Tuesday, December 1, 2015

DUI Dishonor Roll

Michael Ketcham, age 25, stands before Judge Payne

Both APD impaired driver arrests last weekend submitted to breath tests that showed they were too much under the influence of alcohol to be driving, but then one of them changed his mind and refused to take the official chemical breath test back at the station, which is admissible in District Court.

 Click to enlarge/read
 Portable Breath Test result of .114 is inadmissible in Court

As a result Michael Ketcham will automatically lose his license for 180 days.  But he did tell Judge Payne he would be hiring his own attorney for his next pre-trial hearing in January.

And a DUI attorney loves it when you refuse the official chemical breath test because that obstinacy cannot be mentioned to a jury should the case go to trial.

Jacob Bodee, age 21, stands before Judge Payne

Since Mr. Bodee did take the official chemical breath test back at the station he should simply take the standard state offer of a 24D disposition and save himself an expensive attorney fee.

Click to enlarge/read


A most Catholic time of year
Even more holiday decorations being installed downtown
DPW put out the free, free, free sand pile
Essential Voyage artwork at base of Merry Maple almost gone

Ruh-Roh On Red

UMPD had to attend 2 Eastern Hampshire District Court hearings

I always try to blend in when covering Eastern Hampshire District Court proceedings and since they deal with a cross section of the Happy Valley it's not all that hard to do.

 I also only use an iPhone for photos so I can be as inconspircous as possible, although I do carry a classic reporters notebook and old fashioned pen to take notes which does tend to stand out.

And on occassion I've been known to mutter under my breath -- but loud enough for some court officials nearby to hear -- when someone appears for their 4th or 5th DUI offense.

Or I occasionally laugh out loud at one of Judge Payne's animated expressions.

But yesterday was the first time I had to resist the urge to raise my hand and offer input on a matter as though I were attending an Amherst public meeting.

A woman was given a ticket for "failure to stop at a stop sign" at the intersection of University Drive and Massachusetts Avenue, a leading gateway to our illustrious University.

She had already lost the Clerk Magistrate's Hearing and was now appealing that to the Judge.  She told Judge Payne that after the first hearing she returned to the scene of the crime but could find no stop sign.

The officer responded that a flashing red light is a stop sign and she did not come to a complete stop.  Judge Payne agreed with the officer and upheld the ticket.

For those of you who come upon that intersection for the first time you probably think it's under repair and that is why the lights are flashing: red if you are on University Drive and yellow if you are on Massachusetts Avenue.

But they are always like that, going on many, many years now.

Yet the intersection is only a stone's throw away from the one at Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenue, where the traffic lights are fully signalized.

And if you are on University Drive taking a right (which should be a "right turn on red") you can see all the way into Hadley to your left for oncoming traffic.

With as many Planners as UMass employs you would think somebody could tweak the lights at that busy intersection to serve a more useful purpose.

Yes, I did roll through this yesterday while enroute to a "box alarm" at Du Bois Library

Mr. Frost Shall Return

Mr. Frost (left) having a dialog with Miss Emily (right) last winter
Mr. Frost taking a nap Thursday morning

Robert Frost will soon return to take up dialogue with the Belle of Amherst, a supporting role he has filled admirably since 1996.  On Thursday morning he was found torn from his foundation and turned in to the DPW.

The public artwork "A Poetic Dialogue" by Michael Versi depicting a hypothetical interaction between Amherst' s two most famous residents was a tad controversial when first installed almost 20 years ago.

When dealing with sacred icons you are almost guaranteed to ruffle a few feathers.  But at least it's not like that whole "Muhammad" thing, where a critical cartoon can bring on bearded dudes with AK47s.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Wait Another Week

Mark Rees in the hot seat
Peter Hechenbleikner in the hot seat

After a fair and balanced one hour public interview with each of two candidates, the Amherst Select Board delayed until December 7th choosing a temporary Town Manager to relieve current Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek, who returns to his Assistant Town Manger position on January 31st.

The 5 member Select Board wanted more time to mull their important decision but also to allow more time for public input on which candidate is the better fit for our little college town.  

Both candidates are drenched in public service experience.   And both are equally white, older, and currently retired.

One key difference is Peter Hechenbleikner made it perfectly clear he does not want to become the permanent Town Manager while Mark Rees refused to rule it out.

Hechenbleikner also seemed to indicate he would work part-time, somewhere between 25-30 hours per week, while Rees stated he expected to work four to five full days per week stressing, "I would be a  full-time Manager."

Both candidates pronounced the name of the town wrong on occasion but also got it right on occasion as well.

But Mark Rees seemed to have a better grasp of Amherst (with or without the H) and gave fuller more direct answers to the same questions concerning economic development, affordable housing and how to deal with, ugh, a Representative Town Meeting.

The Select Board also decided to task HR Director Deb Radway and SB member Doug Slaughter with coming up with a recommendation for a professional consulting firm to help with hiring a new permanent Town Manager.

The town received four response proposals ranging in cost from $11,000 to $18,000.  Radway said she preferred two of the four: Community Paradigm, the least expensive, and MMACG, the most expensive, because they stressed the importance of pubic outreach in the process.

 Vince O'Connor during public comment

If the Amherst Police Department were a private rather than public agency they would have grounds for a slander/defamation lawsuit against Vince O'Connor, who requested the Select Board task the temporary Town Manager with "rooting out once and for all the practice in APD of making stops of blacks and Latinos without just cause" which he branded "unjustified harassment."

Of course Mr. O'Connor offered no evidence whatsoever to back up his outlandish allegations.  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunny Sunday Over The Valley

Mt. Sugarloaf, South Deerfield
Puffer's Pond, North Amherst
UMass West Experimental Station being deconstructed piece by piece
Crotty Hall going up next to Gordon Hall North Pleasant Street
 Amherst College Greenway Dorms
Olympia Place:  private dorms near UMass
Only two usual peace demonstrators, Vince O'Connor and Pat Church, this afternoon's stand out near main town flagpole 
Owen's Pond sundown
Gull Pond
Let's hope the Fed's don't start requiring kite registration

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Anti-Charter Cheerleaders

Typical TM demographic:  Older, white, with 2 much time on their hands

If this is material that passes for a hatchet job these two country bumpkin impersonators may want to start patronizing a better arms dealer. 

First off they need better props.  Who in Amherst still reads a newspaper?  Yes an older crowd for sure, which is the prime make up of Amherst Town Meeting.  But invoking that particular demographic is pretty much preaching to the converted.

Over one-third of the registered voters in our little college town are "college aged youth," and they have not picked up a newspaper since the last time they used a phone booth.

And if you're going to call out people by name at least get their names right.  "Suzie" la Cour, the Business Improvement District director, may have been a cheerleader in her youthful past but her name is Sarah.

And her husband Niels left Town Hall Planning Department for UMass, at least according to former Town Manager Larry Shaffer's announcement on the floor of Town Meeting, because he got a $10,000 raise.  So who wouldn't leave?

Just as one must assume Hope Keenan recently left her marketing gig at the Business Improvement District in favor of a UMass job because of better pay.

Or maybe it was just to have less dealings with entitled socialistic has-beens-and-never-weres who wish for our downtown to stay forever locked in the Eisenhower era.

When asked why he frequented a fixed game the gambler responded, "Because it's the only game in town."  Which is why of course 13-of-20 Amherst For All Steering Committee members are Town Meeting members.

And anyone who has spent so much as one night in Town Meeting knows all too well how outmoded, cumbersome and naive it is.

Can you imagine a multi-million per year corporation being run by a group of 135 or so (out of the 240 who bother to show up) rank amateurs who come together 10 or 12 nights per year to run things?

Apple Inc would be in the business of selling real (organically grown) apples.

The other laughable charge directed at Amherst For All Steering Committee is that they are  "All white, with no disabled and no low income."  Talk about the pot calling the kettle of color.

Anyone looked around the floor of Town Meeting lately?  (Or anytime over the past 256 years).

Amherst Town Meeting counted standing vote May, 2014

Amherst For All is now over two-thirds of the way to target goal of 3,215 signatures of registered voters who agree it's time to study our current form of government and come up with a better one.

Thus these two Town Meeting cheerleaders will someday soon be out of their obviously all too coveted volunteer job.