Thursday, April 30, 2009

I've got a secret

Click to enlarge/read

UPDATE: Friday afternoon
So the Gazette, finally, caught up with this fascinating behind-the-scenes soap opera on the hiring of the new Super. And they even allowed me attribution for breaking the story but describe me as a "town meeting member."

But today's Amherst Bulletin has a mention of my 'Trespass Order' getting lifted (on highly read page 3) where I'm described as a "town meeting member and local blogger." Out of those two, I of course prefer the latter.
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UPDATE Thurdsay: 1:45 PM
So I had to change a stinky diaper and other daddy duties thus did not add any comments. I wanted to get this up fast (not that I was worried about the Gazette getting around to it) and I think the document and vote speaks volumes.

But you gotta wonder...on this most important symbolic issue (and politically savvy PR folks know well it is the little things that matter to voters)one-third of the Regional School Committee could not be bothered to show up and vote? Yikes! But hey that's what you get with unpaid volunteers.
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ORIGINAL POST: 12:30 PM Picture only (15 minutes after receiving the document)

More hats than a haberdashery

Click to read the coalition

Vince O’Connor has created more front organizations than the Mafia. The Zoning groups Alisa refers to during her cross-examination were all created by Vince over a particular issue. All of his “coalitions” are one trick ponies designed to give the cause more gravitas. And since it only takes 10 signatures to get on the warrant he has a small but dedicated following of ‘The Usual Suspects’.


video

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The ban is lifted

I had a very nice meeting this morning with Superintendent Geryk. The Trespass Notice is vacated. And I made the same deal with her that I made with BIG Al the former Super (who is still getting paid): That anytime I visit a school I will announce myself at the main office.

Of course BIG Al enacted the Trespass Notice anyway, even though I honored my end of the deal.

Wow...now I can attend Town Meeting. Kind of like the Governor giving a death row inmate a stay of execution but sentencing them to hard labor breaking rocks in the desert sun.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A stirring symbol

Click to enlarge/read

Adhering to that antiquated bricks-and-mortar media custom “never apologize, never explain” today’s Gazette editorial hits the perfect, hard-to-reach high note of the Star Spangled Banner.

Too bad they did not sound off last year.

Note to all you folks outside the Happy Valley: the Amherst Bulletin is the 30+-year-old (red headed lesbian bastard stepchild) sister publication of the venerable 220+-year-old Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Bully Editorial last year

A simple symbol


Borrowing from the Air Force "missing man formation" to honor the fallen, the Child Welfare League of America designed a hard-to-miss Children's Memorial Flag. The town put it up Friday in solidarity with National Child Abuse Prevention Month (April.)

Nice gesture. (Now if we could just lose the UN Flag)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Blogger reprieve with update (at least I asked)

UPDATE 10:00 PM:
From: Debbie Westmoreland
To: amherstac@aol.com
Cc: Maria Geryk

Sent: Mon, 27 Apr 2009 1:16 pm
Subject: Appointment w/Superintendent
Dear Mr. Kelley:

Thank you for contacting me to set up the meeting Superintendent Geryk
requested. She is available at 9:00 a.m. this Wednesday, April 29th, which I
understand is also a convenient time for you to meet. If your availability has
changed, please let me know. Otherwise, she will plan to meet with you here in
the Superintendent's Office on Wednesday.

Thank you,

Deb

amherstac@aol.com> 4/27/2009 1:38 PM

Hey Deb,

Works for me. May I record the meeting?

Larry


From: Debbie Westmoreland
To: amherstac@aol.com
Sent: Mon, 27 Apr 2009 4:05 pm
Subject: Re: Appointment w/Superintendent

Hi Mr. Kelley:

I'm glad the meeting time is still O.K. for you. I checked with Maria and she
does not want the meeting recorded.

Thanks,

Deb

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ORIGINAL POST: 10:00 AM
Damn, now I don't have a good excuse to miss Town Meeting next week--although in mid-June I'll be in Korea (the good half) so if they are still droning on...

So what is the interim Super going to do, make me write 100 times "I will not criticize the venerable Amherst School system", or as the Sisters of St. Joseph used to do--make me hold out my hand and WHAM with a wooden ruler???????

The original notice

Saturday, April 25, 2009

And a good time was had...

UPDATE: 4:00 PM Traffic is gridlock as the light is back out again (damn electricians don't want to work on sunny saturday's) video

Amherst Town Center 2:00 PM

Town center was still pretty much gridlock when I cycled by this afternoon. But it was worse around noon when the light at Rt. 9 was not working properly, simply flashing red. Luckily the drivers negotiating the gauntlet were not smoking pot.

And strangely enough last year I cycled up to the Extravaganja around the same time and noticed a lot more smoke hanging in the air vs. today, when theoretically it is decriminalized. Hmmm...

Maybe it is just not cool anymore.
video



(Click to enlarge). Last year, same time.

One is the best number.



So the League of Women Voters, a supposedly non-partisan entity, laid down their weapons without firing a shot, retreating from the idea of throwing a second competing July 4'th “protest parade”

Too bad, I was soooooo looking forward to some brash individual displaying a sign “League of Women Vultures sucks” or something colorful like that. And of course we had a number of folks who may have something to publicly proclaim about our Town Manager.

Funny, when they found out there’s no such thing as a free lunch and you have to pay for police and insurance, they surrendered. Thank God they were not at Valley Forge.

The Republic reports:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ghost of Christmas future 2


Back 15 years ago Phillip Sweeney asked Amherst Town Meeting to zone this property Village Square to allow commercial development. They overwhelmingly turned him down. I of course voted in favor. One town official even told Town Meeting that someday this entire corridor (ultra-busy Rt. 9) would be zoned commercial but Mr. Sweeney is a tad ahead of the curve (naturally the NIMBY neighbors spoke against the rezoning.)

His speech was one of the most disjointed I have ever heard in Town Meeting and he looked, with his frizzy hair, a bit like a male version of recent sensation Susan Boyle (but without the speaking/singing talent)

When the lopsided vote was announced (and it required a two-thirds majority to pass) a long-time Town Meeting member sitting behind me said to the member next to him "That's because we don't like him." Hmmm....

He did manage to open the Maplewood Restaurant under a "farm stand" exemption (what is more natural than fresh brewed beer?) but with all the rules and regulations restraining his commercial activity the restaurant only lasted a few years.

And now it just sits there, abandoned. The first commercial enterprise you see when approaching Amherst from the east. A reminder of the motto: bury your business in Amherst.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All the news...



So today's front page's of the venerable Daily Collegian and by comparison reverent Gazette demonstrate these embarrassing issues have legs.

Of course the Gazette uses a pull quote from one of their unpaid, Hampshire College professor Columnist's who led the charge to increase costs to maintain the "lunch ladies" as school employees, but now laments the increase in spending for the new Super from Florida.

Hey maybe Rodriguez will pull a Governor Patrick with his $15-K housing/transportation allowance and buy a Cadillac (one that runs on vegetable grease of course)

And it seems the Gazette goes out of their way not to mention the firestorm reverberating within the blogesphere about this outlandish payraise issue.

But at least they are paying attention. So if those pissed off women do indeed burn their property tax bills in a hibachi outside the Superintendent's office window, the Gazette will give it Front Page play (and the AP will probably pick it up as well). BUT, you will see it first on the blogesphere.

And what can you say about nitwit Umass kids who dislike what a newspaper publishes so they ban the paper from future publication and steal the current copies?

The Student Government Association should consider their image. If they want the town of Amherst to take seriously their recent concern with the 4-person unrelated housing bylaw (and they damn well should) then stop doing stupid things like violating the freakin First Amendment!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ghost of Christmas Future?


Last year Town Meeting turned down (117-63) Ken Bergstrom’s request to rezone his property out on the Sunderland line off Rt. 116, a major highway. He wanted to put in a mix of condo’s and retail under Village Square Zoning.

The property was formerly used by Environmental PC Poster Child Bioshelters, to grow fish and basil (they employed mentally retarded workers, used solar heating and recycled 99.7% of all its water and wastes). And they went belly up.

Now it sits like a set for a post apocalyptic movie (Note to Mel Gibson: If you ever do another Mad Max…). Fine greeting for all those entering Amherst from the north.

The 40,000 square foot pad underneath the rotting shelter is concrete so it’s not like you can farm it. But the Conservation Commission and Agricultural Commission wanted it to stay a fishfarm (although they were not going to invest the millions to get it back up and gurgling)

And our Old Majority Select board, with has-been Gerry Weiss in his brief but glorious reign as Chair voted 3-2 against the rezoning (newbie’s Stephanie and Alisa voted in favor.) Ann Awad told Town Meeting "This is an intense development project on a fragile piece of land that is very wet”

And she of course was the only Select Board member a few years earlier to vote in favor of the hostile rezoning of Meadow Street land (not to far down the road) to ‘Flood Prone Conservancy” that set off a marathon legal battle costing the town $150-K and the landowners over $500-K.

Former Bioshelters CEO John Reid told Town Meeting he was raising funds (estimated at $6 to $10 MILLION) to restart the business. So far, one year later, nothing. Had the zoning change gone thru the development would have been worth millions on the tax rolls, rather than the paltry $200,000 in current valuation.

Town Meeting 5/19/08.
Let's hope Mr Reid takes off his cap when meeting with Venture Capitalists.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back to that damn raise 2

Gotta love this post on the antiquated Town Meeting listserve (privately owned by Mother Mary Streeter, also member of the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee--you know the folks who recently told the Town Manager to buzz off when he requested to participate in a public forum on Human Service Funding (maybe they figured he was a Zombie.)

While I understand the concerns some folks have about our financial difficulties and thus the reaction to the salary offered to our new Superintendent, people should understand that others hear your complaint from a different perspective. From Crocker Farm, the reaction of some Latino parents that I have talked to is a deep suspicion that the salary backlash is actually a racist response. Because in their mind the "white guy" who was earning $198k at his present Sup job seemed to be the favored candidate for many and they assume he would been
offered/paid whatever he wanted. Yet the Latino candidate is undeserving of a
competitive salary? In the minds of some, this is an unfair response.
They feel the new Superintendent was deemed worthy to be hired and put in chargeof our school district and was offered a competitive salary. Many in the Latino
community are thrilled to see him take charge (he is Cuban-American)
Just so you know that there is another reaction out there...

-- Cheers, Clare Bertrand

Quite frankly I favored "the white guy" but would not have paid him $158-K plus $15-K housing/transportation for two years. Hell at this point I would take the other Rodriguez (a woman no less) for $135-K (and $10 bucks taxi fare to relocate from NoHO)

Spring

Friday, April 17, 2009

I want one of those!


Boulders Apartment South Amherst 11:30 AM, illegally parked

Of course with the People's Republic of Amherst sudden crackdown on four unrelated housemates and the general crackdown on illegals since 9/11, I wonder how many people actually answer the door when this federal official comes a knocking?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Back to that damn raise

From: Debbie Westmoreland
To: amherstac
Cc: Andy Churchill ; Michael Hussin ; Kathy Mazur
Sent: Thu, 16 Apr 2009 3:14 pm
Subject: Re: Public Documents Request

Dear Mr. Kelley:

Kathy Mazur forwarded your request to me because I am the keeper of public records for the three School Committee. As of now, the School Committee has not
voted to authorize release of the executive session minutes you are requesting
so they are still confidential and I am not authorized to release them as a
public record.

Sincerely,

Debbie

Date: April 16, 2009 4:52:49 PM EDT
To: WestmorelandD@ARPS.ORG

Hey Debbie,

Thanks! ( I should have known you were the 'go to' person on this).

I will formerly request the SC take it up at the very next meeting April 28'th; and if they do not vote to release the minutes I will unleash the wrath of God, Yahweh or Allah upon them.


Larry


On Apr 16, 2009, at 9:56:49 PM, "Michael Hussin" wrote:
Subject: re: minutes of executive session
To: amherstac@aol.com

Dear Mr. Kelley,
I received your letter and am just now getting a chance to respond. I am also aware that you have received an email from Debbie Westmoreland, the administrative assistant to the superintendent, with information regarding the release of executive session minutes. I wanted to elaborate further on the necessary procedures for making public the minutes of executive sessions.. Essentially the board must meet in executive session to review and vote to approve the minutes of any of those sessions. After that vote we can then vote to release to the public the minutes of any or all meetings that we have reviewed and approved. That can probably be done at the same meeting. Minutes of any executive session can be released, according to state law, when it is deemed by the board that no harm to the district or to personnel would come from the release of those minutes. As spring break is upon us, we will not be gathering any sooner then the next regional school committee meeting scheduled for April 28. If we need an executive session it is typically scheduled the same evening immediately following our regional meeting. I will be checking with the superintendent to see if that is the best time to schedule this session and if there are any other legal issues involved. At this point I do not foresee any problems with making the information you requested public, but again I will be checking to be sure we are following appropriate procedures.
Thank you,
Michael Hussin

From: amherstac
Subject: re: minutes of executive session
Date: April 16, 2009 10:12:09 PM EDT
To: "Michael Hussin"

Thanks. I look forward to the results of this request. Transparency is a good thing.

Larry


What goes around...

video
So Mr. Oldham, a Hampshire College professor (naturally) led the charge last year criticizing the School Committee for “outsourcing” food service to save ten$ of thousand$ and garnered all sorts of ink and bandwidth defending the “lunch ladies” who were getting outsourced.

Last night at the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee informational forum on Social Service Funding--the one Town Manager Larry Shaffer was banned from--he advocates, in a bumbling sort of way, for town tax money to continue funding these enterprises (making Amherst the only community in the state to do so).

At the May 30, 2006 Town Meeting where I had a multi-media presentation on DVD disc prepared (with background music no less) timed at just under 4 minutes (I had five since I was "amending the motion") to be projected on the large screen in front of Town Meeting, Mr. Oldham did a “point of order” as I was walking to the podium and demanded the Moderator (not exactly a BIG fan of mine) censor/ ban the presentation because I use clips of town officials (speaking at public meetings) without their permission.

Violating my First Amendment rights all in order to protect the taxpayer subsidized game of golf. Hmmm…

The moderator dismissed him, but about one minute into the presentation, when Czar Awad complained about my choice of The Eagles “Lying eyes” as background for her previous Town Meeting misstatement (lie), he shut down the presentation.

Interestingly, Ms. Awad went on to publish a letter in the Amherst Bulletin two years later categorically declaring that she had changed her “homestead declaration” back from an expensive South Hadley home to an Amherst Condo when in fact had not. She is currently living in South Hadley and unlike the bar Cheers, nobody seems to remember her name.

Today Mr. Oldham has a column (unpaid of course—and sometimes indeed you get what you pay for) in the Bully where at least he does state the new School Superintendent should not get more than the previous Super, but he concludes with a bleeding heart reference to the lunch ladies: “whatever the state of the budget, the treatment and conditions of the workers remains our concerns.”

Well gee there Professor, what about the thousands of small businesses (you know, the ones who pay taxes to fund all your favorite social programs) that perished over the past year, or the millions of workers laid off?

This is an economic 9/11—a new normal. Get used to it! (And yes folks, he voted two years ago not to allow the commemorative flags to fly on 9/11 as did most members of the TMCC).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

$158-K plus $15-K housing/transportation. Yikes!

Date: April 15, 2009 9:18:06 PM EDT
To: hussinm@arps.org, churchilla@arps.org, mazurk@arps.org
Re: Public Documents/Open Meeting Law request

Now that the need for secrecy is over and the negotiated salary of incoming Superintendent Rodriguez has been publicly announced, could I please get under Public Document Law the minutes of the Executive Session of the Regional School Committee and the actual vote of the individual committee members when this package was approved?

Thank You,

Larry Kelley

TM Committee to Town Mangler: Butt out!

So the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee (elected by Town Meeting) told Town Manager Larry Shaffer to take a hike when he offered to speak as a panelist for their "educational forum"on how to fund Human Services at ACTV last night.

Obviously these even more left-of-center (hard to believe it's possible) Committee members dislike the Town Manager's stand on the Human Services Budget (remove it from tax support) so rather than debate or question his stance eyeball to eyeball, they take the easy way out and ban him. Only in Amherst.

video

Town Mangler to bosses: Butt out!

So Princess Stephanie arranges for a fresh faced Umass student government rep to appear at the Select Board meeting and complain during Public Comment period about the sudden crackdown on unrelated housemates greater than four in any Amherst abode.
video

The Republican Reports

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Running out of Resources


The first and only time I attempted a “Move to Reconsider” on the floor of Town Meeting—where you ask the esteemed body to reconsider a previously decided article because of “new information”—occurred back in 1998.

Town Meeting had passed the Social Service charitable donation budget of around $100,000 with little discussion. The year before I had tried to cut a piece of it for “The Amherst Youth Center” that was getting the lions share ($19,000) and only had one or two kids participating, so the $39,000 salaried Director had it pretty cozy. Naturally I was practically booed from the podium.

But the Youth Center closed down in the following year (the town finally figured it out and pulled the money) so I simply abstained on the vote this time around, meaning I was in a position to attempt a reconsideration (you have to have voted in the majority or abstained on the original article.)

The Men’s Resource Center was getting a hefty amount ($10,000) and the day after Town Meeting approval, I learned they had a month earlier purchased a downtown building for a handsome six-figure sum and as a non-profit would be removing it (or most of it since I think they did rent a portion) from the tax rolls.

My pitch to Town Meeting was that we should deduct from the $10,000 donation the amount that would no longer be coming into the town treasury because of their tax-exempt status. Again I was met with blank clueless stares.

Now with the economic meltdown the town is, finally, talking about cutting the charitable contributions it makes annually to social service agencies. Amherst is of course the only community in the state that makes such contributions with tax dollars, and when you are a community with over 50% of the land owned by tax-exempts, that is not a sustainable combination.

Besides charitable giving should be an individual thing.

Taking the hint, the Men’s Resource Center announced their executive director would be joining the millions of Americans getting laid off and they will be selling that downtown building. Let’s hope to a private enterprise that will renovate it, employ folks and pay property taxes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Only in Lawrence


So I was just doing research on using a key card system to reduce overhead at the health club, while expanding hours of operation, and I landed on the Eagle Tribune carrying an AP story “24-hour fitness clubs popular, but controversial.”

I couldn’t help but notice another local article about the Lawrence School Superintendent being overturned by the School Committee for his ban on the kids performance of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ later this month.

Amherst of course opted out this year. Too busy I suppose, or those damn budget cuts, or the kid that lead the charge graduated (and like canceling ‘West Side Story’ there’s always one kid who leads the charge) and nobody else picked up the ball.

Or maybe because a few months ago the elderly, married Co-Superintendents were a tad old fashioned (after 40 years in the business) and probably would not have allowed it.

Superintendent Laboy should have cancelled the performance not for the word Vagina but for that other word used so repeatedly (rhythms with bunt); or the little vignette that glorifies sex between an adult and underage 16-year-old child (13-years-old in the original publication of the Play but Ensler because of controversy upgraded her to 16 in later editions) after the child is given vodka.

Makes me wonder if four school committee members who rallied to the play’s defense have actually even read it. And if the KKK wanted to rally in Lawrence on school property and were going to donate $10,000 to a local battered women’s shelter, would the School Committee allow that?

Back in 2004 when Amherst was the only high school in the nation to allow the play the diffident Regional School Committee was asked repeatedly to overrule golden boy Jere Hochman’s decision to allow it: they did nothing, claiming it was not their job to micro-manage the schools.

The Eagle-Tribune reports

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The "art" of education


On Apr 9, 2009, at 10:23:18 AM, amherstac wrote:
Memo To: Amherst School Committee
Re: Vacate Trespass Order
4/9/09

Town Meeting starts next month and as a Town Meeting member since 1991 with a 99.5% attendance record and another year left on my elected three-year-term by the voters of Precinct 5, I will NOT allow an ill-advised, hastily enacted ‘Trespass Order’ from an employee no longer with the Schools (but still getting paid thru June 1’st) to keep me from my duly elected duties.

I have been advised that if you do not lift the legally enforceable 1/9/09 order hand delivered by a Sheriff (an East Longmeadow man was recently arrested for violating a “Trespass Order” while watching his child play sports on school grounds on a Sunday) I should seek an injunction against the town of Amherst for holding Town Meeting at the Amherst Regional Middle School, thus denying me my right to attend as an elected official.

Larry Kelley
Amherst Town Meeting Precinct 5
Amherst Redevelopment Authority
Fifth Generation resident
Cc: Amherst School Committee, Maria Geryk Interim Superintendent of Schools,Stan Gawle Amherst Citizens for Responsible Change, Attorney Mike Serduck, Attorney Bill Newman, Mary Carey Daily Hampshire Gazette, Diane Lederman Springfield Republican
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One of the many good things about a Charter School is that they are immune from oversight of the local volunteer School Committee (almost always elected with a tiny voter turnout) and highly paid Superindendent (just wait to details of the new guy are revealed).

The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School started in Amherst and moved to Hadley after one year. And of course if Amherst had their way it would never have gotten a Charter in the first place (Golden boy Jere Hochman got his butt kicked on that one).

Fortunately the Amherst School System’s “Trespass Notice” does not bind me at PVCIC, so I can roam the building and take pictures till the cows come home (with Principal Kathy Wang’s permission of course as long as there are no children in the shots and even then it’s fine with parents permission and since my daughter attends…and yes, they have freakin hot water in the lavatories)

Another difference is the respect for all things Americans (this from a CHINESE charter school)


A tragic comedy in two parts:

Part one

Part two

The Springfield Republican recently reported




Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Trailer for sale or rent, rooms to let...

UPDATE: Thursday, 7:45 AM
So apparently Mary Carey got her hands dirty and went to the Town Clerks office and perused the ancient books of all things political and discovered the unconstitutional Bylaw banning more than four unrelated house buddies was passed W-A-Y back in 1966. (I'm so glad the Bully uses updated stories on occasion) Now I just wish they would go cyber sooner.
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UPDATE: Wednesday, 5:00 PM

So I’m looking at my Sitemeter and I’m W-A-Y behind last week’s April Fool’s upload (all three of them). Hmmm…

Okay, if it’s satire you want (although God knows how often my little karate student Max Karson got into trouble for trying to use it) here goes:

Amherst Occupancy Bylaw controls those damn Republicans:

The People’s Republic of Amherst initiated a crackdown using an ignored, ancient, exceedingly unconstitutional Town Meeting ordinance and-- like the flying of the UN flag in front of Town Hall— (so old that even Vince O’Connor can’t remember when it was passed), limiting Republicans per household to just 1 in 15, since that is percentage of Republican registered voter s in town.

And if you allow more than that in a household with Liberal Democrats the police will be called called upon too often to referee fights.

Thus the 7% of registered Amherst Republicans will have to form their own shantytown “reservation” or face eviction from house and home. Indeed Dorothy, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home:”

Unless you (try to) live in the People’s Republic of Amherst.
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UPDATE: Wednesday, April 8 10:00 AM


So I couldn't help but notice the Collegian front page story yesterday following up on the Gazette front page article. In the active Comments section one of the young ladies responds to a curmudgeon from Boston who thinks all students are spoiled brats (OUCH!):

Charlotte, I'm truly sorry that your personal experience with college students has been so terrible. However, as one of the girls that live in 265 East Pleasant, I take extreme offense to being referred to as an "ill-bred brat." I understand that you want to vent your feelings about the college kids in your area, but it really has nothing to do with our situation in Amherst. We have had absolutely no noise complaints from either the neighbors or police force. The issue is not about our being spoiled or inconsiderate, it is about the number of cars in our driveway and the fact that we had one more person in our home than is permissible by the town of Amherst. And just because you asked, yes I am the type of student who "eagerly signs up" for charity events-- last year I spent time building a Habitat for Humanity house in a South African township and in past years I have worked with Relay for Life, an especially important cause for me as my younger brother is currently battling cancer. So as much as I appreciate the interest, please take your negative comments elsewhere.

Collegian Article
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ORIGINAL POST: Tuesday morning

So once again academic, overly enlightened Amherst hits the AP wire with a negative story.

You would think if the town (that makes a fool of itself nationally all too often) wanted to suddenly crack down on those evil students using the unconstitutional four unrelated persons bylaw which has been on the books forever and like Rent Control was only briefly enforced, they would have chosen better subjects to make an example of.

Like five macho dudes living in a ramshackle hut with empty beer cans littering the lawn and numerous noise complaints (another bylaw that is enforced almost every weekend) documented in the police records.

But NOOOOOOOO, they have to pick a group of industrious, responsible--women four of them graduating seniors and one a grad student--renting a large house from a Umass professor on sabbatical and throw one out a month before the semester ends.

Amherst has too many young people for too few housing units and now the town is going to further reduce supply (by limiting the number per house) while the demand will stay high.

Sounds like landlords can now increase rents even further.

A few months ago the Select Board voiced their concern to the Town Manager about high legal bills (averaging $160,000 for the past few years) yet now we're enforcing this bylaw in a heavy handed manner when our previous town attorney suggested it would not stand up to a legal challenge. Umass students can get free use of an attorney through Legal Services.

The town needs to hire a PR/marketing expert (Umass has five or six in their Spin Room) to give advice to department heads or the political leadership to head off these bonehead ideas. Until then here's this free advice:

All you need do is ask yourself, as PT Barnum almost always did, “how is this going to play in the heartland”? And right now the People’s Republic of Amherst, once again, looks redder than the People’s Republic of China.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Not in South Hadley

UPDATE: 8:45 PM Results are in and no BIG surprise:
Mayor/Council loses in a landslide Yes 1815, No 2938 and Fire District merger by a fair amount 2250Voting Yes and 2522 "No" for a merger.
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ORIGINAL POST: Noon
So based on lawn signs alone I would project that once again the attempt to professionalize South Hadley government from part-time volunteers--Town Meeting and Select Board—to a more modern, accountable Mayor/Council will go down to defeat in today’s vote.

As too will the question of merging two Fire Districts (each with its own expensive bureaucratic overhead)

Change is indeed hard.

While I think merging Fire Districts in South Hadley, like closing Amherst’s Marks Meadow Elementary School create significant cost savings (and would support both if I had duel citizenship), I would not support the merging of a Police Chief and Fire Chief in the form of a Public Safety Director, which apparently--now that both our Chief's have announced their retirements--Amherst is considering.

First of all, police and fire have vastly different cultures (even though both involve public service, sometimes at great personal cost). And since these jobs involve routine activities that could lead to death, the rank-and-file need to have great faith in their leadership.

Police who perceive a Public Safety director as being more Fire Department oriented are not going to have great faith and trust in such a person thereby diminishing moral; and if firefighters perceive the person as too Police orientated then it will be the same.

And chances are the town would hire an Assistant Public Safety Director anyway to oversee one or the other disciplines, so you may as well have two separate Chiefs each having come up in the culture.

When Barry Del Castilho first came to Amherst in the early 1980’s from North Carolina one of the very first things he tried to do as town manager was to merge Police and Fire under one leader as well as having the front line troops perform both functions.

He was almost laughed out of town; and he never again brought up the subject over his twenty+ years of dictatorship.
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Interestingly current South Hadley Town Manager Barry Del Castilho told a Longmeadow Charter Commission back in 2003 that he preferred a Mayor/Council/City Manager form of government. And of course I biked by Ms. Awad's house and she has one of those ubiquitous yellow "Vote No" to the mayor lawn signs on her front yard (gotta wonder if she is still registered to vote in Amherst).

Just another beautiful day

About 300 racers hit the road.

So it was that perfect kind of day—a gorgeous sunny Sunday.

On the way down to Westfield—only a couple miles from the race we get cell phone call from folks in distress: on the way to the half marathon with a van full of competitors they got a flat tire. And the spare did not quite fit (who would have thought lug nuts made a difference). So we pick up the remaining three and bring them to the to the race.
A rescued Dave Perlmutter looking chipper for somebody about to run 13 miles in the wind.

Donna low fives Kira on the way by

Since it was a half marathon there was plenty of time to kill between the 11:00 AM start and finish. So the kids and I were treated to a tour of a Westfield Fire station, located just around the corner, by Deputy Chief Mary Regan.


On the way back to the car to head to the station a sudden roar yanked eyes skyward. By the time the first jet was nearly overhead I turned on my camera . One after the other, single file, with about ten seconds in between a half dozen warbirds streaked overhead. Of the five shots I managed to get off, only one caught a bird in flight.
Did not have time to use my 10X optical zoom

And if I were an enemy soldier it probably would have been the same way: just point strait up, shoot and hope to hit something. Not likely.

The Fire Station was quiet—but that of course can change instantly. Like Amherst the majority of their emergency work is related to ambulance runs and like Amherst their only Ladder Truck is aging and sometimes goes out with the less than a full complement.
Cool hover craft for water rescue

Kira and Jada in a Pumper (also aging)

The Deputy Chief can still do front line work (and often does)

Budget cuts are the same all over the state. And they are starting to hit muscle and bone.
Our first responders are probably less prepared (people and equipment) today than they were on that awful day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Not in Amherst

Hadley's Howard Johnson's

Oozing the outdated bricks and mortar 4’th Estate policy of “never apologize, never explain” today’s Amherst Bulletin editorial suggesting a compromise on the July 4’th Parade brew-ha-ha controversy actually champions a sound principle:

Let the League of Women Voters have their rag-tag “Protest Parade”; although Iraq is now won and even President Obama, the darling of the liberal left, is talking tough on Afghanistan.

Let them run the same route as the normal, All-American Rockwell style parade (at a safe distance from the end) that private organizers have promoted since 2002, after the town gave up in 1976.

The same cops who control things for the private July 4’th Parade Committee can stay in place and also handle the yahoos (since Union rules guarantee them 4 hours and two parades can happen within that time frame.) The two groups could probably also split the cost of insurance.

Too bad the Bully did not think of this eleven months ago.

Bully Nitwit editorial 5/2/08

What I find journalistically fascinating is this same “newspaper” previously told the private Amherst July 4’th Parade Committee to go find another holiday to have a Parade (yeah, gee there nitwits, they should have a July 4’th Parade on April 1’st eh?)

And they applauded the Town Mangler’s Nazi like takeover of the Parade from the private group by declaring he would not give them a permit for July 4, 2009—A resoundingly overt violation of the First Amendment and an idiotic move that brought a reprimand and federal lawsuit threat from the ACLU (also the darling of the left).

We think the 6-year-old Amherst parade will find a better home on a holiday that is not so closely aligned with the cherished principles of free speech and independence. Shaffer's stance creates a hundred and one headaches for himself and other town officials before Independence Day rolls around in 2009. But anyone who takes seriously the rights won by the nation's founders - a fight that began on a certain July day in 1776 - owes Shaffer a tip of the tricorn.

Any real newspaper that takes seriously their journalistic watchdog role—unlike the toothless, aging, arthritic, senile Bully--would have told Shaffer where to stick that tricorn.
Click to enlarge/read

The Bully "reports"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Abridging the freedom of speech



I don’t like attending choreographed “PR events,” and when I do it’s like the person who has no great love for NASCAR or the Indy 500 but grudgingly goes simply hoping for a spectacular car crash.

But I do indeed love, respect and will fight to the death to protect the First Amendment. And this staged event at Umass was, after all, a rally to support our rights to say whatever the Hell we want.

It brought together the student Democratic and Republican Clubs who normally mix like fire and gasoline. And of course the same nitwits who shut down Don Feder’s speech three weeks ago attended with their signs and banners--but a lot less vocal this time around. (The bright glare of national publicity will do that).

Last week Sheila Bair, former Umass professor and now Chair of the FDIC (and “second most powerful woman in the world”) spoke at the Isenberg School of Management about the financial meltdown and the resulting federal bailout. Not a peep out of the standing-room-only overflow audience.

If I had the time (which most protesters obviously do) I would have attended with a large sign reading “Are you out of your mind!” Bailout the poor schmucks who need it, but put all the other idiots in jail.

Ahhh but she’s a middle aged white woman—and a very successful one at that. Don Feder is this aging Jewish guy who used to write a column for—gasp—The Boston Herald.

After all, this is Umass--located in the People’s Republic of Amherst.

This student is probably thinking if he knew Ch 40 TV was coming with such a cute reporter he would have dressed better. Or maybe not.

The burly guy with a beard gets around. But they could have used another volunteer or two on the bottom corners.

(March 11 at the Don Feder speech fiasco.) Hey at least they believe in recycling.

UN flag to be retired


The faded tattered United Nations flag that has flown in front of Amherst Town Hall since the very early 1970's (soooooo long ago that even Vince O'Connor was not around) will be permanently retired into the new landfill at the former Cherry Hill Golf Course.

Since town officials are squeamish about the American flag, the Committee to Abolish Imperialistic Banners (co-sponsored by the Amherst League of Women Voters) decided to alternate the Puerto Rican flag, Rainbow flag, People's Republic of Iran and North Korea at that flagpole over the next generation.

Cherry Hill Golf Course: sunk in a sandtrap


After costing $2.2 million to acquire by eminent domain (in 1987 dollars) and another $1 million in tax dollars for operational losses over the past 22 years on the glamorous game of golf, the Town Mangler today announced he's throwing in the sweat towel.

Amherst's white elephant is closed, and will soon become a landfill.

"Garbage pays more than golf" said Laurence Shaffer. And he should know!

Heading South


Yeah, I'm still mad as Hell but I just can't take it anymore. You win, my spouse wins, maybe even my young kids win. We're packing up the bikes, computers and kitties and heading for South Hadley.

Hell, they have all the really easy targets anyway (not counting Anne Awad since she seems to have gone into private hibernation.) Barry Del Castilho and Gus Sayer--the two highest paid town employees and previous long-time Amherst trough suckers, a municipal golf course that generates more red ink than a Chinese flag factory and my abolute favorite lame FAT duck target, Representative Town Meeting.

They even have TWO Fire Departments in a town half the size of the People's Republic (our little abode is exactly half-way between them so in an emergency maybe they will both come) and good old Skinner Mountain where I can train once again to bike up Mt. Washington. And their High School even has a marching band!

Besides, they could use a slight increase in their Asian population.