Saturday, December 31, 2011

Amherst's Political tragedy of the year

10/29 storm: overall story of the year

Since all politics is local and Only In Amherst is a hyper-local news blog, I'm duty bound to do that routine Main Stream Media thing and--in spite of Satchel Paige's cogent advice--reminisce over the past year, as painful as that may be.

The death of the Gateway Corridor Project, a unique coalition between Amherst, UMass and the Amherst Redevelopment Authority to significantly enhance the main entryway to UMass connecting with our downtown, had the potential to add $75 million in mixed use, high end development to our anemic tax base.

Killed by NIMBYs who feared a resurrection of the notorious Frat Row, which ten or twenty years ago could have served as a location set for an "Animal House" remake. And as an outspoken member of the ARA who never missed one of the dozens of meetings we had over the past year, it's hard not to award this debacle the most important local political news event of the year.

If the local spring election has a Prop 2.5 Override or Charter change of government question, that usually is the political story of the year. But this past election we, thankfully, had no Override or, regrettably, no Charter question, no contested races for Select Board (our highest office) or School Committee (our most revered office) so voter turnout was a pathetic 8.5%.

But still, that election is the backdrop for my political story of the year--only because Catherine Sanderson was not on the ballot. She was battered and bullied into not returning her nomination papers--duly signed by over 50 registered voters--simply because she had the temerity to expose the emperor and empress had no clothes, and did not look particularly attractive naked.

Closing Mark's Meadow (boutique) Elementary School, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, alone should nominate her for sainthood.

But her real power to stir the pot like an outboard motor and actually make change (and I'm not even sure she ever realized this) was the power of her blog, that so frightened town officials from Amherst and the surrounding region they actually petitioned the District Attorney to shut it down. My God.

The 10/29 nor'easter starkly reminded us of the awesome power of Mother Nature, and a blog done right is another formidable force of nature. My School Committee Blog was so very right.

Catherine Sanderson

Friday, December 30, 2011

This one's for you

Firefighter James Rice, who answered his "last call."

Governor Patrick has ordered the American and Commonwealth Flags lowered to half-staff on Friday, December 30, 2011 from sunrise to sunset in honor of Firefighter James Rice of the Peabody Fire Department, who died in the line of duty on Friday, December 23, 2011.

The Attorney General cordially demands

So it comes as no b-i-g surprise that Amherst Regional School Committee Chair Rick Hood trampled yet another Open Government rule by failing to forward to the Attorney General an official response to my 11/23 Open Meeting Law complaint.

After all, in July of 2010--only four months into his school committee tenure--the local District Attorney cited him with an Open Meeting Law violation for deliberating with a quorum of committee members via email.

At least back then he could use the "I'm a newbie" excuse.

Now no longer a rookie, he will have to scramble to comply--no doubt enlisting the aid of $220/hour attorney Gini Tate who already advised ARPS Superintendent Maria Geryk and Human Resource Director Kathy Mazur to ignore a demand from the Division of Public Records to release documents concerning payouts totaling $200,000 to 13 former employees over the past five years.

What does it all mean?

Apparently the ARPS Good Ol' Girls network abhors sunshine. And Rick Hood needs to learn the difference between running a $20 million dollar private yacht company and a $50 million public school kept afloat via tax dollars--the lions share consumed in Amherst, the town built on education.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Florida news helicopter caught in a rainbow

You have to look real close, but about a third of the way up from the treeline, dead center in the rainbow you can see the helicopter hovering. I could tell by it's behavior pattern that it was a news helicopter, and I simply assumed they were getting footage of the rainbow for a colorful puff piece to fill time in the 6:00 PM news hour.

Since I was conveniently taking photos with my wife's nifty new iPhone from the beach, I figured using a helicopter was an expensive waste of resources.

A few minutes later, using the iPhone as a cell phone, we heard from her father that a plane had crashed and burned at the nearby Venice Municipal Airport, killing the pilot. On the short trip back to his house we drove by the police check point keeping out the curious while off in the distance a firetruck had its aerial ladder fully extended at about a 45 degree angle directly above what little remained of the small, twin engine airplane.

The next day I learned the pilot had successfully taken off but developed engine trouble soon after, declared an emergency, and was desperately trying to land. He was a successful 63-year-old eye doctor who leaves behind a wife and a 16-year-old daughter. Six years from now I will be his age and my oldest daughter will be 16. Not that I need a thread of connectivity to remember this tragic occurrence that briefly interrupted my vacation routine.

Venice Municipal Airport is where Mohamed Atta and another of the 9/11 hijackers trained to pilot airplanes...although unlike the good doctor, they cared little about landing.

Friday, December 23, 2011

As South Hadley goes...


UPDATE: Phoebe Prince's death cost the insurance company that covers South Hadley $225,000. Not enough. Not nearly enough.

Now that Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lu Rup has decided in favor of transparency and the "people's right to know" by coming down on the side of--gasp--a blogger who, unlike the mainstream bricks and mortar journalists around the Happy Valley, had the temerity to demand South Hadley officials disclose blood money paid to the family of Phoebe Prince, I'm hoping my stronger case against Amherst School officials will benefit in a collateral way.

Emily Bazelon first filed her request with the Secretary of State Public Records Division and I would bet they found in her favor, as they did with me. But then the South Hadley Schools probably did what Amherst defiantly did with me: refused to comply.

Since the Public Records folks have no enforcement power they would have to turn it over to the Attorney General's office (which I quickly requested they do in my case). They however, sheepishly suggested I take it to Hampshire Superior Court where I'm sure I would win, but only after paying a $275 filing fee.

And the schools will use big city attorney Regina Tate to defend the stonewalling, while we, the taxpayers of Amherst, cover her $225/hourly fee.

Since Ms. Bazelton works for Slate Magazine she can afford the steep up front cover charge, although she was savvy enough to request court costs as part of the settlement.

My original request for any settlement agreements over the past five years between the schools and separated employees costing taxpayers a minimum of $5,000 resulted in 13 cases with a combined cost of $200,000 and unlike South Hadley, not covered by an insurance company.

What kind of message does that send our children when public schools buy their way out of a mistake using taxpayer money, and then spend even more tax dollars trying to keep the secrets buried?

Gray Lady up

Hadley Water Tower, East Street

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Will Amherst rise to the challenge?

Could be worse, we could be Easthampton

Unless we have another major power outage through the New Year, safe bet that between now and December 31 Amherst will not suddenly quadruple its adherence to saving enough electricity to garner a free $10,000 (suggested list price no doubt) solar panel for our schools.

Too bad, because the schools could use a a lot of (free) light shed upon them.

Cookie thief

Jada, Jake and Christmas cookies

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blessings of the Juggernaut

UMass Amherst

Nice to have some good news to report just before the holidays: Unemployment in Massachusetts decreased in November to 6.4%, beating the 8.6% national average, with Amherst, not surprisingly, doing w-a-y better than either at 3.7%.

The November seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for the state was 6.4%, down from 6.8% in October. Amherst's very low 3.7% is down considerable from the (off season) summer where June was the highest at 7.8% followed by July at 7.6% and August at 5.2%, thus upholding Amherst's reputation as a "college town" where low unemployment depends on the University being in full session.

UMass is the largest employer in Western Massachusetts and the number two property owner in town behind our other tax exempt higher education icon, Amherst College.


The traditional menorah adjacent to Merry Maple on Amherst Town Common

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This one's for you

Matthew H. Lee: Thank you for your service

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Matthew H. Lee: Dedicated Police Officer

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bad news travels instantly

TV journalists always seem to be in a rush, and as a result the story can suffer, especially bad when it's a story about suffering. Take yesterday for instance. A Facebook friend posts a graphic photo with the succinct caption: "We just lost our house and everything we owed, but we are alive, god is great!!!!"

So looking for more information I search Twitter for "Fire Belchertown" and pull up a tweet linking to CH 3 TV news that breathlessly reports: "CBS 3 was first on scene of a Belchertown house fire. The family has lost everything and are homeless. A firefighter was taken to the hospital. Details in the first five."

Wow! They were "first on scene"? Maybe TV news journalists should carry a fire extinguisher in their trunks. Of course what they meant to say was they were the first journalists on the scene. But even that was wrong as someone posted a comment saying Ch 3 had been scooped by, a hyperlocal--and obviously nimble--news operation.

A few hours later Ch 3 edited the story slightly to say "first TV news station on the scene". But they still thought that such an important fact that it graced two paragraphs out of the story's total of three .

First off a (bricks and mortar) journalist is not supposed to become part of the story--ESPECIALLY THE LEAD. And second of all--equally important--a reporter is a human being first and a reporter second. Try showing some empathy rather than hubris about being "first".

If you come upon a homeless person starting to set himself on fire, put down the damn camera and put out the flames--don't wait until it escalates into a great photo opp.

Beside the death of a friend or loved one there's nothing more painful than watching everything you own destroyed in a marauding mixture of smoke, fire and water. A compelling story like that deserves to be told properly, rather than first.

Hitchcock to Hampshire

Hitchcock Center For The Environment, Amherst

The Hitchcock Center, my neighbor to the north, announced today they have signed a "non-binding Memorandum of Understanding" with Hampshire College to move their environmental education operation--a mile or south to the somewhat sprawling Hampshire College campus, joining fellow non-profit, the National Yiddish Book Center, that opened operations there in 1997.

Hampshire College is the third largest landowner in Amherst behind the other two centers of higher education--UMass and Amherst College--and poorer by comparison as far as endowments go.

Since the Hitchcock Center is already tax exempt the move will have no impact on the town tax base but could result in a net gain if a private business buys their "old" building, although unlikely, as it is owned by the town of Amherst.

News in the modern age

Korea at night from space: A photo is worth 1,000 words. This one says it all.

A sudden influx of visitors coming to my DMZ tour post from a few years back via a Google search forwarns me something is up on the Korean peninsula. And usually it's because of a bad thing--the North flexing military power on land or sea belonging to South Korea or threatening the United States, whom they view as the Republic's enemy number one.

This time, however, the news is different--although not unexpected. Kim Jong Il, age 69, is dead. As tyrants go he was not as bad as Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi but a tyrant never the less. I can only hope his son Kim Jong Eun, like most twenty-somethings worldwide, was an early adopter and has grown up with the Internet.

If anything can lead to the democratization of North Korea, it's the freedom of expression inherently found here.

A new dawn for Korea?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

People's Republic: Here & There

Old traditional style Chinese character

So my daughters birth country, which I have only visited twice, is enacting new--some would argue--more stringent rules to control the Wild Wild West, err, I mean Internet, by requiring bloggers and tweeters to register with their full names, thus removing the cloak of anonymity.

And as I'm sure some of you Anons know, that cloaking device is almost as good as alcohol for inducing bouts of bravery.

Since it's China, I'm surprised they did not go even further and threaten users who dare to criticize their government that they will become tank fodder as a result. But then Tienanmen Square was not all that long ago, so many of them probably still remember.

But I wonder what the big difference is between China and, say, New Jersey where the local school board wants to shun reporters who print stories they don't like. Or the People's Republic of Amherst where then Select Board chair Gerry Weiss wanted to enact a motion to publicly spank me because he did not like the facts I was publishing about another Select Board member (that a certain local newspaper was too timid to pursue)?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Free no more

Spring Street Parking Lot eastern entry 12/16/11

The good news is the Spring Street parking lot in town center is now fully operational; the bad news is now--just in time for Christmas--we must render unto Caesar our hard earned quarters in order to park.

The lot had been mostly operational (if parking was your only concern) since the first week of November, so savvy visitors could park without giving The Man his due. But hey, at least we nickel and dimed them over the past six weeks to the tune of a few grand.

Spring Street Parking Lot Western entry 11/7/11

A Chief returns

Chief Barbara O'Connor

Former UMass Police Chief Barbara O'Connor, who left UMPD two years ago after 25 years of service, eight of them as Chief, to become University of Illinois Chief, is returning to New England, this time to serve as University of Connecticut's first female police chief and Director of Public Safety.

Some of you locals may remember the UMass riot five years ago where a student dropped a full one gallon jug of liquid off a Southwest high-rise dorm, missing Chief O'Connor by only a few feet--an impact that most certainly would have been fatal.

Certainly can't get any worse at UConn.

The Hartford Courant reports

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Making the big time

Donna Kelley and Irv Rhodes teach Junior Achievement at Crocker Farm School

So forget those stodgy A rated, peer reviewed, academic journals so many professors are enslaved to, my lovely wife just made the really b-i-g time for publishing: The Huffington Post. Yikes!

Excuse me while I slip into unbiased reporter mode:

Yesterday at the World Bank in Washington, DC, Babson College professor Donna J. Kelley helped to launch the "Global Woman's Report," which she was lead author. A comprehensive study of women entrepreneurs in 59 countries, the report verified an age-old truism: necessity is the mother of invention.

Since starting a business is one way create a life line, it makes sense that in countries where women have less opportunity handed to them their motivation to succeed is higher.

And in countries like America, where desperation is less prevalent, woman correspondingly have less incentive to risk going it alone with a start-up business.

Kelley just returned to her Amherst home on Saturday after a prestigious Fullbright Scholarship took her to Indonesia for three weeks to teach entrepreneurship while she simultaneously coordinated a Junior Achievement business course at Amherst Crocker Farm Elementary school, where her daughters are enrolled.

The Washington Post also reports

Business Week joins the pack

This one's for you

Jon Davies, Worcester FD

From the Governor:

Please be advised that Governor Patrick has ordered that the United States flag and the Commonwealth flag be lowered to half-staff at all state buildings from sunrise until sunset on Thursday, December 15, 2011 in honor of Firefighter Jon D. Davies Senior of the Worcester Fire Department who died in the line of duty on Thursday, December 8, 2011.

A short while before six Worcester Firefighters entered the "Building from Hell" and--despite the best efforts of comrades near and far--perished, I took an eight week Citizen Police Academy course where one night we did interactive, real time, audio visual training of possible patrol situations where I was killed in the line of duty.

Turns out that particular scenario was specifically designed for that chilling result to illustrate how, in certain circumstances, no matter how good your training and how well you execute that training, whereby you do everything right...death can still result.

A sobering truth for all public safety personnel--driven home once again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The clean up continues

South Amherst Common yesterday

Amherst demonstrated the shop local initiative by signing a one year contract with Wagner Wood (with an option to renew for another two years) to clear the town's public ways of brush and tree debris still remaining more than a month after the devastating October 30 nor' easter.

Wagner was originally enlisted as an emergency measure the morning after the storm reigned down debris like a biblical curse, taking out power, blocking roads and driveways while damaging public and private property.

In those first seven dark days (the time period for Federal Emergency Management Agency 75% reimbursement) Wagner, Amherst DPW and other private contractors collected 3,000 cubic yards of fallout. And over the past four weeks an additional 3,000 cubic yards but with 1,500 remaining on public right of way and 1,500 on private property.

Currently the town has spent about $225,000 to clean up the 6,000 cubic yards, or 3,000 tons of debris.

Although Wagner is contracted and funded by tax dollars for public shade tree clean up only, Amherst has coordinated a deal whereby the town (using Wagner) will extend to private homeowners--many of whom dragged debris curbside expecting town pickup--a competitive $28/cubic yard removal charge, obviating the need to drag the unwieldy material to the town's transfer station to pay $50/ton, which works out to about the same cubic yard price.

Targeted letters will got out soon to impacted homeowners.

Wagner's winning proposal to the town:
For crew and equipment to collect and transfer wood and vegetative debris $28 per cubic yard. For crew of two and equipment (chipper) to collect and chip wood and vegetative debris along public way or Town property is $275.00 an hour. For wood and vegetative waste received at contractor site it is $6 a cubic yard and/or $50 a ton.

Shays Street

Those daring young men...

Shumway Landscaping still cleaning up after the Halloween weekend storm

A brave worker going after sky high, large "hangers" on the grounds of the Emily Dickinson homestead. Nice to see Amherst College using local contractors.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dewey Defeats Truman?

Contrasting headlines one day apart

Two of the oldest sayings in journalism--"Never apologize, never explain" and "If your mother says she loves you, verify it"--spring to mind with today's mea culpa edition of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, although they still exude the former after woefully violating the latter.

And since I'm citing journalistic cliches let me throw in, "Readers soon forget who got it first, but will long remember who got it wrong."

I'm referring to a front page article yesterday saying a car dealership "Appears to have closed" simply because they were not open on a Sunday, the (65-year-old) owner had not responded to a Facebook message request for an interview, an empty car lot, and non functioning website and phones.

Sure, a fair amount of circumstantial evidence but no direct corroboration from the owner, an employee or disgruntled customer, all of which would be fairly easy to acquire--especially if they waiting until Monday when the business opened up to start the workweek.

A few months back the Daily Hampshire Gazette failed to publish a morning edition because their $10 million dollar Italian four-color process printing press malfunctioned. How would they have liked it if the blogosphere jumped to the conclusion that they had apparently gone out of business?

Which--to be perfectly honest--was my initial reaction when I failed to find my Gazette aside the Springfield Republican early on a Tuesday morning.

I can excuse getting lazy over verification for a who cares kind of article appearing on the back pages which few folks bother to read; but the front page is sacred, demanding adherence to the fundamental rules of journalism.

Now if it had been one of those damn blogs...

Oh I'd love to be...

Wienermobile: A snack for the Jolly Green Giant

The Wienermobile came a calling on the People's Republic of Amherst and, amazingly, they were not picketed by vegans or pelted with rotten vegetables.

Gymnastics, then the Wienermobile

Monday, December 12, 2011

AFD keeps rolling along

Sunday 4:00 AM Dumpster Fire behind Hillel House near UMass

Although far fewer ETOH (passed out drunk) emergency cases this past weekend compared to last, from 13 down to 5, it is still five too many, and a time consuming drain on our emergency services.

Surprisingly UMass, with only one case (compared to seven last week), did not win the weekly drink-yourself-into-a-stupor competition between our centers of higher education, while vastly smaller Amherst College was our weekend winner with two (five last week) and Hampshire College one (zero last week).

Unfortunately dumpsters provide an easy opportunity for mischievous vandals, and like the previous weekend, AFD had to deal with another early morning bonfire in a box, which, fortunately, is made of metal.

Amherst Fire Department weekend runs 12/9

Party House of the weekend

Amherst Police must be getting in the Christmas spirit as they issued ten warning tickets for noise and only two actual $300 noise complaint tickets over the weekend--the last one where UMass is still in session. So yes, the two winners had to go above and beyond the call of duty to garner a ticket.

Now anyone who has children and lives in a two story home knows how annoying it is when a temperamental child STOMPS all the way up or down the just imagine living in an apartment complex where you share walls with immediate neighbors and it's after midnight and the "children" are fully grown.

According to Amherst Police who were called to apartment #1421 The Boulders at 12:59 AM:

Over 100 party goers with extremely loud music. Upon attempting to clear the party, the patrons began yelling and stomping up and down the stairs and refused to leave. The residents were uncooperative and after several warnings were taken into custody. Furthermore, after the guests finally were cleared out an additional noise complaint was called in due to the loud behavior in the parking lot.

Arrested for Unlawful Noise:

Since the judge dismissed their cases on Monday, I have deleted their names.

263 Grantwood Drive

At first glance this case may seem to be a tad heavy handed, as these two young ladies were all by themselves listening to (loud) music at 8:00 PM--but that was not the case last week when one of the housemates was busted for a loud party that attracted over 100 guests and was shut down at 1:00 Am.

So apparently they did not learn their lesson. Yes, 263 Grantwood is located directly across the street from 260 Grantwood Drive, my Party House of the Weekend a few weeks back.

According to this week's police report:

RP reports loud party somewhere on Grantwood Drive location.

Base heard emanating from inside the residence. Only two residents inside, no other guests. Stated they were playing music and didn't realize it was that loud.

Cited for Noise ordinance violation:

Lauren Whittemore, Fitchburg, MA, age 21
Vanessa Crespo, Fitchburg, MA, age 20

Friday, December 9, 2011

Library shelves quake project

Jones Library: town center anchor

Jones Library Trustees were not overly enthusiastic to the gee whiz idea of joining the Boston College Educational Seismology Project, with a combination of cost and time commitment--$10,000 for a seismograph and a year's worth of training for the new Library Director and a staff member--quickly deflating the trial balloon floated by Trustee President Sarah McKee.

McKee and Director Sharon Sharry had journeyed east to the Weston Public Library (the only library involved in the school dominated project) last Friday to learn more about the idea, and discovered the project can be time consuming for staff and management. Not to mention the $10,000 cost.

The Trustees did not even bother to vote.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is anybody listening?

I'm a journalist unafraid to put down the pen or crawl out from behind the keyboard to say what needs to be said. Loudly.

Obviously the Amherst Bulletin is not listening

On September 9 when UMass and town officials alongside District Attorney Dave Sullivan tried to soothe the party hardy behavior patterns exhibited by a hard core minority of students by handing out oatmeal cookies (I kid you not) the Gazette/Bulletin assigned veteran reporter Nick Grabbe to cover the late night "story"--what is usually referred to in journalism as a "puff piece."

Meanwhile, simultaneously in the north end of campus, the Meadow Street riot occurred. The next day the Gazette carried the cookie caper story on the front page.

Death from above

USS Arizona 12/7/41

"Some fine Sunday morning..." Colonel Billy Mitchell (1924)

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (12/7/41)

USS Arizona today
“With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.” (12/8/41)
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Amherst 12/7/2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Amherst: "I get no respect"

Elizabeth Warren

The professor ignores Amherst, education capital of the world

So we had an important politician peruse the Happy Valley yesterday--Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren--and she never bothered to come calling on the People's Republic of Amherst, located only 7 miles away, snugly behind the tofu curtain.

Now yes, I suppose that would be like preaching to the choir--but let's face it, as much as they try to distance themselves from our little town, the city of Northampton is cut from the same, all natural, vegan fiber.

And what's up with Ms. Warren's glitzy wine-and-cheese $1,000 per (platinum) plate affair in Hamp? Oh she who fights against the economic inequality from fat cat Wall Street investors and claims to have spearheaded the Occupy movement (right after Al Gore invented the Internet) .

Not to many of us 99%ers can come up with $1,000 for a little bit of facetime. is free.

Amherst Town Hall in a fog

Amherst Town Hall in a fog 12/5/11 7:45 AM

Yeah, that's a metaphor.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Busy weekend for AFD as well

Amherst Fire Department North Station located a beer can throw from UMass

Good thing the town situated North Station on the UMass border, as once again our emergency medical responders were overrun with ETOH (passed out drunk) calls that take up at least an hour of valuable ambulance time transporting them one at a time to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

UMass needs to rethink the significant reduction of their Health Services hours on weekends, as our fire department can't keep up with demand now. Once again we had the dangerous situation where all full-time professional members of AFD were tied up with ambulance calls and the entire town was dependent on the Student Call Force for fire protection (no offense intended to those dedicated volunteers, but that is simply unacceptable)

AFD weekend runs 1st weekend December (note number of ETOH calls)

Riot house of the weekend

202 College Street, Amherst

Amherst police could have used a couple of Texas Rangers this weekend as all available units were not enough to quell a "disturbance" (apparently UMass officials get queasy over the word "riot") at 202 College Street when a party of around fifty got out of control very early (3:47 AM) Saturday morning.

UMass police, naturally, were too busy to respond to our mutual aid call but Amherst College and Hadley PD each provided two units for back up and assisted with transporting the uncooperative perps to the Amherst Police Department jail, located only a half mile away.

One perp is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon as he struck an Amherst Police officer with a stick. And yes, most officers wear a bullet proof vest to protect their mid torso but the officer was struck below the belt. Ouch.

Arrested for "Riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest":

Zahir Ajam Delrosario, 130th St, Harlem, NY, age 23
Jose Picot, 111 Franklin St, Northampton, MA, age 27

Arrested for "Unlawful noise":

Eric Cameron, 202 College St, Amherst, MA, age 23
Stephen Halliday, 17 Katherine Rd, Rehoboth, MA, age 21

Property ownership card for 200/202 College Street

Jones Library aftershock

Jones Library 11/1/11 Closed after the Halloween weekend storm

Just when I thought the library had gone back to normal, meaning non controversial, there's this: On Wednesday Jones Library Trustees will discuss spending $10,000 to purchase a seismograph so Jones patrons can participate in the "Boston College Educational Seismology Project," and become one with earthquakes.

Currently the program has 33 participants--all of them schools located around Boston.

While I don't doubt the educational value of learning about earthquakes, I do question whether the library should be the lead agency in town to take on the project, since all the other participants are schools.

And then there's the matter of the $10,000 cover charge, plus potential time commitments from employees who could be shelving books. But hey, when your endowment stands at $7.85 million, perhaps $10,000 is mere chicken feed.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

South Hadley: Repeat offender

South Hadley officials need the lesson in "respect"

So yeah, with my staunch Irish Catholic upbringing I understand the turn-the-other-cheek principle, and everybody deserves a second chance routine, but for God's sake can somebody remind Gus Sayer that a sweet, vulnerable child was pushed to the point of killing herself under his watch?!

Why NOW does a mother--concerned about her daughter being bullied in a school already internationally known for such things--have to turn to an Internet petition to get South Hadley officials to address the problem?

As I've said before, Gus Sayer, like school officials at Penn State, protected a pedophile for the good of the system. Well, that's a system that needs to change. Now!
UPDATE: Sunday morning

Jennifer kalvinek, Petition Organizer updated at

"We have gone past 4000 signatures. that is awsome !

Kevin Mccallister emailed me last night . he wanted me to stop the petition because he had too many signatures from people. they are listening! keep it up. LETS MAKE A DIFFERENCE!"

Some things never change

UMass McGuirk Stadium (pre-expansion)

God how I wish Amherst Town Meeting had been half as smart as the UMass faculty union back in 1987 when we spent a whopping $2.2 million--an astounding $4.4 million in today's dollars--to buy a golf course we could have had for free. Although interestingly enough, it was a UMass professor, Richard Minear (then Chair of the Amherst Select Board) and fellow history professor Ron Story (a few years prior to Ellen Story becoming State Representative) who led the ill fated charge.

As usual, a 159 neighbors had signed a petition supporting the purchase to, as usual, stop development; and town meeting used the sacred power of eminent domain--the political equivalent of detonating a nuclear weapon--to steal the property away from a developer who had a legal agreement signed--at far less than $2.2 million--with owner Dave Maxon.

If only Town Meeting said to the selfish neighbors: "Sure we will take the property, as long as you come up with 80% of the funding," what a different history I would now write. And the town treasury would be so better off because of it.

Of course UMass football making the big jump to FBS will make Cherry Hill look like a Powerball lottery win by comparison. The jump (the shark) has already cost $1 million with the buyout for coach Kevin Morris and staff and next year scholarships alone will cost an addition $2 million. And of course there is that $30 million to expand McGuirk Stadium that the faculty union is now wisely trying to sack.

All this for a football program that lost millions last year. Yikes!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Merry Maple: Grand but subtle glow

Merry Maple (especially happy to have survived the Halloween weekend storm)

South Amherst town common

Meanwhile, two miles away in sleepy South Amherst, a more traditional multicolored evergreen proudly brightens the common. And since it sits resplendently in front of an ornate church it's probably even called a Christmas Tree.

One riot, One ranger

Security guard in front of Bank Of America, Amherst

Since the sneak invasion by a mob of young protesters, who migrated from UMass to briefly occupy Bank of America and the TD Bank, this lone security guard has staked out the front of BOA in the heart of downtown Amherst.

You have to wonder how much of a difference he would make if those 50-60 occupiers returned, although--unlike the protesters--he looks pretty serious (and employed).

Although somebody should probably tell corporate headquarters that the Amherst police station is only a stone's throw away.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let the Attorney General decide


Dear Ms. Coakley:

I wish to file a follow up complaint with your office over the manner in which the Amherst Regional School Committee entered Executive Session at their 11/22/11 joint meeting with the Amherst School Committee, specifically, failing to get a "second" to the motion and the motion--at the time it was made--lacked any reason for entering Executive Session and failed to cite the specific chapter and verse of the Open Meeting Law.

In a response to my complaint (that used the form provided by your office) and copied in writing to the Amherst Town Clerk, the Chair of the Regional School Committee stated in writing:

Hi Larry,

I stated at the beginning of the meeting that we would be going into executive session for the purpose of contract negotiations. It also says so on top of the agenda:

It is not required to state it in the motion; it is only required to state it at some point during the pubic meeting before the exec session.

Have a great turkey day.


From: Rick Hood Sent: Wed, Nov 23, 2011 7:44 pm To: BurgessS (Amherst town clerk)

I find that response to be woefully inadequate. Yes, now that I have watched a rebroadcast of the three hour meeting (that was aired live), Mr. Hood did state casually at the very beginning of the meeting that they would be entering Executive Session to discuss "collective bargaining," but over the course of three hours members of the general public who tuned in a few minutes late would not have heard it.

While I have no problem with the reasons for the Regional School Committee to go into Executive Session, I strongly believe that it should never be taken lightly and the discipline shown by using proper procedures exhibits the due diligence expected of our public officials.

Perhaps this incident will provide a perfect "teachable moment."

Larry Kelley

11/23/11 4:54 PM

According to the somewhat newly revised Open Meeting Law I am supposed to file my complaint with you and the town clerk over the incident last night where the Regional School Committee went into executive session without clearly stating the reason for doing so and without a proper second to the motion.

Please excuse the somewhat weird formatting as I downloaded the PDF complaint form from the AG website.

Larry Kelley

Organization or Media Affiliation (if any):

Are you filing the complaint in your capacity as an individual, representative of an organization, or media? Media

(For statistical purposes only) Individual Organization Media x

Public Body that is the subject of this complaint: Amherst Regional School Committee

City/Town Amherst County Hampshire Regional/District State Mass

Name of Public Body (including city/ town, county or region, if applicable):Amherst Regional School Committee, 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, Ma

Specific person(s), if any, you allege committed the violation: Rick Hood, Chair of the Regional Committee and Irv Rhodes Chair Amherst School Committee
Date of alleged violation:11/22/11

Description of alleged violation: Irv Rhodes made a motion to go into Executive Session "never to return" but with no explanation/reason for the action, and Mr Hood allowed it without having a proper second from another member.

Describe the alleged violation that this complaint is about. If you believe the alleged violation was intentional, please say so and include the reasons supporting your belief. No, not intentional--just careless.

What action do you want the public body to take in response to your complaint? Apologize, promise it will never happen again. After school detention.

Review, sign, and submit your complaint
Read this important notice and sign your complaint.
Under most circumstances your complaint will be considered a public record and be available to any member of the public upon request.
I understand that when I submit this complaint the Attorney General's Office cannot give me legal advice and cannot act as my personal lawyer.

I certify that the information contained on this form is true to the best of my knowledge.

Signed: ____Larry Kelley_______________________________________ Date:___________________________
First Name:Larry Last Name:Kelley Address:596 South Pleasant City:Amherst
Phone Number:256-0491
State:Mass Zip Code:01002

Mr. Hood

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hidden, catastrophic cost of golf

Cherry Hill's K-Mart quality golf clubhouse

Last night Leisure Services director Linda Chalfant presented the FY13 upcoming budget to the four-out-of-seven members of the recreation commission who bothered to show up, and dubbed Cherry Hill squandering $40,000 last year as, "effectively a break even year." Easy to say when that money is not coming out of her $80,000 annual salary.

And this current year, according to the numbers generated at the half-way point, Cherry Hill is on target to lose another $60,000. And the following year--hold on to your golf caps--well over $100,000!

Because unlike a household or small business, in the wonderful world of municipal accounting little things like employee benefits, insurance and expensive new commercial equipment do not count towards your "operation budget." Last year those three expenses amounted to $40,000--all of it paid for by taxpayers, not a dime from golfers.

Wouldn't it be great if you could buy a new car or truck out of a secret account nobody was watching?

At seasonal closing, the beleaguered golf business has totaled only $82,779, $17,284 under last year, and the lowest amount in six years. Expenses are identical--especially those hidden ones nobody likes to admit.

For instance, capital expenses this year include a $14,154 "fairway mower", next year another $14,154 fairway mower plus a $12,000 rough mower for a total of $26,654.

But what the Hell, since nobody cares about capital items why not go on a whirlwind shopping spree--all of it taxpayer funded? In FY14, two years from now, capital improvements will include yet another fairway ($14,154) and rough mower ($12,500) fence replacement ($24,000) and parking lot resurfacing ($24,000) for a whopping grand total of $135,654 .

If the diffident School Committee can bite the bullet to save money by closing down Mark's Meadow, a beloved elementary school, Town Manager John Musante needs to step up and make the call that should have been made ten years ago: board up the money pit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not so instant replay

So when we cut to the video replay of the November 22 (Amherst Media incorrectly stamped the date) Amherst Regional School Committee meeting, clearly Kristen Luschen did not "second" the motion to go into executive session.

When specifically asked by Chair Rick Hood if she was seconding the motion she responds "No, I was asking about..." and then they go off on a brief tangent never to return to the proper parliamentary procedure for using an executive session--something that should never be taken lightly.
The Amherst Select Board, only 24 hours earlier, demonstrated the proper way to go into executive session. Note Alisa Brewer say under her breath, "All those lovely details." Indeed.

What say you now Mr. Hood?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A fitting tribute

"We need you" indeed

Tragically, townie and long time DPW employee Timothy Banks passed away--as sudden as it was surprising--on Thanksgiving Day.

Timmy meticulously parked his car in a certain spot at the DPW.

Nobody parked there today.

Timothy H. Banks, Jr.
Obit on right.

UPDATE: Wednesday morning 10:30 AM. The normally overflowing DPW parking lot is all but abandoned as fellow workers attend the funeral.
DPW parking lot. Missing man formation.