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Jaago, Amherst!

“Jaago” means “wake up” in Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu. It’s a call to the masses to fight for their rights, to make a difference. JAAGO is also a nonprofit in Bangladesh that educates street children. In 2009, Korvi Rakshand launched his one-room, mud-floor free school in one of the biggest slums in Dhaka with 17 kids. His goal: to eliminate poverty through education. The children — from families of farmers, sweepers, beggars, domestics, brick breakers, and sex workers — learn everything from speaking English to basic hygiene, like brushing teeth. Ten years later, JAAGO educates 3,000 children in 12 schools …

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Councilors hear pleas on school buildings

The Town Council faced a barrage of pleas Monday from 19 teachers, principals and parents who want it to send a strong message to state funding officials that Amherst needs a new elementary school. Councilors heard about leaky roofs, mold growth, cold classrooms, teacher illnesses, caved-in ceilings and rodents at Fort River and Wildwood Schools. The Council will vote April 1 on a proposal to seek state money for a new school building. Many of the complaints had been heard before, but rarely so vividly or in such impassioned detail. This blog post will summarize many of them. Superintendent Mike …

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Consensus on a compromise

A broad consensus seems to be emerging that a compromise plan to apply for state money to help finance a new elementary school is the best way to provide healthy buildings for our children without enormous tax increases. But you’d never suspect that from reading a guest column in this week’s Amherst Bulletin. It poses lots of questions and claims that a thorough process for receiving public comment was somehow incomplete. This column employs a rhetorical technique called “sea-lioning.” I’ll explain, but first some background. On Monday night, the Town Council will discuss the compromise plan and will vote on …

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Council to discuss affordable housing plan

The cost of housing in Amherst has concerned residents and officials for years. Support for increasing the number of housing units for people with incomes at or below the median income for the area is included in the town’s master plan. Nevertheless, very little housing was built in Amherst in the decades of 1980 to 2010, and even less of that was affordable. At the Town Council meeting this Monday, the Council will hear a request to approve a Request for Proposals (RFP) to select a developer to convert the town’s East Street property to affordable housing. The property is …

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Turnout dismal at public budget forum

Only 16 people showed up Thursday to learn about how Amherst will spend $80 million in public money next year, and only six of them had anything to say about it. For a simplified summary of what the town manager said, and comments from the six people, keep reading. But first, let me set the scene for you. This public forum took place in the same place where Town Meeting used to meet. To see rows of empty seats where an average of 180 citizens used to meet was, well, eerie. But it got eerier. The forum was required to …

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A neighborhood meets on local issues

More than 60 people who live just south of the UMass campus got together Sunday to learn about and discuss issues distinctive to their neighborhood. I don’t live in that part of Amherst, but I have many friends who do, and I came to the meeting at the Jones Library to see how this kind of neighborhood action works. As a member of the Charter Commission, I supported the requirement that the 10 district councilors convene at least two public meetings a year. I was very impressed, not only with the turnout Sunday, but with the information provided, and the …