Letters to the Editor

Too much haste involved in school changes

To the editor:

I do not believe that the administration has made a convincing case for the educational benefit for changing our entire elementary school system. It seems to me the administration is more concerned with the budget and the facilities than our children’s education. Also, I feel that this proposal has been hastily shared with the community without input from parents as well as any outside source (such as a hired consultant) that could be objective in determining our needs.

We should not rush into a decision that generations of Amherst students will have to endure because Amherst only received money for one school renovation at this time.

If we received money to renovate Wildwood it is probable that Amherst will also receive money to renovate Fort River in the near future since they were built three years apart.

Lisa Cain


Time for Hadley to change zoning, allow ‘tiny’ houses

To the editor:

The town of Hadley could create a little bit of homeopathic, karmic balance for itself by allowing Sarah Hastings to stay in her “tiny house” (as told in the Oct. 23 Bulletin) and by changing the regulations to permit or even encourage others to pursue their minimalist carbon footprint missions.

There are towns that have fought to keep big box stores away, even though they knew they were sacrificing tax dollars. Although Hadley has some beautiful conservation land, the strip malls on Route 9 show that the town has compromised aesthetics and the well being of independent small businesses. Hadley’s liberal approach to strip mall development stands in stark contrast to its strict zoning laws that discourage the “tiny house” movement and environmentalists like Hastings.

Arn Krugman


Charter review can boost local democratic process

To the editor:

As an active member of Amherst For All, I have been enthused by the surge of interest among my fellow townspeople and their willingness to sign on to our state-mandated ballot initiative. The signature gathering process happening now is simply the first phase in the examination of how our existing government structure is functioning for Amherst.

A signature says I support the process of taking a look at our government. In my experience there have been very few Amherst residents unwilling to sign the petition, thus allowing our democratic process to unfold, which may reveal opportunities for enhancements to our present structure that could benefit all of Amherst. I embrace taking an in-depth look at our current state, evaluating how we are doing, and striving to do more, and I applaud others’ willingness to do the same.

Adam Lussier


Amherst TM created 
zoning for Kendrick Place

To the editor:

I was amused by a letter from an Amherst resident claiming that the Amherst Planning Board, not Town Meeting, was responsible for Kendrick Place development.

Surely, the writer must know that the zoning which allowed this project to happen was approved by Town Meeting, as all zoning must be. It is precisely Town Meeting, not the Planning Board, which bears responsibility for approving zoning which allows large building like this to happen with no setbacks and no provision for parking.

As a former Amherst retailer I was astonished by my customers’ shock that such a project could be built. Ninety percent of those customers had no idea that zoning passed by Town Meeting had changed so dramatically. This is exactly the reason some residents want to create a charter commission — Town Meeting and the residents of the town do not communicate well.

Steve Freedman


Group’s support of local
democracy priceless

To the editor:

The League of Women Voters of Amherst has recently been given the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award.

Why us? Why now? Here’s why: The Amherst League, which includes 180 men and women, has just celebrated its 75th anniversary and is the largest local league in Massachusetts. During these 75 years the League has encouraged active participation in government at the local, state and national levels. But it is in Amherst that the League has done the most work.

During the past 75 years the League has been instrumental in the adoption — or defeat — of many policies in Amherst, ranging from reversing a ban on employing married women teachers in 1940 to banning the use of Styrofoam containers in 2014.

Every year we prepare for elections by holding voter registration drives. We organize candidate nights to introduce those running for office to the community. We publish election guides with ballot questions and biographical information about each Town Meeting candidate, as well as the educational pamphlet “They Represent You,” which lists the contact information for all of our representatives in town government.

On election night we collaborate with Amherst Media to televise live election coverage. We help organize a pre-Town Meeting warrant review and often speak at Town Meeting on issues on which the League has taken a position. We hold receptions where members can ask questions of our legislators. We organize advocacy programs and study groups in areas such health care, energy, and beginning this year, “Aging in the Amherst Area.” Not to mention the annual Book Sale on the Town Common where thousands of books get recycled and everyone has fun. You can see what the League has contributed to making democracy work in Amherst and why we were granted this award.

Trish Farrington


Let Amherst voters decide form of government

To the editor:

Amherst now has before it a charter petition, duly authorized under the law, to consider and evaluate its charter, Chapter 216 of the Acts of 2001. It has been 15 years since the charter was established and it seems reasonable to evaluate it, if enough people want to. It is their right under the law.

There are those who would deny us this right, who doubt the wisdom of the voters of Amherst to determine their own governance, and who urge you to fight against it and spurn those who advocate for it. These are fallacious statements, made under false beliefs.

No one can predict the outcome of such a charter review, for it is in the future. One possible outcome is that we retain Town Meeting. Perhaps an outcome that is not immune to state ethics laws and has fiduciary duty, like all other elected officials and town employees.

As it stands now, Town Meeting members have the final say on matters brought before them that have been written by those with fiduciary duty who are subject to state ethics laws, and Town Meeting members are free to vote their personal interest. This has developed over many years, known as “common practice.”

And, under the state’s home rule, has become “law.” Law that voters never decided.

If a body that is immune to state ethics laws and that has no fiduciary duty is a good thing, then let the voters decide that is what they want. Do not let others deny your right to decide what form of government you want, or who it should be responsible to.

Kevin Collins


Amherst has trash cans for a reason — use them

To the editor:

I find as I run the streets of Amherst the usual despairing sight almost every time I go out. Pizza paper plates, boxes, napkins, beer cups strewn about as if an insanely hungry wolf had just run through the area.

I find it demoralizing that young people, whether it’s high school, college or dumb adults, can actually do that with no conscience.

If you’re visiting this beautiful area for a weekend or trying to get home without puking all over yourself, stop for a moment and realize that the people who live here long-term are fed up with your lack of conscience.

Grow up and throw it in the trash can, there’s one around every corner.

Wayne Grincewicz


‘Friends’ important to 
success of libraries

To the editor:

The week ending Oct. 24 marked the 10th annual celebration of “National Friends of Libraries Week,” making it a good time to publicly thank the Friends of the Jones Libraries System who contribute so much of their time and expertise to significantly enhance our services.

Our Friends group began in 1968 and during the past 47 years they have donated close to $1 million to cover the costs of children’s programming, library collections, special equipment and maintaining the Kinsey Memorial Garden.

The Jones, Munson Memorial, and North Amherst libraries are a source of pride for Amherst. Our Friends group is a source of pride as well. I hope this week everyone will call the library or visit their website, www.friendsofthejones.org/, to find out how to join and support this outstanding group.

Sharon Sharry


The author is the director of the Jones Library in Amherst.

UMass students make an impact on resident

To the editor:

On Sept. 26, students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as part of Mass Impact Day, arrived at our home. They were at our home as the result of a request we made to the Northampton Senior Center. We needed help with painting and taking down shutters on the house.

These two students were outstanding! They painted our front door, took down eight shutters on the house, power washed the house where the shutters had been, and then power washed the actual shutters. They cut down overgrown brush and were cheerful and friendly while they worked.

These were jobs we are physically unable to accomplish and they were finished within the limited time they had to work with us. It was amazing to see how much they wanted to work. Both my husband and I would like to thank the students and officials at the Northampton Senior Center who made this possible.

Ruth E. McGrath


Opponents to big Amherst projects fear town’s ‘uglification’

To the editor:

After reading a recent letter to the editor (“Time for Amherst residents to embrace change, not fear it”), I feel compelled to respond to statements that are inaccurate at best, uninformed at worst. Those of us who object to Boltwood Place, Kendrick Place and the impending One East Pleasant do not fear change, but rather object to the “uglification” of Amherst. Buildings that are out of scale and character with surrounding structures, that look like they belong in a suburban office park rather than a charming New England town – this is the kind of change to which we object.

In contrast, the North Amherst Mill District, whose scale and architectural style blend nicely with the surrounding area, is change we can embrace.

The author contends that Boltwood Place and the replacement of the Carriage Shops will be an antidote to the lack of middle-class housing in town. Two-bedroom units at Boltwood Place rent for $2,730 a month, while Kendrick Place’s three- and four-bedroom units rent for $3,900 and $4,800 a month, respectively. In what universe are these affordable for middle-income families?

Boltwood, the author contends, promises “there will be more life on the streets.” A new Amherst “urban legend” — that downtown is deserted on nights and weekends. Each evening when I walk my dog down Pleasant Street, it’s always bustling with activity. Rao’s Café, Antonio’s Pizza, Johnny’s Tavern, The High Horse, Osteria Vespa, and other pubs and eateries that remain open until 11 p.m. and beyond do not keep their late-night hours because downtown empties at 6 p.m.

No one’s advocating that Amherst in 2015 look as it did in 1815. The Pleasant Street buildings that house Zanna’s Clothing and Hair by Harlow are not historic structures, but are in keeping with the character and scale of downtown. Change in the style and aesthetic of the Mill District is very different from the Archipelago properties currently gobbling up downtown. This has nothing to do with fear. We simply want the kind of change we believe will enhance, rather than detract from, the town we cherish.

Jennifer Taub


Concerned about bias in political reporting

To the editor:

I am concerned about the reliability of information reported to the public by the media. For example, most of the major media declared Hillary Clinton the winner in the recent debate among Democratic candidates.

However, this conclusion is contested, for example, in a posting by eMedia World entitled “Sanders WON The CNN Poll but you MUST see this” in which the results of 21 other polls are cited that indicate that Bernie Sanders was the winner. This publication goes on to say that “Sanders has not only won every single poll,” and that “Sanders won in the eyes of the people.” Who should one believe?

I realize that with “free speech,” publications are entitled to express opinions. But with many people being dependent upon a limited number of publications as their sources of information, the concern is that they may give some opinions more weight than others.

I detect the same problem with respect to reporting about campaign rallies whereby the space devoted to them seems not to be balanced. One fears that the information offered depends upon the views of the publisher. Might this have an undo influence on the actions of the readers?

One may detect similar bias in reports about the state of the economy whereby different sources come to different conclusions. Unfortunately much of the public does not have the capability of evaluating the reliability of the sources. There is information available about the quality of other products in that information about defects in these gets reported. Should not this be so for reporting poll results?

The public is entitled to make decisions, but these are based upon the information they receive. There is concern that there is limited availability about the quality of such information and that its publishers may have undo influence on the actions of the public.

Richard S. (Dick) Stein