Showing posts with label carol gray. Show all posts
Showing posts with label carol gray. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dysfunction Anyone?

 The Jones Library:  Amherst's living room

Perhaps in addition to the nifty new electronic voting clickers the Moderator should also consider another modern day device to assist him with keeping Town Meeting running smoothly: a stun gun.

In all my 25 years of as a Town Meeting participant/observer I have never seen such a display of unruliness bordering on bedlam. Brought to you by, who else, Carol Gray.

Carol Gray with a loaded weapon in her left hand 

Although the Moderator certainly could have handled things better, as "Points of Order" richocheted around the room like shrapnel from a Hellfire missile.

One thing an attorney is trained for is the give-and-take of cross examination. One little slip "opens the door" for a line of questioning that otherwise would be out of bounds.

By allowing the Jones Library delegation to talk about the building project in their presentation he invited Town Meeting members to follow suit, even if it was against his preamble speech to the membership that it would be ruled "outside the scope of the article."

 Historical Society property would have allowed expansion less destructive to green space

Not that I think the zoning change -- which requires a challenging two thirds vote -- was going to pass no matter how smoothly the presentation and follow up discussion went.

The privately owned Town Meeting list serve was a beehive of conspiracy theories all these past few weeks, so the failure was hardly surprising.

By killing the chance for the Jones Library to purchase abutting property from a kindred spirit, Town Meeting has set up the future renovation/expansion project for failure.

Even worse, it demonstrated our legislative body takes Ms. Gray seriously.  That alone is reason enough to terminate Town Meeting. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Backdoor Sabotage

Jones Library needs property from Historical Society for preferred expansion

I always love it when somebody accidentally hits reply all and sends a telling message they think is only going to a very few like minded obstructionists.

Take former Jones Library black sheep Trustee Carol Gray for instance, who just sent a message to all 200+ members of the privately owned Town Meeting listserve.

Anybody who pays attention to Town Meeting issues -- which unfortunately does not include the vast majority of Amherst voters -- knows full well the plan is afoot to stop the Jones Library expansion/renovation right at the starting gate by denying them the ability to purchase land next door from a willing, highly respected, seller.

And as Carol so gleefully points out, it only takes a one-third super minority to kill development, no matter how reasonable it is.  Reason #1 for terminating Town Meeting.

Click to enlarge/read (but by all means do not forward)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Thowing In the Towel?

Time is running out for Amherst College owned Little Red Schoolhouse

Carol Gray crashed the Community Preservation Act Committee meeting last night to file a (late) request for $10,000 concerning her ultimate windmill, the Little Red Schoolhouse. 

At least this seems to indicate she has given up on the enormously expensive idea of saving the building.

Only a small percentage of the $10K would go towards photographing for posterity the interior and exterior of the 79-year-old building.  The majority of the funding  would "document the human side" of the preschool business that operated within its tiny walls.

Of course Ms. Gray herself would be an interview subject since she's an overly proud parent of a Little Red Schoolhouse graduate. 

And if Herman Melville was still around, he could interview her for the writing of "Moby Dick Returns."

Carol Gray (2nd from rt) at 11/22/15 meeting trying to get Historical Commission to become Little Red cheerleaders

Monday, November 23, 2015

Little Red Schoolhouse: Status Quo

Little Red Schoolhouse:  Worth $1 million to move?

After an hour of one-sided overly enthusiastic discussion the Amherst Historical Commission decided not to take any action on the one year demo delay (which expires in May) currently in effect for the Amherst College owned Little Red Schoolhouse.

While that may sound like a victory for breathless zealot Carol Gray, it fell far short of what she repeatedly asked the Commission to do: mainly go on a public relations warpath against Amherst College, and try to force a meeting with President Biddy Martin.

Commissioners expressed exasperation with Ms. Gray who simply refused to answer simple questions with a yes or no.  Like whether she has raised a single dime towards the preservation effort over these past six months?  Well, no (after 10 minutes worth of other ideas that will never pan out).

Or whether she secured property off the Amherst College campus for the building to go?  Umm, no.

Amherst College representative Tom Davies said the College wants the building gone but will not put money into moving it, and their estimates are more like $1 million vs Ms. Gray's overly optimistic $150,000 (which did not include relocation site work).

He also pointed out, when he could get a word in edgewise, the College takes historical preservation very seriously and has won awards for doing so. 

Little Red Schoolhouse is currently standing in the way of the new $214 million Science Center which the College hopes to break ground on next year.

 Amherst Historical Commission:  Carol Gray 2nd from rt, Tom Davies rear center

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

$ From Heaven

Little Red Schoolhouse:  Worth $500,000 to move?

Just as a concrete example of how some activists think Community Preservation Act money raised each year by a tax surcharge on all residential property (except tax-exempts of course) free money to be plundered on a personal whim, I give you last night's CPA pubic meeting:

Carol Gray now admits the moving of Amherst College owned Little Red Schoolhouse would cost in the $325,000 to $375,000 range and at the moment she has not raised a single penny towards that (relying instead on CPA historical preservation funds) and currently has no site secured for the relocated building to call home.

Amherst College Facilities Director Jim Brassord was in attendance and pegged the actual amount -- based on quotes from a contractor who already moved two College owned buildings -- as being "North of $500,000."  Ouch!

 Carol Gray left, Jim Brassord back row in white shirt

I left the meeting near 9:00 PM after Ms. Gray gave her presentation, as she was the 3rd and last item on the agenda.

But Vince O'Connor, who chimed in freely during the three presentations, then commandeered the meeting and gave close to a half-hour pitch to squander $300,000 in CPA funds to rebuild the (supposedly historic) Mill Street Bridge.

 Posted agenda for last night's CPA meeting (note Mr. O'Connor's crusade is not mentioned)

Mill Street Bridge closed 3 years ago due to safety concerns

Since this ridiculous item was not on the agenda (and had it been I would most certainly have stayed to cover it) the CPA Committee -- under Open Meeting Law -- should not even have allowed the discussion.  

Not to mention the state is planning to rebuild the Mill Street Bridge next year with STATE MONEY.

Mr. O'Connor brought a warrant article to Amherst Town Meeting last spring to reopen the bridge but it failed handily.  A vote to "refer back to committee" is Town Meeting's nice way of saying "go away."

 Vince O'Connor bridge scheme unanimously rejected by Public Works Committee in April

Back in 2007 the town spent $287,000 in CPA money to preserve the view of the historic Kimball House on North East Street, even though it is (still) owned by Roger Cherewatti, who then built the most expensive house in Amherst immediately behind it.

Which kind of takes away from the view.

If the CPA Committee approves funding either Ms. Gray or Mr. O'Connor tilting at windmills,  taxpayer should figure out how to recall appointed members of the committee.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Last Minute Big Ticket Items

Crocker Farm Pre-School play area will cost $270,000

The Amherst Community Preservation Act committee briefly discussed three new proposals last night that have just come in vying for the $1.273 million they have left in their piggy bank.  If all three receive CPA and then Fall Town Meeting approval,  it comes to just over $600,000.

Last Spring -- the usual cycle for CPA spending -- Town Meeting approved all 9 new projects endorsed by the CPA committee for a total of $523,346.

One of those 9 projects included $25,000 for making Crocker Farm pre-school playground ADA compliant.  But town and school officials have decided that would simply be a band aid, so this new proposal is a complete tear down and renovation from the ground up with all new commercial quality equipment.

Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek submitted the expected request for 30% matching funds required by the state for a $500,000+ proposal to rehabilitate the historic North Common in front of equally historic Town Hall.  That will cost the town between $150,000 and $165,000.

The proposal that came somewhat out of the blue, submitted only the day before the CPAC meeting, came via Carol Gray:  $190,000 to $240,000 for the moving of the Amherst College owned "Little Red Schoolhouse", built in 1937, and now standing in the way of a $100+ million Science Center.

Little Red Schoolhouse facing east

Back on May 19 the Amherst Historical Commission hit Amherst College with a half-hearted "one year demolition delay," but suggested if the College really can't see any workable alternative after trying really hard, then they could probably tear it down sooner.

 South East Street Alternative High School was mentioned as possible home for Little Red

Ms. Gray suggested the solid brick building could be moved to town owned property.

 Greenway Dorm construction

Amherst College is currently busy with construction on the new Greenway Dorms, which are not expected to open until the Fall of 2016.Construction on the new Science Building would start pretty much the next day.

 Amherst Community Preservation Act Committee meeting last night

The Community Preservation Act Committee will devote their next two meetings (8/25 and 9/8) to hear presentations, discuss, and then vote on the three proposals.

A majority of Amherst Town Meeting must also vote in favor for the money to be released.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Strangling Supply

 Rock Farm, South East Street Amherst (note 50 gallon drum with liquid)

The number one reason for the high cost of housing and even higher cost of property taxes in Amherst, with a resulting crop of slum houses that spring up in response, is a bad byproduct of the simplest equation in the sacred book of capitalism: supply and demand.

Amherst is now more than half owned by tax exempt institutions that contribute far less than their fair share of Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, thus homeowners (since Amherst has an out of whack 90% residential and only 10% commercial tax base) have to contribute almost twice as much.

Witness Hadley's tax rate of $10.22/$1,000 vs Amherst's $20.39/$1,000.

Yet anytime anyone tries to build housing in town to stimulate supply, the NIMBYs go on the attack ... trying to get the town to buy the property to maintain their scenic views.

The most expensive taking in town history -- the Cherry Hill Golf Course in 1987 -- is an expensive case in point ($2.2 million). A plot hatched by North Amherst neighbors opposed to a Planned Unit Residential Development that would have added 134 high end housing units to the town.

 Rock Farm (A) South East Street, Amherst

Now after NIMBYs drove developer Scott Nielson into bankruptcy after he tried to build 23 high end condos and one single family house as a PURD, they want the town to buy this 7.4 acre open space off South East Street for $500,000 using $125,000 in Community Preservation Act money.

And it's the typical formula of using a variety of funding sources (much of it public money), including selling off two building lots for a ton of money. So rather than getting 24 units of desperately needed housing the town only gets two. And rather than generating $200,000 in annual property taxes it will only generate one tenth that. A lose/lose scenario, unless of course you live in the neighborhood.

Safe bet Amherst Town Meeting will approve the $125,000 in CPAC spending. The only place you will find more open space in Amherst is between their collective ears.

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.

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'├ętat 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.

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."

Friday, October 8, 2010

And so it ends (badly)

UPDATE: Sunday night 8:15 PM (What more can I say?????)

Dear Chris Hoffmann, Bonnie Vigeland, and Will Bridegam,

Your letter below, Chris, I received from a Friend of the Library. Usually, when a writer mentions someone in a letter, the writer sends a copy to that person. When writing on behalf of the Jones Library Board of Trustees you should send a copy to all trustees. But clearly from the tone of this letter, you were not writing on behalf of the Board but instead attacking the action of one member and insulting three members.
You failed to copy all of these fellow trustees.

Measured criticism of the action of a fellow trustee is perfectly legitimate, indeed an obligation, but in my view should be done face-to-face or within the Board itself, not to a presumably broad number of “undisclosed recipients.” Insulting language is completely inappropriate. And, as your elder, I will add that insulting one’s elders is also inappropriate.

You apologized once at a Board meeting for losing your temper at meetings, and said that you'd "meant no disrespect" for other trustees. I hoped you would not do it again.

But you have.

Your latest example of the trustees’ “harassment”, the queries Sarah McKee has been making into how other library trustees are informed of a library’s finances, is not harassment in any sense. Instead it is an example of a trustee working on behalf of the Board and the financial stability of the library. Sarah’s research rises directly from the request made to Bonnie back in March, described in the minutes of the March 19th meeting, that she provide monthly cash statements and information on all library accounts. Bonnie has been providing cash statements, as you know, but we still do not have complete information on monies from gifts and bequests. Trustees at other libraries say they are amazed that the Jones Library trustees do not have this information. Such information is absolutely necessary to meet our fiduciary obligations. The Massachusetts Public Library Trustees' Handbook, a publication of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, lays down clearly that trustees' responsibilities include "[k]nowledge of the library's financial base and ... [k]nowledge of supplementary sources of revenue." Page 7.1.

You say: “Would you apply for a job knowing you'll be starting out with the level of harassment and muzzling that Carol, Pat, and Sarah are certain to be dumping on you? Would someone who agrees to come to the Jones with the expectation of playing second fiddle to the Carol faction even be someone you'd want running our library?” I take great personal offense at your language of “harassment” and “muzzling” and “dumping”, and your snide term the “Carol faction.” Your asking people “to put Carol and Sarah in their place as an annoying but impotent minority” is a rallying cry of the most undignified sort. I respect Carol and Sarah as I do all the trustees, present and past, who have contributed to the Board’s work for the library.

I also have great respect for the many good works done by the Friends of the Library. To Bonnie Vigeland, president of the Friends, and Will Bridegam, our former trustee and emeritus librarian of Amherst College, and to those who signed the August 3rd petition for a review committee, I hope you will do independent research into Chris’s accusations of harassment.

Chris, I am pleased that both you and Bonnie are willing to go forward with the facilitation, and I am also pleased that you are urging others to run for trustee of the library. May the best people win.

Patricia Holland
President, Jones Library Board of Trustees

From: Chris and Anne Hoffmann
Date: October 8, 2010 8:50:38 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: [Friends] Bonnie's resignation announced, and a plea for candidates.

As most of you already know by now, today Bonnie Isman announced her retirement, effective December 10th.

I was at the Jones this afternoon to talk with her. Unsurprisingly, she's in a very good mood thinking about her upcoming life of leisure. Her decision to retire now is largely personal -- it is a good time in her life to retire. But I'm sure the harassment from board has taken its toll on her and influenced the timing.

As just the latest example of harassment, yesterday I learned that Sarah had been talking with the director of the Forbes library and has wants to get a meeting between Pat, me, and their treasurer. Sarah continues to believe our accounting practices are negligent (or worse) and won't even listen to the accountants we hire to go over the books who are continually telling her everything is OK and our current methods are quite good. Sarah was actually upset with me because I cc'ed Bonnie and Tina in my reply to a message she'd sent to Pat, nme and the Forbes' director: Quoting: 'I find it disturbing that you included Bonnie and Tina on an email that I'd sent to Pat and you only. It is up to Trustees to specify the financial reports to be made. This is not to exclude the staff. It is to bring them in further down the line. It would waste their time to bring them in now.' This is how bad things are, folks.

Bonnie and I both want the planned meeting with the facilitator to go forth. So does everyone in the staff I talked with while there. I hope there will be no resistance from the rest of the board. If there is, I'll be sure to let you know.

And now my plea from me to you:

It's clear that next year's Jones Trustee election will be one of the most critical ever

A search for a director will take at least six months. The two people elected next spring will almost certainly be a third of the votes cast for our next director. Since we were founded in 1921, The Jones has had only five directors! They tend to stay for a long time. We have got to make a wise choice.

Beyond the problem of choice, also think about the work environment potential applicants are going to have to consider. Would you apply for a job knowing you'll be starting out with the level of harassment and muzzling that Carol, Pat, and Sarah are certain to be dumping on you? Would someone who agrees to come to the Jones with the expectation of playing second fiddle to the Carol faction even be someone you'd want running our library?

Folks, I've asked for help before. But I really mean it this time. Someone needs to step up and agree to run. Even if you can only commit to a single term, that should make all the difference. If we can create a solid core of rational people who are able to put Carol and Sarah in their place as an annoying but impotent minority, in three years' time the trustee culture should be so improved that finding replacements won't be the nearly impossible task it is now.

Next year, I am up for reelection. Pat's second term is up. I don't think she wants to run again, but you know Carol is going to be putting a lot of pressure on her to stay. So we need one REALLY GOOD new candidate in case this becomes a contested race.

A Select Board member recently told me "we ignore the Library Trustee [races] at our peril". Indeed we do. Please. Help. Step up.


Original Post Saturday morning

Forever Jones Library Director Bonnie Isman announced her retirement, effective December 10, 2010. Yes, this is roughly the time frame cold bloodedly calculated by Trustee Carol Gray--currently ensconced in Cairo, Egypt--but I'm sure Ms. Isman figured out that her pernicious presence would be felt over the next year since she refused to resign as Trustee and would haunt future meetings via Skype.

Score one for the bad guys.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sleepless in Cairo

Carol Gray awake (sort of)

It was 2:10 AM her time but only 7:10 PM our time when (Mother) Mary Streeter fired up her Macbook Pro laptop in the Jones Library Trustees Room to synch with Carol Gray via Skype W-A-Y over there in Egypt.

So yeah, I suppose it's understandable Ms Gray was sound asleep in the seated position.

Ms Streeter took umbrage at my attempt to photograph Library Trustee Gray looking like a zombie and quickly covered the screen with a sheet of paper.

Gotta wonder how alert and worthwhile Ms. Gray will be in future Library meetings if the Attorney General decides it is okay for her to remotely participate via Skype.

And let's hope she doesn't snore.

Spectators who did not hide from the camera.

Meeting must be over as somebody from Cairo, Egypt just arrived via a google search for Larry Kelly blog (sic)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The controversy continues

Well, sort of. The print edition of the Amherst Bulletin hit the ground this morning and like the good old days where you read the breaking news in the major dailies and then waited till the end of the week for Time and Newsweek to provide more in depth coverage, the editorial/commentary section this week is chock full of analysis of the raging controversies in town.

Mainly the Jones Library running battle between the Evaluation Subcommittee and the more normal members of the full board of Trustees.

Interestingly columnist Jim Oldham, an anti-devevelopment compatriot of cutthroat Carol Gray, takes Trustee Chris Hoffmann to task for daring to blow the whistle on Ms Gray's covert war against longtime Library Director Bonnie Isman.

Charging that he "chose attacks in the press and on blogs over debates in the boardroom as the way to express his position." Hmm...of course Mr. Oldham's attack on Chris Hoffmann occurs in his monthly Bulletin column otherwise known as "the press."

And Mr. Oldham is a co-founder of the new regional school discussion blog--an infomercial for the Regional High School--along with Shutesbury School Committee Chair Michael DeChiara, who wanted the DA to shut down public officials who blog namely Catherine Sanderson.

The above the fold front page lead story concerns cutthroat Carol as well--as she is now, mercifully, safely ensconced in Egypt ( for Amherst but maybe not Egypt) and wants to tenaciously hold on to her Jones Library Trustee position for the next year using video conferencing on the web via skype to attend meetings.

Which is fine of course for tuning in to keep in touch, but not so good for the back-and-forth required of public meetings.

The Bulletin must have felt a tad guilty for holding the presses last week so the Evaluation Subcommittee could pen their poor excuse for recent bad behavior, as the editorial basically says enough! They cite that the Eval committee has met an astounding 50 times over 115 hours since January.

Can't disagree with their conclusion: "It's time to bring the director's review process to a close." But now that Ms. Gray is gone, things will simmer down dramatically anyway--especially if somebody can hit the mute button when she visits via skype.