Thursday, September 30, 2010

A reflection of absence

How do you demonstrate to future generations the enormity of the devastation incurred that awful day? How do you balance the heartfelt wishes of the multitudes who lost loves ones and create something that is respectful--but not so exceedingly stark that only the bereaved would visit?

A once in a lifetime oppertunity, that over 5,000 designers desired and only one, Michael Arad, was chosen. And he new going in that he would have to "get it right," both in the design phase-- and even more importantly--the execution.

While he may look young for such an awesome responsibility remember, Maya Lin (who served as a judge on this "contest") was only 21 when her design for the Viet Nam War Memorial was chosen over 1,400 others.

And both designs share the same haunting concept of actually seeing the names--all the names-- of the dead.

"Reflecting absence" vividly drives home the point by illustrating the Twin Towers with two large reflecting pools, standing in their former footprint, framed by low walls containing all the names of the victims etched in bronze.

Tonight at Umass, Mr. Arad spoke to a packed crowd of about 120--probably pushing the envelope of what the room is certified to hold. And at first glance, his design doesn't look as though it pushed any envelopes at all. The New York Post headlined their initial reaction with, "It Stinks!"

He opened with a photo of a bakery near Ground Zero he would pass in those early dark days, displaying a cake with a graphic of the Twin Towers and etched in confectionery the motto "We will never forget."

At first he thought it tacky, but then realized the owners were humbly using their own particular skills to commemorate this astonishing event. And as an architect he started to think how he could use his skills to make sure nobody would ever forget.

After a thorough 45 minute presentation, the first question from the audience concerned "the conspiracy" and whether he considered how to incorporate the concept of a "controlled demolition" bringing down those magnificent towers.

Arad cut the Nitwit off with a curt, "This is my presentation, not your. I'm not going to answer that!"

Like the Viet Nam Memorial, "Reflecting Absence" will become a mecca for future generations of Americans--and citizens from the around the world.

Michael Arad. A little background

NY TImes showing a lot more respect than the NY Post

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sleepless in Cairo

Carol Gray awake (sort of)

It was 2:10 AM her time but only 7:10 PM our time when (Mother) Mary Streeter fired up her Macbook Pro laptop in the Jones Library Trustees Room to synch with Carol Gray via Skype W-A-Y over there in Egypt.

So yeah, I suppose it's understandable Ms Gray was sound asleep in the seated position.

Ms Streeter took umbrage at my attempt to photograph Library Trustee Gray looking like a zombie and quickly covered the screen with a sheet of paper.

Gotta wonder how alert and worthwhile Ms. Gray will be in future Library meetings if the Attorney General decides it is okay for her to remotely participate via Skype.

And let's hope she doesn't snore.

Spectators who did not hide from the camera.

Meeting must be over as somebody from Cairo, Egypt just arrived via a google search for Larry Kelly blog (sic)

Monday, September 27, 2010

9/11 epilogue. To be continued...

So my friend Tom Porter emailed me last night wondering if Cinda Jones ever forwarded me the photos she took (with a very nice camera) on the morning of 9/11 in Amherst Town Center. He was six minutes late feeding 'loose change' in the meter and our ultra efficient parking enforcement folks issued a $10 ticket at 9:24 AM.

Of course I could not help but be reminded that nine years earlier on that awful morning about that time Governor Swift had sent all non essential state employees home and my wife reported how eerie it was to drive back to Amherst that afternoon on the Mass Pike with the all the toll booths abandoned.

I wonder how many parking tickets were issued in downtown Amherst nine years earlier around that time with the bells, bells, bells of St Brigid's church clanging away to signal that something had gone terribly wrong on an otherwise gorgeous Tuesday morning.

And Mr. Porter did not want me to attempt to fix the ticket--not that I could. Although I have been told now by two Town Manager's that if I get a parking ticket while on an official ARA (Amherst Redevelopment Authority) business they could indeed "fix it." So I guess the mechanism does exist.

Mr. Porter simply wanted to print the photo to enclose with his check to town parking director Claire McGinnis to demonstrate he was doing something worthwhile that caused that (expensive) six minute overage.

Something worthwhile indeed.

9/11/10 in the People's Republic

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

ARA update: Remembering George N. Parks

So like all Amherst Redevelopment Authority meetings these past six months, tonight was nothing but 'Gateway Project.' And once again Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon and Executive Director of the Office of External Relations Nancy Buffone showed up to demonstrate the continuing commitment of our major partner, Umass.

But if I were a cub Collegian reporter covering tonight's meeting, my lead fact would be that Umass will have a celebration ceremony to remember/honor/commemorate Marching Band Director George N. Parks on October 16--'Homecoming Day'-- at the Mullins Center, which has a seating capacity of 10,000... so that may be big enough.

Runner up fact: Deputy Chancellor Diacon confirming that the $182 million for student housing announced today in the Springfield Republican will have no impact one way or the other on the Gateway Project.

The 1500 bed dormitory will be in the center of campus (thus tax exempt) and God only knows how long that will take to get built since it will be a public undertaking as opposed to the Gateway Project which, like the Isenberg School of Management addition/renovation mostly funded by Jack Welch, will be farmed out to the private sector.

And finally, the ARA is now going to hold off on rushing a Request For Proposals for a consultant on the Gateway Project as we wish to carefully absorb more public advice--besides just the immediate neighbors who have given us continuous input.

The Springfield Republican reports

George N. Parks Facebook memorial page: 10,000 friends and still growing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Turn about fair play?

UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon. So who needs the caterpillar-like mainstream media, as Mr. Wald reports on his blog that last night the Historical Commission he chairs heard tons of testimony--almost all of it against the plans of the People's Republic of Amherst to nuke the property--and continued the hearing until next week.

Jim Wald reports

So it will be interesting tonight to see if the Amherst Historical Commission treats the town of Amherst the same combative way it has private entities lately by enforcing a one year demolition delay of a quaint old New England farmhouse and this old barn, the "Hawthorne Property" recently purchased by Amherst for $500,000 in free money--otherwise knows as Community Preservation Funds.

The Historical Commission recently forced the town's largest landowner, Amherst College, to delay for one year the demolition of an 80-year-old fence around one of its many properties. Chairman James Wald declared it a matter of principal: "We're making a statement that preservation is important."

Our appointed history aficionados also forced the Cowles family to delay the destruction of a 100 year old barn in North Amherst that CEO Cinda Jones laments is in danger of collapse.

Perhaps the Historical Commission should keep its eye on the prize, as Town Meeting is potentially going to vote the formation of a Historical District in and around the Dickinson Homestead that would automatically limit new development and renovations to existing structures.

But, if impacted neighbors and homeowners get the impression our Commissioners are a tad too militant then they will fight the creation of Amherst's first Local Historic District which, in itself, would be somewhat "historic" and requires a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting.

Unfortunately, in the People's Republic of Amherst, the NIMBYs usually win.

Monday, September 20, 2010

ARA road trip report

If Hanover, NH represents the after picture for smart successful mutually beneficial development, our recent trip to Mansfield, CT provided the perfect before picture.

After endless design discussions dating back to the 1970s groundbreaking is imminent on Storrs Center, a $250 million urban mixed use development that will create something we here in Amherst take for granted--an actual town center with a town green providing a laid back ambiance attractive to everyday folks whose numbers will no doubt increase with the addition of 700 market rate rental units.

Like the proposed 'Gateway Project' in Amherst, a partnership where the town benefits by increasing taxable commercial development, stimulating jobs and local commerce while the educational institution benefits by increasing quality housing to attract more students and professors.

The ambitious 'Storrs Center' is a joint development between Mansfield town officials, UConn--the dominant employer in the region--and the local business community who operate in the University's shadow.

The school and the town split equally the $250,000 annual budget of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership a sort of Chamber of Commerce created for just this project (with only two full time employees.)

Besides the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, new Amherst Town Manager John Musante and Amherst Chamber of Commerce executive director Tony Maroulis, Umass Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon and Executive Director of the Office of External Relations Nancy Buffone also attended, demonstrating the commitment to the 'Gateway Project' from our flagship educational partner.

Now of course, it's up to Amherst Town Meeting to provide a vital component of the deal by rezoning the land in question to allow the mixed use development that will revitalize the neighborhood and our downtown.

Main Street Mansfield now: NOT a scene Rockwell would have painted.

This WW2 era building owned by UConn will be demolished, the pavement torn up and the open space turned into a town center green.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The day the music died

George Parks demonstrating Power and Class.

UPDATE: Monday morning So unless you have been living in a cave somewhere you probably know the Umass Marching Band put on a hell of a performance in Michigan before the largest live crowd in their entire history. The football team also came close to pulling off a Cinderella win as well.

My ultra reliable source at the State House indicates the Chancellor can order the flags on campus to half staff on the day of George Parks memorial service as can the Town Manager or Select Board order the municipal flags to half staff on town property as well.

A fitting tribute to a most deserving individual.

Even though he was immersed in something macho martial arts guys might mistakenly think a tad wimpy, I remember the first time I met George Parks at my karate studio about 15 years ago when he signed up his two children and would often come watch me teach their lessons.

I could tell instantly he was a dedicated father. But when I soon thereafter witnessed him perform as Umass marching band leader, I was even more impressed with his physical ability to control and coordinate a massive wave of college kids with loud instruments like a perfectly trained border collie herding sheep.

A few years later I called him up, not knowing if he would even remember me, to ask a favor. Without hesitation he volunteered to perform with whatever band members he could muster.

Since the first band practice did not happen until mid-month, acquiring a decent ensemble on 9/11 was not easy. But he reported that morning to the Amherst town common--the first anniversary--with about a dozen kids, and they played like it was Carnegie Hall.

The last time I talked to George was almost exactly a year ago at the UMass groundbreaking ceremony for the George Parks Marching Band building. I asked him is he could muster a few kids on 9/11/11 for the tenth anniversary ceremony and he instantly responded, "Of course!"

But now he's gone. I'm sure tomorrow--because of the discipline he instilled--the Umass marching band that was his life will play their hearts out in the Michigan Big House.

And I'll bet, somewhere, George N. Parks will be smiling.

Yes, slightly unreporter like of me to yell, "Looking good Boss!" as he passed. He of course noticed me standing dead center in the middle of the road to get the shot and although he never broke his rigid disciplined march or even moved his head, just as he passed he gave me a wink.

The Springfield Republican, sadly, reports

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sat, Sep 18, 2010 9:14 am
Subject: Flags to half staff request

Suzzette Waters
State House Events
Bureau of State Office Buildings

Hey Suzzette,

If ever a Massachusetts state employee deserved the flag to fly at half staff to mourn his stunningly sudden loss, it would be George N. Parks. And I know first hand what a believer he was in our country, its values and that he strove to instill that in countless thousands of students over the past thirty years--mainly by example.

He played for Presidents and football fans and kids at Christmas. He will always be remembered in our hearts

Could you mention this simple request to the Big Boss?


Larry K

ARA road trip

6:55 AM

Off to Storrs, CT with the Amherst Redevelopment Authority and new town manager John Musante to check out how our neighboring community and UConn have done development catering to a mix of students and locals.

Safe bet none of those town officials heard Mr. Musante on ACTV declare Amherst the "best college town in America."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Terms of the deal

Since Mr. Musante spent about a third of his acceptance speech talking about his contract negotiation, let's hope he remembered not to take too unfair advantage of the circumstances to tap the treasury he will now oversee; and even though they retreated into secret session to discuss the terms of that new contract (and Mr. Shaffer's going away present) the Select Board will, under Public Documents Law, have to release all of the details.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thu, Sep 16, 2010 3:28 pm
Subject: Public Documents Request

Amherst Select Board

Could I please get the minutes of the Executive Session held 9/13/10 to negotiate the retirement benefits of outgoing town manager Larry Shaffer and the new contract for appointed town manager John Musante and a copy of any contracts agreed to that night.


Larry Kelley

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

With a reference like that

Since it was a forgone conclusion assistant town manager John Musante would ascend to permanent town manager to replace the suddenly departing Larry Shaffer, I figured why bother weighing in with an opinion even though I was recruited at the last minute to donate my analysis for Localocracy

The Select Board public "discussion" contained this hidden gem: a former Select Board Czar who moved to another nearby town but wanted to maintain her Amherst elected position and lied in a letter/statement published in the Amherst Bulletin about the status of her Homestead Declaration (positive proof she was no longer fit to serve in Amherst) took the time to write a recommendation for Musante.

I'm not sure what is more frightening: Our new town manager being heartily endorsed by the likes of her, or that Princess Stephanie "considers it to be a very important letter."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Barbarians at the gate

So the ever community conscious Amherst Police Department is holding a citizen outreach event tonight at the Crocker Farm School from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM to educate South Amherst residents about staying safe in their castles.

A serial series of burglary break ins have occurred over the past six weeks in the neighborhood late at night while homeowners are asleep.

Growing up on Amherst's Crow Hill a generation ago, I can't even remember a time when we locked our doors. Of course that was also back when the milkman made deliveries to our front porch. Back before the University of Massachusetts built Southwest High Rise dorms and the phallic Du Bois Library to accommodate a surge of students more than doubling the population of a former farm town.

Note to Perp: if you break in my house under cover of darkness, getting within 50 yards of my sleeping family, I will do everything within my aging powers to rip your heart out and shove it down your throat.

APD award winning community outreach blog

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11/10 in the People's Republic

Umass Daily Collegian reports

Following the pattern of all the previous anniversaries of this seismically horrific event, today was another carbon copy of the stunning weather we started to enjoy that awful morning.

I wonder if perhaps the pernicious mastermind actually calculated how early-to-mid September generated consistently beautiful weather in the Eastern Standard Time zone so his rookie pilots would have a better chance of steering their captured weapons to target.

The ceremony at Central Fire Station was short and haunting. The flag at half staff, a lone bagpiper playing Amazing Grace and the lonely chime of a fire station bell signaling a "last alarm".

Town center was as busy this morning as I remember it nine years ago. Although this year we had a lot of company in town center with folks holding signs for DA candidate Dave Sullivan who was also present. Like many of his supporters he thanked me for being there simply to remember the greatest tragedy of our lifetime.

House representative candidate Daniel Sandell made an extended appearance as well, and the incumbent he is trying to unseat, Ellen Story came and stood with me for the last half hour or so. She had been at the Granby Public Safety Building grand opening and reported how well they marked the memory of 9/11.

Yes, the Umass Republic Club did appear and brought dozens and dozens of flags they planted around town center. And a special thanks to Cinda Jones and Tom Porter for standing to remember.

Patriotic cutie.

Patriotic Dog

Friday, September 10, 2010

Does President Obama remember 9/11?

UPDATE: 8:15 AM, 9/11/10

And today the bright sun and severe clear blue sky only reaffirm the memories of that morning. I honestly can't remember a 9/11 over the past 9 years where the weather was anything less.

I just checked my sitemeter and over the past hour had 14 visitors and 8 of them came doing a search under the term "flags fly at half staff on 9/11?" or something very similar. Kind of shows the President could have done a better job getting the word out a tad earlier

UPDATE: 6:25 PM 9/10/10 Finally, he remembered
Although you gotta wonder how many Federal, State, City or Town officials were still at their desks that late on a Friday afternoon.
5:30 PM
(original pissed off upload)

Yeah, yeah I know he's scheduled for a photo op or two tomorrow, but for Christ's sake where the Hell is the Presidential Proclamation to fly American flags at half-staff on 9/11?

And if memory serves, President Bush made it a permanent day for them to fly in that position of mourning, so I guess there's no need every year to reissue the edict--but he did it last year and this morning I received an email from my patriotic buddy at the State House reminding Massachusetts authorities to fly their American flags at half staff:

-----Original Message-----
From: Waters, Suzzette (BSB)
To: ''
Sent: Fri, Sep 10, 2010 11:33 am
Subject: Half Staff Notification for September 11, 2010

Pursuant to the Presidential Proclamation for September 11, 2010, Patriot Day, the American and Commonwealth Flags should be flown at half-staff at all state buildings from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, September 11, 2010. Once issued, the presidential proclamation should be available for viewing here.

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

Suzzette Waters
State House Event Coordinator
Bureau of State Office Buildings

She helpfully included a hot link to the White House Presidential proclamations webpage, but when I clicked it, the most recent concerned "Labor Day." Since late this morning I noticed two updates: "Grandparents Day" and "Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week."

But here it is 5:30 PM and nothing concerning 9/11. Bad form Mr. President!

9/11 remembered

So now Amherst is really in trouble as they have pissed off the Umass (Young) Republican Club, who will march to downtown (or maybe catch a cab) on 9/11 to display 150 American flags to protest the decision of the People's Republic not to unfurl the 29 commemorative flags; the ones that do fly on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, where we remember those have sacrificed so greatly for our country--with far too many coming as a response to 9/11.

And am I only the only one in the area annoyed by those ubiquitous radio ads for Umass football saturating the airwaves these days with a hackneyed cliched format highlighting the military, combative aspects of football?

Forgivable at first, but now they are being used to hype ticket sales to tomorrow's home game against Holy Cross which just so happens to occur on 9/11.

Sent this to my counterpart at Umass--as in I'm a critic, he's a highly paid flack.

Original Message-----
Sent: Fri, Sep 10, 2010 11:06 am
Subject: 9/11 and Umass football

Hey Ed,
So those football radio commercials are pretty annoying (and I'm pro military) but now it kind of merges/conflicts with 9/11.

And I would never suggest America should give up going about its business on that day, but it would be nice if perhaps somebody in charge of the game on Saturday had a moment of silence at half-time or maybe even just before kickoff as a sign of respect.

Larry K

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


How can you forget! How can any American possibly forget?

Those magnificent Twin Towers, standing at attention for a generation, suddenly, without warning--like bolts out of the blue--GONE. Victims of evil beyond civilized imagination. A new world order etched in the blood of thousands of innocent civilians.
Last year's post (some things never change):

It's been far too many beers, too many tears and not nearly enough years--as the pain is still palpable. But mostly on THAT anniversary, especially during THOSE morning hours when the September sun is usually bright against a clear blue sky and daily routine sets a seemingly safe steady course.

Where were you when you heard the news? And as bits and pieces of information first floated in, when did you figure it out? Did you worry about a friend or loved one now suddenly thrust in harms way? Did you wonder what landmark, loaded with innocent people, was next?

Nine years or ninety, we must never forget.

I will be standing silently in town center on the morning of 9/11 from 8:45 until 10:30 (also attending Amherst Fire Department ceremony in front of Central Station at 9:45 AM) clutching an American flag and my three-year-old daughter. Feel free to join me, if only for a moment or two.

Amherst Ground Zero commemorative flag

Not just an Irish thing

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DA race gets desperate

So former Assistant District Attorney Mike Cahillane's campaign for District Attorney is pulling out all the stops as they just trumpeted an endorsement from Amherst School Committee Chair Irv Rhodes.

Bonus points, I suppose, because Irv is black. Especially since Cahillane's boss, Elizabeth Scheibel came into such criticism for pressing forward the Jason Vassell case which was recently pretty much dismissed--a case Mr. Cahillane had a big hand in prosecuting.

Gotta wonder about Cahillane's campaign spinmeister using the People's Republic of Amherst as representative of the hard working 'Happy Valley', all those normal towns and cities that encompass the Northwestern District like Hadley, Hatfield, Belchertown, Easthampton or South Hadley.

Speaking as a 5th generation Amherst resident, I think not. And Mr. Rhodes will probably catch some grief for not clearly spelling out that he was speaking strictly for himself and not the Amherst School Committee, a charge SC member Catherine Sanderson is pelted with all the time for daring to have an open, transparent blog reporting school committee concerns.

Earlier today Dave Sullivan's campaign picked up yet another heavyweight endorsement from longtime judge (retired) Alvertus J. Morse.

#####################Cahillane campaign press release:
Amherst School Committee Chair Backs Cahillane for DA

“I am Irv Rhodes, chair of the Amherst School Committee and member of the Regional School Committee and I am writing to endorse and support Mike Cahillane for District Attorney.”

“Mike has extensive prosecutorial experience as can be witnessed by his
experience working as an Assistant District Attorney in the very office that
he seeks as a candidate for District Attorney. I am particularly impressed
as a former educator, with Mike's track record of fighting cybercrime by
going into schools to conduct workshops with kids as young as those in the
first and second grades. Additionally Mike has done a number of training
sessions with school administrators, guidance counselors and other staff on
how to identify and prevent bullying behavior and he wants to expand this
outreach, if elected, because he knows that it is important to prevent crime as well as prosecute those who break the law.”

Irv Rhodes

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day in the People's Republic

10:00 AM

The vast majority of Americans slaughtered on the morning of 9/11, just a week after celebrating Labor Day, were toiling at their place of employment after settling in for just another routine Tuesday.

Of course, that is what the cowardly, malevolent mastermind counted on for maximum damage. And had the first plane impact been only an hour later and many floors lower the carnage would have been exponentially worse.

Amherst can fly the 29 commemorative American flags to celebrate the Labor movement in America (hardly a non-violent affair) but will remove them tomorrow, leaving barely a trace of the red-white-and-blue to inhabit the downtown this coming 9/11.

Ludlow knows how to honor, respect and remember 9/11

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"The horrer...the horrer!"

Sorry madam Chair it really, really is about how "horrible 9/11 was." And that, precisely, is all it's about!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Will Amherst remember?

UPDATE: 7:15 PM. Okay, so I was wrong. Never bet on Amherst to do the right thing. Tonight the illustrious Select Board voted 3-2 against flying the American flags in the downtown this September 11. Mr Wald and Ms. Brewer voted in favor. O'Keeffe, Hayden and Stein voted no.

And in fact, they made the current once-every-three-year policy even more restrictive by voting to fly them only once every five years.

The Springfield Republican reports

The Amherst Bulletin 9/11/08


So when the sound and the fury subsides the Amherst Select Board tonight will, inevitable, do the right thing and allow the 29 commemorative flags to fly in the downtown this year to remember our most tragic losses on 9/11.

I say this knowing Chair Stephanie O'keeffe is a politician first but a flag lover second and would never go on record voting against the American flag. Seasoned Select Board member Alisa Brewer is one-for-one voting to fly the flags annually, and obviously rookie member Jim Wald, a historian by trade, will support it since the only reason it's on the brief agenda tonght is because he requested it; otherwise, as Stehanie said on Monday"'the policy (not flying them this year) would stand."

The Springfield Republican reports (as usual, Comments are the best)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

UMass, ARA, Town partnership leaps forward!

Today Chancellor Robert Holub signed a strategic agreement with the Town of Amherst and the Amherst Redevelopment Authority to greatly enhance the gateway to UMass, the state's flagship of higher education.

The agreement calls for a conveyance of property formerly knows as "frat row"-- a seedy collection of blighted buildings purchased by the University and demolished a few years ago. The Gateway Project will bring urban renewal to the neighborhood with a mixed used commercial development of higher end student housing and commercial business connecting the downtown with the University.

With the incoming Umass freshman class the largest in history this agreement will go a long way towards keeping Umass an attractive destination for students and faculty as well as boosting the downtown and Amherst's commercial tax base.

click link below to read agreement:

Agreement with Umass/ARA/Town