Mayor’s Email Update January 2009

The Mayor’s office is circulating the following email update today:

Mayor’s Email Update
January, 2009

Young At Heart News of Note
Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Study
Northampton Tops Commonwealth Capital – Again!
Home Energy Audits
Inaugural events at the Academy of Music & Northampton Center for the Arts
Madwoman of Chaillot
Four Sundays in February
New Phone System Comes On Line


Young At Heart News of Note

Northampton’s renowned Young @ Heart Chorus ends the year 2008 on a High Note with well deserved recognition. In Newsweek magazine’s December 29, 2008 year-end issue, movie critic David Ansen singled out a scene from the Chorus’ eponymous documentary film as his top cultural moment of 2008:

The Prison Scene In ‘Young @ Heart’

The documentary “Young @Heart” follows a chorus of men and women in their 70s and 80s who sing covers by the likes of Coldplay and Sonic Youth and, in one scene, they perform Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” for inmates at a Massachusetts prison. The smooth young men facing a future of confinement; the wrinkled faces bringing a lifetime of experience to Dylan’s lyrics; the bittersweet tangle of hope and regret floating in the charged air. Just thinking of that scene brings a lump to my throat. Lots of movies make me cry-it’s not that hard to do-but this moment cut so deep, it left me gasping for air.”

On another high note, the “Young@Heart” film has been nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award in the Documentary Category. The awards air live on VH1, Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 9:00 Northampton time. Sadly, the film cannot be nominated for an Academy Award because it was originally made for British TV. Clearly, it would have been a shoo-in.

The film continues to open in new territories. On Christmas Eve the film opened in France and in Belgium. It is also playing in New Zealand, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland, Germany, and other territories. A European DVD of the film will be distributed sometime in 2009.
Sadly, the Chorus experienced a deep loss to begin the New Year. Fred Knittle, 83, died Thursday, January 1, 2009 at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Never a trained singer, but always a lover of music, he dabbled in performing for most of his life, but never made it a regular thing
until he auditioned for the Young@Heart Chorus. With the group, he returned to Europe, singing in Holland, Belgium and Germany. After retiring from the chorus due to health restrictions in 2002, he returned for an occasional show, including the show that became the basis for the Young@Heart movie. His version of “Fix You” from the movie became a Youtube sensation, with almost 1 million viewings around the world. He was able to spend his last few days surrounded by family, visited by friends, sharing stories, telling jokes, watching football, some of his favorite pastimes. He died peacefully, knowing that he was loved and will be missed, but feeling he had led a full and happy life and had been blessed with a loving wife and family, including the twelve grandchildren that he couldn’t get enough of.

In lieu of flowers, it is Fred’s wish that donations be made to one of three worthy organizations: The Young@Heart Chorus, The Clarke School for the Deaf and VNA & Hospice of Cooley Dickinson. The family would especially like to thank the nurses and doctors of the Cooley Dickinson Hospital and Hospice for such kind attention and caring during his last week of life.

If you haven’t see the film yet, by all means rush out and rent it! Better yet, get your own copy from the Y@H Chorus’ website,, where you will also find their most recent CD, Mostly Live.

Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Study

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), with support from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, is leading the Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Study, which is examining possible future rail options within the study area (see map). The study intends to develop an action plan for improving speed, maximizing access, and providing viable transportation alternatives. Key objectives are to improve mobility and spark economic development. The Knowledge Corridor describes the cluster of communities between Springfield, Massachusetts and White River Junction, Vermont located along I-91 within the Connecticut River Valley. The communities consist of a mix of high-density and more rural areas that feature a multitude of important cultural, educational, business, and medical facilities. Expansion of rail services along the Knowledge Corridor could provide significant economic revitalization and investment. The study will evaluate effects on traffic and congestion. As gas prices continue to fluctuate, it could provide an affordable travel option for the communities along the line. Teri Anderson, Northampton’s Economic Development Coordinator, is participating on the technical advisory committee on behalf of the Mayor’s Office.

If you are interested in learning more, you can view the Knowledge Corridor Newsletter at:

Northampton Tops Commonwealth Capital – Again!

Or should we say “Still” since Northampton has been the top scoring community since the program’s inception! The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has just released the Commonwealth Capital Scores for FY2009. This is the Commonwealth’s scoring system of community sustainability and smart growth efforts.

We are proud to announce that Northampton’s Commonwealth Capital score for FY2009 is 118 – the highest score in Massachusetts!

Northampton remains, as we have been for all five years the program has been in effect, the highest scoring community in the state. The next closest communities (the others above 100) scored 101, 103, 104, meaning that our score is 13% highest than the next highest score.

Commonwealth Capital is not a measurement of how sustainable Northampton already is, but it is a measurement of how hard we are trying to become more sustainable.

Besides being an honor when the Commonwealth agrees that we are doing a pretty good job, it also helps many of our grant applications because many state grants use the Commonwealth Capital program as a major part of their evaluation of requests for state grants. For example, the 30% of the scoring system for the LAND grant we received in December for open space on the corner of Sylvester Road and Ryan Road is based on our Commonwealth Capital Score.

Home Energy Audits

Our neighbors at remind us that the price of oil has plummeted and with it the price of heating homes has plummeted. But this is not the time to be complacent about energy efficiency! While we had record high home heating oil prices, we could not keep up with the demand for home energy audits as home owners looked for relief from high heating bills. Homeowners have been lulled back to sleep by the recent crash of oil prices. The waiting lists for home energy audits are gone. There are opportunities to get home energy audits now while others have decided that they no longer need one.

It is important to get a home energy audit. To maximize the energy efficiency of your home you have to employ the recommendations of the energy audit. The state’s incentives truly make it inexpensive.

If you are interested in a home energy audit from The Center for Ecological Technology (CET), here’s the information:

75% off to make your home “energy smart”

Right now you can take advantage of new incentives to make your home as energy smart as it can be. National Grid, Western Mass. Electric or Berkshire Gas customers can add insulation or seal up air leaks in their homes through the MassSAVE program, and save 75% (up to $2000). For example, you could get $1000 in insulation or air sealing services for only $250! You will also be eligible for a 0% HEAT loan of up to $10,000 to help you implement approved measures. Call 1-866-527-7283 to talk to a MassSAVE representative to schedule your free energy audit and get a proposal for home energy efficiency improvements.

Inaugural Events at the Academy of Music & Northampton Center for the Arts

This year’s Presidential Inauguration is historic, marking the election of this nation’s first African-American President. The Academy of Music is marking this historic moment by showing the Inaugural on the Silver Screen. We have found that many people are excited to witness this event in community with others who have waited many years for the arc of history to bend forward to this moment. The tickets to the live event on January 20th at the Academy are all gone. There are a small number of tickets available at the Academy on the morning of the event. Doors will open at 10:30.

The Northampton Senior Center on Conz Street will also be showing the inaugural. They can accommodate 200 people in their facility.

Because response has been so positive, and many people will be in school or at work during the ceremonies, the Academy will hold a “ReBama” – they will tape and rebroadcast the Inaugural proceedings so that people who were at work, or families who would like to share the experience with their families can come together to see it on the Silver Screen and be with our neighbors to mark this historic occasion. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor’s Office beginning this morning, while they last.

Finally, Make reservations now for the Paradise Ball. It’s just the right time to inaugurate and celebrate on Saturday, January 24, at 7:30pm at the Northampton Center for the Arts. This is another of the Center’s legendary parties. Dance in your festive and tropical finest to the hot R&B beat of “Love Bomb.” Partake of our customary creative catering and our cash bar featuring the Center’s signature “Artini” and the new “Cosmobama” maybe win an artistic door prize. Tickets are $25 per person, and limited. Call the Center at (413) 584-7327 to reserve or email All proceeds benefit community arts.

Madwoman Of Chaillot

The winter production at Northampton High School is Jean Giraudoux’ 1943 comedy, which seems to have been gleefully torn from this year’s most outrageous headlines. In a little sidewalk cafe near the Champs Elysees, a predatory president, fatuous chairman and corrupt broker scheme to manipulate the stock price of their as yet unnamed corporation. The plot thickens when they rendezvous with an unscrupulous prospector hell-bent on digging up the City of Paris to extract the oil that he can ‘taste’ in the local water. He will stop short of nothing to realize his ambition, including bombing the offices of the city architect.

Enter Countess Aurelia, the Madwoman of Chaillot. Aurelia is a magnificent throwback, perhaps literature’s first “old woman in purple.” The Countess has been living in a dream-like world, where all people are good and charitable, and as eccentric as herself. The Countess has many loyal followers, including the outcasts and vagabonds of her native Chaillot quarter. With the help of her streetwise friends and neighboring madwomen, Aurelia hatches a plot to defeat the grasping financiers, and liberate the world from their deadly influence.

Northampton High School presents the Madwoman of Chaillot, a comedy with music by Jean Giraudoux on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, January 22, 23, 24, at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday January 25 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. Advance tickets available online at or by calling 582-1332.

Four Sundays In February

The weekends following the Madwoman of Chaillot will provide yet more excellent opportunities for midwinter culture and entertainment. The Arts Council’s Four Sundays in February will kick off Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 2pm with the SILVER CHORD BOWL, the very best of collegiate a cappella groups.

Sunday, February 8, 2009 at 2pm, enjoy BEING HARRY HOUDINI, three of the best illusionists in the business: Todd Robbins, postmodern master of the sideshow; Michael Paul’s mentalism and magic; and David Garrity’s phenomenal vanishing acts appear at the Academy of Music Theatre

Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 2pm, SPOKEN WORD: STAGE AND PAGE features slam strategists Taylor Mali and Iyeoka Okoawo and emerging and established poets from the slam innovation and page poetry tradition at the Academy of Music Theatre

And on Monday, February 16, 2008 through Saturday, February 21, 2008 celebrate KIDSBESTFEST, with films for children of all ages
At the Academy of Music Theatre. All seats $3 at the door ONLY. A great idea for school vacation week!

YOUTHFILM is a special collection of films directed by, crafted by and starring local children and teens. Saturday, February 21, Festival starts at noon at the Academy of Music Theatre. All seats $3 at the door for people over 19, under 18 is free.

Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 2pm ends the Four Sundays series with THE REALLY BIG SHOW! David Simpson, director of Commonwealth Center for Change becomes Ed Sullivan in the 18th annual salute to Valley variety at the Academy of Music Theatre

Tickets for the Four Sundays in February 2009 Series can be purchased at any of the following ticket outlets: Cooper’s Corner; Food for Thought Books; Guild Art Centre; Northampton Arts Council; State St. Fruit Store; and World Eye Books.


New Phone System coming online

Finally, just a note that the City has begun switching over our telephone service in city buildings to the new VoIP service approved in last year’s Capital Improvement Plan. The transition to the new equipment is proceeding with only minor glitches, and should appear seamless to constituents phoning in. We do ask that you bear with us in the coming days as city staff become accustomed to the new telephones; it may take us a few additional seconds to transfer your call. You may also notice that additional city offices are set up with what is called an Auto Attendant. This means your call will be answered with a recording welcoming you to that department followed by information on how to reach a particular employee in that department. If you are a frequent caller, you may know your party’s 4-digit extension number and press it at any time (the extension number is the last four digits of the telephone number. For example, the Mayor’s Office extension is x-1249, since our phone number is 587-1249.) If you don’t know it, the auto attendant will help you route your call to the right person. If your call is answered by voice mail, it probably means the staff person is on another line with another caller. Please do leave a message. Our new phones make it very clear when new messages have arrived and a staffer will return your call as soon as possible.

Thank you for subscribing to the Mayor’s Email Updates. I hope you are all enjoying a healthy start to [2009]!

Clare Higgins

See also:

Northampton Redoubt: “Raining on the parade: political use of the Academy” (1/7/09)
Recently I received a press release stating that the
Academy of Music Board of Trustees decided to use the Academy of Music
for a screening of the presidential inauguration. The keynote speaker
is to be current Northampton mayor Mary Clare Higgins, who is actively
campaigning for re-election. I wonder what the Lymans would think.

According to the original deed (PDF) that bequests the Academy of Music to the city of Northampton (emphasis added):

said granted premises shall be devoted and used solely and exclusively
for the delivery of lectures, the production of concerts and operas and
the impressions and delineation of the drama of the better character;
and such other kindred subjects as shall be approved by the unanimous
vote of the Committee or board of management hereinafter named; but said premises shall never be used for political meetings or rallies or for the distinctive presentation of party politics.”