Friday, March 30, 2012

Controlled Burn

So I paid the newly instituted $25 fee (good for unlimited burns through May 1), had the Fire Department come do an inspection, ran a hose out to the debris pile, and then lit a match..or two...or three.

One man's trash...

Longmeadow Drive, South Amherst

Last weekend Amherst Police responded to a reported theft of a "55 gallon drum and tires" from this location.  The road side attraction is a sign of displeasure with Butternut Farm, the 26 unit HAP low income housing development that opened last June.

Orchard Valley neighbors put up a bitter, expensive legal challenge that dragged on for years (no doubt enriching their attorney Michael Pill) but inevitably failed to kill the project.  Obviously hard feelings still linger.  After finding no suspects, APD told the reporting party, "facing signs about the new development right at or next to the property would probably lead to the signs being taken down."

Meanwhile over on Snell Street, an irresponsible midnight dumper used the convenient access provided by the road that suddenly terminates to dump trash--including a 55 gallon drum and construction debris--into the woods. Arlo Guthrie is not a suspect.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Whiny to the bitter end

The Joint Capital Planning Committee voted 7-1 this morning to approve $3,153,200 in recommendation to the Town Manager that backtracked only slightly from last week's fireworks laden meeting, mainly to now include $20,000 for 16 Jones Library surveillance cameras and $10,000 for maintenance work at the town owned Hitchcock Center building.

Hitchcock Center
After the camera initiative was properly vetted by IT directory Kris Pacunas, the price had precipitously dropped from $60,000 to $20,000 and will certainly provide peace of mind for patrons made nervous by frisky teens frolicking in the unattended downstairs, or the homeless wandering in looking for a place to sleep.

Library Trustee Carol Gray took exception once again to cuts that were upheld: $150,000 for fire protection system and $15,000 for building insulation, which she claimed would return about $3,000 in annual energy savings, or a five-year payback. Although she neglected to factor in the $15,000 that was approved last year for insulation and never spent, thus the payback period is really ten years.

And of course being a former lawyer she held up the architectural study commissioned by Library Trustees that highlighted minor deficiencies in the current fire protection system suggesting the town would be liable for any injuries sustained in the (unlikely) event of a fire.

Ms. Gray also took a cheap swipe at $90,000 earmarked for planning studies split between two major projects:  Last fall "Form Based Zoning" failed to garner the two-thirds vote necessary (119-79) at Town Meeting--with many opponents saying the article required "more study"--that would have rezoned North Amherst center and the Atkins Corner in South Amherst.

And the Gateway Corridor Town Center rezoning study, a $40,000 item to bring Form Based Zoning to the commercial downtown and the contiguous corridor leading to our largest employer, UMass.

Former Library Trustee (Chair) Pat Holland, who was defeated last year because of her tag-team involvement with Ms. Gray in running off long time library Director Bonnie Isman, is running unopposed for the lone Amherst Redevelopment Authority seat in the April 3 election.

The ARA spearheaded, nurtured and delivered the Gateway Project plan over the past year-and-a-half, but will probably have little future involvement for Ms Holland to sabotage.

O Lorax, Where Art Thou?

100-year-old row of quaint New England sugar maples now on Death Row.

After weathering the last 100 years, including the devastating October 29 tree killer snowstorm, a row of majestic sugar maples that have provided shade, oxygen and protection from the wind to generations of agricultural minded citizens is now threatened by the biggest tree killer of all:  development.

Even though these trees are outside their jurisdiction, the Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee unanimously endorsed a letter to Town Manager John Musante requesting they "be respected and protected for all present and future members of the Amherst community."

Amherst Town Meeting acquired Hawthorne Farm property for $500,000 to preserve open space, add to our pitifully small stock of affordable housing (the land includes a house and barn) and preserve open space/recreation, although many town meeting members assumed it meant passive recreation. 

But soccer parents and politicians who court their votes are quick to rev the bulldozers anytime the town acquires an expensive parcel of property bigger than a breadbasket.   Although, turning the rolling topography of Hawthorne into a smooth aircraft carrier quality flatness will require millions of additional tax dollars.

And, the death of those stately sentinels.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trouble in Paradise?

 Larry Shaffer fist bump.  About to butt heads with the Mayor

Former Amherst, Massachusetts Town Manager now Jackson, Michigan City Manager Larry Shaffer had a hilarious quote in yesterday's local paper:  "I don't give up easily" asserted Shaffer in response to the city council reversing a yes vote he supports on an expensive solar energy project for their waste water treatment plant.

Mayor Martin Griffin strongly opposes the initiative saying, "I hope the project is dead."  Interesting power struggle.   Since Jackson has a Council/Manager form of government, the Mayor is apparently more of a figurehead than actual CEO.  But, nevertheless, Mayor Griffin looks like a strong guy who takes tough stands (slumlords want him recalled over a rental registration law he supported).

Mr. Shaffer, on the other hand...

Let's see, he took a strong stand on requiring Boy Scouts pay a tax on Christmas Tree sales, a beloved annual (tax free) town tradition for 60 years.  He tried to withhold the parade permit for the privately organized July 4 Parade to create a competing municipal parade that would embrace war protesters.  And he supported the Select Board's annual refusal to fly 29 commemorative American flags in the downtown to remember the horror of 9/11.

Best of all, he railroads the Select Board into giving him a two year extension on his contract and then only a few months later, suddenly, decides to "retire," to Michigan, leaving behind his wife here in Amherst.  Meanwhile his secretary concurrently vanishes with a $25,000 taxpayer payout nobody wishes to talk about.

Doesn't give up easily, eh?  I guess it depends on how you define "easily".  


Gas, Bread, and Wine

 Cumberland Farms, Amherst

Perhaps the busiest convenience store in Amherst is about to get even busier.  The Cumberland Farms on College Street (Rt 9) has filed for a Wine & Malt off premises alcohol license--meaning beer and wine to go. 

The town currently has 8 such licenses in this category allowed by law and only two are currently taken, so it's pretty much a slam dunk the Select Board, who are also the town liquor commissioners, will approve the $1,500 license.

A new law that went into effect January 1st allows individuals or corporations to own up to 5 of these permits in the state when previously the limit was only three.  Cumberland Farms will also have to pay the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission $5,000 for the privilege.

Yes, everybody--from the state on down--ferments money from alcohol.

 Spirit Haus, celebrating 40 years. Right across the street.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blarney Blowout Busted?

Last night Town Manager John Musante "updated" his bosses, the Amherst Select Board, on important "quality of life" issues that give the town a horrible name, namely party houses like the one at 186 College Street (owned by individuals more interested in profits than peace) and party businesses--McMurphy's and Stacker's--only interested in keeping the taps flowing via irresponsible, juvenile promotions like "Blarney Blowout".

And while it sounds like Musante is taking the responsible parties to the woodshed for a much needed spanking (metaphorically speaking of course), since those discussions are private, we may never know.

Excuse the buzz in the background. Amherst Media seems more interested in TV than Internet feeds

Monday, March 26, 2012

AFD issues SOS

Amherst Fire Department Central Station

Every citizen in town--homeless or living in a $1 million palace--expects that in an emergency, highly trained professional first responders are only a three digit phone call away. 

And that when you do call 911--no matter what time of the day or night, what season of the year or holiday the entire western hemisphere may be celebrating, they will come--and quickly.

Consider this a wake up call, like a smoke alarm in the dead of night.  You have been warned.  Be afraid.

Fight For Your Right Party House

 370 Pelham Road, Amherst

While young adults their age are fighting and dying in a far off country, these boys are hastling their neighbors for calling the police trying to maintain the quiet enjoyment of their most cherished possession--home.  That too is a bedrock American right.

When police arrived at 370 Pelham Road around 10:00 PM Saturday night, called by a neighbor who stated her husband was in a verbal confrontation with a rowdy party boy, police discovered the source of the noise:  a live band.

Yes, this is the second time these perps have been arrested and heavily fined for a party using a live band.  You think they would have learned the first time.  But no, they are entitled.   

According to APD logs:
RP reporting her husband is on the front porch arguing with a male neighbor.  The neighbor came over unprovoked and started arguing with RP's husband about them complaining about noise coming from the neighbors house in the past.

Live band planing upon arrival.  20+ guests were cleared out.  Guests confronted Officers about breaking the party up, stating they had "rights" and that it was a "birthday party".

Arrested for Noise:
Nelson P Klein, 179 Appleton Street, Cambridge, MA, age 23
Geoffrey Dempsey, 6 Fruit Street, Hopkinton, MA, age 23
James Toshana, 370 Pelham Rd, Amherst, MA, age 19

Property Ownership Card for 370 Pelham Road, Amherst

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Week Ahead

Joint Capital Planning Committee:  reports to Town Manager

Time was, not so long ago, a news junkie in Amherst looked forward to the Monday night Select Board meeting because that was the hotbed of potentially entertaining news worthy issues--usually of the embarrassing kind.

But with the, umm, retirement--or I should say relocation--of Anne Awad and the orchestrated coup d'état that ousted Gerry Weiss as Chair, driving him into retirement as well, Select Board meetings  have become a coldbed of boring routine.  Evidenced by a lack of competition for open seats in the annual town election these past few years.

Thus Joint Capital Planning Committee promises to be the most interesting meeting this week (Thursday 9:00 AM) as they will, finally, vote on $4 million worth of capital requests from all town departments including the schools, a vote that will whittling the bottom line down to only $3 million.  And a JCPC thumbs up practically guarantees a rubber stamp by Amherst Town Meeting.

Will the Jones Library get 16 new wireless digital surveillance cameras? (probably)  Will Information Technology Department get it's fancy $32,000 Ford hybrid Escape? (probably not) Will Town Hall get an $85,000 generator? (damn well better).  Will Carol Gray get twitchy again about any cuts to the Jones Library requests? (safe bet).

On Friday The Jones Library Trustees will discuss a report from the Personnel Planning Policy subcommittee regarding the six-month evaluation of library director Sharon Sharry.  Ms. Sharry took over the Good Ship Jones after Carol Gray attempted a mutiny/takeover of the micromanaging kind, driving out Director Bonnie Isman after 30 years of admirable service.

Jones Library Trustees Chris Hoffman, Carol Gray

Interestingly Ms. Gray is on the the current evaluation subcommittee, but from all the reports I'm getting, Sharry is doing an admirable job thusfar and, thankfully, no controversy like the previous kind is expected when the evaluation goes public on Friday.

Also, on the optimistic immediate horizon for the Jones Library is the election April 3rd, where Ms. Gray is expected to lose her Trustee seat, like her inquisition compatriot Pat Holland already did last year (for the same good reason).

Although, she will not have to turn in her library card.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Old Pols Never Fade Away

 Jim & George McGovern

Even nearing age 90, George McGovern still knows how to work a crowd--probably a tad easier when the throng is obviously enthralled, as were about 100 fans who packed the Amherst Bookstore late this afternoon to give an icon of the democratic party a rousing reception.

Accompanied by former aid and current Congressman Jim McGovern, who told the local crowd he hopes to represent them in Congress, the former U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate gave a homespun extemporaneous speech--more like a fireside chat--extolling the subject of the book he lived, "What It Means To Be A Democrat."

Even conservatives could appreciate his bedrock background:  A B-25 pilot who survived 35 missions over Germany and then, like 8 million other WW2 veterans, took advantage of the GI Bill to get a PhD in history. Higher education was a good investment by the federal government McGovern pointed out, as the feds received back $2 for every one invested:  better education led to higher paying jobs, thus greater taxes generated.

Knowing perhaps that he was in the belly of the anti-war beast he said firmly, "I make no apologies for fighting in that war.  It was a war that had to be fought."  But then stated, almost as an aside, "Although I can't say I have supported any since."

Washington, DC is not the embodiment of evil as portrayed by Republicans he said to loud applause.  Retelling a  story about a verbal joust with William F. Buckley, he closed with the humorous punchline that a conservative like Buckley could never carry the state of Massachusetts.  And since that was the only state George McGovern carried in 1972, a fitting finale. 

And proof once again, the dream shall never die.

Friday, March 23, 2012

And put up a parking lot

With the closing of Mark's Meadow Elementary School two years ago, Crocker Farm picked up 80 new students and a few more teachers, so now, apparently, it's time to expand the parking lot at a cost of $25,000...although I'm not sure why it needs to expand by 20-25 vehicles.

The current plan is to expand the lower parking lot on the north side of the main access road above and below the current parking oasis for 11 cars.  Yes, it would look as though the two maple trees (planted during the 2002 renovation) will become kindling, but Ron Bohonowicz, Director of Facilities, said they may come up with a design to "incorporate them."

After all the trees lost in the unprecedented October 29 snowstorm--a few of them at Crocker Farm--it seems sinful to now whack a couple more, especially on a nice summer day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sparks fly over "safety"

Sandy Pooler makes a firm point to Library Trustee Carol Gray.  Comptroller Sonia Aldrich stuck in the middle

Carol Gray pulled out the classic Smothers Brothers "Mom always liked you best!" routine at an animated Joint Capital Planning Committee meeting this morning, complaining that "other departments" were given their top two or three requested items, but the Jones Library just had "six out of seven eliminated."

Finance Director Sandy Pooler had indeed decided not to recommend any of their big ticket funding requests:  $150,000 for fire safety upgrades, because AFD Chief Tim Nelson believes it can wait a year or more (especially since you can hit the Jones Library with a rock from AFD Central Station),  $125,000 for generators to turn the Jones or North Amherst library into an electricity oasis should the power ever go out again, and $30,000 for security cameras (down from the original $60,000 request).

The 16 security cameras are strongly requested because of previous incidents of (homeless) individuals "exposing themselves" and other purported general safety concerns of rank and file staff.  Although original presentation materials from last month included the statement "It has been recommended by both Amherst Police and Trustees that a security system, including cameras be purchased and installed," the Amherst Police Department was never officially asked, nor did they give such an endorsement.

The JCPC only makes recommendations to Amherst Town Meeting, but such items are all but guaranteed approval; items not recommended are guaranteed to be a Sisyphean task to now revive.

As sports fans are fond of saying:  "Wait until next year."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Amherst Schools Shake Up

UPDATE:  Thursday morning.  School Superintendent Maria Geryk confirmed this story and said an official statement would be forthcoming "soon", perhaps by close of business Friday.
 Maria Geryk Superintendent, Rick Hood Regional School Chair BCG meeting today

Beth Graham, Director of Curriculum and Instruction and member of the $85K club along with 20 other ARPS administrators, is no longer employed in the Amherst School system.

Ms Graham only started working for the Amherst schools on July 1, 2010 and was hired away from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School, a competitor that has siphoned more students from Amherst than any other Charter school in the region.

Assistant principal Susan Kennedy Marx sent a memo today to parents saying she had been told by  Superintendent Maria Geryk that she would now be serving in central office and is no longer assistant principal at Fort River. 

Amherst has one of the highest average administrator costs in the region at $697 per student vs. state average of $446, so perhaps Superintendent Geryk plans to leave one of these vacated position open.

The Amherst Schools have been in disarray of late:  Fort River Principal Ray Sharick resigned suddenly last year, Regional Middle School Principal Michael Hayes announced a few weeks ago that he was taking a one year leave of absence to spend more time with his children, and Amherst Regional High School Athletic Director Karen Keough-Huff resigned her $86,237 job four months ago for "personal reasons."

Ms Graham was supposed to tweak the math program. 2011 MCAS scores, however, were disappointing

A More Pleasant Wait

PVTA workers install a new bus stop on the corner of West Street and Mill Lane (the last widely used unpaved road in Amherst)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm a working on...

 Poor Farm Swamp

I was happy to see a railroad worker doing basic maintenance on the tracks running over Station Road recently, the location of two derailments last summer.  Looks like the crew also did some tree work a little further up the tracks as well.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Calm after the storm

 Theta Chi Frat, 496 North Pleasant, UMass, Amherst

Even though this past weekend actually included St. Patrick's Day, Amherst was a far calmer, nicer place to be.  Amherst police issued only one $300 Noise Bylaw ticket and four warnings as opposed to last weekend's 14 Noise Bylaw tickets, 12 Noise warnings, 7 Nuisance House violations, and 12 open container infraction arrests--the majority meted out on Saturday during the "Blarney Blowout".

And Amherst Fire Department did not have to transport a single ETOH (passed out drunk) patient as opposed to 14 last weekend.

Why the night and day difference?  Spring Break, of course. The students have migrated elsewhere for a week.  And just to show it is a very tiny minority of party types who give all students a bad name, the only ticket handed out this weekend was to a serial offender,Sergey Vuytik. 

Even Pike fraternity has behaved these past two weeks after APD issued them two "nuisance house" tickets for boorish behavior, but another on campus frat--Theta Chi--made the police report for a "panicky college age female who overdosed on shrooms and doesn't feel good now."

Still, this week promises to be a throwback to the quaint, quiet Amherst of old.  Enjoy it while you can.

Party Apartment of the Weekend

 Cathedral Apartments: brick building center

You would think somebody with a unique name like Sergey Vuytik would be a tad more careful about getting arrested--especially for a second time for the same obnoxious offense.  And let's not even talk about the Bad Boy being old enough to know better at age twenty seven.

According to police logs Mr Vuytik was arrested for "a blaring stereo" at 3:45 AM early Sunday morning in his apartment complex which is located almost in the center of Amherst.  Apparently Sergey moved from his former nuisance house at 83 Morgan Circle, much to the delight I'm sure of his former neighbors.

Arrested for Noise:
Sergey Vuytik, 51 Jacqueline Rd  Apt #12, Waltham, MA, age 27

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Éirinn go Brách

Tom Kelley:  Faithful "domestic" to Miss Emily, and her lead pallbearer

Growing up on Crow Hill in Amherst in a single parent Irish Catholic household a couple generations ago, St Patrick's Day was more than a spring milestone--and much more than simply a day to wear green, or an excuse to consume beer for breakfast.

It was the only time I ever remember my mother hosting a formal party for friends, family and neighbors, and one of the few times the Kelley household looked more than presentable for an entire day and night. 

My mother always accented the positive traits of being Irish:  loyalty, gifted storytelling, determination, hard working, although stubborn was a trait that could go either way.  One of my favorite sayings I heard often enough was "get their Irish up," meaning to anger.

So I've always tried to use St Patrick's Day positively.  In 1991, over a ten consecutive year date with Mt Washington for the grueling bike race in late August, St Patty's Day commenced the first formal day of road training.  Over the following five months, and thousands of miles logged, I could count on one hand the days missed being in the saddle.

Five years ago today (2007) I started this blog to reestablish my voice.  I had lost a bet with an online Anon commenter on Masslive Amherst Forums (2004) about whether Amherst Regional High School, after the monumental national pounding they were taking for scheduling a performance of "The Vagina Monologues," would actually happen (it did).

I also resigned my monthly column after 14 years with the Amherst Bulletin because Editor in Chief Jim Foudy censored me from writing a follow up column (the first had sparked an international debate) on that same shameful incident.

Since founding, I have shed light on the truth--especially in places where powerful forces wished it stay hidden, given voice to the voiceless--when they spoke the truth, broken countless stories, and led the charge on a dozen important crusades.

A 19th century journalist using 21st century technology.

You may have noticed the sudden appearance of advertising last week.  Although my traffic reached a point of commercial viability years ago, I held off selling ads because I did not want to deal with the natural conflict of interest that oftentimes hamstrings newspapers--especially now with print ads down dramatically. 

Do you hold back investigating/reporting a story because it shines negative light on one of your few remaining advertisers? 

For instance, I'm tempted now to make a snide remark about Gazette reporter Scott Merzbach grilling Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tony Maroulis to elicit negative feedback about McMurphy's and Stacker's embarrassing "Blarney Blowout" bar promotion last Saturday.  But, Tony's an advertiser (who, hopefully, has a sense of humor).

Last year, this special holiday marked my most important milestone of all:  giving up alcohol.

The painfully slow demise of my health fitness business combined with painful arthritic degeneration of my joints combined to overwhelm my fine tuned sense of control.

I thought I could not live without my business or being able to kick people in the head on an almost daily basis.  Soon enough, I thought I could not live without consuming 10 beers a day.  Now I live without both.

Because I came to realize the ultimate truth:  I can't live without my family.

May those who love us love us. And those that don't love us, May God turn their hearts. And if He doesn't turn their hearts, May he turn their ankles, So we'll know them by their limping.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Free ad on the town website

Let the record show that our money pit municipal golf course opened for business yesterday, so naturally today it rained.  This pre St Patrick's Day opening is the earliest in a decade but that will not stop town officials from using the weather excuse this coming July at fiscal year finish when the course ends up in the (cherry) red once again.

Hickory Ridge, a 18 hole public/private course in South Amherst sold at auction yesterday to Appliedgolf, a major player who owns 13 other courses.  Cherry Hill would have benefited somewhat by Hickory Ridge staying closed but now it may be quite the opposite as the new owners may invest more money into renovations, making it an even better course.

On average Cherry Hill only covers about 70% of its total overhead with the other 30% covered by taxpayers--the vast majority of whom do not play golf.  Hickory Ridge needs to cover all its costs (including property taxes to the town) via membership fees, or the auctioneers gavel will fall again.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Careful What You Wish For

 28 Shays Street, Amherst

It will be interesting to see how neighbors here in South Amherst react to the request coming before the Zoning Board of Appeals to expand a house the former owner referred to as a "shack" from one family (four occupants max) all the way to three family (dozen occupants).

Dave Keenan purchased the humble abode at 28 Shays Street in 1994 for $2,500 but with back taxes owed($8,000)  to the town and DEP ordered clean up (backed by $30,000 in fines) required because of a leaky oil storage tank.  Dave never did add much in the way of window dressing, so neighbors were constantly complaining to the town about the general ramshackle appearance.

Finally with back taxes and legal fees owed topping $60,000 the town tried to foreclose and have building inspectors check out whether the house was even habitable.  Mr Keenan telegraphed that he would not allow entry without a fight and a Ruby Ridge was narrowly avoided.

Keenan came up with the money owed to the town via a friend, Eric Burt, who must have been savvy enough to have the house held as collateral.  Keenan never paid him back, and as a result lost the house.  Last September Mr. Burt sold it for $159,800 to Michael Ben-Chaim, who now wishes to triple the occupancy.

Do good things come in threes?  Perhaps...certainly for the new owner.

A stitch in time...

 APD in riot gear. Townhouse Apartments 3/10/12 
Even the Amherst Bulletin is aroused!

While the $10,000 state grant to the Amherst Police Department for party control, compared to their $4 million annual operation cost may not sound like much, it comes at a critical time for our beleagured officers of the law:  Spring.

Although, considering the level of drinking and debauchery on display this past weekend for the "Blarney Blowout," they could have put it to good use a little sooner.
McMurphy's, Stacker's Saturday 3/10/12 10:45AM  Tommy Devine vid

But with that other day of debauchery--the Hobart Hoedown--looming on the near horizon, APD could use all the extra help they can muster.  Too bad the  Amherst Fire Department, equally overburdened by party revelry, could not benefit by a temporary grant (or permanent increase in staffing).

AFD & APD respond to ETOH (passed out) student 3/10/12 4:00 PM

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let the grading begin

 Moving "new dirt" at ye old landfill

The Amherst Department of Public Works commenced work on regrading the old landfill off Belchertown Road, a project required by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection as part of capping closure agreement signed in the late 1980s.

A landfill typically settles after organic material decomposes causing the clay cap to sag and allowing rainwater to collect in stagnant pools.  This phase of the regrading should only take a week and the 52 acre tract will start looking as level as a Cape Cod beach.

Of course a level playing field is also conducive to the installation of solar panels, a controversial project strongly opposed by neighbors in the adjacent Amherst Woods housing development who filed suit against the town last year using NIMBY lawyer Michael Pill.

Amherst was one of about 20 communities who took state money for capping with the provision the closed landfill never be used for anything except passive recreation.  A recent bill in the state legislature would nix that condition by making solar farms an acceptable--if not encouraged--use.

Last year Amherst Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to allow Town Manager John Musante to negotiate a long term agreement with BlueWave Capital, a company founded by John DeVillars, former Secretary of Environmental Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Today would have been a good day to generate electricity.
 Twins: mountain of dirt in shadow of Holyoke Range

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Here's mud in your eye

UPDATE Jan 30, 2013:
According to Ms. Brooks, she was found guilty of a first offense DUI on September 7, 2012. All  
other charges were dropped.
One of the more jarring incidents over the  "Blarney Blowout" weekend occurred early Monday morning (1:30 AM) when a 21-year-old drunk UMass student became embroiled in a "road rage" incident in town center which led to a high speed chase down Amity Street, some of it on the wrong side of the road, a wide turn on University Drive where police pulled over and arrested both drivers before they killed one another, or an innocent bystander.

The road rage continued however as the young lady did not take too kindly to the interdiction by an Amherst Police officer.  She spit on him.  Yes, spit.

Courtney M Brooks, 85 Eastern Ave, Rochester, NH, age 21 was arrested for Operating Under the Influence, speeding, marked lanes violation, marijuana possession, possession of pepper spray without a proper license AND assault on an officer.

Christopher Alviani, 169 Rocky Hill Road, Hadley, MA, age 24 was arrested for Operating Under the Influence, speeding, following too closely.

Springfield Republican catches up with this story

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blarney Blowout Weekend

McMurphy's downtown Amherst.  Party Central

Spring break beating out St Patrick's Day by 24 hours provides a "Luck of the Irish" respite for the town. Thus this past weekend became the last one for Amherst area college students to use the patron saint of Ireland as an excuse to drink early and drink often.  Throw in mild spring like weather and you have perfect ingredients for a pernicious drain on public safety.

Long lines of college students noisily waiting to get into McMurphy's and Stacker's Saturday morning for the "Blarney Blowout" was a perfect barometer indicating a powerful storm was starting to swirl.  In fact, over the course of the morning/afternoon three individuals were cited ($300 each) for "open container" violations as they were drinking beer while waiting in line to drink more beer.

Interestingly, the McMurphy's event used to be called "Kegs & Eggs" but apparently in response to a public chastising by Amherst Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe last year because of the embarrassing aftereffects, this year they simply changed the name (and did not go before the Select Board requesting an early morning opening time).  Same embarrassing aftereffects, however.

One of the first noise warnings was issued at 9:30 AM to an apartment on Hallock Street almost in town center.  The reporting party stated there was extremely loud music coming from location and when asked to turn down the music the perps responded it was "Blarney Blowout today so every house would be like this."

The festivities would indeed peak very late Saturday night into Sunday morning, swamping AFD with ETOH (alcohol poisoning) calls.  Mutual aid ambulances were then required from Belchertown and two from Northampton Fire Department.

So yes with APD also swamped, issuing 14 Noise Bylaw tickets, 12 Noise warnings, 7 Nuisance House violations, and 12 open container infractions it's too hard to pick the one single Party House as overall winner, so I thought I would put up a rogues gallery:

176 Triangle Street
Four women cited each for noise and nuisance house for a party of 200+ just after midnight Friday.

The house is owned by Railroad Street Partners, aka James Cherewatti, aka Eagle Crest Management.  Not surprisingly that corporate entity also owns McMurphy's, Stacker's and the "opening soon" (for over a year now) Olde Town Tavern--all in town center.

Although 176 Triangle Street is slightly unusual for an Eagle Crest properties in that it is only a "one family"  with a maximum capacity of  four tenants.  Usual modus operandi is to convert a one family into two family in order to maximize profits by doubling legal occupancy to eight, with little increased cost of operations (assessor does not double the valuation of the building).

Take 156 Sunset Avenue for instance.  The Zoning Board of Appeals will continue to deliberate next month on providing just such a golden ticket to Mr. Cherewatti, over neighbors objections of course. 

747 Main Street, Amherst
Large Loud Party with taxi's dropping off more and more...

(1:00 AM Saturday) Loud voices from inside both floors of residence.  Approximately 50 guests were cleared with the cooperation of residents.  Residents were cooperative, however one TBL citation was issued to a tenant for the noise violations as we have multiple responses to this address for similar events.

The house is owned by Chad O'Rourke, AKA Pipeline Properties.  He owns or managers a total of 54 properties around town almost all of them rented to students.   Last September at a ZBA hearing for his newest acquisition at 314 Lincoln Avenue where the special permit allowing it to continue to be "two family" (thus 8 legal tenants) required reapproval upon sale of the structure, Hilda Greenbaum (ZBA member, also a large property owner in town) specifically questioned him regarding 747 Main Street pointing out the exterior is "poorly maintained."

28 Carriage Lane, Amherst (residential neighborhood)

1:00AM early Saturday morning (in another part of town)

Loud and unreasonable voices, music, and drumming could be heard coming from the house.  Uncooperative guests that numbered approximately 100.  Residents taken into custody.

Arrested for Noise Bylaw Violations:
Benjamin Monat, 21 Jefferson Ave, Sharon, MA, age 21
Kaivan Charmchi, 8 Bayberry Lane, Millbury, MA, age 21
David Fine, 81 Brackett Rd, Newton, MA, age 22

And yes, I've saved the worst for last or as Steve Jobs used to say "Just one more thing":

RP called to report that at 4:00 PM today (Saturday) a intoxicated college aged male grabbed her 11 year old daughter.

RP advises her 11 year old daughter was walking near Amity and Lincoln when a drunk college age male grabbed her daughter on the arm (no injury).  RP says her daughter and friend ran to friend's house.  RP doesn't want an officer to speak to her daughter.  RP was asked what she thinks the motive was.  She states party was going on and perp appeared drunk.  She says perp was trying to get her daughter to come and party.

RP also voiced displeasure with bars opening up so early today.

As should we all.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Free Tibet, 9/11 & Kamikazes

Twenty two coffins on Amherst Town Common

Twenty two small coffins comprised one of the more graphic props utilized yesterday for the march from Amherst to Northampton commemorating the start (1959) of the Tibetan struggle for independence from China.  They graphically represent the number of individuals who have committed ritual suicide--many in the past year--by one of the more dramatic means of death:  self immolation.

And just so you could not miss the connection, some of the coffins carried a placard with 22 thumbnail photos of the victims, reminiscent of the first mug shot/bulletin issued by our federal government showing the 19 hijackers who plowed commercial jets into the Twin Towers, Pentagon and a field in Shankesville, Pennsylvania.

All depends on your perspective I guess, or "whose ox is being gored:"  The US military considered Divine Wind kamikaze pilots "fanatics," while Japanese comrades considered them heroes.  The 9/11 hijackers thought they were doing divine service to Allah, while we consider them ruthless killers, dupes of puppet master Osama Bin Laden.
 Free Tibet demonstration  3/10/12 near the spot where Greg Levey immolated himself in 1991

Suicide is self-imposed death, and self-imposed death is suicide.  What's the difference between setting yourself aflame for a political objective or strapping a bomb to your torso and detonating it in a public place for a political objective?  (Well, besides taking out innocent bystanders.)

A flag is a far more benign but still powerful symbol for reaching directly into the hearts of onlookers, and the more rational sides of their mind.  Our Select Board, in addition to issuing a proclamation supporting the Free Tibet struggle, allowed their flag to fly in front of Town Hall and going forward will do so annually on this anniversary.
 Flag of Tibet flies under the UN flag at Amherst Town Hall

Yes, this is the same Select Board that voted to allow 29 commemorative American flags to fly in Amherst downtown to remember the anniversary of 9/11 only once every fifth year

Maybe this September when I go before the Select Board to request the flags fly on 9/11 I will call it the "Free the Flags" movement.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Good, Bad & Ugly

BAD: Stacker's Downtown Amherst 3/10/12 10:45 AM

As Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe addressed a crowd of nearly 100 Free Tibet supporters (the good) crowds of college aged students twice that large gathered in line about 100 yards away waiting for Stackers and McMurphy's, two of Amherst's downtown less classy watering holes, to begin serving alcohol (the bad) at the "13th Annual Blarney Blowout."
GOOD: Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe addresses Free Tibet crowd 10:45 AM

Considering the lines peaked around 10:45 AM, things are going to get ugly before this weekend is done.

BAD: McMurphy's downtown Amherst 3/10/12 10:45 AM

BAD: Meanwhile, across the street...

UPDATE 4:00 PM  ETOH (passed out drunk) male transported by AFD to Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
41 Sunset Avenue 4:00 PM
UPDATE 5:15 PM Dressed in riot gear and toting pellet guns that fire pepper balls a half dozen officers broke up a large party of around 200 in the quad area of Townhouse Apartments on Meadow Street, near the location of the September 9 Meadow Street Riot.
APD made short work of dispersing the crowd, and these two did not seem to mind