Before telling you about the forum The Planet moderated today for the Vox network (Larry Kratka producing and Clarence Fanto sitting in as guest panelist), we must share the latest word on the skulking and sulking of hulking Chris Speranzo.
Our Spies Check In
* A field report from our spies who were there at the groundbreaking for the new science building at MCLA says the dais included a host of dignitaries, including our state representatives. Senator Ben Downing, William “Smitty” Pignatelli, and the man Smitty calls the “smartest official in state government,” Dan Bosely, were all there and spoke. Ah, but where was Waldo?
Noticeably absent from the speakers row was 3rd Berkshire District Rep., Mr. Profiles in Courage himself, Chris “No Show” Speranzo. “No Show” was there in body, true, but hiding with the hoi polloi in the cheap seats. His spirit was nowhere to be found. What, you’d think the guy was embarrassed or something. Here is a picture from iBerkshires.com that went with Tammy Daniels story. Look as hard as you might, but you will not see “No Show” anywhere.
2nd Berkshire Debate at WBEC/VOX: Langenour vs. Pignatelli
Our Right Honorable Good Friend, Mr. Pignatelli, showed what he’s made of today at Vox studios, where we moderated the final of what seems to have been an endless loop of forums and debates. He showed this by showing up to play Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots with his challenger, Scott Langenour. He didn’t wimp out, as Chris Speranzo has done twice on opponent Mark Miller, and, most important, on every man, woman, and child who lives in the 3rd Berkshire District. Both Pignatelli and Langenour “manned up” and took the chin music.
We may take the audio from this show and present it to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard as a case study in how opponents can engage each other in a strident way, share lots of information, present divergent views, pound away in the clenches, and do so in a classy way that does a service to the electorate.
Seriously, I’ve done a million and one of these things, and this one stands out. Both Pignatelli and Langenour came prepared. Both handled tough questions without flinching. Both men didn’t back down and managed to do so while being respectful. Both displayed a commitment for public service that leads one to believe they are each approaching the job for the right reasons.
Agreeing and Disagreeing
Smitty basically pointed to his long record of public service, beginning when he was a lad ushering traffic at Tanglewood and continuing to this day on Beacon Hill. Langenour made a credible case for his interest in the state rep’s seat by citing more than a decade of community service in Lenox (where he lives) and Pittsfield.
When The Planet asked the two men who agree on many positions (wind tower siting, single-payer health care, public transportation, for example) to name the biggest difference separating them, Langenour said that as a member of the Green Rainbow Party, he “would take no money” from corporations or lobbyists and would ensure that his “power affiliations” (his term for donors) would be grassroots.
Pignatelli countered by inviting Langenour to examine his list of donors. It includes his third grade teacher, his Little League coach, and many friends. Pignatelli made the point that while he has raised more money than Langenour, his donor group consists primarily a long list of small-time contributions, essentially from the grassroots.
Langenour said, “My party takes no contributions from the insurance industry,” unlike the party of his Democratic opponent. Langenour essentially said the political system is broken and that the two major parties (and especially the Democrats here in Massachusetts) have been co-opted beyond redemption by lobbyists, big business, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, and the health-care lobby. The observation honed in like a laser on the source of frustration and anger that so grips American right now. By inference, he said this influence of Big Money is what has tainted Smitty’s candidacy, guilt by association.
“I represent 40,000 people [in the 2nd Berkshire District],” Pignatelli shot back. “Everyone of them is a ‘lobbyist’ to me.” He then mentioned two specific cases in the past two days where ordinary constituents called him for help. “Those are my lobbyists.” He then cited a page from his dad’s playbook. Smitty’s father is the great John Pignatelli (who, along with Peter Arlos and Mary Flynn, is one of The Planet’s local political idols). Pignatelli said his father taught him a vital lesson: if you can be of help to people, do it.
Single Payer and More
The hour-long forum touched upon many issues (legalization of marijuana, Pittsfield airport expansion, progressive property taxes and more), with the dominant issues being single-payer health care and jobs.
“Single payer is simple,” Langenour said. “It costs less.” Pignatelli said he had learned much from the passage and shortcomings of the current (and, nationwide, landmark) health care legislation passed in Boston. He said lawmakers “have to be more aggressive” in going after future cost savings, and he pledged to be voice in a battle that will pit reformers against the health insurance lobby.
— Most intriguing phrase: A tie between Langenour’s reference to “a democracy deficit” in mainstream politics and Pignatelli’s line about having 40,000 lobbyists.
— Best bumper-sticker moment: Langenour, “Conservation is [a form of] alternative energy.”
— Most enlightening moment: Langenour, in his introductory statement, mentioned that he and his husband, Bill, have lived in the Berkshires for 11 years. The Planet loved the way that can be said now, in a public forum, as an afterthought and not as an issue. We have grown much on the matter since 2003.
— Best response to the question of job creation: Pignatelli, citing specific examples in Southern Berkshire County and correcting The Planet that, while the recreation and resort economy creates lots of low-paying service jobs, they also spin off better positions (accountants, executives, etc.), where the money stays local. Langenour, incidentally, is a former regional vice president for the Marriott chain, where he supervised $1 billion worth of business.
All in all, The Planet can honestly say our production helped potential voters. Both men showed up. Unlike Chris Speranzo, they didn’t spit on the democratic process.