Saturday, March 19, 2016

Time For Change

March 29:  Most important local election in the past 11 years

'Amherst For All' is coming under criticism for something they never did -- publicly call for Town Meeting termination -- from 'Amherst Town Meeting Works', who publicly whine about maintaining our antiquated form of government by begging a No vote on the March 29 ballot question concerning the formation of a new Charter Commission.

Of course this falls right into the same category of hypocrisy demonstrated by those candidates now running for the Charter Commission who refused to sign the initial petition that brought the question to the March 29 ballot in the first place.

At the very least it shows they do not have much confidence their side will triumph on the all important ballot question.

Even more hilarious is the new video from the undynamic hat duo, Mary Wentworth and Michael Burkhart, with their Pulitzer Prize investigative hatchet piece riddled with errors.



Because W.D. Cowls and Jones Properties donated a measly $200 each to Amherst For All, which was an organization with the stated goal of supporting a ballot question that simply allows voters the right to choose, is hardly a grand conspiracy.

I'm sure both companies gave many times over that this past year to local sports teams and social service agencies.  And Cinda Jones granddaddy also had a daughter, so he did not split his empire between just two sons.

She is also not the "biggest property owner in Western Mass."  Her multi-generational owned company, W.D. Cowls, Inc is.  In fact they are the #1 property owner in the entire state, although the vast majority of the empire consists of undeveloped woodlands.

 Note who two of the sponsors are (right column)

And if it was not for Barry Roberts buying the old College Drug Store in 1991 after a fire forced any redevelopment to include an elevator, that building would probably still be a downtown eyesore.

As well as the First National Bank building directly across the street that he purchased and renovated twenty years ago.  A building that currently has a prime vacancy after TD Bank moved out, but still costs Barry a bundle in property taxes. 

Eleven years ago Amherst Town Meeting Works raised almost $7,000 to defeat the Mayor/Council/Town Manager government that came out of Stanley Durnakowski's one man crusade to  collect the thousands of signatures required.

 Stan Durnakowski Amherst Bulletin column 2002

And Stanley had a prominent sign that was always by his side:  "Time For Change:  Sign This Petition For A Mayor For Amherst."

You can't get much more clear than that.  Yet 3,000 people still chose to sign his petition.

Yes, Amherst For All was non-committal when it came to clearly saying it was time to terminate Town Meeting, but that's certainly not why 3,500 people still chose to sign their petition.

And now they have formed a second organization, Amherst For Change, that will probably get more forthright with messaging.  At least I hope they do.

 Now you know who NOT to vote for (see 9 above)



Here's who you vote for!



59 comments:

Anonymous said...

You say "measly" donation. How can any donation be measly? Measly, I suppose, to an ingrate. It's not like they had to do it.

Larry Kelley said...

Well the idea behind the Nitwit YouTube video is that BIG developers are buying this election.

If they had donated $10,000 each then maybe I would be impressed. So compared to $10k, $200 is pretty "measly."

Kevin said...

Let's see, Town Meeting Members are 1) immune from conflict of interest and ethics, 2) free to use their elected position to influence a state-mandated board, and, 3) by law, absolutely without fiduciary duty. Now, what does that sound like to you?

Anonymous said...

the propaganda that "big business/developers" are behind the charter campaign was used successfully the last election. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that the same folks are doing it again. Big fat liars, just like Trump. They are almost as absurd- as seen in the aforementioned video.

Anonymous said...

Watching that Mary Wentworth video is like watching town meeting-misinformed, inarticulate, manipulative and unaccountable. She is definitely the Town Meeting poster child. Let's make a change.

Anonymous said...

Amherst could use a few more employers like Mass Mutual to provide a living wage for people who would like to live and work in town. I hope the new Economic Development Director is able to attract some additional employers that will take the risk of locating their businesses in Amherst. Town Meeting doesn't want them if you listen to Mary Wentworth. Let's not live in Mary's world. Amherst deserves better. Vote YES for the Charter Commission.

Anonymous said...

I am all for Town Meeting but i am not supportive of this personal attack strategy of the group. For supporters of TM and for Amherst Media to produce false attributions like 8 story building height goals, personal attacks, and slander is embarrassing for our side. If we lose this vote this video and the myopic elder fear mongers of our town are to blame. Shame on us.

Anonymous said...

Mighty curious how when outlining the significant property owners who will benefit, the perennial NIMBY-funding TM-supportive letigeous Greenbums were not named or exposed. Maybe because Greenbums being against what most are for is proof the hypothisis of this video is wrong.

Anonymous said...

TM in a municipality of this size and complexity is antiquated, wasteful and inefficient. Time to move on and get a responsive town government as opposed to a self -serving one where most members have an agenda and 5 minutes of rambling nonsense. I have been too far too many meetings where it’s all about the individual member’s political aspirations and not, you know, what is best for the town. CHANGE it, now.

Anonymous said...

Oldham's capital is used up, why would anyone listen to what he espouses anymore, he's never been right on anything, he's just an oppositionist.

Anonymous said...

The powers-that-be do NOT give up lightly, in a recent letter to the Hampshire Gazette-Diana Stein, one time selectmen and educational "Establishment" politico said basically that all due regard should be for " No untrained-un-highly educated person" to hold office in Amherst. Read- " School Nutz Only" Our bad-this is unclear of the concept-this isn't "Democracy"...Ya Think ??

Anonymous said...

It would be one thing if Amherst still had an open town meeting, where ant registered voter could decide to show up & vote.

Anonymous said...

The happiest people in Amherst are the ones who pay no attention to town politics.

Rich Morse

Dr. Ed said...

So if the assorted members of the Jones family had instead given $49 each, there would have been no record?

Anonymous said...

what's with Amherst Media? Are they drinking the same cool-aid as Mary Wentworth and her crew? Clearly they don't have the following that they think they do (eg- failed fund raiser for new building- did they collect any donations?). The idea that they could buy that expensive parcel and build a new building was bizarre. Who runs that place? Sure, its nice to watch taped board meetings, but that about covers all the valuable service. I doubt anyone watches the taped interviews with the Superintendent (if those are still happening), etc.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, any donation under $50 does not have to be recorded.

Anonymous said...

Videos like this are the reason that, when I was interviewed by COMCAST on the value of Amherst Media as part of their analysis prior to proposing a new cable contract, I replied that in the new contract, Comcast should not provide no funding for Amherst Media and offset it with lower rates for cable service.

Hopefully when Amherst Media sells the land on Main Street, some developer will propose a multi-story mixed use development there. (Didn't TM rezone it for Amherst Media.)

Anonymous said...

It's curious to me that Amherst For Change, following Amherst For All's lead, won't say what change it wants to see. There are only two options for our town, according to the consultant at the League of Women Voters Charter Commission presentation. Choice 1) Town Meeting with a Select Board and Town Manager. (Town Meeting can be open or representative.) Choice 2) a City Council and Mayor. Amherst For All and Amherst For Change both want some unspecified change.

One might guess that the change Amherst For All and Amherst For Change are looking for is a City Council and Mayor. But one might be guess wrong, it turns out.

Amherst For All states on its facebook page that it doesn't want to get rid of Town Meeting or the Select Board and that it is not unhappy with Town Meeting votes. But it wants "real change." Amherst For Change, on its facebook page, says-- "We have a governance structure that is not sufficiently responsive to the challenges we face as a community. So, we're looking for a new structure." But it doesn't say it wants a City Council or Mayor.

Leading to the obvious question what do these groups want? What would this "new structure" or "real change" be?

I am puzzled, to put it mildly. The several people who asked me to sign the Petition for the Charter Commission all wanted to see Town Meeting end. What is the change in government structure that Amherst For All and Amherst For Change want? Do they really not know -- or do they feel uncomfortable saying it publicly? Is this a strategic decision? All seem an odd stance for organizations that have moblized for thousands of petition signatures, raised thousands of dollars, sent out quesitonairres, are promoting a slate of nine Charter candidates, putting ads in the paper, etc.

The backers of Amherst For All and Amherst For Change are long-time active residents, many are Town Meeting members, many come from families that have been in the Valley for generations. Please, before the March 29th vote, play it straight with our community. Please be more open and specific about what government change you want, so voters know what they are voting for and why.

Janet McGowan

Larry Kelley said...

Actually there's also Mayor/Council/Manager, which is the one the most recent Charter Commission came up with 14 years ago.

Anonymous said...

@12:20 & 12:24

George Orwell's "Animal Farm" is the guide to understanding these questions.

And the answers can be summed up in these slogans:

Amherst for All … Oligarchs

Amherst for Change … to a Plutocracy

Anonymous said...

Janet--

You keep asking what Amherst for All and Amherst for Change wants. But, the ballot question is to form a committee to look at the options. How can we know what the final result should be before the options have been investigated? Right now, the voters are deciding whether it's a good idea to look into the options; they are not deciding on the Charter itself.

And, as you know, I'm running for a spot on that commission. My position is to form the commission and seriously consider all options: open TM, rep. TM, council/mayor, council/mayor/manager, and council/manager. Until the benefits and drawbacks of all options are seriously looked at, I don't believe anyone can say what is best for Amherst. That's the point of the commission. In addition, there are other items that commission can look into and propose, including which committees the town should elect vs. which should be appointed and by whom. It can all get looked at if the commission is formed. So, let's form the commission and look at it all. And, after serious investigation into all options and their pros and cons, let the commission propose what it believes is the best form of government for Amherst. Then the voters can decide if the proposed structure is better for the Town than what we have now.

Mandi Jo Hanneke

Anonymous said...

Gotcha.

Anonymous said...

some people with special interests who own rental properties (like Ms McGowan?), the insensibility of the TM works in their favor and they know how to work it in their own special interests. Why would they want to change it? Look at some of the folks AGAINST forming a commission and ask 'why'?

Anonymous said...

I second that emotion.

Mark Warren said...

The pro-town meeting people keep trying to convince us this ballot question/ election is about whether we want to keep town meeting or not. This is about giving the public an alternative government structure that we can vote upon at a future election. Talk about underestimating the public !! Also....why do Amherst Media productions always look so bad? Look on YouTube and see how many better productions are done on home computers or even I-phones.

Nick Grabbe said...

I support what Mandi Jo Hanneke wrote, and wonder why Janet McGowan is belaboring this point. I think it would be irresponsible for Charter Commission candidates to say they are definitely for one form of government before they consider all the facts. That's the whole point of a Charter Commission. As for me, I am open to considering any form of government except the status quo.
Nick Grabbe

Anonymous said...

Then why is Amherst for All promoting a slate of candidates that passed their ideological litmus test? They're not interested in undecided, open-minded people.

Larry Kelley said...

And why is Town Meeting Works supporting a slate of candidates that passed their ideological litmus test? (The name of the organization is a big hint what that ideology is.)

Mark Warren said...

Again...town meeting works is advocating No Choice...Amherst for all is for offering an alternative choice to be voted on later...how many of you are Pro-Choice?

Dr. Ed said...

Bottom line is that Amherst is a corrupt town like those in the Jim Crow South.

Over half the citizens effectively disenfranchised, police employed to "keep them in their place" and the rest. Only difference being that the slur starts with the letter "s" rather than "n" -- oppression is oppression.

Anonymous said...

Hypocrites, anyone? Jim Oldham ridicules Amherst For Change for endorsing a slate of candidates and then endorses a slate of candidates, himself. I would think it odd if it weren't for how self-righteous he and other Town Meeting Works folks are. THEY have the answers, folks. And it only takes 1/3 plus one of them and those they can convince in the TM body to thwart progress. Why would they want to give up that kind of power? Not to mention the power they wield with their back room deals, coming up with amendments to articles on the floor of TM that have never seen the light of day outside of the session in which they are being proposed, unlike the proposals brought forth by town boards and committees that require things like public meetings and abutters notices for the pros and cons to get vetted.

As things stand, these folks can pretty much vote themselves in as knowing what's best for the rest of us. How in the world can they consider a largely self-appointed legislature as anything close to democratic or representative? Because of their own self-aggrandizement, perhaps?

As far as I'm concerned, I plan to vote for Meg Gage, Chris Riddle and a selection from the slate of Amherst For Change. Why? Because they are the people willing to put a good foot forward in considering what may be right, wrong and in between in our current form of governance, along with what potential changes are worth considering. The rest of the Jim Oldham slate offer nothing more than a torches and pitchforks mentality, protecting their own realm of power and influence at the expense of the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Janet, there are also tweaks to Town Meeting that are possible, like making it much smaller, for example, creating more competitive races. I'd also love to see the requirements for Citizen Petition articles change. One hundred signatures is way to small a hurdle to make to monopolize time on the floor of Town Meeting. And how many of them actually pass (Vince?). There are also the "feel good" resolutions that do nothing but make us "feel good". Might there be another forum for those? Or perhaps could they all be put on the same night so that those that are interested can show up to vote and those that aren't, or happen to have other ways of making resolutions that matter in their lives and the lives of others, can stay home? Might that create a problem with a quorum? Maybe. But wouldn't that be a message of the will of Town Meeting? We could also tweak the processes for how certain boards and committees get appointed--creating opportunity for the kind of diversity of opinion some seem to crave. This, though, would require that we do something about the tremendous degree of voter apathy in this town, which is reason in and of itself to Vote Yes for the Charter Commission. In a town with as politically engaged a citizenship as we have (as you like to tout) it is embarrassing and troublesome to have so few people motivated to show up at the polls. My sense of why this is, is that there is little of substance to vote for. With few exceptions, the same decisions will be cast whether people show up or not.

Anonymous said...

With all the "smarts" around here, wouldn't it make sense to focus this much effort on something that will actually have an impact on peoples' lives. This is a big fluff game. The change will not reduce budgets, close schools, make government more efficient or anything else the average citizen can take to the bank or really appreciate.

This is a change in government system being proposed. To the people, they think this is a chance to have a better system or to make a difference, for ignorant people anyway.

For students of history and those in government or lust to be in it, this is a change in or near government, a little bit of chaos, not unlike a shooting or 9/11. This means it is a chance to take advantage of the people while they are distracted and blowing petty things out of proportion, a chance raise budgets, have new programs and waste as much time, money and effort discussing the change. They will likely waste as much as will ever be saved in the process of evaluating this and having this election.

All this, when in fact there should simply be less government, not new brands of it. This is very "millennial," by this I mean over branded, under thought, over emotional and with no net positive in the end - so let's DO IT. I don't even care who the players are, you are missing the obvious on this one. This is like picking your rapist....who cares....it's time to stop asking to be raped.

Anonymous said...

Well said in your last post, Dr. Ed. Amherst is full of bigots, this is part of why the town and the citizens spend so much effort trying to brand the town as not so.

Amherst is also in one of the most segregated places in the COUNTRY - both in regards to students and people of different races. This has been shown in numerous studies. This is the combination of progressive zoning and local preference. This continues with things like the rental bylaw, endless property taxes and fees, zoning, building permits and permits to open businesses - all of which are immoral, hurt the poor and result in violent enforcement of peaceful infractions....but are so nice if you are yuppie on school welfare with a job in a big company or huge government and want to keep the even lower classes at bay.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of permits to do business, it's so dis-heartening to see the town putting so many restrictions on the food truck that usually operates near the common. Give her a little latitude to serve her clientele! If more people go to her than "established" brick and mortar restaurants, it's because that's what they want and demand, that's what will bring them back into town, and the brick and mortar establishments will need to do something different to satisfy our demands and not expect protection through enforcement of parking by-laws. Free enterprise is supposed to work through competing models giving consumers choices.

Anonymous said...

Don't give her latitude, give her rights back. We are now even compelled to make mild requests for our rights? Could you please rape me for 5 minutes in stead of 10? What happened to stopping bad things all together? How about some consequence to any official or officer that tries to make her move. How about some citizens surround the truck on that day and stop the officials from doing the crime? Nah, we will focus on this useless debate and she will still loose her rights.

Free enterprise is the enemy of government, this is why there is a war on small business lead by town and state governments. Amherst leads this charge, it is all about the firemen and police you see.

The political model we work under in regards to business is called regulatory capture. It is literally disgusting and those involved should be punished for their actions, but in stead, they are re-elected because most in town are actually the opposite if smart of caring.

Be clear the new form of government in town will operate the same way, because this change is not about substance, it is about people in power, it is about them, not you. If you could just get this one food truck the right to be in business without overseers, it will have a greater effect than changing the town government, it would be an actual change.

Free enterprise does not need oversight, especially by those the least qualified to do so.

Anonymous said...

Meg Gage gave a very robust endorsement for "strong mayor" form of government at the LWV forum. (She said something like "Amherst, like every non-profit organization, needs a strong executive director"). But she's still being endorsed by Oldahm.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the comments that people and the candidates for Charter Commission have posted here talking about their ideas. My question is why don't the two organizations that have formed, at considerable expense of time and money, tell us their ideas too?

And Amherst For All spent the entire Fall collecting thousands of signatures because "Amherst is a Great Place to Live, a Great Place to Learn, a Great Place to Work, a Great Place to Visit." Obviously, this not a battle cry for a change in government--which might be why they deleted it from their website. Nor are the FB statements that AFA doesn't want to get rid of Town Meeting or the Select Board and doesn't disagree with Town Meeting votes. Why did AFA go through this great effort? Why are we all here then? If they want to go back to Open Town Meeting or to reduce the size of Town Meeting to fewer members-great-say it! Then we can talk about it.

Amherst For Change's webpage is almost contentless, except for a button to make contributions and the list of 9 candidates they support. Really, that's it.

I want to be on the Charter Commision to make sure that the Commission does it's work thoroughly and thoughtfully--and openly. I am committed to reaching out to Amherst residents to ask: 1) what is working well in Amherst and why? 2) what isn't working well and why? 3) what changes can make our government work better? I wouldn't think that, one week before the election that I'd be wondering how Amherst For All and Amherst For Change and their creators would answer these questions.

Janet McGowan

Mark Warren said...

There seems to be a lot of angry people here though it could be just one person with multiple postings. Rape is a very heavy metaphor and very unconvincing.

Anonymous said...

You keep asking the same questions, Janet.

"Amherst for All" and "Amherst for Change" are legal organizations. They are incapable of answering your questions. Similarly, "The United States" cannot recite the pledge of allegiance.

However, many individuals have answered your questions.

Anonymous said...

Janet,
I can't believe that you keep asking the same question, over and over. Try listening. It might get you somewhere. Not everyone is as satisfied as you are with our current form of governance. A group of people who were more dissatisfied than you, went out and garnered thousands of signatures in an incredibly short period of time from others in our community who are less than satisfied. Those people are interested in forming a commission to consider ALTERNATIVES to the form of governance that you are content with. That, and that alone, is what you need to wrap your head around. Given that you don't seem able to do so, you won't be getting one of my nine votes.

Anonymous said...

A $50 donation is also exempt from public disclosure. It's all donations over $50 that must be disclosed with name and address of donor.

Anonymous said...

What the vote on the 29th is for is vote to form the commission and elect the commissioners. It's the commission that will make the actual recommendation. You are try in to put the cart before the horse Janet. I am a supporter of both organizations and their goals. I want the commission to study town governance and offer an alternative to what we have now. Then I'll look at the offered alternative and decide at that point whether to support it or not. That vote won't happen for about 18 months.

Anonymous said...

Amherst For All is NOT promoting any slate of candidates. Amherst For Change is promoting a slate.

David Markland said...

Kudos to Janet McGowan for standing up for her convictions, as opposed to those who condemn from behind the mask of “anonymous.” It is far too easy to cast stones when you don’t have to take ownership of your words. All of these anonymous posts can be coming from one individual for all we know and therefore should be taken with a grain a salt.

Anonymous said...

Hi David--
Just for clarification...
You and Claudia Brown campaigned for (and won a seat on) Town Meeting for the sole purpose of blocking a zoning change on a property near yours.
That's exactly why Town Meeting needs to go--to get rid of one issue legislators.

--Anonymous

Dr. Ed said...

David -- Writing style is like a fingerprint, I don't think it is all the same person, but so what if it is? The majority can be (and often is) wrong -- e.g. slavery.

Anonymous said...

I also won't vote for Janet because she keeps asking the same question though it has been answered several times by several different people.

David Markland said...

As I recall one of the petitioners for the zoning change of said property also ran for Town Meeting but lost. Claudia ran on a platform to defend all residential neighborhoods, including yours anonymous, whoever you are.

Scrooge McDuck said...

10:06 "defend all residential neighborhoods" = not very subtle code for "NIMBY".

Exactly why we need townwide elected officials with true decision making power.

Anonymous said...

Pro choice. I choose life.

Anonymous said...

What are we? In third grade? The letter n. The letter s.

David Markland said...

I was told the first anonymous post to mention NIMBY loses. So sorry Scrooge McDuck. Identify yourself and I promise we will help to protect your neighborhood too.

Anonymous said...

actually "defend all residential neighborhoods" = code for "BANANA"
BANANA = Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody

Anonymous said...

Protecting neighborhoods. What does that mean, exactly? That's what our government should be talking about. Does it mean working to keep our tax rate down so that more families can afford to live in our town? And, if so, how do we go about doing that? Does it mean creating sensible zoning to enable density (including student density) in our more populated areas of town where public services and transportation exist, in order to prevent student encroachment on more outlying neighborhoods? If so, how do we get buy-in on that premise? Does it mean building a Donald Trump-like zoning wall around each and every one of us to keep "them" out? Does it mean continuing to carry on the futile exercise of chastising the University for not housing more of their own, when they've made it clear over and over that they don't have the space or money to do so? What does it mean?

Julia R., who is running for Charter Commission, spoke a basic truth when she said at the LWV forum, that Amherst is a "factory town". The factories we are dependent on are the University and Colleges. They bring benefits that we all rely on. They also bring challenges. We need a government structure that can figure out how to best balance those two aspects of our reality: maximizing the benefits, while minimizing the challenges. Town Meeting isn't succeeding in that effort in anywhere near as steady and comprehensive a way as is needed. And part of the reason for that is, that people like David, above, can become one of OUR collective law makers, with little more than his OWN vote, spurred on by his OWN special interest. How can that possibly be described as democratic?

Anonymous said...

e.g. Obama.

Anonymous said...

7:13 has an excellent point.
Town Meeting really is 240 individual "governments", each there to protect his/her self interests. It's too big of a body for collaboration, so why bother trying? Rather then being the most democratic form of government, it's actually the most libertarian--like that Oregon wildlife refuge!

David and Claudia are out there, claiming that are "protecting my neighborhood". Huh? I've never talked to them about my neighborhood.

There's a whole process out there designed to protect neighborhoods, while also allow the town to sensibly grow. But the biggest thrill, for some, at Town Meeting is to shoot down a zoning article that has gone through systematic vetting. Live free or die!

David Markland said...

Our neighborhoods have already been defined Anonymous 7:18 (sorry that’s the only way I can identify you), that’s what zoning is all about. I know certain developers, looking to make a quick buck, want to change that.

Roughly 85% of Massachusetts municipalities are either Open or Representative Town Meeting. To the contrary Anonymous 7:18, Town Meeting is the essence of democracy. One Mayor can be influenced by special interests, 240 Town Meeting members cannot be. The cure for the ills of democracy is MORE democracy not less.

Anonymous said...

Every one of our Town Meeting members can be influenced by special interests, David. Their own! And they do so, regularly. As you are attesting to.

And please explain how "our neighborhoods" have been defined. I've had the experience in town meeting of having my interests represented by my neighborhood "representatives" in a way completely antithetical to what I believe or want. Yet they were able to get away with it because of the power of the position. A power not really granted by "the people" because of the low threshold for attaining membership.