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Letters

Shocked by blatant
act of racism

To the Bulletin:

Last Sunday as I was enjoying walking to church in Amherst, there was a thin layer of snow covering everything. I was shocked to see the “N-word” clearly written in the snow on the roof of a parked car. This quintessential racial epithet gave me a sinking, sick feeling in my stomach. I know that racism is more prevalent in Amherst than most white people are aware, but I was still unprepared for something so blatant.

I wanted to wipe it out immediately so that no one else would have to endure the pain of seeing it, but on the other hand I wondered if it might be a good thing for every white person to see it and know that we still have much work to do to eliminate racism. I know that many of us would never write or say such a word, but we do continue to live in, and tolerate, a society in which white people are consistently advantaged and people of color are disadvantaged and oppressed — where the effects of this systemic racism show up in unequal health outcomes, educational outcomes, distribution of wealth, incarceration, political and economic power and more. We seem to not know what more to do about this, yet clearly something more or different is needed.

Later, in church, I prayed that all of us will find ways to make friends and refuse to be limited by the separation from each other that racism has sown among us, that those of us who are white will more deeply understand the systemic racism around us and find ways to join with people of color to dismantle it. I prayed that in this town that we will come together to see that all of God’s children are included, respected, heard, valued and connected, and that racism of any kind — personal, systemic, coded, or blatant — is unacceptable here.

Russ Vernon-Jones

Amherst

Shelter guest says
service dog certified

To the Bulletin:

My name is Christy McNerney. I’m in the story about the homeless shelter allowing me to stay with my service animal.

Reporter Scott Merzbach spoke to an Amherst police officer who was there the first night I came in with my dog. I also showed this reporter my documentation on my dog Scruffles.

The director, Rebekkah Wilder, at the time did not want me to stay so I called the police. I gave the officer documentation on my dog that is legal and shows he is a legitimate service animal.

The officer advised that they can’t put me out. This is the only reason I’m still there, not because the shelter is welcoming me.

The shelter staff took photo copies of my documentation as well and they know that he is my emotional support animal.

This falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Christy McNerney

Amherst

Rental debate
offends tenant

To the Bulletin:

As someone who grew up in Amherst (like generations of my family), returned to live there a year ago, and is now looking to purchase a home, I’m very offended by some of the debate surrounding rental properties in the town. What particularly struck a nerve for me was the quote attributed to a Town Meeting representative saying “The reality on the ground is that in Amherst rentals means student rentals.” This is a patently false statement as well as being denigrating to all students and renters in the area.

Amherst is not affordable, but it has many wonderful qualities, which is why people try to move there. I cannot afford to purchase a home in Amherst and I’m not the first in my family to confront this problem after living in rented properties in the town for decades; both my mother and grandmother had to move out of town when they couldn’t find homes in their price range, but wanted the freedom of home ownership. Renting is the only way some of us can live in Amherst and I won’t apologize for being a renter — which shouldn’t be used as a derogatory term, but increasingly that seems to be the case.

It makes me angry and sad to know my neighbors may not want me around just because my income is not substantial enough to own my home. I am proud to serve Amherst as a Conservation Commission member — and I know other people who rent that serve the town on various committees and even in Town Meeting — but the negativity and stereotyping by some town residents makes me question my decision and I imagine it may cause others in similar positions to do the same.

Lindsey Britt

Amherst

House planned atop
Brushy Mountain

To the Bulletin:

The conservation restriction purchased in December 2011 on Brushy Mountain in Leverett and Shutesbury was widely celebrated. The purchase ensured that this parcel — owned by the Cowls lumber company — would not be developed and would be off-limits to motorized vehicles. The dedication in May was an opportunity for politicians and other groups to tout their conservation credentials.

However, there is some fine print: A hike up Rattlesnake Gutter Road provides the surprising realization that the summit of Brushy Mountain itself was quietly excluded from the restriction. Situated on and diverting a portion of the Metacomet-Monadnock trail, the only marked trail on the mountain, this spot is now a building site. A call to the Leverett town offices confirmed that this parcel is “for one of the Cowls family members” to build a house on. Given that much of the $8.8 million pricetag was federal money, and that Cowls will continue to log and make money from the forest, this new building lot seems almost like a dowry. Why wasn’t this reported? And what politics were at play to sacrifice the most scenic spot in a deal billed as the most important conservation deal since 1920?

Drew Best

Amherst

Thanks for support
on Election Day

To the Bulletin:

We write with hearts full of love and appreciation for the citizens of South Amherst.

During Election Day, we staffed savory and sweet treat sales at Crocker Farm Elementary and the Munson Library. We had the pleasure of working with devoted parents, grandparents and guardians who generously baked and donated treats to support our kids, our teachers and our school. Several of these adults staffed the sales and graciously represented our learning community. Bruno’s Pizza gave us a terrific deal on party-sized cheese pizzas to bolster hungry voters at dinner time — when the lines were long.

During the hours the polls were open, we met former Crocker students, many of whom were voting in their first national election, parents and grandparents who shared their fond memories of our school community and generous citizens who donated to our cause.

It was a sunny day that turned into a heart-warming experience. It was a fantastic celebration of community and a champion fundraising effort.

Thanks to everyone who participated, shared with us and laughed with us.

Justyne Ogdahl

Angela Mills

Amherst

The writers are co-chairs of the Crocker Farm school PGO.

UMass students do
praiseworthy deeds

To the Bulletin:

Usually the newspaper only reports about all the bad things University of Massachusetts students do. So, I was pleased to read in your paper that a fraternity built a handicapped entrance. Yesterday we were invited to a benefit dinner for Amherst OUTREACH at Amherst College Alumni House and I am happy to report that the UMass swim team volunteered for various kinds of work there.

Susi Friedmann

Amherst

T

To the Bulletin:

With climate change becoming an ever harsher reality impacting many lives, my concerns grow, for our own and coming generations. Science tells us that we must reduce carbon emissions (and our dependency on fossil fuels) if life-as-we-know-it is to continue on this planet.

A movement is underway to persuade institutional and individual investors to withdraw funds from the fossil fuel industry. Hampshire College has done this and other colleges are considering it. Such divestiture may seem financially risky, but analysts predict a “carbon bubble” not unlike the recent technology and housing bubbles. These analysts believe that the fossil fuel industry is already overvalued. To help fight global warming, a global carbon budget has been proposed. But already the known global reserves of fossil fuels greatly exceed such a budget. So, at some point, these reserves will likely become unburnable, and their value will plummet. They will become “stranded assets”.

Institutional investors are already drawing up principles for responsible investing, based on ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) values. Indices and investment vehicles incorporating ESG values are already available.

It is our job as citizens of this fragile planet to convince the managers of our college endowments, our pension funds, our religious organizations, and those handling government funds at all levels to stop investing in Big Oil, Coal, and Gas and choose ESG alternatives. It makes good sense both environmentally and financially.

I encourage you to learn more from the resources below. Then join our movement to divest! Let’s speak truth to power.

Resources: www.unpri.org/principles/ (Principles for Responsible Investment) www.350.org (Global action to solve climate crisis) www.cdcgroup.com (ESG Toolkit for Fund Managers) www.carbontracker.org (Carbon Bubble) www.ussif.org (Socially Responsible Investing) www.ghgprotocol.org (Greenhouse Gas reduction standards)

Beverly J. Weeks

o the Bulletin:

A fundamental imperative of negotiations over avoiding the “fiscal cliff” should be raising the capital gains tax rate. It is patently unfair to tax income derived from investments at half the rate of income derived from work.

The only possible justification would be if low tax rates on capital gains had a big positive effect on economic growth, benefiting everyone. However, there is no evidence of such an effect. A recent report from the Congressional Research Service reminds us that the capital gains tax rate was much higher in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Yet economic growth was higher than it has been over the last decade with lower capital gains tax rates.

The capital gains tax is so low because the rich have the influence to get Congress to reduce it solely for their benefit. (Fortunately, though, not all the wealthy are averse to paying a fair share of taxes.) If Congressional Republicans refuse to agree to raise the capital gains tax, President Obama should not compromise. Let Republicans hurl us over the cliff, showing that keeping taxes on the very wealthy very low is their only priority.

Emmett Barcalow

Amherst

Amherst

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