BY DAN VALENTI
ITEM: RENAMING WAHCONAH PARK
There have been many reasonable suggestions offered as an alternative to renaming beloved Wahconah Park after a former politician and good guy. The best have been in ancillary naming alternatives. There are many “naming” opportunities at the park: one post suggested naming the bleachers after Paul Dowd. Another said the beer tent. There’s the hospitality area, the concessions stands, the clubhouses, the bullpens, signage in centerfield, the batting cages, and countless others. These could be done without triggering consequences for the ballpark’s National Historical designation. The city council should substitute ancillary renaming for the wrong-headed call to rename the entire facility.
ITEM: “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”
Last night, THE PLANET and friends caught the opening of the fifth annual staging of the Berkshire Theater Festival’s presentation of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, “A Christmas Carol.” We shall be back later with our review. The play — adapted by, directed by, and starring Eric Hill — runs through Dec. 30 at the Unicorn Theater at the BTF campus in Stockbridge. We had the chance to meet many of our good friends there, including Kate Maguire, BTF artistic and producing director. Kate, as you may know, assumes a joint title in a similar role for the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield. We also had a chance to meet and greet songster James Taylor, whose wife plays Mrs. Bob Cratchit with both of his sons also in the ensemble cast. Others in the crowd included Dr. and Mrs. Jack Cassella and a 6-foot 6-inch ticket taker born to play the Ghost of Christmas Present.
ITEM: LEE SURRENDERS TO GRANT
Hey! You there! Pittsfield city council president Gerry Lee! Why haven’t you seen fit as leader of your august body to comment on the Interprint fiasco? The company got a lot in taxpayer funded grants with your help, and now, when the EPA finds them guilty of fouling the environment and operating without permits, you have nothing to say? THE PLANET has over the years tried e-mail, phone, Pony Express, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, Morse Code, Norse Code, Horse Code, Of Course Code, Coarse Code, Remorse Code, and telepathy seeking your input, yet you refuse to speak to our humbleness. Yet when the local daily calls looking for a feel-good comment on sunshine, you are there to say all is well with Vitamin D. What’s up with that, dude?
ITEM: WHEN IT SNOWS, LOOK FOR der Wunderbarrett
There once was a man named Barrett.
Jim Ruberto slipped him a carrot.
And what do you know? It started to snow.
And John said, “You boys better clear it.”
What’s in a Name? Plenty
The move to rename Wahconah Park after former city councilor Paul Dowd means well but is not a good idea.
Dowdie raised money for the Jimmy Fund, and THE PLANET salutes him for that. He pitched in Wahconah Park as a member of the Boston Red Sox farm system, where he rose as far as Triple A and received an invitation from the parent club to spring training. Arm woes scuttled his big-league dream, and when he could no longer get batters out on a routine basis, Dowd did a fine thing: He settled down in Pittsfield and became a player in the community. Again, THE PLANET finds all of this wonderful. Dowd dealt with tragedy, losing a brother to drugs and later suffering the death of his wife. He did so as well as could be expected under the circumstances.
Wahconah Park, however, must not be tied to the attributes of any one individual. We could offer the names of countless people since the park’s operation who have made this community a better one because of who they are and what they did. Naming one of them would “un-name” all the others. It’s rather like accepting an award or writing the acknowledgment pages for a book: If you have been helped by lots of people (and who hasn’t?), trying to name some leaves others out. The best situation is defer.
Wahconah Park belongs to ALL OF THE PEOPLE. It should not be tied to any one of us, much less a politician. We must leave politics off of the name Wahconah Park. Naming a “Conte” this or a “Capeless” that again means well, but the process of removing long-time names of public buildings is highly political and actually tears away some of the fabric of community. That being said, we do appreciate the irony involved in naming beloved Wahconah Park after a man who fought so hard for its irrelevance in campaigning for a new stadium via an incredibly ugly mechanism known as The Civic Authority. Remember that little affair? We thought so.
THE PLANET extends our best wishes to Dowdie as he struggles with Lou Gerhig’s disease. We are sorry that he has to undergo that crucible. Likewise, we acknowledge the good intentions of former city councilors James M. Boyle and William D. Barry, who have a petition circulating asking the council to consider naming the baseball field after Paul Dowd. Good intentions, however, are not enough to water down the name of one of the community’s most beloved facilities.
Council president Gerald Lee likes the idea on the basis of Dowd raising money for the Jimmy Fund and that “he was a decent baseball player.” All well and good, but this doesn’t raise a person to the honors of the altar.
Council President Lee may also like the fact that Interprint operates for nearly five years without the proper permits, fouling the precious Berkshire environment. We presume this, since — while he was pronouncing on the baseball acumen of a former councilor — he has had no time to issue a statement on behalf of the poor people of Pittsfield that he thinks fouling up the air and water is not a good thing.
THE PLANET cannot call Mr. Lee the worst council president in city history, since our knowledge base doesn’t reach that far into the dim and distant past, but we can say he’s a sorry excuse for what this city needs for leadership at the present. Presidential timber? Maybe at one time, but Lee’s time has past him on the right side.
DID YA HEAR THAT … (unconfirmed items that have come into the THE PLANET from members of our SECRET SQUADRON. We pass along for your edification. Make of them what you will.
— That a Realtor recently showed property in Pittsfield to city consultant John Barrett. Our spies say Der Wunderbarrett he looked at one of the shacks on pricey Blythewood Drive?
— That as a condition of the grants Pittsfield received to extend the sewer line to Interprint there was a requirement about job creation? Does anyone out there remember or know the number of positions and if the company met its requirements? One source says the company did not meet job requirements and in one case “ghost hired” a person then quickly fired them so they could count that as a job created? One has to to more that trust anyone who receives taxpayer handouts. One must verify. We trusted that Interprint had proper permits. We trusted that EV Worldwide would create 1,000 jobs. We trusted that Workshop Live would, for receiving three quarters of a million of your dollars, people, live up to its responsibilities. We trusted … You get the point. You know how that turned out.
— That there’s a “saga” going on involving Big Y and the Pittsfield Plaza, now under development (and under water)? The Big Y supermarket is mulling a move to where the former Big N and cinema center used to be, on Route 20 heading out of town. A retired manager at Big Y (“Big Y Source A”) said he heard Big Y ran into a lot of unanticipated issues involving “setbacks, wetland issues, overhangs, hookups, and even the footprint” of the proposed new store. These came as “surprises.” Big Y Source A says the company was told that if it moved from its downtown location on West Street, it would face “a long, practically endless permit process. Its variances would need variances.” Another source, Biy Y Source B, provided cross-checking information that could explain this. Big Y Source B claims the city wants to keep Big Y at its present downtown location “within walking distance for a whole host of undesireables” [a reference to the critters and street people who hang out nearby]. Why? See the next That.
— That one of the reasons the Big Y market wants to move to the Pittsfield Plaza is the problem of of “shrinkage” — theft in everyday language. The seedy people who infest downtown North Street shoplift as a way of living. The market is fed up. Source B also floats this intriguing possibility. There are “powers and dominions” who are trying to devalue the land at the Pittsfield Plaza. We piece this with the fact that Soldier On is an abutter to the Plaza. If Big Y doesn’t move there and the project goes kaput, the property would be ripe for seizure by the city under eminent domain law. It could then be “sold” to the abutter for $1. If true, this scenario would smell like year-old flounder.
— That all is not koscher at Soldier On? We have heard repeated talk, talk we stress, about allegations that some of the veterans there are not being treated right. When it comes to abuse of veterans, something has to be done.
— That the oversized “needy” population of Pittsfield, which is way out of proportion to most other Massachusetts communities, is the result of the grant money the state and feds send way. Most people don’t know. This is never “free” money. There’s a price. Tax credits, for example, might require that the city accept X number of people, welfare recipients, homeless, jobless, immigrants who can’t speak English, Sec. 8 denizens, drug addicts, prisoners, and other such. They have one thing in common: They eat up public services and contribute little to nothing in return.
YOUR TAX DOLLARS HARD AT WORK. THE PLANET SHARES WTITH YOU THIS DISPATCH FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:
NEW YORK – The Federal Aviation Administration is missing key information on who owns one-third of the 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the U.S. — a gap the agency fears could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers.
The records are in such disarray that the FAA says it is worried that criminals could buy planes without the government’s knowledge, or use the registration numbers of other aircraft to evade new computer systems designed to track suspicious flights. It has ordered all aircraft owners to re-register their planes in an effort to clean up its files.
About 119,000 of the aircraft on the U.S. registry have “questionable registration” because of missing forms, invalid addresses, unreported sales or other paperwork problems, according to the FAA. In many cases, the FAA cannot say who owns a plane or even whether it is still flying or has been junked.
ALSO, IT’S NOT ENOUGH THAT THE POOR POPE HAS TO DEAL WITH THE HUGE CHILD MOLESTATION SCANDAL, NOW THIS WIRE REPORT ON THE VATICAN BANK, ALSO FROM AP:
VATICAN CITY – This is no ordinary bank: The ATMs are in Latin. Priests use a private entrance. A life-size portrait of Pope Benedict XVI hangs on the wall.
Nevertheless, the Institute for Religious Works is a bank, and it’s under harsh new scrutiny in a case involving money-laundering allegations that led police to seize euro23 million ($30 million) in Vatican assets in September. Critics say the case shows that the “Vatican Bank” has never shed its penchant for secrecy and scandal.
The Vatican calls the seizure of assets a “misunderstanding” and expresses optimism it will be quickly cleared up. But court documents show that prosecutors say the Vatican Bank deliberately flouted anti-laundering laws “with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital.” The documents also reveal investigators’ suspicions that clergy may have acted as fronts for corrupt businessmen and Mafia.
The documents pinpoint two transactions that have not been reported: one in 2009 involving the use of a false name, and another in 2010 in which the Vatican Bank withdrew euro650,000 ($860 million) from an Italian bank account but ignored bank requests to disclose where the money was headed. Prosecutors alleged the Vatican ignored regulations that foreign banks must communicate to Italian financial authorities where their money has come from. All banks have declined to comment.
In another case, financial police in Sicily said in late October that they uncovered money laundering involving the use of a Vatican Bank account by a priest in Rome whose uncle was convicted of Mafia association.
THE PLANET WONDER WHEN THE VATICAN WILL CHANGE ITS NAME TO THE VATICAN’T.
WE LEAVE YOU WITH ONE LAST THOUGHT: IF ONE MAN, THE PLANET, CAN FIND STORIES LIKE THIS IS HIS SCANT RESOURCES AND SPARE TIME, WHAT IS THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA DOING WITH ALL OF THEIRS?
BYE FOR NOW.