, far too many years ago, we had a saying about “throwing a lot of horseshit and hoping some of it would stick” when a Professor asked an essay question on a test you had not quite prepared for.
And if you’re going to discipline a cop for using bad language then how about his statement over the phone to a fellow cop:
“They get into a fucking knife fight in that lower lobby. [The]
cameras did a helluva job of showing me, you know, the fucking crime.”
As Rhett Butler once said (in that racist novel): “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
So I’m rarely if ever stunned into silence by a reporter –especially when my caller ID gives me a few seconds advance warning.
I knew something was wrong late this morning when I answered the phone (something I don’t always do) and she robotically rattled off: "Phyllis Lehrer, Daily Hampshire Gazette/Amherst Bulletin,” …pregnant pause--and way more personably, "How are you Larry?”
I’ve only known Phyllis for, oh, 25 or 30 years--and after the first 10 or 15 she stopped rattling off the routine, ‘on the record’ reporter ID (besides, she’s a columnist). Phyllis wanted to discuss the sudden, tragic death of Eugene O’Neil, age 47, a former business neighbor of mine in South Amherst for many, many, years. And that stunning news was news to me.
He opened the Amherst Ale House, a townie bar, in South Amherst after Lenny Pratt moved his (townie) package store a couple hundred yards down the road. Back then (the late 1980's early 90’s) I was working 70-80 hours a week, as was he, so we would cross paths at least daily (not too mention nightly).
We had that mutual respect that comes from common folk working long and hard at what they love to do.
But then in 1999 we parted ways. I was a loud spokesperson (back when I only had a Amherst Bulletin Column) for the smoking ban in bars. Amherst inaugurated its ban just after the Northampton Board of Health crumbled under the withering fire of bully barowners.
At the time the Amherst Board of Health committee chair was a female physician (perhaps 99 pounds soaking wet); and when a consortium of male barowners dared to use a Martin Luther King Jr. quote to kick off their aggressive ‘repeal the smoking ban campaign’ I engaged full throttle.
The ban, just barely, held. Gene sold his beloved bar business, and I’m sure by the glares he gave me over the past ten years that he partially blamed me.
Last September his twins started attending the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in the same class as my 7-year-old daughter Kira. We had one of those awkward moments while picking up our kids when for a brief moment neither of us knew quite what to do.
I tentatively held out my right hand saying, “No hard feelings?” And, smiling, he shook it and responded in kind.
When Phyllis called I was heading out the door to pick up my 2-year-old daughter, who will also someday attend the Chinese Charter School. Jada had just yesterday started partial daycare at a state approved home in Hadley and I’m told the second day is the worst.
When I arrived, still reeling from the awful news, the sweet caregiver was cradling my somewhat distraught daughter whispering, “See, I told you: Daddy’s always come back”.
Now there's a term you will only hear in Amherst: An "alternative" July 4'th Parade Committee.
As I pointed nine months ago, when I first uploaded this clip (turn up your volume at the very end): no desks or chaired were injured during my exit.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I gotta start arriving early for the Select Board meetings! Last week, knowing the July 4’th Parade issue was a 7:40 PM timed item, I snuck in around 7:30 PM.
And I even had someone tape the entire meeting starting at 6:30 pm and put it on a DVD so I could create the clip I posted last week. But even that did not record the little joke of the town manager testing his microphone (must have picket it up from President Reagan) about Amherst “buying another golf course.”
Of course the not so funny thing is he managed to get ink in both the crusty Bulletin and today’s highly read ‘Cries and Whispers’ column in the Springfield Republican. And both of them fell for the argument (only made by Shaffer) that the golf course has become more successful.
Currently Cherry Hill year-to-date revenue stand at an anemic $110,000. Dan Engstrom, who ran the course for twenty years until mysteriously disappearing almost two years ago, told the Select Board the easy way to estimate an entire year’s revenues is simply double the amount at Fall closing, thus a total intake of $220,000.
This year (FY09) Cherry Hill has an operation budget of $208,000 a brand new capital item costing $22,000 (lawn mower) and employee benefits and insurance hidden in another budget of $25,000. So just to break even the golf business needs to intake $255,000.
And that of course does not include the $30,000 guaranteed opportunity income from Niblick Management’s privatization offer, hastily rejected by the Town Mangler.
I even question if they will hit $220,000 because Engstrom's formulae relied on the roughly 180 to 200 Season Pass holders renewing their memberships in April and May. Rather than shell out $500 for an annual membership many of these folks may cut back and just pay the $15 day rate here and there.
So a loss of $25,000 (assuming they do hit $220,000 this year ) when you could have had a guaranteed $30,000 is...well, nothing to joke about.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Olga (Tysz) Hagelberg, 85, peacefully passed away January 26'th at the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington where she spent the last few months of a long admirable life--mostly lived in Arlington, Vermont with her beloved husband of 45 years and fellow WW2 veteran Richard (Dick) Hagelberg in a classically practical New England style home he built for her.
One large window peered into the woods out back and another even larger one perpetually displayed the top of a mountain they mostly owned.
Olga was born and raised in bucolic Southwick, Massachusetts and barely out of her teens, spotted an article with photo in the Springfield newspaper of a graduation ceremony at Mt. Holyoke College in 1943 about women marines and became inspired to enlist. She proudly served in the US Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945.
And she almost never missed a reunion or Parade over these past 60+ years.
Semper Fi Auntie Olga.
And who could forget Uncle Dick