Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Story of the Year 2013


 APD, State PD and UMPD gather at west entrance to Townhouse Apartments

The war on off campus student rowdyism took a serious turn during 2013 and that turning point was the Blarney Blowout, Amherst's version of the Mardi Gras or Florida's Spring Break -- only seasoned with a tad more violence.

As usual good weather was a contributing factor but by far, marketing was the #1 reason for the out-of-control debauchery.

Downtown bars -- most notably McMurphy's and Stackers -- used social media to hype the "Blarney Blowout" promotion, a bait and switch name change from "Kegs & Eggs" which had drawn sharp criticism over the previous ten years for promoting bad behavior i.e. drinking in the morning.

In 2012 the Blarney Blowout had contributed to awful visuals in the downtown and an unusual strain on public safety, including an incident where a drunken college aged male hit on an 11-year-old girl.  The Select Board used their bully pulpit to chastise the pernicious promotion, but as the town's Liquor Commissioners did nothing to penalize the offenders.

So it should not have been too hard to figure out , even if you don't have sitemeters, that the Blarney Blowout, March 9, 2013 was going to be bad day for civility.  Really bad.

The promotion started at 11:00 AM (my first published report was 11:07 AM) and all eyes were focused on the downtown.  Meanwhile crowds, mostly dressed in green,  were gathering at Townhouse Apartments in North Amherst where violence had erupted the year before.

 Entire quad taken up by revelers

The crowd grew to over 2,000 taking up the entire quad and beer cans (some of them full) and snowballs started to fly.  A young woman in the center of the mob passes out from too much alcohol (ETOH) and AFD is called.

 Note UFO

When police and EMTs try to get to the young lady lost in the crowd the mob became uncooperative.  Objects now started flying in their direction. Public Safety personnel retreated after pulling the young woman from the crowd.

ETOH female (age 17) loaded into the ambulance under police escort

Over the next few hours, under the influence of a lot more beer, the crowd would only get surlier.  Vandalism starts to take place.  APD had put out an SOS after the incident with the ETOH female, with many State Police and UMPD officers responding to the call -- all of them dressed in riot gear.

A little after 5:00 PM they uniformly moved in, quickly dispersing the huge crowd while making six arrests.

Moments after police dispersed the unruly crowd

At the following Select Board meeting irate members -- particularly Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe -- blamed UMass for not putting out sternly worded emails to students and parents before the weekend.  UMass -- via a Letter to the Editor from PR guru John Kennedy -- blamed the town for allowing the promotion.

Of course the Select Board, unlike previous years, had not given the bars permission to open early that day and since advertising via social media is protected by the First Amendment there is little they could have done prevent the promotion.

But the acrimony led to UMass announcing it would donate $40,000 per semester so AFD could run two extra ambulances on weekends; and more importantly, the disturbing incident convinced the two major powers that something structural needed to be done.

 Chancellor Subbaswamy addresses Amherst Town Meeting 5/15/13

For the first time in history a UMass Chancellor came to spring Town Meeting to champion town/gown relations.  The $30,000 warrant article (matched by $30,000 from UMass)  to hire a consultant passed, leading to the formation of the Town Gown Steering Committee, a heavy hitter group of top UMass and Town officials that mirrored the ultra successful Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods Working Group.

The SHNWG formulated a Rental Registration and Permit Bylaw, the most important legislation passed by Town Meeting in a generation, and a direct outgrowth of last year's "Story of the Year".  

The Town Gown Steering Committee finished up a Request For Proposals a few weeks ago and will continue to meet after the consultant issues a report.

After all, implementation is the key. 

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

So much of what happens in Amherst flows from the fact that we are afraid of students.

If they live near us.
If they get together in large, drunken groups.
If they have more buying (and renting) power than anyone else.

That fear is now driving public policy in this town, and that is not a good thing.

Larry Kelley said...

If the proper "public policy" had been implemented 30 years ago, we would not now be in this position.

Tom McBride said...

The story of the year was Larry's great blog! Happy New Year.

Larry Kelley said...

Thanks Tom.

Great thing about living in Amherst is I will never run out of material.

Anonymous said...

It's past time for the Select Board, acting as License Commissioners, to put a condition on renewing or continuing Stackers and McMurphys liquor licenses: that they halt their annual Kegs&Eggs/BlarneyBlowout-style promotions.

Interestingly, the Stackers building was purchased by James Cherewatti's Rairoad Street Partners LLC; and James Cherewatti's Eagle Crest property management company subsequently moved in. There are a host of James Cherewatti LLCs that own problematic student rentals in town, as is well known.

Being in the same building allows convenient servicing of nighttime entertainment and rental needs of the target demographic under one roof.

James Cherewatti's name is the only one that appears in the Secretary of State's Corporations Database, as "Resident Agent" of the various LLCs and as Manager of Eagle Crest.

One wonders whether the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission might have any additional names associated with Stackers (or McMurphys).

Anonymous said...

Guess what? If the Retreat get built in North Amherst.. I will rent my house out. Because the property value will decrease and move to Florida. And so will a lot of my neighbors. Enjoy the shit show!

Walter Graff said...

Ha! So you'll rent your house because you think our houses value will decrease. Sort of asinine aren't you. So you only live in the house because of it's perceived value now. Then you and your asinine neighbors will rent your homes which will actually have the potential to lower the value of your home and others around it far more than the Retreat could do. Then instead of selling it and getting a higher price before your asinine assumption kicks in you'll keep it knowing it's value will be decreasing? Should change the name of the area to Historic North assholes.

Walter Graff said...

"It's past time for the Select Board, acting as License Commissioners, to put a condition on renewing or continuing Stackers and McMurphys liquor licenses: that they halt their annual Kegs&Eggs/BlarneyBlowout-style promotions."

Sounds great but this isn't the socialist republic of France, this is the United States. Last time I looked free enterprise was a backbone of what made this country what it is.

Sure, let's make a rule that bars can't sell liquor. They tried that once. Didn't go over too well. You live in a college town, get used to it or move to one of the surrounding towns where you can wake up to looking at farmland out your window.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing, nobody gives a fuck about this shit. When the Retreat is built we will party our balls off and nobody will stop us.

Larry Kelley said...

Me thinks AFD transports just as many women as men for ETOH.

The Juggernaut said...

I'm no better man, but I'd wager a keg or three on Anon 9:14 not actually being college student. I haven't seen some of that slang since before the iron curtain fell.

And why would a dumb college bro capitalize retreat? That seems something that someone invested in the issue would do.

Dr. Ed said...

This all is based on the presumption that each spring, thousands upon thousands of starry-eyed high school seniors (and their parents) will make the high stakes decisions that lead to 5000, 6000, 7000 freshmen showing up in the fall.

At that point they are stuck -- it becomes a case of "throwing good money after bad", an expensive version of being stuck in a lease for a car or cell phone that you don't like, but which you might as well use as you have to pay for it anyway.

Now what would happen if someone, a recipient of "UMass' highest and most prized degree", were to be quietly explaining to their parents why he considers UMass to be a place that their children ought not go.

Now these parents don't know all that much about the higher education industry but they're not stupid -- just uninformed. They have a naivety about higher education that they'd never have about their own professions.

And some of them are in professions where they know what "crazy" is because they see it ever day, and/or they know what "dangerous" is because they see that every day -- and hence know what it isn't. They know what disinformation is and have seen enough of it to recognize that too.

Politically & economically, UMass Amherst can not exist without a significant majority of the undergraduates being in-state students. The demographic reality is that this means "from inside-495" as that is where 4/5 of the state's population resides. Another demographic reality is that there are fewer children (everywhere) than there used to be...

This is a geographically compact area, and what if someone were able to tell enough groups of parents what Wiemar in Amherst was really like to cause a significant reduction in the quality of the students arriving each fall? (The number will always be whatever UM wants it to be -- they'll just lower their standards to meet it.)

At some point it becomes exponentially impossible for the institution to continue to exist. It'll be like what pilots call "coffin corner" -- a jet aircraft (e.g. 747) flying so high and so fast that it can't go any faster because there isn't enough oxygen in the thin air to enable the jet engines to burn any more kerosene (i.e. provide more thrust) and there isn't enough air going over the wings to provide enough lift (i.e. keep the plane from "stalling" -- plummeting out of the sky like a brick) if you go any slower, and you are screwed.

And some fall, the students won't arrive, and then what????

Dr. Ed said...

"So you'll rent your house because you think our houses value will decrease. Sort of asinine aren't you. So you only live in the house because of it's perceived value now."

I would use the term "obtuse" -- buying high and selling low is the route to bankruptcy, not financial fortune.

The only three reasons to own a house are (a) because you intend to live in it, (b) you believe it will appreciate in value (possibly as a result of your improvements to it), and/or (c) the income you make from renting it, less the costs & depreciation, exceed any other opportunity for profit you may have with the money that you (personally) have in the house.

Anything else is asinine -- although I am coming to believe that is another word for "Amherst."

Has it ever occurred to any of you that your homes wouldn't be worth half of what they currently are if there weren't all those students in town?

It isn't just the rental housing market -- you could have absolutely no student rentals and your homes would still be worth a lot more than they would be without 20,000 undergrads at UMass.

UMass has about 6,000 employees -- while most don't live in Amherst anymore (they live further out where the property values are lower), the fact that they would live in Amherst were Amherst's values to drop serves to keep values up.

Then there are the multiplier effects and others who can live in Amherst (at the higher housing costs) because of money they make indirectly from UM students -- this is everything from AFD/APD jobs and overtime pay to merchants.

Look at what happened when the mill closed in Turner's Falls. Going back, look at Greenfield, and there are countless other examples of what happens in a one-industry town when the industry downsizes and/or closes.

While there are a lot of things that made things worse, Detroit wouldn't be in the mess it is were the auto industry still there and still employing the number of people it had in 1970, and paying them (the inflation-adjusted equivalent) if what it was then, including overtime & benefits.

The students are why your housing values are high. The students are why your housing values haven't collapsed to the extent they have elsewhere in the Commonwealth and nation.

Dr. Ed said...

"And why would a dumb college bro capitalize retreat?"

Ummm, because it is a proper noun and the rules of English grammar stipulate that proper nouns must be capitalized?

(It gets interesting as to the "the" -- e.g. "The Sudan" and that's like the spelling of "potato" and Dan Quayle wasn't wrong as both spellings are considered correct, although one is in far more common usage than the other.)

Remember that the rule is that a SPECIFIC person, place or thing is a "proper noun" -- e.g. "Larry Kelly" is capitalized because he is a *specific" person. "He" is *not* capitalized even though it clearly references Larry because Larry's name isn't "he" -- except being the first letter of the sentence, that required it to be Capitalized.

As an aside, *I* say that "University" ought to be capitalized *because* it is a specific name for UMass Amherst (when used as such), the AP Manual of Style says that it is not, and I have to accept that.

Dr. Ed said...

I'll agree with the Juggernaut on a different reason though -- only someone who has corrected student papers (particularly on the K-12 level) is going to instinctively capitalize "Retreat" for the reason I stated.

A college kid isn't going to.

Anonymous said...

"Sure, let's make a rule that bars can't sell liquor. They tried that once. Didn't go over too well."

Licensing is distinct from prohibition.

Licensing Commissions have discretion to grant licenses to good across, and withhold licenses from bad actors.

(Speaking of the distinct Prohibition meme, we can probably unite in rejoicing that there will be a fifth season of Boardwalk Empire on HBO later this year.)

Taking advantage of the opportunity to slightly rephrase the first sentence of the original comment --

It's past time for the Select Board, acting as License Commissioners, to put a condition on renewing or not-revoking Stackers and McMurphys liquor licenses: that they halt their annual pernicious Kegs&Eggs/BlarneyBlowout-style promotions.

Dr. Ed said...

"It's past time for the Select Board, acting as License Commissioners, to put a condition on renewing or not-revoking Stackers and McMurphys liquor licenses: that they halt their annual pernicious Kegs&Eggs/BlarneyBlowout-style promotions."

And if they found a competent attorney, the town would be on the receiving end of a major lawsuit -- and one that would not be limited by the state tort claims act.

Unless the town can prove that each and every problematic intoxicated person (A) left the establishment intoxicated, (B) consumed no more alcohol afterwards, (C) the bad behavior was motivated/caused only by the intoxication, and (D) that there was no other cause of it (e.g. the perps are a-holes with criminal records for doing this stuff in the past), the town is violating everything from the First Amendment to that little thing about Bills of Attainder.

As St. Patrick's Day is a holiday clearly associated with Irish Catholics, as "Blarney" itself relates to a stone in a castle near Cork, Ireland and is a mythical belief of that culture, it wouldn't take much to make this into an issue of racial and religious discrimination.

Bear in mind that the color Green itself is political -- and ever notice how a town in Franklin county is named "Orange" -- I'm sure that Larry knows what these two colors signify....

Furthermore, it's not even if there are people leaving these events intoxicated and causing problems -- and remember, if they consume more alcohol somewhere else, there really is very little you can say about the alcohol they consumed at the bar because (arguably) they weren't yet drunk enough to do whatever they did.

The town has to prove that there is more of this from this event than in general -- in a college town where drunken hooliganism isn't uncommon.

Walter, this is like holding Liquors 44 responsible for kids getting drunk on the beer they sell. As long as the person purchasing the case is of age adn sober, as long as that person isn't accompanied by underaged persons and the person(s) who transport it out of the parking lot are all of age, there really isn't anything that anyone can say about it to Liquors 44.

And can you imagine what would happen if Liquors 44 refused to sell to sober of-age customers on the basis of their race? Do you think that might get a little problematic and expensive?

Oh, and Walter, what do you think the Great & General Court would have to say about this? Or do you even know what the Great & General Court even is?

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and Walter, what do you think the Great & General Court would have to say about this? Or do you even know what the Great & General Court even is?"

Looks like Ed is still upset that someone of his own political stripe has repeatedly pointed out the obvious, i.e., that Ed is ticking louder than a time bomb. Calling Walter a nasty liberal won't work, so now what?

Anonymous said...

Do you read your own blog? Your story of the year is a near riot with 2,000 drunken students at a private housing development and you think it's irrational for people in Cushman to not want that fate in their backyard?

Larry Kelley said...

Not "irrational". Selfish.

"The needs of the many ..."

Anonymous said...

"Ed is ticking louder than a time bomb"

Tick, tick, tick -- Fuck You.

And you know something else you schmuck -- a prejudicial bigoted lowlife like you would fit in well with the Klu Klux Klan -- why don't you go join them. Maybe they'll give you a pointy little hat for your pointy little head.

And when you get right down to it, there's no difference between what you are doing here and the use of the "N" word -- none. In both cases you are intentionally attempting to harm the emotional well-being of another.

So go fuck yourself. And if you wish to have your paranoid delusions -- well this is a free country and you are free to stay way way far away from me.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks Ed doth protest too much.

Dr. Ed said...

"Me thinks Ed doth protest too much."

Methinks that anyone who doesn't understand why one would protest unfounded attacks on one's reputation and moral character is most likely lacking both.

Amherst, where the "h" is silent because honor is lacking....

Anonymous said...

"Unless the town can prove that each and every problematic intoxicated person (A) left the establishment intoxicated, (B) consumed no more alcohol afterwards, (C) the bad behavior was motivated/caused only by the intoxication, and (D) that there was no other cause of it (e.g. the perps are a-holes with criminal records for doing this stuff in the past), the town is violating everything from the First Amendment to that little thing about Bills of Attainder. [ET CETERA, ET CETERA]"

Without doubt, a hired-gun attorney can come up with any number of arguments.


However, a fair-minded adjudicator will take into account the recurring pattern of morning alcohol consumption promotion that year after year have been followed by a day-long avalanche of public disorder, and likely decide the License Commission was justified in not renewing, or revoking, the license of a bad actor (thereby making the license available to a more responsible non-incumbent for what is still a good business).