Around Amherst: Council seeks more info. before backing public access channel bills

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Staff Writer
Monday, August 14, 2023

AMHERST — Though encouraged by Amherst Media to endorse legislative bills in the State House that would financially support public access channels, coming as current subscribers continue to cut the cord, the Town Council is not yet sending an advocacy letter.

The Town Council this week considered advising the Legislature to pass bills H.74 and S.34, known as “An Act to Modernize Funding for Community Media Programming” through a letter drafted by Council President Lynn Griesemer to the Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology.

“It was a request that came from Amherst Media,” Griesemer said. “It’s parallel to an effort by Sen. (Edward) Markey at the federal level.”

But Griesemer withdrew the letter after councilors raised questions about the content of the bills.

At Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke said she is worried the bills would create a statewide distribution for cable revenues, with 40% going to communities based on population, not the number of subscribers, and 40% going to community access stations, with the remaining amount of revenues going to the state.

“Right now the way cable fees are distributed and collected are mostly negotiations between the municipality and the cable operator under a franchise fee,” Hanneke said.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, too, said she would need more information, adding that she needs to fully understand the bills and the implications of the support letter.

At Large Councilor Andy Steinberg notes that the bills likely would change how money comes to cities and towns from cable subscribers as more people use web-based and streaming platforms. Like his colleagues, though, he said the council should know more about the bills before endorsing them.

Community Safety Day

Postponed from earlier this summer, Community Safety Day will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mill River Recreation Area, 95 Montague Road.

The second annual event, sponsored by the Amherst Senior Center, will feature public safety departments, including Amherst and University of Massachusetts Police, town firefighters and members of Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service, along with the town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department and the Hampshire Sheriff’s and Northwestern District Attorney’s offices.

A range of activities will include touch a truck with public safety vehicles, K-9 units, a Jaws of Life demonstration and child car seat inspections.

There will also be face painting, balloon twisting and a food truck from La Veracruzana restaurant.

Making it Public

The timeline for Making it Public, a Public Art Commission project to celebrate artists from the Black, Indigenous and people of color community, is likely being extended.

While Amherst in 2022 was one of eight communities in the state to receive a $10,000 grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts to support an installation at Kendrick Park, the project has been stalled. While artists were asked to apply by mid-May, with an artist selected a month later, no proposal has yet moved forward.

Three artists had submitted proposals by the deadline, which was supposed to be followed by judges making a decision on the project to move forward.

Chairwoman Terry Holt told the commission at its Aug. 2 meeting that because deadlines were missed, the town has to renegotiate its contract. Holt said she has been assured by Town Manager Paul Bockelman that he will revise the contract and get deadlines moved back.

Holt said a project manager will be needed to shepherd the process.

West African Drumming

A workshop on West African drumming will be held in the Woodbury Room of the Jones Library Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Jafar Manselle and the Wendell Warriors will begin the session by playing a short set of West African rhythms, and discuss the origins and meanings of the songs. Participants will then be shown basic hand placements to create the drum sounds and given drums to practice the basic sounds. The group will then explore a couple of songs together, playing main rhythms and supporting parts.

The program, sponsored in part by an Amherst Cultural Council grant, is for people ages 14 and up, and people are welcome to bring drums. Required registration can be done at the library’s reference desk or by calling the library at 413-259-3096.


THURSDAY: Community Resources Committee, 4:30 p.m.