September 15, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Select Board Meeting – September 15, 2008
2nd Floor Meeting Room, Amherst Town Hall


Meeting called to order by Mr. Weiss at 5:30 p.m.


Present: Gerry Weiss, Diana Stein, Alisa Brewer (5:33,) Stephanie O’Keeffe
Absent: (none)
Town Manager Larry Shaffer
Members of the public:  Vincent Tran, Cheryl Zoll, Tony Maroulis


The following announcements were made:

  A Community Development Block Grant Forum will be held Wednesday, September 17th at 6:30 p.m. at Bangs Center.

  A community meeting about future possibilities for Kendrick Park will be held on October 14th at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Room at Town Hall.

  The Amherst Senior Center will celebrate its 40th anniversary on October 19th from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Senior Center, and reservations are requested.

  The Community Choices Committee Budget Forum will be held October 2nd at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Room.

  A public hearing on the proposed change to the Zoning Bylaw regarding creation of duplexes will be held September 17th at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Room.

  The Amherst Bike Fair will be held on September 20th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the Town Common.

  Whole Foods will donate 5% of the day’s sales on September 17th to the “Farms to Schools” project.

  The kickoff to the effort to defeat ballot Question 1 to repeal the State income tax will be September 16th at noon at the Campus Center auditorium.

  The annual Energy Fair will be held October 4th on the Town Common.

  There will be a November 4th ballot question regarding a single-payer health care initiative.  It will be on the ballot in 10 communities across the state, and the assigned number of the question on Amherst’s ballot is not yet known.  


Survival Center Food Drive Parking Request

To mark September as Hunger Awareness Month the Amherst Survival Center will hold a food drive.  Executive Director Cheryl Zoll requested permission to park a van downtown on September 27th to collect food and promote the Survival Center’s services.  
VOTED unanimously to approve the bagging of one parking meter on South Pleasant Street from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, 2008 during a food drive for the Amherst Survival Center. 

 Approving Police as Agents of the Select Board

Mr. Weiss said that the request from the Police Chief to approve a list of police officers as agents of the Select Board is a standard annual procedure.  Ms. Brewer noted that having the relevant section of Mass. General Law attached to request was helpful.  Mr. Weiss read the list of names and the approval was as follows:
VOTED unanimously to appoint the following Police Officers as agents of the Select Board:

Chief Charles L. Scherpa
Captain Michael R. Kent
Captain Scott P. Livingstone
Lieutenant Robert J. O’Connor
Lieutenant Ronald A. Young
Lieutenant Jennifer M. Gundersen
Lieutenant Christopher G. Pronovost
Sergeant Michael D. Sullivan
Sergeant Jerry Millar
Sergeant David R. Knightly, Jr.
Sergeant Charles H. Nelson, III
Sergeant William N. Menard
Sergeant Brian C. Daly
Sergeant Brian T. Johnson
Detective Christina B. Knightly
Detective David W. Foster
Detective Gabriel Ting
Detective Janet M. Lopez
Detective Richard MacLean
Detective Gregory D. Wise
Detective Brandon M. Seymour

Committee Appointments

Ms. Stein recommended appointing Caroline Hanna to the 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee, to replace the previous Amherst College representative, who had resigned.
VOTED unanimously to appoint Caroline Hanna as the Amherst College representative to the 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee, for a term to expire December 31, 2009.

 Approval of Minutes

VOTED 3 in favor with 1 abstention (Weiss) to approve the minutes of the September 8, 2008 Select Board meeting as amended.  Mr. Weiss abstained due to his absence from that meeting.   

Town Manager Evaluation Process

Ms. O’Keeffe requested additional information on the process and expectations for the Town Manager’s evaluation, asking about the creation of goals for the new year and the opportunity to discuss how the Select Board and Town Manager are working together.  She noted her desire to find a way to include staff input in the evaluation.  Mr. Weiss said that the deadline for public input had passed, and that all evaluation e-mails had been distributed to the Select Board and copies of written submissions were in members’ mail boxes.  Mr. Weiss agreed to find and distribute last year’s evaluation and the Town Manager’s contract.  Mr. Shaffer agreed to create a self-evaluation and e-mail it to Select Board members by the end of the week.  It was determined that the performance evaluation could be separate from goal setting, and that a new deadline for Select Board members to submit evaluations would be September 24.  Mr. Weiss will consolidate the form results and the comments into a single evaluation report, and would like for that to be done by the end of the month.  Mr. Shaffer suggested that he and the Select Board jointly discuss goals and the resources required to meet them, and to establish benchmarks for measuring performance.  Mr. Weiss said he believes the issue of a contract extension could be discussed in Executive Session, because it is a contract.  It was noted that Mr. Shaffer will not be at the September 22nd meeting, and will be attending the International City Managers Conference in Richmond, Virginia.    
Action:  It was agreed to separate the performance evaluation from the goal setting; to distribute the Town Manager’s contract and the FY08 evaluation to Select Board members; that Mr. Shaffer would write and distribute a self-evaluation this week; to set September 24 as the new deadline for Select Board members to submit evaluation forms; and to put the topic on the September 22nd agenda for further discussion.

Select Board Questions for 10/25 Budget Meeting

Ms. Brewer reminded the Select Board of the Wednesday, September 17th noon deadline for submitting questions to the office for discussion of the October 25th meeting with department heads.  This discussion is on the September 22nd meeting agenda.   

New Chamber Director

Tony Maroulis, the new Executive Director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce was introduced and welcomed. 


Common Victualler License – Miss Saigon

Vincent Tran said that a new restaurant, Miss Saigon, would be opening in the former Mr. Chicken space in early October.  
VOTED unanimously to approve the Common Victualler’s License for Ms. Saigon, 96 North Pleasant Street, Manager Vincent Tran.

Special Liquor Licenses – UMass

VOTED unanimously with a single vote to approve the Special All Alcoholic Liquor License for the University of Massachusetts for September 24, 2008 from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the University Gallery for a reception, and to approve the Special All Alcoholic Liquor License for the University of Massachusetts for October 11, 2008 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Durfee Conservatory for a reception/dinner. 


Town Meeting Citizen Petitions

Mr. Weiss said that no citizen petition articles were submitted for the fall Town Meeting warrant.  Approximately ten articles are expected, including zoning and financial articles.
No action taken.

September 11th Ceremony

Mr. Weiss said that the annual ceremony was held at the Central Fire Station at 10:00 a.m. in remembrance of September 11th, and was brief, solemn and well-attended.  He noted that the commemorative flags flew downtown for the first time in several years, by last week’s Select Board vote.
No action taken.

Hadley Ambulance Situation

Mr. Weiss said that he had contacted the Chair of the Hadley Board of Selectmen regarding the impasse on the ambulance agreement.  He said he did so to maintain a good relationship with that Board, and not to attempt negotiations on the issue.  He said the Hadley Chair indicated that a committee was established to assess the feasibility and need for a town-wide fire department and EMS in Hadley, and that a meeting of the Select Boards, the Town Managers, or both, would occur to discuss the subject in the future. 
No action taken.

Meeting with Northampton Mayor

Mr. Weiss said that he and the Town Manager had met with Northampton’s Mayor last week to discuss possible collaboration on issues such as transportation, housing and emergency management.  Mr. Shaffer said that he had been to Northampton several months ago and appreciated Mayor Clare Higgins coming to Amherst this time, and that discussions to consider shared opportunities will continue.
No action taken.

Joint Meeting with Parking Task Force and PTBC

Mr. Weiss said that the Parking Task Force and Public Transportation and Bicycle Committee had met jointly to consider how to cover the funding gap for Route 32 (Atkins to Puffer’s Pond) bus service caused by high fuel prices.  He said that the PTBC had voted unanimously to recommend that the difference – approximately $10,260 – come from an additional appropriation from the Transportation Enterprise Fund by Town Meeting, and that the committee’s longer-term goal is to have PVTA take over that route.  He said the two bodies would meet again September 26th to consider future funding possibilities.  Mr. Shaffer said ridership on the route was low but had increased approximately 20% over last year, and that the increase encourages maintaining the route.  He said the original funding gap was over $25,000, but that he had asked UMass transit to reconsider that amount, and it was reduced to the current figure.  Mr. Shaffer said he had attended his first meeting as representative to the PVTA Advisory Board, and will actively pursue the town’s best interests via that board. 
No action taken.


VOTED unanimously to adjourn the open meeting at 6:08 p.m.



  Quick meeting, mostly nuts-and-bolts items.  We were in the second floor meeting room because the Town Room was set up for the OML/COI training.  The meeting room was full of monitors and keyboards, so we were all crammed on one side of the table, with the press and public on the opposite side, but we could hardly see each other over all the equipment.  Plus, the ACTV camera and camera guy were there, instead of being a magical unseen presence like usual, so the whole thing was rather weird.  Weird, but efficient!

  I’m happy to have the Town Manager’s evaluation process getting more discussion and attention.  Alisa suggested that we all get copies of his contract, which was a great idea, and something I’ve been meaning to request.  She also suggested he do a self-evaluation – another great idea.  I’m kind of being a pain on this whole issue, but I think it’s really important. My goal is to make this all work much better next year, and that requires putting the time in now to create a better model – particularly by determining goals and expectations.  I think we’re getting there.

  Again, really appreciating Gerry’s Chair Report.  All the details were good, but the report on the discussions with the Hadley Chair and the Northampton Mayor is exactly the kind of thing the SB and the public might not otherwise know – and we should.   


Neil said:

I’m happy to have the Town Manager’s evaluation process getting more discussion and attention. Alisa suggested that we all get copies of his contract, which was a great idea, and something I’ve been meaning to request. She also suggested he do a self-evaluation – another great idea. I’m kind of being a pain on this whole issue, but I think it’s really important.

I'm glad too - because it is clearly warranted under any circumstance, because I don't see the same level of scrutiny or the forward looking objective setting being initiated by the chair, and because of all the town manager related controversy these last twelve months, I'd expect to see a more proactive management of the Town Manager's priorities and prerogatives... that we be missing if not for your efforts.

Anonymous said:

We just hope we don't see the usual headline that he gets a glowing report and a raise. After all of the problems this year it would be revolting.

Anonymous said:

Employees need a way to speak up anonymously without feeling exposed to repercussions.

Anonymous said:

Amherst Town Government could implement 360 degree performance review.

Neil said:

I hope Shaffer's performance on the Boy Scout Christmas tree affair finds its way into his performance review. While nobody died, it did demonstrate the following;

1. Shaffer is more interested in exercising his authority to control parks than he is in making parks available for use, in this case, a longstanding public service with value to the community and value to the boy scouts.

2. Shaffer implicitly looked down his nose at the Boy Scout tree sale and the value of it to Amherst residents as well as our young boy scouts in making the judgment that the boy scouts must be evicted so that Shaffer could have a free hand at designing a better use for the park land for whatever 'better' purpose he would later determine. The SB should inquire about the process he used originally to formulate this public policy.

3. Even after Shaffer heard from Amherst residents - loudly and clearly - that they rejected his policy, he insisted on pursuing it by allowing the sale and taxing the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts are a non-profit. He is not allowed under the law to collect sales tax on their tree sale. The policy was arbitrary. No other organization is charged tax to use Amherst public land IE farmers market. When Shaffer makes a mistake, he'll make it worse by trying to save face. This is a bad trait for someone in a position of authority.

4. He actually justified his policy in the paper by saying the town can't permit one private group to use town land in case another private group might want to use it. The logical result of which is that no private group can use town land. Is that we want? Nobody to use town land? Or do we want lots of private groups using town land? I say the latter. If Shaffer doesn't agree, I think we need a new town manager.

5. In the course of defending the policy, Shaffer and Weiss decided to play the sexism card. They acted as if their objection to the boy scouts was based on principle - that the national organization has in its charter exclusion for young gay boys. This objection was never raised in 40 years of tree sales. Only after Shaffer's new policy was roundly rejected by Amherst residents did this argument get leveled and it was a disgrace. Whether our boy scout troops discriminate on the basis of sexual preference is not a fact in evidence and not a factor in Shaffer and Weiss public policy for Kendrick park land use. This shows really bad judgment in defending a bad policy.

6. Shaffer punted to a town commission on park use. There is no indication that the commission is taking a broad view of public land use including Kendrick, Common, Groff, etc. To me, this show a town manager who is focused on narrow questions not broad questions.

7. Shaffer decided to pursue a land deal instead of hiring an economic development officer. Get the expert on board let the expert drive the process. The money for the economic development officer is available is not being used. What are we waiting for?

Richard Morse said:

While I agree that the Town Manager botched the handling of the Boy Scout issue, I also think that that controversy needs to be put in some perspective with the other issues facing the Town.

And that's exactly where I fault the newspapers these days and the increasingly shrill blogosphere: all controversies are pitched at the same level of high intensity, without any distinctions made about their relative importance.

People make mistakes, and even government officials like the Town Manager are entitled to make a few. What's more important is whether the Town Manager, and town government as a whole, is moving the Town towards a better future. That's something that reasonable people can disagree about.

In my view, on balance, the Town Manager has made some substantial progress, although with some bumps in the road. Our system of government, however, continues to be exactly what we don't need in the 21st century: a seasonal system, essentially precluded from making important decisions for months at a time, that wastes truckloads of the time of conscientious hard-working volunteers.

I'm concerned that the evaluation process for the Town Manager not be simply target practice for the growing number of anonymous sniping malcontents who are beginning to clog up the blogosphere.

If you're not willing to sign your name, you're not worth listening to.

ed said:

> In the course of defending the policy, Shaffer and Weiss decided
> to play the sexism card. They acted as if their objection to the
> boy scouts was based on principle - that the national
> organization has in its charter exclusion for young gay boys

Actually, the clause is intended to exclude OLDER gay boys and particularly gay adult leaders. For a very good historical reason.

Back in the late '70s and early '80s it wasn't just the Catholic Church that had sex abuse problems. The Scouts had it too - I remember it being another leader being arrested seeming each week during that time. And the ONLY reason that the Scouts care about sexual orientation was *that* was the solution they took to prevent future abuse issues.

Before condemning them on that, before making the very valid point mere sexual attraction to men does not a peodophile make, remember that WOMENS GROUPS DO THE EXACT SAME THING! They exclude heterosexual men on the grounds that this prevents other problems that they are worried about.

So at the very same time that Amherst is subsidizing battered womens' shelters and the rest, its agent sought to punish the boy scouts for doing the same thing. For the same laudable, if equally misguided, reason....

Anonymous said:

Well Mr. Morse, you make an interesting and compelling argument and then you introduce this idea quite surprisingly: "If you're not willing to sign your name, you're not worth listening to." Your concern about the blogsphere and the local newspaper(s) notwithstanding, words, ideas, arguments can stand on their own. They do not need the name of an author attached to be valued as the truth or a lie. If you object to particular comments here posted with a pseudonym or anonymously, take issue with the assertions, not the author's choice to voice them without attribution.

Anonymous said:

Three cheers for the premise that ideas deserve consideration on their merits. All too often a good idea is dismissed simply because of its source. (Almost surely Mr. Morse would agree, and I suspect he meant to aim in a somewhat different direction before he pulled the trigger and peppered his foot with

Larry Kelley said:

Yeah, I’m sure Mr. Morse would agree that Amherst Town Meeting all too often takes the opposite side of whatever issue I support. The shameful 41 to 96 vote in May 2007 (with he being part of the 41 and his wife part of the 96) to keep the flags down on 9/11 is a prime example.



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