BY DAN VALENTI
One is the loneliest number except when you’re first in the race.
What do these stories have in common: EPA fines Interprint, Bill Hines to step down as PEDA chief, stores closing on North Street, stores opening on North Street, school custodians dump green glop into the Housy, the CEDS failure, candidate running for office (Nicols) and leaving (Ruberto) office, and so many more?
Answer: They all broke first in The Planet.
While the Boring Broadsheet was telling you about such vital page 1 news as Alan Chartock’s grimy grab at a million bucks for WAMC in the latest stickup by Northeast Public Radio, The Planet was dishing news and views, news that matters and views that exercise your gray matter. Which leads us to this photo, taken on North Street today:
If you read the caption, you will know the story. The Planet had reality reduced to truth when it shared, weeks before, that Museum Facsimiles is looking to book. MF (seriously, no pun intended) told The Planet we had it all wrong. They blamed us for not contacting them, even after they didn’t return phone calls or e-mails.
Incidentally, none of this is personal. Mrs. Planet loves this store, and so do we for its quality and selection, though we find it overpriced. It seems that blue-collar Pittsfield is voting on this business the way the free market should: up or down as measured by nothing more than foot traffic, business, and sales. Perhaps Museum Facsimiles, while great for Lenox, is way too hoity-toity for Pittsfield.
Barrett for Mayor Ain’t Gonna Happen
Sorry to disappoint you conspiracy theorists, but one-time North Adams Mayorforlife John Barrett will not be Pittsfield’s next mayor, let alone run for the office. Der Wunderbarrett, in a wide-ranging interview with The Planet this morning, said “I have no interest in being mayor. There’s been a lot of kidding and speculation about it, but that’s all it is. I’m a North Adams guy.”
Asked to comment about the announcement of Jimmy Ruberto not to seek re-election, Barrett revealed something surprising: “I tried to talk him out of it, but after talking to him, I didn’t try too much harder. I knew he wanted out.” Barrett recalled a conversation from April 2009, when Ruberto’s wife, Ellen, had taken a turn much for the worse in her battle against cancer: “I told him you ought to think about running again, in case she does pass. I had that conversation with him. I thought if she died, he would need the office” so he could lose himself in work.
That worked for Barrett when his wife died while he was in office, but it didn’t work for Ruberto. They are two different men who have become friends in the last year.
Barrett, though, understood why Ruberto called it quits, especially Jimmy’s self-expressed need to properly grieve: “I agree with that. I was there [As we said, Barrett also lost his wife while he was mayor]. Jim has not had the opportunity to grieve. He told me that. He had a partnership with Ellen. In politics, you expect to get beat up, but you usually have a partner to share the highs and lows. He lost that.
“She was his sounding board,” Barrett said. “She admonished him when he made a mistake and praised him when he was right. When he lost her, he lost a good portion of himself.”
Barrett doesn’t see Ruberto retiring. Barrett thinks Ruberto will stay in Pittsfield and seek a position in sales relating to economic development. Barrett sais Ruberto told him, “I can sell the area. I can sell the community.”
Barrett called Ruberto “a better politician than me. He handled people better. He didn’t let his adversaries eat away at him. He killed them with kindness. With me, I learned a style of politics that he who isn’t with you is against you. He had an easier attitude with people I wish I had adapted.”
In the end, Barrett explained why Ruberto isn’t running: “He’s just tired.”
Who’s In, Who’s Out?
Now that the strong incumbent is a lame duck, be prepared for a “49er gold rush” stampede of “bees” and “wannebees” for the corner office. This picture is as incomplete as one of Finance Director Sue Carmel’s spreadsheets and as fluid as a Guinness at last call down in the Tavern, but here’s the early scuttlebutt:
*Joe Nicols: He’s running. Strength: Sincerity. Weakness: Lacks polish.
*Peter Marchetti: He has long fantasized about being mayor. Is this when he risks all on one roll of the dice? Nope. In the end, Marchetti will discover what he already knows about discretion. It’s the better part of valor.
* Dan Bianchi: He’s playing it coy, but trust us: He’s in. Book it, Dano. Strength: Experience. Weakness: Rhetorically oblique.
* Kevin Sherman, Mike Ward, and John Krol: Sherman might have mayoral “name” but doesn’t have mayoral “game.” Ward has already bowed out of Campaign 2011. Krol needs much more seasoning.
*The wannabees: You will get your share of Pam Malumphys, Guy Notos, Nick Caccamos, Rick Moons, Donna Waltos, and the like. Some mean well, others want their Warholian 15 minutes. None of them will have the two vital ingredients to a credible run: (1) money and (2) organization.
The Planet for Mayor? This one has been floated. The residency obstacle could be easily overcome. So what about it, Valenti?
We have just fired ourselves as our own press secretary for remarking “no comment,” something a public figure should never do. A Planet campaign, though, could guarantee one thing: A race for the ages. Can you imagine how the Boring Broadsheet would cover us:
“VALENTI CAUGHT IN INFLUENCE PEDDLING SCHEME” … “VALENTI KINGPIN OF PUBLIC TRUST” … “VALENTI PAST REVEALS HONDURAS FOMENTING.”
Locked and Loaded, or How Many in the Chamber?
Last night, the Chamber of Commerce hosted one of its kiss-ups, the SAKE (Schmooze And Kneepad Extavaganza) known as “After Hours.” This SAKE featured Greylock Federal Credit Union and Berkshire United Way. We wonder if former Greylock VP and disgraced alleged embezzler Mike DiCenzo stopped by to see if he could pick the pocketbooks of some gullible old ladies? What about convicted criminal and grifter Angelo Stracuzzi? “Do you like oysters, Antolinus, or do you like shrimp”?
The Johnson Ford-Lincoln-Mercury-Nissan-Yugo-Edsel-Studebaker-Pinto dealership and Greylock generously donated a car. Don’t know if the vehicle is intended for one-way rides only. It comes with no reverse gear and bags of cement in the trunk.
We had plenty of spies chowing down on the free grub (hors d’oeuvres but no whore do’overs). An interesting morsel floated skyward about the Berkshire Chamber pulling out of its national affiliation. What’s up with that? Hmmm, are the fiances what they should be, Mike Supranowicz, or aren’t they?
Prediction: Supranowicz will quit the Chamber soon and get out of town ahead of the posse. We could be wrong, but we thought we did notice that the corral behind the Chamber has a fast horse, ready to ride.
LATER, MY GOOD FRIENDS.