Saturday, April 30, 2011

Party night of the semester?

10:30 PM Hobart Lane checkpoint

With all available APD boots on the ground including both Captains and the Chief, reinforced by five state police and one k9 unit the town is under control. Anyone trying to enter Hobart Lane for the mythic "Hobart Hoedown 2011" has to cross a police checkpoint and if their names are not on the tenant street list someone who lives in the apartments must come down to vouch for them (In the hour I was there many quickly turned away.)

The bars in downtown Amherst are not turning any students away, however.

11:00 PM McMurphy's
Stacker's Pub

Gateway: A shift in focus

Kendrick Park: green triangle your left, center right: 2 L shaped buildings 1 parking garage on frat row, green common in front

After intensive discussion with stakeholders, town officials, ARA members and a diverse cross section of Amherst residents we now have a preliminary plan, and the focus has shifted a tad closer to Amherst town center with less emphasis on commercial development and no student undergraduate housing, thus allaying fears of downtown business owners concerned about competition and nearby neighbors fearing rowdy undergrads.

The former Frat Row would maintain green space, a "new common," on the entire strip of frontage contiguous with North Pleasant street (and a smaller green "plaza" on the other side of the street) with mixed-used buildings and a parking garage on the rear two thirds.

But the new shift in attention is now to the west side of Kendrick Park and the intersection of East Pleasant/North Pleasant/Triangle streets with hopes for a "signature building" on the rise overlooking the northern tip of Kendrick Park currently occupied by the University Lodge hotel owned by hotel magnate Curt Shumway,president of the Hampshire Hospitality Group, who carries the surname of one of the founding families of Amherst.
East Pleasant straight , North Pleasant (on your left) Kendrick Park southern end (center)

East and North Pleasant intersection looking towards UMass, hotel behind house

University Lodge (owned by Curt Shumway)
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Final chance for public comment:

Saturday, 4/30 – Draft Plan Presentation

8:30–10:00 AM Review of Open House Results
10:00 AM–3:00 PM Finalize Plan
Finalize street design
Renderings and sketches
Finalize land use calculations
3:00–6:00 PM Printing & Powerpoint preparation
6:00 – 9:00 PM Draft Plan Presentation

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gateway intensive visioning

Town Manager John Musante and Giani Longo of ACP

Last night's three-hour kick off charrette--1st of three--started out with a bang as it looked for a moment like the public meeting would become part two of the Jerry Springer show when Town Manager John Musante was interrupted in his opening remarks by Murray Eisenberg (an immediate neighbor) demanding to know the status of "undergrad housing" within the Gateway.
Murray Eisenberg sits after causing a scene (and soon left the meeting)

Musante took advantage of the jarring segue to announce the "Memorandum of Understanding" signed by Chancellor Holub, former Town Manager Larry Shaffer and ARA Chair John Coull on September 1, 2010 was now "off the table," meaning specifically private student housing would no longer target undergraduates--the major concern of vocal neighbors (assuming developers can stay within state and federal housing law).

And since deputy chancellor Todd Diacon was in attendance and did not throw his magic marker at Musante, it probably has UMass approval. At previous ARA meetings Diacon clearly stated that undergrad housing is not the main interest of his employer.

Todd Diacon, UMass deputy chancellor (center)

Between 70-90 folks crowded into the Bangs Community Center where they sat at random around ten tables, each with a large color zoning map of the north end of Amherst. First assignment was to define the Gateway area. Obviously the UMass owned former Frat Row was ground zero and one table envisioned the area as only that (called "minimalist" by ACP consultant Gianni Longo) and it would stay open green space, while the majority of tables drew broader lines both north and south, east and west or combinations of the two.

The "Preliminary Assessment for Urban Renewal Eligibility" shows (as neighbors pointed out early on) that no "blighted" properties exist in the region, as blighted only applies to vacant structures.

And in the immediate area directly opposite Frat Row a good number of properties are identified as "exhibiting decadent conditions" meaning poorly maintained structures with either peeling paint, broken windows, dangling electrical wires, etc.

In order for the state to approve an "Urban Renewal Plan" and allow the ARA full use of all its tools--including eminent domain--the area must be deemed in need of rehabilitation on a grand scale. But since the "area" has not yet been defined, that process will take place at a later date.

######################################
The fun continues today into the night:

Friday, 4/29 – Open House

8:30–10:00 AM Review of workshop results w/ ARA
10:00 AM–4:00 PM Preliminary Plan Development
Alternative development;
Land use considerations (Schematic Plan)
Transportation considerations (The complete street)
Sketch up 3-D model
4:00-6:00 PM Printing & Open House Preparation
6:00 – 9:00 PM Open House presentation
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Color schematic of the Gateway area showing properties with decadent conditions

9/1/10 Memorandum Of Understanding (not to be confused with a legally binding contract):
click link below to read original agreement:
Agreement with UMass/ARA/Town

Bad spirits be gone

351 Northampton Rd, Amherst Gourmet, d/b/a Ginger Garden.

About 35 years ago Steak Out restaurant chain opened perhaps the first franchise allowed in Amherst--although it practically straddles the Hadley line--at 351 Northampton Road . They only lasted about a year but had signed a long-term, iron-clad lease, thus the landlord made out just fine letting such a prime location sit empty.

Prospective tenants had to beat the guaranteed amount coming in from the absentee corporation, thus the owner had no incentive to entertain reasonable offers.

In the late 70s, just after UMass had undergone a dramatic growth spurt, bars in Amherst could serve 18-year-old's, host all-you-can-drink "happy hours" and promote discount drink specials. Back then a liquor license was a permit to print money. So more than a few entrepreneurs risked the high rent and opened a bar in that location targeting students. And they all failed.

Locals--not privy to the high rent etched in stone--started to whisper the location was haunted. Joey D's was the last student bar, and at the very end they had become so desperate for business they advertised 4-for-1 drink specials.

The jinx was broken when China Dynasty opened almost 20 years ago (the owner purchased the building after yet another restaurant failed), but the curse could not be totally denied as China Dynasty closed suddenly a couple years ago.

So best of luck to Ginger Garden, opening soon. May the cycle be once again broken.
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After 30 years in business Charlie's tavern in town center suddenly served their last drink. Another proprietor immediately wished to reopen another drinking establishment and ran into the bureaucracy known as Amherst; but it seems they will open soon--just in time for the summer lull.

Restaurants, bars and health clubs. Types of businesses than never need fear the disruptive power of the Internet. Unlike newspapers, record-book-or-video stores.

Food For Thought Books recently announced they were $250,000 behind in payments to suppliers and now hope for salvation via fundraising, kind of like the downtown typewriter shop.Video To Go, an Amherst institution, succumbed to bricks and mortar competition from national chain, Blockbuster Video who later became extinct like the dinosaurs due to Internet competition from Netflix.

And Pleasant Street Theater Video, the last remaining video store in Northampton, also a Valley legend, is up for sale (kind of like JP Morgan trying to sell RMS Titanic moments after she scraped that iceberg.) And will no doubt be replaced by yet another business--probably not a video store.
It's been a fact of life since the days of JP Morgan: The majority of start-up businesses fail to celebrate their second anniversary. But still they come. Such is the cycle of life...and death.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Town flag inches forward

video
Although it seems to be taking longer than the American Revolution, the Amherst town flag quest received positive feedback at the 4/20 Select Board meeting, even from Alisa Brewer who was a tad crabby about the process a couple months back.

Although you have to wonder what she meant by the Amherst schools not being interested in purchasing town flags considering their devotion to American flags, since state regulations do require an American flag in every home room.

The six town flags will cost $88.48 each and costs will be covered by the Amherst Chamber of Commerce ($530.88) and the Amherst Rotary Club will cover the slightly more expensive one for the State House Great Hall of Flags.

Nationally renowned designer Barry Moser has agreed to volunteer his professional artistic talent to design the flag (based on citizen submissions earlier in the process) as long as the town can wait until the fall. And since it has been this long in the making...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The other 'Gateway' project advances


Kendrick Park: A giant green amoeba in the heart of Amherst

The Amherst Select Board on Monday heard the first public presentation on design specifications for Kendrick Park from Peggy Roberts chair of the Design Committee and their consultants, the Cecil Group (who also applied to the Amherst Redevelopment Authority for the Gateway Project proposal but lost out to ACP Associates) concerning this crown jewel of downtown property that abuts the Gateway district leading to UMass.

Amherst is about to develop its very own Central Park.

Serendipity

My first purchase after monetizing this blog will be a radio scanner (or maybe an iphone if somebody makes an app like that) but until then gut intuition and luck work pretty well.

On Monday I decided to up pick my 4-year-old at preschool a little early, so I'm driving though town center at 11:30 AM and instantly spot two marked cruisers near the bank, but the unmarked car behind one of them tipped me instantly. Why would the chief (who usually walks uptown to get his coffee at The Black Sheep) drive his car to Bank of America, less than 1,000 yards from the police station? Obviously he was in a hurry.

So I double park, snap a couple pictures grab my daughter, speed home, compose a short twitter-like lead and post the breaking news story first (with photos).

Yesterday I go to the APD blog at 12:44 PM and spot the breaking news, stop-the-presses information they had just that minute uploaded about capturing the second perp in the Great Town Center Bank Caper.

So I again compose a twitter-like lead, create a hot link to their timely post and update my post at 12:45 PM, then quickly send a link to my friends at the Gazette, Republican, and Ch 22 TV. Then wait...and watch. As Commander Spock would say, "fascinating."

Ch 22 was first to post online the hot story around 1:05 PM, the Springfield Republican second at 1:20 PM and the Gazette third about five minutes later. But not one of them credited the Amherst Police blog as the source of information.

I also sent the link to my friend Mary Serreze who owns the hyperlocal news site Northampton Media and she instantly published the link under the headline "Amherst Police Department Blog: 2nd Arrest Made in Bank Robbery

Journalists should always "consider the source" when gathering information; but it should not matter in the least the means by which that information is disseminated. And for the understaffed police department it's a lot easier to publish a press release on their blog rather than individually field phone calls, emails, and in-person requests for interviews from multiple media outlets.

The Internet is the most powerful journalistic tool to come along since the invention of the printing press. Embrace it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Morning in Amherst


11:15 AM: Bement School pays a visit to Miss Emily

11:30 AM: Miss Emily reads poetry to Mr. Frost
11: 45 AM: DPW workers remove ugly green wooden cover and fire up fountain at Sweetser Park

UPDATE: 12:45 PM Obviously Amherst Police did not take the morning off as they have just announced a second arrest in the bank heist in town center yesterday. On their blog no less--I love it!

Newfangled Barn Raising


Actually it's a modern, steel, indoor riding arena. Thus my daughter Kira and a gaggle of local kids can maintain horse riding lessons year round.

Note foreground: now you know why they call themselves "Muddy Brook".

Monday, April 25, 2011

Solar farm moves forward

Despite vocal opposition from immediate neighbors, the Select Board tonight voted unanimously to recommend article #24 to Amherst Town Meeting, a motion that will allow the Town Manager (who is appointed by the Select Board) to enter into a long-term contract with BlueWave Capital for low cost electricity generated by a sea of solar panels placed on the old landfill.

ARTICLE 24. Authorize term of lease for Old Landfill (Planning Board)
To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Town Manager to lease all or any portion of the Old Landfill across Belchertown Road from the existing Transfer Station from time to time by one or more leases for such term of years up to 30 years and for such consideration as the Town Manager shall determine, for the purpose of installing and operating thereon a solar array for electric power generation and distribution, and to authorize the Town Manager to grant such easements in, on, under and across over said land for utility and access purposes, as reasonably necessary to install and operate such a solar array, and further to authorize the Town Manager to enter into a power purchase agreement with any lessee of such property to purchase all or a portion of the electricity production of the solar array and to enter into an agreement with the local utility to participate in the Net Metering program pursuant to the Acts of 2008, c. 169, §78, the so-called Green Communities Act, as may be amended.

Bank heist Town Center!


Bank of America hit late this morning. APD and Chief Livingstone on the scene. Robber last seen heading south towards Granby.

UPDATE: 1:45 PM They got him! Perp in custody. As I said in Comments: It would not take long.

Activism gone too far

Dave Keenan doing his thing

All was relatively quiet in the People's Republic this week as all the Bad Boy partiers must have gone home to the Boston area to attend Easter sunrise services; either that or they are resting up for the Hobart Hoedown 2011.

Thus no winner for the "Party House of the Weekend" or at least nothing that rises to the level of a (dubious) award winning event. Only two total $300 noise tickets issued to college aged individuals, one at 260 Grantwood Drive and one at 76 Taylor Street.

But the big story of the week is my friend and fellow townie Dave Keenan, who has been in the news of late for opposing the solar farm out at the old landfill (not to mention costing the town a six-figure sum in revenues for disposing of contaminated soil that could have help regrade the landfill's surface), getting arrested on Friday (early evening) for allegedly "breaking and entering in the nighttime for felony, destruction of property over $250, malicious assault with dangerous weapon on a person over age 60." Yikes!

Say it isn't so Dave...

1720 South East Street: Scene of the alleged crime

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dome of Delay

video
Select Board meeting: first aired two days later

Now I understand the frustration our neighbors to the north feel--what we locals call "the hilltowns"--having to live without high speed wireless Internet.

The Amherst Police Station was a state of the art building at birth 20 years ago when wireless did not exist. Since then Amherst, Mass has become one of the very few municipalities in the nation to provide free wireless to the citizenry with a wide swath of the downtown covered, including Town Hall (where Select Board meetings usually occur) and the Police Station, except for the "Community Room".

About twenty years ago the state started pressuring cities and towns to make all municipal buildings handicapped accessible--especially those that host public meetings. That edict was even used as ammunition for the expensive Town Hall renovation Override 15 years ago, although it failed to convince voters both times at the ballot box. (Town Meeting eventually took out a $3 million renovation loan and former Town Manager Barry Del Castilho--not to mention his secretary who he later married--got a fancy new office.)

Wireless Internet is fast becoming the norm, like handicapped accessibility or air conditioning.But a journalist's age old prime directive remains the same: enforce the people's right to know. And in this digital era, interested people also have a right to get it instantly. video
Meanwhile, 2.5 hours later in the meeting...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The right response

Christian Michael Waterman, center

I think most of us would agree that everybody deserves a second chance (with the possible exception of pedophiles and Osama Bin Laden) especially if that bad behavior is a result of intoxication brought on by day to day pressures that can bubble over like a well shaken can of Pepsi.

Take Christian Michael Waterman, age 19, for instance. After ingesting enough psychedelic mushrooms to agitate an elephant he did stupid things resulting in an arrest by UMPD, a trip to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital and negative publicity on the pages of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, forever emblazoned on the Internet.

But rather than crawl into a hole and ignore his mistake or--even worse--defend it, Mr. Waterman did the right thing: acknowledging an error and sincerely apologizing for it.

Unlike the rowdy bad boys at 83 Morgan Circle who defend (note Comments--especially the most recent) their late night revelry that terrorizes neighbors, reduces property values and burdens the town treasury.
#########################################
DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE
UMass student arrested after Thursday night scare at MacKimmie Hall
SCOTT MERZBACH
Staff Writer

AMHERST - A man exposing himself to student security monitors at MacKimmie Hall, a dormitory in the Southwest area of the University of Massachusetts campus, was arrested after several police officers subdued him on the night of April 14.

Christian Michael Waterman, 19, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was arrested at 10:10 p.m. on charges of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, open and gross lewdness, disorderly conduct and being a minor in possession of alcohol, said UMass Deputy Police Chief Patrick Archbald.

Officers were called to the building's lobby after Waterman, a dual English and sports management major at the university, began disturbing students and tried to go through a binder containing personal information about visitors to the dormitory. Waterman then touched and grabbed a woman in the chest area, putting her in fear, before dropping his pants and underwear, Archbald said.

Archbald said Waterman also made several irrational comments during the incident, repeatedly yelling out "Wu Tang" and talking about former President Bush.

When officers got there, Waterman became combative and, after a brief struggle, was placed under arrest.

Amherst Fire Department paramedics also responded because Waterman may have been under the influence of narcotics, police said. He was brought by ambulance to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton for treatment.
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Thu, 04/21/2011 - 00:23 — CWaterman
I Tripped..and Fell

The article fails to mention the root cause of these lewd events. I took a near-toxic amount of psychedelic mushrooms and lost all control of my physical and mental faculties. I am deeply sorry for my transgressions and apologize to all of the people that I have hurt.

My time spent in the hospital over this weekend was eye-opening as my support system rallied around me. I thank my mother for rushing to my side in this tremendous time of need.

I literally have no recollection of these events, and I apologize to the security monitor specifically for overstepping bounds. Thank you to the UMPD for an excellent handling of my extreme belligerence.

I'm sure many will respond with skepticism and negativity, but this is the truth, I am sorry, and I all I can do is accept my consequences and move forward.

Thank you,

Christian Waterman

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Hey Christian,

I run the 'Only in Amherst' hyperlocal webiste and I'm a reporter for WHMP
news, and I just wanted to verify that you posted the apology on Gazettenet
article yesterday?

I wish more students would man-up and apologize for their bad behavior.

Last night I had someone--probably a rowdy student--defend the bad behavior of

party house residents by suggesting I hang myself.

Larry Kelley

http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/2010/12/party-house-of-emester.html


#######################################
From: Christian Waterman
To: amherstac@aol.com

Sent: Thu, Apr 21, 2011 9:22 am
Subject: Re: Verification check on apology

Yes it's my sincere apology I'm trying to do as much damage control
and public relations work as possible to counteract this extremely
damaging story.

My life is being changed with every person that reads that article so
I at the very least want the truth to be out there concurrently.

I'd like to publish an article/apology somewhere about the mental
duress myself and other students are feeling under the pressures of
college. Even though this story is out about me, it means nothing to
the person I am and any thing else on the Internet suggests a
completely different portrait.

I spoke to the paper and apparently they are more than comfortable
with potentially ruining student's lives.

Thank you for Your recognition.

Christian Waterman

##########################################

On Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 10:41 AM, wrote:

Hey Christian,
From a journalistic point of view the Gazette would be remiss to go back and edit the original story. You did what you did, and that is a matter of public record. But what they should do is follow up on the arrest article in a bigger way, and in a sense make you the 'poster boy' for the way to properly respond to having made a mistake.

Most people would agree that everybody deserves a second chance (with the possible exception of pedophiles).

Do you have a photo (headshot) I could use?

Larry



I like to use this shot..it's me and my mentor, professor Steve Jefferson

Sport management professor that had a near-fatal stroke last September..really was a life-changing event

He is trying to raise $25000 to fund his rehabilitation and return to the classroom so I would love to get him as much press

I really just want to apologize to all of the people that I have hurt and let down because I truly have been undergoing personal evolutions into a better human being

Only time will heal these wounds and my actions will have to speak louder than words

Here's some more of me in the media: bo.st/ThinkAlive

The Think Alive Foundation is also presenting 7 grants to Amherst Middle School students next Thursday and looking to secure media coverage..I can forward along the completed press release ..Visit thinkalive.org for more information


Support Japan,

Christian Waterman
Sport Management / English '13
Treasurer, Association of Diversity in Sport
Director of Programming, Real Music Xposed
(917) 628-1425







Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Douse the Nuke


Tonight the Amherst Select Board voted unanimously to extend the Nuclear Free Zone all way to our neighbor to the north by urging support for a shut down of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant next year on the original schedule forty years after the controversial plant was first commission.

Amherst added their voice to 51 other communities who also oppose the current plan by Entergy to continue generating power after receiving a 20-year license extension from federal regulators. The state legislature has voted to close the plant and the company filed a lawsuit claiming federal authority supersedes state authority.

Amherst, along with Cambridge, was on the forefront of the Nuclear Freeze movement having voted itself a "Nuclear Free Zone" in 1988 and opposed the siting of a GWEN tower (a post nuclear attack communications system) anywhere in Amherst.

Select Board chair Stephanie O'Keeffe read an email from Senator Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) urging support for the resolution.

Amherst's Anti-Nuke activists: Dick Stein (in red) Thomas Lindeman

Monday, April 18, 2011

Party house of the weekend


So you would think a rental property located directly opposite Ann Whalen subsidized housing near the Senior Center in the heart of downtown Amherst would be a tad more responsible with noise in the wee hours of the morning.

Not our young rowdies living at 28 Kellogg Avenue, however. And as a result five young adults arrested: four of them for both "noise" and "nuisance house" violations ($600 each) and one young lady for an open container of alcohol ($300).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What goes around...

Larry Shaffer turns on the charm for Amherst Town Meeting


UPDATE Wednesday April 20: The Gazette today reports a sanitized version of Mr. Shaffer's new job prospects. Interestingly enough it appears in the print edition but not online. Editors probably did not want to allow Comments that could bring up dirty laundry. UPDATE: 8:45 AM: So about an hour after I posted that first update it magically appeared online. Coincidence I guess.
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ORIGINAL POST: Sunday evening (a tad ahead of the Gazette)

My two site meters act like canaries in a coal mine, early alerting me to something of note suddenly occurring. On Tuesday a tsunami of hits from Facebook landing on a "Party House of the Weekend" post from last December almost crashed my widget.

I was actually in the middle of drafting an email to APD wondering if something terrible had just happened at 23 Tracy Circle (thinking somebody blew their brains out after posting a suicide note on Facebook linking back to me) when I managed to trace it back to the juvenile "F_ck the Fines" Facebook group.

Then a couple days ago I noticed numerous hits coming from Michigan all Googling "Larry Shaffer, Amherst" with some of them adding the term "gay". Hmm...

Turns out that former Amherst Town Manager Larry Shaffer is tops on the list for city manager of Jackson, Michigan a city about the size of Amherst (which should be a city). The gay thing is probably from his public interview use of the term "partner" for his um, other woman, Jane Ashby.

The one he divorced his wife over, and then suddenly retired from bucolic Amherst (with a taxpayer funded $62-K going away present) to follow her out to her new professorship at Central Michigan University.

I asked a conservative buddy of mine who makes Michigan her home which scenario would play better in Jackson: A gay man applying for city manager or a straight one who had an affair with his secretary while still married (costing taxpayers $23,000 to hush up) then flew the coop to be with yet another woman. All hypothetical examples of course.

Considering Michigan is more conservative than Massachusetts, with a huge evangelical community in Grand Rapids and a large Muslim population outside Detroit, it sounds like neither of my hypothetical scenarios would play out well.

So forget Mr. Shaffer's folly of charging a tax on Christmas trees sold by Boy Scouts, or getting spanked by the ACLU for attempting a heavy handed takeover of the July 4th Parade to accommodate left wing zealots or even purposely fudging figures to protect a municipally owned black hole of a golf course; his final undoing is a character flaw as old as Adam and Eve--and in this cyber age, one that cannot be hidden behind a fig leaf.



My conservative Michigan buddy agrees

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pass the Ganja, man!

Town Center 3:10 PM Day One

Fine for public consumption alcohol: $300, a criminal offense

Fine for public consumption of marijuana: $100, a civil offense

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Stoner discussion page

The Springfield Sunday Republican reports Interestingly this morning's Front Page print edition omits the photo of Matthew James and Niki Snow smoking pot and run a more family oriented photo of them juggling. And they change the headline from the cutesy "Annual Extravaganja festival lights up in Amherst" to a more boring "Marijuana fest mix of pot, policy"

The Boston Globe Reports

Friday, April 15, 2011

They HAD a secret #2


Two years ago the assistant I.T. Director was let go for sending an email complaint about his boss to town manager Larry Shaffer, also copied to the entire Select Board.

I filed a public documents request for said dispatch; the town manger turned me down citing Exemption C, the most often used excuse: "Personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

But in late February I requested any and all "separation, severance, transition, or settlement agreements made since January 1, 2005 between the town of Amherst and their employee's that include compensation, benefits, or other payments worth more than $5,000."

So here it is: Just another case of an employee who suddenly disappears (with $25-K in hand)
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A Gazette reporter called yesterday to interview me about the original post concerning the town manager's sudden retirement with a $62-K going away present and his, errr, administrative assistant also disappearing that same day with a $22-K payday after only 3-and-a-half years employment with the town.

He wanted to know "why the people should care?" Good question. Not sure I answered well enough for him and even if so it may never see the light of print anyway, so I will answer it again here.

Of the 13 individuals covered under these agreement more than half of them are simply routine retirements or early retirements. But because they are all kept secret, it casts a shadow on those that are routine, as though they did something wrong.

When the town attorney informed the town manager he had to give up the documents, Mr. Musante requested another week to contact the former employees via snail mail to inform them that someone had been given their legal agreements.

And I'm sure some of them--even those who should not be--started to get nervous.

The highest payout ($44,000) was actually the most normal in that it was a very-high ranking employee with over thirty years of distinguished service. That settlement included unused vacation pay, sick time, personal days, longevity pay, etc.

Another woman who had left the same position Ms. "Jane Doe" occupied (administrative assistant to the town manager--and I'm told by multiple sources did a much better job) was not on the settlement list, because she received no money. Since she voluntarily resigned her town position for a better job at Amherst College, you would expect no such settlement.

So then why did "Jane Doe" get paid $22-K when she "voluntarily" resigned ten months later?

If the former town manager Larry Shaffer had used $22-K out of his $25-K going away present, then I would have not pursued this case so vigorously. But since it was all funded with tax dollars, I honestly believe the people have a right to know.

Just another WikiLeaks document dump...

So once again I have set my blogger controls to automatically publish at 2:30 this afternoon another chapter from my recent acquisition of 82 pages of legal documents via Public Documents Law concerning secret settlement agreements with 13 town employees over the past five years.

No, I'm not afraid town officials will have me terminated with extreme prejudice between now and then or anything, it's just that even though I now live a cyber-life I still have ink in my veins. And nothing is more motivating than a drop-dead deadline.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's yours is mine

Trampoline half on town property. Note also cleared, mowed area of encroachment
A couple square yards here and a couple there, pretty soon you're talking football field

No wonder the folks cocooned in high-end houses on Tanglewood Drive are so heated about the town finally getting around to turning the expensive old dump into something productive--a lucrative, environmentally friendly solar farm.

Not only do they now enjoy a great view, but some of the folks have enhanced that view by encroaching on town property.
A backyard view

A tree fort and swing way out on the landfill


Cleared manicured area beyond the property line

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Boys will be (little) boys

No, believe it or not, this is not a Saturday Night Live skit

UPDATE: Friday April 15 3:30 PM Umass must be paying attention. Off campus bad boy behavior will no longer be tolerated. Code of Student conduct changes are a coming
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UPDATE: Wednesday 2:30 PM The Facebook group is gone undergound, long live civility. As always, Comments are the best.
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ORIGINAL POST: Tuesday morning

Strike up the ditty "Fight...for your right, to parrrrrrrrty!" The irate lads who live at 23 Tracy Circle have taken to Facebook to rage against the machine. Nice language boys. Gotta wonder if they have family on Facebook who will get to see their diatribe.

Note from screen shot above (taken yesterday) that they had 170 members, but are now down by four (who probably don't want HR pros to know they were once part of such an immature group when they go job searching.)



The Thin Blue Line

Solar powered Electric Chair?

This detonation of a backpack nuke at last night's Select Board meeting--publicly suggesting Amherst will be an "accomplice in a capital crime"--was obviated a couple hours later, when reading from a prepared statement during his Town Manger's report, John Musante informs the Select Board he's given up on using DEP approved contaminated soil to regrade the old unlined landfill.

Still, you gotta love Mr. Boothroyd's borrowing from Steve Jobs the "one last thing" intro before dropping the bombshell.

video

End result? The town losses $250,000 in disposal fees paid in work/equipment barter from the major contractor rebuilding Atkins Corner, who will now have to pay cash to another disposal facility at a greater rate per ton for the 6,000 ton load.

And the town will have to rely on street sweepings and catch basin crud to try to make up the difference for the regrading but will probably have to bring in clean fill at additional cost in labor and cash. All in all, a lose-lose scenario.

Twenty years ago Mr. Keenan enhanced his "fiscal conservative" image by volunteering to clean up pigeon poop from the Town Hall attic after Town Manager Barry Del Castilho (worried about the health of his secretary, who later became his wife) was preparing to spend over $100,000 to have a hazardous waste disposal company clean it up.

And a couple weeks ago Mr. Keenan blew the whistle to DEP about 20-30 barrels of potentially hazardous waste (paint from UMass) that was buried somewhere in the landfill over 25 years ago by town DPW workers.

But if everyone is also so concerned about the integrity of the landfill cap, then why try to force the town into cracking it open to dig for those 20 or 30 needles in a haystack?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Solar Flare

Atkins construction soil
John Boothroyd and Dave Keenan, two outspoken critics of the town's attempt to recast the old unlined landfill into a sea of shiny solar panels took their battle directly to the Select Board at the unscripted 6:30 PM "Question Period" tonight, focusing on the potential health hazard of pesticide laced soil approved by the DEP as partial fill to repair sagging areas of the landfill cap due to settling common after 20 years of decomposition.

John Musante, during his "Town Manager's Report", told the Select Board the contaminated soil controversy had created "a lot of anxiety" and become a "distraction."

The regrading of the landfill will occur regardless of the solar array project and since the use of lead arsenate soil was a relatively minor part of the overall work, he directed DPW chief Guilford Mooring to abandon the idea of using 6,000 tons of tainted soil from the Atkins Corner Road project, although he praised Mr Mooring for "trying to be entrepreneurial".

Musante by no means backed down on the ambitious project to construct a 4.75 megawatt solar farm on the landfill that could provide the town with a million dollars per year in combined electricity savings and property tax revenues.

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Mass spending

The Governor just approved a $327 million supplemental budget to get the state through the rest of the year to maintain "critical services, core safety net programs" and provide reimbursement to cities and towns for cleaning up after the worst winter in collective memory.

UPDATE: 7:35 PM
And in local news, the illustrious Select Board just voted unanimously to close off half the downtown Spring Street lot and a few more spaces on Boltwood Avenue to park the three large tour buses that will descend on the town for the newly e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d (to two days) Extravaganja Event, April 16th and 17th.

Last year the Amherst Board of Health considered expanding the smoking ban to include outdoor public areas such as the town common, but the proposal was dropped.

Party House(s) of the weekend

64 Pomeroy Lane

This week we have a tie: 64 Pomeroy Lane and good old Phillips Street, number 51 to be exact. Yes, a few weeks back I gave that entire street the dubious distinction of "Party Street of the Weekend."

According to Police narrative: "Large party with outdoor fire at 64 Pomeroy Lane. Approximately 100 people cleared out. Three residents put the fire out. They were arrested for town bylaw noise violation and illegal burning. Transported to APD for booking. House was secured before we left."

Meanwhile 10 minutes earlier on the other side of town (in the heart of the Gateway District): "Loud party. Minors identified on the scene in possession of alcohol. Approximately 40 guests cleared from residence. History indicated past responses. Two tenants identified on scene placed under arrest. One individual ID as minor in possession of alcohol placed under arrest."
51 Phillips Street

In addition to party/nuisance house enforcement, APD continued their campaign of proactive policing by arresting and or issuing summons to 50 college aged individuals for open container or underage drinking all within walking distance of UMass as well as an individual for Driving Under the Influence.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Searing the solar farm

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Yes this is the same Diana Spurgin who fours years ago was treasurer of the 'Amherst Plan Committee' a band of soccer moms, well paid academics and 'Amherst Center' types pushing a $2.5 million "Three Year Plan" tax Override hatched by our Finance Committee, at the time toothless watchdogs who acted more like lapdogs for town officials.

And of course their main propaganda pitch, as usual, was to shame taxpayers into voting yes for the collective common good especially for the sake of the children, who attend one of the most expensive public school systems in the state.

Ahh, but when it comes to a creating a higher-and-better use for town property, a deal that could benefit the common good by $1 million per year while reducing our carbon footprint, don't disturb the tranquility near my backyard (an unlined landfill).

Today's Sunday Republican reports

Friday, April 8, 2011

The last campaign


In a beautiful home perched high on a hill overlooking scenic South Amherst friends, supporters and former-enemies-turned-friends gathered tonight to toast Catherine Sanderson--to sincerely thank her for three years of bruising work challenging an entrenched system, asking questions that others feared to voice and suggesting solutions some considered sacrilege...until they worked out for the betterment of our most cherished asset: the children.

Amherst Solar Farm meets Jerry Springer show!

The only thing missing among the crowd who jammed the town's solar farm public forum Wednesday night was bullhorns, pitchforks and torches. Perhaps a better headline would be: "When NIMBYs attack."

Yes amazingly enough these restless natives who purchases expensive homes next to an old unlined landfill are worried a commercial solar array will ruin their property values. After all, real estate agents promised them the landfill would remain open space for 99 years. And if you can't trust real estate agents who can you trust? Used car salesmen perhaps?

The complaints aired ran the typical gambit: noise, visual pollution, losing open space to walk the dog and go sledding, turning the neighborhood into another "Love Canal" and--my favorite--Russia dealing with Chernobyl compared to the way Amherst town government is now going about the process. Yikes!

Kind of far fetched to claim the solar array will cause damage to the landfill cap when DEP will have to approved it after exhaustive study and the expert the town is partnering with, John DeVillars is a former New England Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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A couple years ago Town Meeting was going to award Guilford Mooring "Mr. Congeniality" for his patient, good natured, humorous way of presenting DPW issues to that legislative body. So for him going Postal, says a lot...

Voter poll on Localocracy (looking like a landslide)

The Daily Collegian reports

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

They HAD a Secret

Larry Shaffer, Stephanie O'Keeffe, Aaron Hayden

I call her Jane Doe

While public documents czar Alan Cote denied my appeal for full disclosure of the 8/30/10 Select Board executive session minutes where town officials huddled in secret for over an hour to discuss the strikingly sudden "retirement" of town manager Laurence Shaffer (the very night the Board was scheduled to publicly discuss his annual "performance evaluation"), the town grudgingly complied with my request for Shaffer's "Employment Settlement and release of claims" agreement and that of his office administrative assistant who also, coincidentally enough, simultaneously disappeared.

So here's the executive summary, but I invite you to click on the hotlinks below to read the documents in full: Shaffer's platinum parachute, after only four years of "service" to the town, a whopping $62,129.

And Jane Doe, serving only three-and-a-half years (earning $43,900 last year) sauntered off with $23,012. In the private sector you would be lucky to get a couple weeks to a month pay as severance (and even then only after a ten year minimum service), or in her case about $3,000 and Shaffer's case maybe $10,000.

“I’ve never heard of anybody, public sector or private sector, getting severance pay when they voluntarily leave employment,” said John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. Interestingly the legal agreements dubbed Jane Doe a "resignation," Mr. Shaffer a "retirement."

"In a week's time I'll be 62 years old and indeed I have been thinking about retirement," Shaffer told the Select Board back then (with two years still left on his contract). That final spring in Amherst Mr Shaffer retired a few things: divorcing his wife and selling his home on Amity Street.

But merely a month after his October 1 "retirement" he was seeking a city manager job in Michigan. According to the 12/10/10 Birmingham Patch: "Because Shaffer's significant other teaches at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, commissioners asked him about whether he plans to commute. Shaffer assured them that he's fully open to making Birmingham his permanent home if he is offered the position and that he's here to stay."

That "significant other" is former UMass psychology professor Jane Ashby who, five years ago, sat on the original Amherst "citizen search committee" that chose Shaffer over two other highly qualified candidates; she too divorced her spouse in Amherst last spring and headed off to Central Michigan University, a state school that made CBS Money Watch list of "25 Colleges With the Worst Professors."

The whereabouts of Shaffer's former administrative assistant is currently unknown.

Jane Doe's agreement
Click links above and below to read
Larry Shaffer's agreement

official minutes of 80 minute 8 /30 executive session (all two sentences, where one of them was redacted)