Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Epilogue

9:45 PM

So yeah, by now you know the Override passed handily. But the real victory (for us crotchety conservatives) is Rob Spence winning a seat on the venerable Amherst School Committee.

And although they will never admit it, the Vote Yes folks did everything in their power to take him out.

As I stated earlier today, for the first time in at least a generation, a majority of sane fiscal conservatives controls that all-volunteer, amateur committee of do-gooders overseeing well over half the $65 million Amherst town budget.

I will actually sleep well tonight.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hurray for Spence

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, there's some Joy (but mainly HOPE) in Mudville.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think that Sanderson and Rivkin are fiscally conservative? They just disagree with how the money is being spent not that too much is being spent. That's different. Just wait until they try to fund universal pre-k or need to spend lots of money to re-do the math curriculum.

LarryK4 said...

Whatever you wanna call it, they are W-A-Y better than anything I've seen in, Oh, 30 years of paying attention to such mundane matters.

Anonymous said...

Larry, you did great throughout.


Thanks a bunch.

LarryK4 said...

You're welcome.

Joel said...

Sanderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, and Spence are all fiscally conservative because they don't believe the problems in Amherst are because we don't spend enough.

They can certainly speak for themselves, but my sense is that they won't throw money at problems. I think that they are rational decision makers who will protect our resources. That's why none of them openly campaigned for the override.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, whatever you wanna call that--that's it.

God forbid we use the word "conservative" in the People's Republic.

Anonymous said...

I would not rush to believe that amherst college professors with no experience monitoring and enforcing budgets of any size are actually the people I want monitoring my school's budget. My experience is that professors may sound like they're making sense, until you realize they have no idea what they're talking about.... in the real -- not academic -- world.

LarryK4 said...

EXACTLY my first impression of Catherine Sanderson--but look how she turned out!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Larry -- umm, thanks for the compliment, I think?!?

And yes, I agree with Joel - there are lots of things that could work better in our schools that don't cost more (and in some cases, actually cost less -- like moving to a semester system in the high school!). I look forward to working with Rob and Rick to create truly excellent schools that work well for all kids ... using responsible decision-making on both educational and fiscal matters.

LarryK4 said...

Kind of makes you a, GASP, Fiscal Conservative--at least in my book.

But don't worry, I will not tell anyone...honest.

Ed said...

Sanderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, and Spence are all fiscally conservative because they don't believe the problems in Amherst are because we don't spend enough.

Don't ever think that Conservatives won't spend money - we just want to know what the h*** we are getting for it....

Xenos said...

Wow. I was joking when I said I was going to vote for Vince. But 1,342 people voted for someone whose main argument was 'I am retired so I have lots of free time so vote for me'?

Jeff B said...

Larry -
You are one of the unsung heroes of this override campaign. I was actually beginning to believe you (and a few other people on this blog) were on the "Yes" side. Your false confidence and taunting helped the Yes folks to get out the vote. Since you are incredibly politically savvy, I was beginning to think it was part of a "Yes" strategy. Whatever the motivation, thanks very much. We spoke to more than a few people who were energized to vote just because of the taunting of the campaign and friends involved in it. I am now beginning to behold the power of the blog. Every little bit helped.

Anonymous said...

Not to say I told you so, but "I TOLD YOU SO." You live in such a bubble that you couldn't see the obvious, that this was going to pass.

Ed said...

Time to start the petition for the UNDERride....

Anonymous said...

Jeff B - I am one of the Amherst residents who was pushed off he fence by Larry K's antics to vote yes for the override. Thank you Larry K. I am a proud override supporter.

LarryK4 said...

As Howie Carr once observed, half his readers come to his column because they love the way he skewers politicians and the other half come because they are the politicians seeing if they are getting skewered that day.

Anonymous said...

I would not rush to believe that amherst college professors with no experience monitoring and enforcing budgets of any size are actually the people I want monitoring my school's budget. My experience is that professors may sound like they're making sense, until you realize they have no idea what they're talking about.... in the real -- not academic -- world.
Amen. One of the biggest problems with Amherst politics is too many tenured professors who are used to being authorities never having to answer to anyone running the show. There may be exceptions (Sanderson), but they are few and far between.

Anonymous said...

8:11 - well said but I'm not convinced that Catherine Sanderson is an exception.

Joel said...

Some of the folks on this blog that are bitching and moaning about tenured professors really don't seem to be able to take yes for an answer. (I am one of those tenured professors, btw.)

The problem with the loopy left in town (O'Connor et al) and the smug overload wanna be's (Tirkle, Bertrand, etc.) is that they are completely disconnected from reality. The loopy left has a fleeting acquaintance with reality and the overload wanna be's are constitutionally incapable of understanding that the problem isn't always tax revenues, it's often mindless spending, esp. on their close friends in the administration. Don't fool yourselves, Tirkle will be engineering another override within the next 30 months.

Elections are about choices not perfect candidates who are exactly like you and do exactly what you would do.

So, given the choices we've had over the last five years, Sanderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, and now Spence are awfully fine SC members.

Don't criticize the two profs for being profs. Save your criticisms for things they actually do that bother you. And, please, do try to take yes for an answer.

LarryK4 said...

Professor Blaustein: if you believe I made an 869 vote difference by energizing your base then obviously you do not teach Political Science up there at Umass.

Psychology perhaps?

Anonymous said...

To Jeff B.
If so-called teasing and taunting is enough to change someone's mind when it comes to fiscal matters then that someone is obviously not hurting terribly when it comes to their personal finances. There are some of us out there who now have to make a most serious decision about what to cut from our lives if we want to stay in Amherst. So, what shall it be? Less food? Heat? Urgently needed dental work? If the override had failed, believe me, Amherst would still be standing. Right now, at this moment, I need to sit down and try to figure out what the hell to do.

Taylor said...

Can someone tell me how Vince gets 1/5th of the voters to cast a vote for him? Seriously 20% of the voters are as looney as him?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Let me add my two cents, as an actual tenured professor -- anyone who actually is a professor knows that it is NOT the case that we are "used to being authorities never having to answer to anyone running the show." You can't get tenure without answering to a lot of people -- other professors who are experts in your field and evaluate your writing/research/thinking contributions to the field, 18 to 22-year-old students in your classes who evaluate you and determine whether you still have a job, colleagues at your institution and elsewhere who evaluate whether you get tenure/get promoted to full professor/get published/get a raise/get a sabbatical. There is constant evaluation of your own teaching and research by people in your own field at your own institution and others -- which may be why professors on the SC of late has realized the benefits of having an outside look at how things are done in our school system -- because we personally know that our own scholarship has benefited tremendously from this type of perspective.

Taylor said...

While I don't think the majority of Amherst voters see things the same way as Larry, he has used this site to expose things that a majority of folks in town can agree are bad. AROD and his time off, Public Money to privatize Lincoln Ave. Dangerously low staffing at AFD. So I thank Larry for all he has brough to light this year.

LarryK4 said...

Thanks Taylor! As long as I'm pissing off Professor Blaustein, it remains worthwhile.

Jeff B said...

Larry -
You're not pissing me off. I have always found your blog entertaining (except when you cross the line), and it helps me to keep in touch with how other people in town think. I also don't think you changed anybody's mind by being overly and falsely confident or taunting your opponents. I do know that it was bad (tenderfoot?)strategy, and there are at least some people who may not have voted who turned out. It wasn't the 800 or so vote margin, but it helped a bit to widen that margin. As a biologist, I don't know a lot of political science, but I always thought that, as in sports, it was best to let your opponent think they're winning. So once again, thanks for the help.
To any of your readers who think that any of us are happy about the people who truly cannot afford the extra few dollars a week, we're not. We just did not see an alternative to preserve some semblance of Amherst's qualities. I know that some of those people believe that there is waste. I obviously do not believe that there is anymore.

Joel said...

Hi Jeff,

It also helps when one side lies. The claims about how the failure of the last override decimated school staffing were, at best, extreme exaggerations. Most of the cuts listed were restored -- indeed, portable were purchased for MM after the override failed. Enrollments dropped, but spending increased even after the failure of the last override. Hmm. Makes you wonder.

The claims about what would happen if this override failed were largely over blown as well.

Catherine Sanderson detailed the actual impact of the failure of the override would have on the elementary, middle and high schools and it was largely negligible.

I know that the vast majority of people in town who voted for the override did it for the best reasons, but the override organizers were guilty of exaggerating and at times of saying some very dishonest things.

Here's my question: Given that the schools' portion of the override largely funds raises, how much more money will the schools need going forward and how large with the next override request be?

There's very little political will to address the huge disparity in per pupil spending in Amherst versus just about everywhere else in W. Mass. We are going to have to either lower that spending or increase revenues again.

LarryK4 said...

Actually Jeff that "let your opponent think they're winning"--rope a dope strategy went out with Muhammad Ali, after he developed Parkinson's from the brain damage.

My theory has always been to avoid a fight at all costs, but if forced to engage--then unleash the Dogs of War and "And be damned him that cries, 'hold enough'."

kevin said...

---

I voted for him.

Dr. Spence took an oath to do no harm.

Kevin

---

Anonymous said...

I've never posted to a blog in my life, but I want "in" on this one.

The real, honest-to-goodness insanity that constitutes the core of Amherst's Bizzaro-World thinking has been making me angry for decades. I can't even read the local rag (excuse me, "paper") anymore; it's best used for kindling or cleaning windows, I think.

Since it's not fully possible to convey my level of frustration, I wont try. I will just say that my family has been here for a long, long time, and I'm not going anywhere. Unless, of course, the tax burden goes from crushing to pulverizing, which is not impossible given the way the government here wastes my money. Maybe I can quit my job and get "in" on that new subsidized housing complex that was rammed down the throats of the people over there across from Kamel Hassan's.

I'm glad to have found this blog. It offers me some comfort. No hope, but some comfort.

Anonymous said...

Jeff B:

No waste? Are you kidding? Maybe a little naive? How about spending $40,000 on a superintendent search and winding up with someone to whom we paid an astronomical amount of money and ultimately turned out to be 'not quite what we were looking for.'
Your empty sympathy at us less well off folks is just that. Empty. I suppose your attitude is to be expected for someone who makes upwards of $200,000 a year.

Craig said...

THANK YOU AMHERST!!!! By passing the over-ride, you not only saved my job but I'm also getting a raise! The only problem is trying to figure out how I'm going to spend that extra 16 dollars a week! I know, I'll put it towards last months food bill! Or maybe last years fuel bill, which is now lumped onto this years bill too! Awesome, I love rolling on the dough!!!

LarryK4 said...

Actually Anon 11:42 AM, Professor Blaustein made $201,396 in 2007 and his wife Marilyn (Director of the office of Institutional Research) made a lousy $118,401.

Anonymous said...

"Fiscal conservatives?" Given the higher-than-almost-any-other-superintendent-in-the-valley salary that this school committee agreed to pay our new interim, one who has practically no experience on the job (and who does not need additional funds for moving or commuting to Florida), I have little hope that our tax dollars will be spent with any more caution and reason than they have been in the past.

Joel said...

I don't believe the Amherst members of the SC, except Andy Churchill of the overload wanna be's, approved the current arrangement. I recall seeing the chair, who is not from Amherst, allowing the HS principal to dress down Catherine Sanderson on these issues and then the chair also shutting down Irv Rhodes and Steve Rivkin when they tried to speak to the issue.

The hill towns are running things folks. Don't blame Catherine, Steve, or Irv.

Anonymous said...

What is an 'overload wanna be', Joel? Do you mean overlord? I guess 'overlord wanna-be' is probably what you're trying to say.
However, I don't see how that characterization advances discussion. That may not be what you're interested in, of course. I didn't think Larry had a match out there for foaming-at-the-mouth, but he does! Keep it up, Joel! We definitely need more name-calling.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:42 here again, Larry

Jeff Blaustein's earnings in 2008 were $209,176.47 and Marilyn earned a very, very measly $125,896.37. Yes indeedy, I agree. Mere pittances.
Some people just need to keep their mouths shut instead of talking about how sorry they are that we're suffocating in our town's b.s. while they are obviously quite a bit better off. It's insulting.

Joel said...

I did mean "overlord" and let me tell you why I say that. My wife was Rob Spence's campaign manager and we heard directly from people that Baer Tirkle and his crowd were openly bad mouthing Rob simply because he wouldn't openly endorse the override. Really because he wouldn't simply do what Baer told him to do.

They argued -- sometimes publicly in places e.g., Localacracy -- that Rob was unqualified. Rob had a high rating in Tirkle's rating system for TM, but he was the enemy because he wouldn't endorse the override -- even though he didn't oppose it.

Tirkle and his crowd told people that Kathleen Anderson and Vince O'Connor were better candidates. We heard from people that the Amherst Center types were calling Rob unqualified and someone Catherine Sanderson would simply manipulate. Tirkle even went on to exaggerate Rick Hood's qualifications in an email blast --claiming incorrectly that Rick's kids had gone to the Amherst elementary schools. Rick told me over coffee that they hadn't.

They did everything they could to defeat Rob for their egos and nothing more.

The Amherst Center crowd played dirty simply because they couldn't control Rob. I think they're all about their egos and not what's right for Amherst.

The Spence campaign was a very positive one because that's who Rob is and that's how my wife operates. We were all smeared by Baer Tirkle and his group who think they run things. Their behavior was despicable. That's why I call them the overlord wanna be's. And, you could lighten up; it's a joke.

BTW, like Larry, I have little patience for criticism from people who can't even attach their name to the comment.

Joel said...

One more comment about the "overlord wanna be's" and my typo of "overload."

I teach at UMass and make considerably less than Prof. Blaustein. I make a lot less than his wife. Well, I make a lot less than the SPED administrators in town. And, like almost all college and university employees in town I didn't get a raise last year.

But, I am teaching an OVERLOAD this semester to help out the grad students and I had a discussion with an advisee about teaching another one next fall. It isn't a ton a work, but the professors and staffs at UMass and the colleges have all been taking on extra work and teaching overloads because staffing levels are way down but the workload has been increasing.

We aren't being compensated for extra work, but the ARPS administrators all get raises when they take on additional duties. They have a sweet ride.

So, I had my teaching overload on my mind when I meant to write about the Amherst Overlord Wanna Be's. Please excuse the typos, I feel a bit overworked.

LarryK4 said...

Anon 11:42 AM and again 3:08 PM:
Keep in mind Mr. and Mrs. Blaustein as Town Meeting members voted against flying the commemorative flags on 9/11 and as Amherst Finance Committee members have always supported the town subsidizing the expensive game of golf at the Cherry Hill Golf Course.

Anonymous said...

Joel,

For me, it comes down to this:

What does it mean if there are a growing number of Amherst resident children whose parents have decided to send them elsewhere?

Does it mean anything?

If that is happening, and I understand that it is, I think that that trend affects the quality of education for all children who remain in our public schools.

I think that there's a genuine crisis of confidence in town about the quality of its public education. It wasn't created out of whole cloth by one or two individuals that we can flog to make ourselves feel better. It was there all along among parents who didn't want to get beaten up in the public square.

What's new is that that unhappiness is now being reflected in who is being elected by secret ballot to School Committee. If there was bad-mouthing of Rob, it doesn't seem to have hurt him much at the polls. Ultimately we as a community will have to come publicly to grips with this dissatisfaction. It's just a question of when.

The shame here is that Baer Tierkel, through some hard work, formed a broad coalition of very serious people that cared about our schools. Many of us were part of that coalition. We thought it would last. But we weren't taking any loyalty oaths to it or to the schools as they are. Now Mr. Tierkel, by comments such as the one in the Gazette today, seems to be dismantling that coalition, fracturing it right down the middle. (One friend of mine calls it The Big Camp.)

So now we have people squaring off with each other, who were cooperatively listening to one another just a few years ago. I think that there needs to be some soul-searching about why this happened. And I'm willing to include myself in the blame for it.

Perhaps now that the override has passed, and the immediate need for cheerleading and loyalty checks about the status quo in the schools is over, we can begin again to address the interesting issues posed by these parents who've decided these schools are not good enough for their kids.

Rich Morse

Joel said...

RIch,

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Joel,
Sorry you're overworked. Must suck to have a job.
Your description of the abuses heaped upon Spence by the 'overlord wanna-be' is interesting, in that you don't seem to have actually heard any of this stuff yourself.
But whatever. I'm not a Baer Tierkel supporter (or opponent.) He can behave just as badly as you do, it would seem.
(And why does attaching your name to a blog post give you license to smear people's names? How does that make it more virtuous?)

LarryK4 said...

Because Anon 8:47 AM, in this great country of ours--that so treasures the First Amendment--we still have libel/slander laws.

And when you have the balls (or ovaries as the case may be) to attach your name to something you can be held legally liable.

Truth, however, is the ultimate defense.

Joel said...

Hi Anon 8:47

Sucks that your parents named you "Anon 8:47." Were they Borg?

Seriously, and you apparently take yourself very seriously, I in fact read some of the slams on Localocracy, a website that Tierkle helped to underwrite. His wife (Alison Curphey) and one of the heads of the override movement (Diana Spurgin) wrote down Rob for not having experience, etc. I did hear directly some of the slams. And, I read what Tierkle said in the Gazette about the SC members who disagree with him.

And I can't understand why I'm being criticized for pointing out that in my job I am now doing extra work for no extra money. My criticism wasn't that I'm suffering, it's that the schools' administrators are paid significantly EXTRA sums of money to do extra work while the rest of us now have higher tax bills to pay for their bonuses.

Honestly, I don't know why we all waste time trying to reason with people who won't even own their own slams. So long.

Anonymous said...

'Bye Joel! Nice chatting with you. Always nice to have an adult conversation. ('Were they Borg' - ? Are you 11?)