Article

**A PLANET EXCLUSIVE** PITTSFIELD OFFICIALS FAIL TO FILE PAPERS ON HOTEL/MEALS TAX, COSTING TAXPAYERS PLENTY

BY DAN VALENTI

EXCLUSIVE TO THE PLANET!

AN ERROR IN PAPERWORK BY PITTSFIELD OFFICIALS HAS ROBBED CITY COFFERS OF A SUBSTANTIAL SUM OF MONEY. AT THE SAME TIME, HOMEOWNERS AND BUSINESSES HAVE JUST BEEN HAMMERED WITH YET ANOTHER LARGE TAX HIKE.

*  *  *

Do you recall earlier this fall, when the city council needed to hurry-hurry-hurry in passing the increase in the restaurant and meals tax. My Right Honorable Good Friends, including His Grace Jonathan Lothrop, argued that time — usually of the essence under the best of circumstances — was in this case of “triple secret super essence.” In other words, “Don’t bother to read the fine print. Trust us.”

JONATHAN LOTHROP: Could he find his ass with both hands? Some say yes, others disagree.

That wasn’t J-Lo’s quote, but it gives you the gist: With the uncertainty of state funds, bird plop on the cherry sheets, squid belly futures down in Kuala Lumpur, and other non squiturs, Lothrop, Lee, and the rest of the band Bad Company couldn’t wait to raises taxes on Pittsfield’s hoteliers and restaurateurs. Not only did Pittsfield institutions (Pasquale Arace of the Highland Restaurant and Mark Pappas of  The Lantern, for example) NOT receive generous tax breaks of the kind given the carpetbagger investors in downtown Pittsfield , they were being hammered on top of their usual tax beating.

So how much of that extra money that Pittsfield so desperately needed made its way back from the Department of Revenue (DOR) in Boston to Shire City?

Z-e-r-o. Not one red or blue cent.

Uh, no, apparently. We haven' been taxed enough.

You wanna know why? Lothrop, Lee, and Mates, in their hurry to pick the pockets of honest businessmen, never filed the necessary papers with DOR. In short, the city lost one full business quarter of business because some city officials don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. We’re not even sure if Lothrop, who once was a voice of the people and who now for some reason seems to have been entirely coopted by Da Boys, could find his heinie with both hands. He sure didn’t trouble himself to see if the paperwork to the sales tax legislation had been correctly filed. The new tax rate will go into effect Jan. 1.

Since downtown business is so great (what, don’t you read the Berkshire Eagle?), how many dollars did city taxpayers lose because of the idiots who didn’t follow procedure? J-Lo, wanna do some research into that in your spare time? Where is Matt Kerwood when we really need him?

This cause was championed by the crack Eagle management staff and it was hurry-hurry-hurry. Get it approved so we can start raking in the dough on October 1.

A city hall source tells THE PLANET that someone in the Allen Street Ayslum forgot to send out the notices to the restaurants so they could adjust their cash registers and prepare to collect the badly needed dough. Can the same city that argued how badly needed was this infusion of cash be so inept that they would piss away that dough for a entire quarter? Did you give it a good shake, J-Lo?

Why do we pick on J-Lo. Because he is a policy wonk, who makes a show about how much he does his research and his homework when working on the city’s business.

What an irony. Interprint can’t follow procedures when they’re doing a project, the school department maintenance crew can’t follow procedure when flushing boilers, and the Allen Street Asylum can’t follow procedures when adding additional taxes. BUT …

… but everyone knows the ins and outs when it comes to stealing more tax dollars from The Little Guy. They know how to put up stop signs where they’re not needed and traffic lights too. They know how to make excuses for the lack of accountability in Pittsfield.

———————————————

MIKE WARD. He gets it. (Photo credit to iBerkshires.com)

THE PLANET laughs at His Grace Jonathan Lothrop for chiding councilors Mike Ward and John Krol for trying to give business a tiny bit of a break when splitting the tax rate. In his recent newsletter, Ward explained the confusing tax classification hearing as clear as we’ve ever seen it. In June, the city approves a spending plan. In December, it decides who pays for what, that is, how much will homeowners pick up and how much will be put on business owners.

Pittsfield does not have an equal split. Businesses pay much more. The city council approved Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s spending plan to raise taxes on everyone. Homeowners saw taxes rise from $14.20/thousand to $15.19. Businesses were formerly paying $29.31. They jump to $30.95. Ward and Krol managed to win a slight break on the commercial rate, which demonstrates a deeper understanding of the process than my other Right Honorable Good Friends.  We also agree with councilor Joe Nichols, who said at the tax hearing that unless the city begins making significant cuts in the budget, “We’re going to tax people out of their homes and businesses.”

Incidentally, didn’t J-Lo also harangue Nichols when the latter made a reasonable comment regarding the “presentation from John Barrett on his findings as the Department of Public Works Administration consultant” (from the council agenda). Barrett wasn’t there. Nichols pointed that out, but J-Lo lectured Nichols for daring to raise a point of order. Lost in the confusion of the moment, our mental replay has the idiotic reply coming from Lothrop. It sounds like the thing he’s do in his new role as Establishment Waterboy.

The Pittsfield budget now stands at a whopping $127 million.

Guys like Lee and Lothrop cry that there’s nowhere to cut? Pull-eeze. A few simple suggestions, eminently doable:

* Pension reform. Renegotiate the mountain of benefits that are no longer sustainable.

* Trim the fat in the school departments. Starts with the bloated admin layers.

* Change the taxpayer-funded health insurance for public workers from 85-15 to 60-40.

* Require a 40-hour workweek of public employees who now work 35 to 37 1/2 hours.

These three changes alone would bring the budget below $100 million WITH NO DROP IN SERVICES. It can be done. It simply needs courage, political will, and effectiveness, qualities that don’t come to mind when thinking of the council leadership (Lee and Marchetti) and doorstops like J-Lo.

————————————–

And what were Sen. Ben Downing, BCC President Paul Raverta, and BMC Chief Eugene Dellea discussing at lunch in the “fancy eatin’ room” at the Red Lion Inn? Our spies report they were there before noon (12/16) and still there well after two p.m. That’s six+ man hours of top talent, over what? The pan seared trout? We can’t say, although we will say that our spies are everywhere, even in the most hallowed of halls and the highest of offices.

17 Responses to “**A PLANET EXCLUSIVE** PITTSFIELD OFFICIALS FAIL TO FILE PAPERS ON HOTEL/MEALS TAX, COSTING TAXPAYERS PLENTY”

  1. Gene D.
    December 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    As a property owner in Pittsfield, middle class, pay my taxes ,follow the rules etc., I am so frustrated. On this meals tax here I thought all along that they had been collecting since October. Now we learn this. Thanks for sharing. Mr Lothrop is my councilor and he is not the same man as when he first got in. He wll never get my vote again.

  2. Luke Egan
    December 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    great suggestions to drop 27 mill from the budget. I have some qualms about the school department, but pension reform, yes.

    But in good ol’ boy Pittsfield, who’s gonna vote for that? Why would someone willingly vote to cut their own pension? or the pensions of their buddies in the Police department?

    I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, that our Sheriff elect has been spending alot of his time directing traffic lately.

    trying to buff up that paycheck, eh pudgy?

    • danvalenti
      December 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

      LUKE
      Thanks for the insight. The council can force pension reform, just as it did when Joe Ryan was president and it changed the rules to allow the three highest pay years to determine pension amount and other giveaways. Since the 80s, when people stopped paying attention, the politicians in the city have been pawns for innumerable contract benefits. They are no longer sustainable, of course. If enough people wake up to what’s going on in that town, there CAN be a revolution for the better.

  3. Joe Pinhead
    December 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Why a meals tax anyway? If it is to pay for the redevelopment and the investment that was put into North Street than why not have it just on the Restaurants on North Street? Establish an enterprise zone where the taxes could pay for the redevelopment? They did it to give out taxpayer’s money? (spice etc)
    Why not pass a Tax on printing firms located on RT. 41 who have been busted by the EPA?
    The unfairness of a meals tax reeks of class warfare. Pick your local little eatery that you go to grab a couple of eggs some home fries and toast. They had to pay additional taxes that went to give incentives to their competition! Now on top of it they have to collect extra revenue from the customers to help fund the competition, isn’t that one heck of a how day a do.

  4. Alex D
    December 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    Dan do you know if the eleven year tax breaks given to Spice/Burger, no Jae’s Spice/Press Box, nope Jae’s Spice were tied job creation? Seems they got to walk away from a lot of taxes for being about the worst managed restaurant in the history of Pittsfield.
    Also do you know if I, a regular tax payer can get gifts like that or at least, who’s palm I gotta grease to get some of these breaks?

  5. Robin
    December 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    ok first they tax the restaurants (my dad owns one in pittsfield). thats bad enough then after doing it they bungle the collection. the city talks a lot about being “business friendly” but they are the opposite of it. lets run “public servants” like Jonathan lothrop out of town on a rail.

  6. No Reply
    December 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    What I think has the people loving it and the Establishment types epitimized by the sad sack J Lothrop is that Valenti seems to be getting exclusives every day. Hes burying the Eagle. Hoooo baby!!

  7. Jim Gleason
    December 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    Please don’t compare an excellent rock and roll band like Bad Company to these jokers. Lothrop likes to get up on his high horse about everything from blight to Barrett and tries to sound like he’s for the public well being. BULLS%^T!! Lee sits on his throne like he’s King S&*t and issues edicts to his minions. They both need to GO, NOW!!!

  8. M Wood
    December 16, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    At some point we have to admit that we get the government we deserve, we have seen any number of scandals and outright looting of the taxpayer funds. EV worldwide, the health insurance mess, David Kiley and the retirement funding scam. It’s a perfect system for the Pols. Increase your taxes meaning you have to work more to just stay afloat; the less you can pay attention to the scams and charades. It doesn’t help that the paper does not serve as the 4th pillar what tax hasn’t the Eagle supported editorially?

    • Charles D
      December 16, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

      Lee and Lothrop are the two that must go. Lees retiring. Lothrop’s gonna be retired by the voters. They love taxes. Offer no solutions. Just kiss up to the Powers that own them. After Mark Millers great race I enrolled in the Green Party. Power to the people.

  9. Stone Hingee
    December 16, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Seems like everytime the city gives a handout to some business there’s the promise of a ton of job. Nothing ever happens. Did Interprint live up to its hiring responsibilities. I know someone who works there and he tells of how they hire people then quickly let them go, just so the books show they created jobs. Their work force is listed on a business web site as “25 to 100″. What does that mean? It means they have a core of overworked, underpaid jobs, a handful of good paying exec jobs, and a bunch of migrant and phantom jobs. They poison the air and that’s OK, apparently, because the city of pittsfield never checked on the permits. Not their job.
    And this website is the only media outlet to have anything about the horrible meals tax, This hits the restaurant owners and anyone who goes out for a meal. Tax happy louts: the mayor and city council (except Ward). Clean house in 2011.

  10. rick
    December 17, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    im sure if a poll is taken on this sitting council , we would get a vote of no confidence. i would love to see a chart of votes for the past year on each of them,and see the yes people in black and white. the reason we vote them in is to listen to us,their our voice. more and more people are voicing their disgust most recently at the open mike. when people stop listening,gaffs like the above mentioned will become all to frequent. the in fighting between old and new councilors is down right embarrising, and about j lo,you are always going to have a blow hard sitting up their.but the great thing about democracy is we can get rid of the bums.

  11. Paul
    December 17, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    That’s not a bad idea: a poll on the councilors. like a “do you have confidence in them” or “do they deserve to be run out of town” and have yes or no. people can click on their preference. My would be run them out of town. the worst: lothrop, lee, marchetti, & white the best ward, mazzeo, yon, nichols

    • Jim Gleason
      December 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

      Yon? YON??You’ve got to be kidding.

  12. danvalenti
    December 17, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    PAUL
    Maybe we can rig up something here on THE PLANET. That would be nice to have for election season, 2011, where you can bet this site will be a factor.

  13. Dean
    December 17, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    Good article Dan although I think if you went about it differently you may have gotten a response/quote from Mr. Lothrop or those involved. That is my only quarrel.

    • danvalenti
      December 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

      DEAN I hear you, but you know, with Lothrop, who has continually ignored my requests for comment, it would be an exercise in futility. If they want to comment, they can contact THE PLANET and we will only be too glad to print what they have to say. I appreciate your feedback. You criticisms are well aimed and though through. Feedback like this can only make this site do a better job.