From Other Sources: News for and About Amherst.  This Week: More Area News that You Need, The Aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Historic Decisions, and Project 2025 and the Revocation of Civil Rights


Photo: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Here are links to some news stories from the last two weeks that are worth checking out.

While it’s been a slow news week locally, the news out of our nation’s capital was tectonic with the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handing down several radical decisions that move the country away from being a constitutional democracy and toward something else.  Their decision in the Trump immunity case essentially gives the president unlimited immunity for any crimes committed while in office.  And the Chevron decision is the court’s first salvo at dismantling the administrative state – declaring that agencies like the EPA or FDA or OSHA can no longer regulate businesses.  Say goodbye to clean water and safe pharmaceuticals or safe workplaces.  Add all of this to Project 2025, the nearly 1000 page outline that the Heritage Foundation has constructed for Trump’s second term – a plan to basically repeal every civil right gained in the last 100+ years and to impose a strict Christian Nationalism (or Chirstofascism) on the country, and we are confronted with the prospect that we could soon be living in a very different reality, one in which many of the rights that we have known and taken for granted all of our lives will be gone.  It is a wonder that, since almost no one aside from very wealthy white men will retain all of their current rights under this plan, that there is not more alarm and that the figurehead for this plan, Donald Trump, either leads the race for president or is tied in most national polls. It’s pretty hard for me to wrap my head around that.  And it’s kind of shocking that the masterminds of this plan are so in your face about it, insisting that it will be imposed on the American people with the only question being whether this “new American Revolution” will be bloodless.

In any case, following the local news roundup of stories that we were unable to cover in the Indy last week, I offer a few links articles that provide insightful summaries of the SCOTUS decisions and of the Project 2025 plan.

Are Paywalls An Obstacle?
Here at the Indy we support several other publications with our personal subscriptions and we encourage our readers to do the same as they are able.  And for this feature, we try to post articles that are not hiding behind a paywall.  But sometimes an article worth reading is hiding behind a paywall, and subscription to the source is just not feasible. For such instances there are workarounds. Check out some possibilities here and here and here.  

Share The Good Stuff That You Are Reading
Have you read something that you think is worth sharing? Share the link in the comments section below and tell us why you are sharing it.


Bids Sought for New K-5 Elementary School in Amherst by Scott Merzbach (7/4/24). A municipal advertisement is seeking bids from general contractors interested in constructing the planned $97.5 million, net-zero energy elementary school building next to the existing Fort River Elementary School at 70 South East St. On Wednesday, the advertisement for bids was published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and bid forms and contract documents were posted online for the 105,750-square-foot building where 575 students in kindergarten through grade 5 will be taught beginning in the fall of 2026. Electronic bids are due by Aug. 14 at 2 p.m., with an optional prebid conference and site visit set for July 17 at 9 a.m.  The advertisement states that $78 million is the estimated cost of construction for the building designs, completed by DiNisco Design of Boston. The total cost for the project includes so-called soft costs, such as equipment and furnishings. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Hampshire College Cuts 29 Jobs in Effort to Save $2.7 Million in Expenses by Scott Merzbach (7/3/24). Restructuring at Hampshire College will eliminate about 29 non-faculty staff positions, or 9% of the college’s workforce, saving about $2.7 million in operating costs, according to officials at the Amherst campus. “The changes are grounded in our student-centered, experimenting approach while generating budget adjustments that support Hampshire’s financial health,” spokeswoman Jennifer Chrisler wrote in an email Tuesday. “The restructuring will not impact the current number of faculty nor involve changing the academic program.” The job cuts, announced to the campus on Monday, were first reported publicly in Higher Ed Dive in an interview with College President Ed Wingenbach, who cited enrollment growth that was lower than expected for the 2024-2025 academic year. The college had hoped to have 1,200 students enrolled by this fall, but will only have about 900 on campus. Last month, Hampshire College officials said they would temporarily freeze retirement contributions for all employees and cut salaries for senior staff members next school year to meet the college’s operating budget goal of about $44 million. The college has operated at a deficit since 2019, when the institution didn’t take an incoming class and nearly closed. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Northampton School Budget Wins Final Approval. Council OK’s Amendment Giving Department 8% Increase by Alexander MacDougall (7/3/24). The City Council agreed Tuesday to amend the annual school budget as suggested by the mayor, putting an end to a long debate over the city’s schools — for now, anyway. The school department will operate under a roughly $40.7 million budget for fiscal 2025, which began on Monday. That’s $3 million more than in fiscal 2024. The department had been in line for a 5% increase, but the amendment approved unanimously increased that amount to 8% by transferring $737,556 from the city’s Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund, along with an additional $200,528 from a newly created Special Education Stabilization Fund and $166,666 from Smith College. Though substantially increasing the school’s budget by the largest amount in recent memory, the amended budget still means that several staff positions will need to be cut across the school district. The percentage increase is nearly double what Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra had originally said was needed to have a fiscally responsible budget. The final vote on the budget comes after a prolonged campaign by supporters of the Northampton Association of School Employees union’s proposed 14% level-services budget that would have avoided any job cuts. The public pressure on the city to prevent cuts included several demonstrations outside City Hall, packed rooms of supporters at official meetings, and NASE filing a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Portia Bonner, which the School Committee later repudiated. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Valley Bike Share Program Still Not Ready to Roll in Region by Alexander MacDougall (7/3/24). Despite the city previously saying that the ValleyBike Share would restart operations at the end of May, the program has yet to resume throughout the Pioneer Valley, with an updated start date yet to be announced by city officials. On May 2, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra announced that the ValleyBike Share program had found a new provider to operate regional bike rental program, contracting with the Toronto company Drop Mobility. Although the program is offered in eight area communities and the UMass Amherst campus, the responsibility of operating the program falls on the city of Northampton. Other cities included in the program are Easthampton, Holyoke, South Hadley, Amherst, Chicopee, Springfield and West Springfield.The mayor had announced at the time the program would be expected to launch near the end of May. But two months since that announcement, the program’s hundreds of bikes have yet to be ridden by anyone this year in the Valley. The program has been inoperative since the previous operator, Bewegen, declared bankruptcy last year. Carolyn Misch, the city’s director of Planning & Sustainability, said Tuesday that there still is no scheduled start date for the Valley Bike program. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Barriers to Abortion Common in Massachusetts by Dusty Christensen (7/2/24). A survey conducted by Tides for Reproductive Freedom, a Massachusetts organization that helps people pay for abortions, has found that about 40% of those who could get an abortion in the state don’t know where they’re available. That’s just one of the barriers the group discovered in a new survey of approximately 1,000 people who could give birth. The survey found that arranging logistics, like transportation to an appointment, or time to recover after an operation are significant hurdles for abortion patients.Those in rural areas, including in western Mass., are less likely to know where to get an abortion or to know that OB/GYNs provide abortion services, the survey found. People who are considering an abortion in Mass. also continue to face negative attitudes from the media, religious leaders and their loved ones said Tides for Reproductive Freedom, Co-Executive Director of Feyla McNamara. The survey found that more than two-thirds of those considering abortion experienced stigma in their communities McNamara said, and that impacts whether or not they access abortion care. (NEPM)

Amherst Officials Deem $4M Estimate to Repair Bath House at War Mememorial Pool Too High by Scott Merzbach (6/30/24). A $4 million price tag for rebuilding the bathhouse connected to War Memorial Pool is prompting Amherst officials to put off for a year applying for a state grant to cover up to a quarter of the construction costs, as well as to begin considering whether the town can do without one of its two full-size, outdoor swimming pools. Town Manager Paul Bockelman told the Town Council last week that, due to the high cost estimate for the new bathhouse at the 2-acre site between Triangle and Mattoon streets, he is pausing pursuit of a Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant. That application would have been due July 11. “Given the numbers we’ve just looked at, we’re not prepared to move forward with the PARC grant, which would be the major grant for this year,” Bockelman said. Redeveloping the bathhouse and activating the area around the pool, including a basketball court that has fallen into disrepair and a spot where a wading pool once existed, has been the focus of concepts recently completed by Kuth Ranieri Architects of Franklin and The Berkshire Design Group of Northampton. Those concepts, to be done in phases, include the new bathhouse, an ampitheater and a splash pad. With the expense for the bathhouse, though, Bockelman said the conversation may shift to whether the town needs to retain two outdoor pools. War Memorial Pool and its bathhouse opened in 1956 and is the older and more lightly used, with Mill River Recreation Area pool opening in the early 1970s. But War Memorial Pool was renovated in 2012 and continues to be the primary pool for summer camps, due to the proximity to the high school and middle school. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Auditor: UMass Broke Law Privatizing Fundraising Jobs by Sarah Robertson (6/17/24). The state auditor’s office recently determined that the University of Massachusetts Amherst violated state law last year when it eliminated over 100 unionized positions from the university’s fundraising office and offered the workers jobs at the private UMass Amherst Foundation. University officials first announced the proposal to outsource fundraising work from the Office of Advancement in December 2022 as a way to comply with state pension laws, and the transition was finalized in May 2023. The two unions that had represented the employees, the Professional Staff Union (PSU) and University Staff Association (USA), opposed the change and continue to argue it wasn’t necessary. “The fight to save public work and bring these positions back to UMass Amherst isn’t over,” USA president Mary Malinowski said in a statement last week. “In the end, even UMass must be accountable to the law — and we won’t stop until this theft of public work is put right.” (The Shoestring)

On The Supreme Court’s Historic Decisions Last Week
Supreme Court’s Radical Immunity Ruling Shields Lawbreaking Presidents and Undermines Democracy by Thomas Wolf (7/2/24). In a shocking and lawless opinion, the Supreme Court granted presidents broad protections from criminal prosecution for “official acts” they undertake while in office. This ruling from the Court’s conservative supermajority pulls a new constitutional rule from thin air. And it raises daunting, unjustifiable barriers to criminally prosecuting lawbreaking presidents. Trump is now positioned to renew his push to dismiss the charges against him and evade accountability for the grave crimes he’s accused of committing against our democracy. The Court has left the rule of law in tatters — even as it looks the other way. The Court’s 6–3 opinion — authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — attempts to set out rules to govern prosecutions of any and all future occupants of the Oval Office. Presidents, the Court rules, “may not be prosecuted for exercising [their] core constitutional powers, and [are] entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for [their] official acts.” The Court notes that presidents “enjoy[] no immunity for [their] unofficial acts, and not everything the President does is official.” But the latter assertion rings hollow in the context of the opinion that surrounds it. The Court has created an elaborate system of ambiguous rules that will not only ratchet up the complexity of the case against Trump but also erode the checks on presidential illegality. It is both a roadblock to prosecution and an encouragement to more insurrection. (Brennan Center for Justice)

The Supreme Court Gives the President the Powers of a King by Michael Waldman (7/1/24). It long had seemed that the “stall” would be the worst thing the Supreme Court could do when it came to Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution. How naive. Delay there will be. The six justices in the Republican-appointed supermajority held, “A former president is entitled to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his ‘conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority.’” They added, “There is no immunity for unofficial acts.” Rather than make clear that trying to overthrow the Constitution’s peaceful transfer of power is not an official act, the justices send the whole matter back to trial judge Tanya Chutkan. Expect more consideration, more parsing, more rulings, more appeals. It will all likely end up at the Supreme Court again in a year, if the whole prosecution isn’t shut down entirely. But damage to our system goes well beyond delay. Trump v. U.S. astounds in its implications. It grants the president the power of a monarch. Richard Nixon defended his conduct in Watergate, telling interviewer David Frost, “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Effectively, the Supreme Court’s supermajority has now enshrined that brazen claim. (Brennan Center for Justice)

The President Can Now Assassinate You Officially by Elie Mystal (7/1/24). Under this new standard, a president can go on a four-to-eight-year crime spree and then retire from public life, never to be held accountable. (The Nation)

Project 2025
and Its Kin

Project 2025 Overview. Photo: Posted on X (formerly Twitter) on 7/6/24 by @MarkHamill

Donald Trump’s Secret Weapon to Dismantle Public Education by Owen Dahlkamp (7/5/24). From deploying the military to crush protest to bending the limits of the president’s constitutional authority, Donald Trump’s plans for a potential second term could completely reconstruct the power of the federal government. But one little-discussed proposal would leverage an obscure bureaucratic process to transform education and academic freedom in this country. A series of campaign statements, dubbed “Agenda47,” lays out the former president’s vision for 2025 and beyond—one that fights for conservative values in the culture wars permeating American education, while leaving education decisions to states and students’ families. Trump plans to shutter the Department of Education, restore prayer in schools, create an American Academy that awards low-cost degrees to students paid for by levying financial penalties against institutions that do not yield to his ideological standards, revitalize school choice, limit discussion of LGBTQ+ content in classrooms, and much more. These proposals are almost identical to Project 2025: a 920-page playbook chock-full of right-wing policy priorities for the next Trump administration. The Heritage Foundation, the organization that authored Project 2025, declined to make any of its scholars available for comment. Trump and his conservative allies have zeroed in on one specific regulatory power they hope to wield to instill “American values” in higher education: accreditation. While typically viewed as a monotonous and routine requirement, Trump plans to weaponize the accreditation process to “reclaim our once great educational institutions from the radical left” and instill conservative values in these independent institutions. If colleges do not adopt Trump’s right-wing values, they will be in jeopardy of losing federal funding. (The Nation)

Why Aren’t We Talking About Trump’s Fascism?
by Jett Heer (7/5/24). Donald Trump’s authoritarianism, which culminated in his refusal in 2021 to accede to the peaceful transfer of power and his incitement of a mob that attacked Congress, is well known. It has not receded in time but has only gotten worse. On Monday, The New York Times carried a story with this shocking headline: “Trump Amplifies Calls to Jail Top Elected Officials, Invokes Military Tribunals.” According to the article: Former President Donald J. Trump over the weekend escalated his vows to prosecute his political opponents, circulating posts on his social media website invoking “televised military tribunals” and calling for the jailing of President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer and former Vice President Mike Pence, among other high-profile politicians. (The Nation)

Inside Project 2025 by James Goodwin (7/1/24). Backed by the Heritage Foundation, the initiative seeks to undermine longstanding safeguards against abuses of executive power. Project 2025 is candid about its ultimate goal: to reprogram the U.S. administrative state to support and sustain archconservative rule for decades to come. The distinguishing features of this regime would include a far more politicized bureaucracy, immunity against meaningful public or congressional oversight, abusive deployment of agency enforcement capabilities as a tool of political retribution, and aggressive manipulation of federal program implementation in the image of Christian nationalism, white supremacy, and economic inequality. (Boston Review)

The People’s Guide to Project 2025 by Democracy Forward (June 2024). We read Project 2025’s entire 900+ page “Mandate for Leadership” so that you don’t have to. What we discovered was a systemic, ruthless plan to undermine the quality of life of millions of Americans, remove critical protections and dismantle programs for communities across the nation, and prioritize special interests and ideological extremism over people. From attacking overtime pay, student loans, and reproductive rights, to allowing more discrimination, pollution, and price gouging, those behind Project 2025 are preparing to go to incredible lengths to create a country only for some, not for all of us. If these plans are enacted, even without congressional approval, 4.3 million people could lose overtime protections, 40 million people could have their food assistance reduced, 220,000 American jobs could be lost, and much, much, more. The stakes are higher than ever for democracy and for people. (Democracy Forward)
Christian Nationalists Accelerate Their Plans to Dismantle Public Education by Eleanor J. Bader (6.30/24). When Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz attended the 2023 Turning Point USA convention, he gave the Christian nationalists in attendance a preview of the National Prayer in School Act, a bill he introduced into the House of Representatives shortly after the convention. His speech electrified the crowd: “The beautiful new Supreme Court that President Trump gave us just might uphold a constitutional law based on the values that the country was built on,” he began. Gaetz later became more explicit, posting a speech on Instagram in support of the legislation: “Our country’s educational policy forbids students and faculty from praying while endlessly promoting degenerate LGBT and anti-white propaganda,” he said. “My legislation unlocks religious freedom.” As written, the Act would erode church-state separation, giving students, faculty and staff the right to pray on school grounds — something that has been barred for more than 50 years. The bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. While its chances of passage are considered slim by policy watchers on both sides of the aisle — multiple sources told Truthout that they doubt that it will get out of Committee — state legislatures throughout the country are eroding the separation of church and state, zeroing in on public education and restoring “voluntary” school prayer; permitting (and in some places, requiring) the posting of “In God We Trust” in classrooms; allowing unlicensed chaplains to counsel K-12 students; authorizing release time so that students can attend religious instruction during class time; and providing vouchers of up to $16,000 per student per year to subsidize tuition at private, religious academies. (Truthout)

Spread the love

1 thought on “From Other Sources: News for and About Amherst.  This Week: More Area News that You Need, The Aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Historic Decisions, and Project 2025 and the Revocation of Civil Rights

  1. Down with the Kingmakers!

    It is Independence Day 2024 as I write. It’s rather ironic to be celebrating our independence from the old British monarchy, from the whims of King George when the majority of our own Supreme Court have just turned the United States of America into a kingdom. Our President has been granted full immunity from any official acts he might perform in office (can you believe it?). The “gift” is little short of The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz) of 1933 in pre-war Germany. But wait, this is the USA. We don’t do kings, right?? Correct…….BUT since we have one now perhaps there’s someway we can turn the clock back.

    How about demanding “King Joe” pack SCOTUS with justices who don’t have fascist tendencies? FDR threatened to do that back in the day. Did he really have the power to do such a thing? If so, and those clear thinking justices become the majority, might they revisit the immunity decision and reverse it? I’m no lawyer or student of the Court but if that is doable what’s to keep us from acting on it? Presumably there is not enough time to do that, if it’s possible, before the election in November. In that case, could our new King delay the election? It all sounds a bit crazy, yes?

    Of course it’s crazy. We have gone down the proverbial rabbit hole in this country since His Malignancy took office in 2017. The MAGA death cult has transformed the once “Party of Law & Order” into a sham, an evil clown show your grandparents would never have conceived of as they put out Old Glory in front of their homes on the 4th of July.

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.