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Amherst straining
under UMass burden

To the Bulletin:

I’m speechless after reading Particia Stacey’s intelligent, thoughtful and articulate column is last week’s Bulletin. I want to reiterate a paragraph in the hope that readers can consider it again.

To quote from Amherst Must Protect its Neighborhoods: “By allowing increasing ­non­-owner occupied houses full of students, Amherst is essentially internalizing all of the costs of student housing (police, fire, health, safety, sewer) and externalizing all of the profits, which are increasingly going to out-of- town corporations. What does that mean? A private corporation hosts the party, walks away with the money, and lets Amherst taxpayers clean up the mess and pay for it. Not a good business model for our town.”

The town holds all the cards in the euphemistic “Town Gown Relationship,” but refuses to play a single one. The University of Massachsetts is not going to move out of town — in fact, it is so confident that Amherst will play ball, that several years ago it terminated its emergency student medical services, so the town can pick up the tab. To wit, several physician friends have actually told me, in essence “You better hope you don’t get a heart attack or stroke late Friday or Saturday night, because all of the towns emergency vehicles are busy bringing students to Cooley Dick.”

Michael Lawrence Levine


Chemist questions
Styrofoam ban

To the Bulletin:

I am writing in response to the letter in your Nov. 9 issue on “LWV supports Styrofoam ban.”

I agree with the view that we should try to promote a green economy and should not support efforts producing products that are damaging to the environment. The question is whether Styrofoam is one of these.

The statement is made that styrene “is the main ingredient in expanded polystyrene.” This is not so. Polystyrene is the main ingredient and the styrene is used to make it. The amount of residual styrene is small and efforts are made to reduce it. It would be reasonable to require upper limits on the amount that remains.

While I agree that polystyrene is not biodegradable, it is not necessarily true that it is not practical to recycle it. Whether it is or not depends on the infrastructure. It is very lightweight and that means that the value per unit volume is relatively low, adding to the cost of collecting and transporting the discarded Styrofoam. Doing so can be economical if a local and large volume source is available. For example, one of our fast food chains used Styrofoam for its “clamshells” to deliver hamburgers. Public pressure motivated it to change to cardboard. Prior to the change, a recycling company was collecting the discarded Styrofoam clamshells from franchises at no cost, where appreciable quantities were available. That company was able to transport the clamshells to a nearby recycling facility and convert them to plastic trays that it could profitably sell back to the franchise. The company went bankrupt when the change to cardboard occurred.

I inquired to see why this was done, and it was admitted that the recycling could be done economically, but the decision was forced by public pressure. One might ask whether the reasoning leading to such pressure was sensible.

One must also compare the procedure with that of alternatives. The cardboard substitute was inferior to Styrofoam for insulation, leading to greater energy needs to maintain hamburger temperature. It was also necessary to treat the cardboard to make it greaseproof which interfered with its recycling. Thus, one must ask whether the justification for the change was proper and represented an environmental gain if all of these aspects are considered. One really needs a “ cradle-to-grave ” kind of analysis to know.

My point is that many wishing to improve the environment make simplistic choices and these should be evaluated based on logical rather than emotional considerations. Similar consideration may apply to other decisions such as that of “plastic or paper ” for shopping bags, or “plastic or glass” for milk jugs. An analysis requires consideration of all factors, including the product’s performance, transportation cost, and a comparison of recyclability with alternatives.

Richard S. (Dick) Stein


(Richard Stein is Goessmann Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus University of Massachusetts)

Seize the day

To the Bulletin:

Election day was momentous and will be historically viewed as a defining moment of American Democracy. Despite billions of dollars being spent to destroy our president, and all he stands for, millions of Americans stood up by pouring their blood, sweat, tears and contributions into this campaign. People power prevailed. This Democracy is ours, the 98 percent.

I believe Barack Obama’s biggest gift to the American people is that he reminded, no, woke us up to the power of American democracy. The power of U.S.. The power of teamwork and common goals.

Now it is time to make our plans for 2014. To help our president and ourselves in the process we need to take back the House of Representatives, and while we are at it, send Mr. Big (jowls), Mitch McConnell to his horse ranch, for good.

We will need to flip 17 seats in the House and find a great candidate in Kentucky to overcome the minority speaker of the Senate. If we accomplish this, the country will get an extra push in the right direction facilitating the president’s efforts. Wind at his back if you will. We have plenty of time to rest up, but we must do this.

I fell asleep in 2010. I couldn’t take people with tea bags hanging off their hats seriously. I will be wide awake for 2014.

Mark L. Whitney


UMass students show
they’re good citizens

To the Bulletin:

After teaching class at the University of Massachusetts on Nov. 6, I drove up Eastman Lane to vote at the fire station. When I arrived, I was greeted by a long line of voters.

As I scanned the faces, I quickly realized that the vast majority of people standing in line were UMass students. These young people, our future, were taking time to express their opinion and have their voices heard. To me, the throng of UMass students standing in line waiting to vote represents and reflects who the majority of UMass students are: concerned, passionate, caring citizens who are committed and invested in the future of our nation.

Honestly, I wanted to reach out and give them all a big hug and thank them for being willing to make a difference, but I knew that would not go over too well. Instead, I walked out into the cold evening with a warm heart, a tear on my cheek and an assurance that the students of UMass represent our future and that our future is in good hands.

Jen Dolan


Sen. Rosenberg
grateful for reelection

To the Bulletin:

I want voters to know how much I appreciate their efforts to return me to office. I take very seriously the responsibilities of serving you in the Massachusetts Senate and the confidence you have placed in me and I am eager to take on the challenges that lie ahead. I am especially looking forward to representing the residents of the three new towns in my district: Orange, Royalston and Warwick. I remain energized to continue working in partnership with the people of western Massachusetts to promote our progressive values on Beacon Hill.

There is much work to be done and no time to waste. Please accept my sincerest thanks for letting me stay in the game.

State Sen. Stan Rosenberg

Hampshire, Franklin
and Worcester District

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