BY DAN VALENTI
More Scoops that Ben and Jerry’s
We’ve got some interesting material in the hopper. The Planet has learned the identity of the new manager of the Pittsfield Colonials. The team will announce it Thursday. We got the scoop and will give it to you tomorrow.
Moreover, we have seen the draft of a letter to the Federal Election Commission inquiring about the legality of an attempt by the Gang of 23 — “Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County” — to pressure declared congressional candidate Andrea Nuciforo out of the race. The Gang might think it’s covered free speech. The street calls that sort of strong-arm tactic tampering or worse. Wonder what the FEC will think? We are trying to get a copy of the document, and if we do, you will read about it first.
If you wait for the Boring Broadsheet to bring you the news, forget it. They didn’t have a word about the fatal accident in Monterey, which The Planet scooped yesterday. They also have had zero coverage on the “smoking gun” behind Pittsfield failure in economic development this past decade. That’s the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), which leads us to this discussion.
CEDS in Action … If You Can Call it That
CEDS is a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA). According to Commerce’s guide, “A CEDS is the result of a local planning process designed to guide the economic growth of an area. … A CEDS is required to qualify for EDA assistance under its public works, economic adjustment, and most planning programs.”
In Pittsfield, the CEDS process is led by Nat Karns of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, who directs the BRPC’s CEDS committee. Today, the committee was scheduled to have the third of six planned meetings prior to the formulation of a strategy. Since 2001, the city of Pittsfield has failed to have a CEDS approved by Uncle Sam. BRPC never completed the 2004 effort. In 2009, the process didn’t get out of the gates.
The Dead On Arrival planning specialists are at it again in 2011.
The Planet presents information gleaned from the minutes of the Nov. 30, 2010 CEDS meeting, held at BRPC headquarters in Pittsfield (incidentally, only a day after 23 “Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County” paid a visit to Andy Nuciforo). We present this in neutral fashion and ask all reasonable people out there if these facts inspire confidence in the 2011 process:
Bullet Points from 11/29/10 CEDS Meeting: A Cause for Concern
* Thomas Matuszko of the BRPC staff told committee members (minus several members who skipped class, including Chamber president Mike Supranowicz) the committee “must represent a broad and diverse background of individuals and organizations.” A look at the committee membership shows it dominated by public employees and not-for-profits.
* Under a section of the minutes called “What Are the Berkshires?” a bullet point notes committee members “felt a couple topic or components in the Berkshires Regional Analysis and Influence section … were missing [or] not given enough emphasis.” The meeting, under Karns, doesn’t address these concerns.
* From the minutes: “Another Committee member [not identified, of course] asked, ‘Why the 2004 CEDS planning effort failed?’ Mr. Karns and a number of previous CEDS Committee members explained why the 2004 CEDS planning effort failed.” The minutes then drop the topic as if it were a glowing-hot steel rivet. Why? Isn’t this one of the crucial questions?
* “A Committee member [not IDd] then asked, “What lines of communication have been opened or what efforts have been made to ensure that the issues of the 2004 CEDS process would not happen again?” Again, the minutes appear to drop the discussion, leading to a reasonable question: What happened in 2004 that the BRPC and the CEDS committee for that year don’t want people to know?
* For the 2011 vision statement, “Staff selected the draft 2004 Vision Statement as the proposed language for the 2011 CEDS document.” This quote from the minutes is accurate. It is not a mistake. The 2011 CEDS committee is using the FAILED 2004 statement again in 2011.
* One of the follow-up questions concerned transparency. A person or persons unknown from the committee asked, “Are we ignoring the private sector”? The minutes give no indication that this question was addressed.
* “Additionally, a Committee member [you got it, again not identified] asked, ‘Has there been an official press release or public notice published on the CEDS processes in the regional news outlets?’ Staff said, ‘No, but indicated it will approach a number of the regional news outlets.” This suggest a breathtaking level of incompetency. BRPC admits it has not sent out a press release so the public may be informed of what’s going on, even though the CEDS meetings are subject to the Open Meeting laws. When this information is pieced with some of the previous bullet points The Planet has pointed out, do you get the sneaking suspicion that BRPC, the committe, and the city don’t want you to know what’s going on?
Does the Committee Makeup Even Qualify?
Finally, we point out there is no indication that the CEDS committee as presently constructed fulfills the federal rule that it be “composed with a diverse structure of individuals, specifically those from the private sector and a diverse background of stakeholder groups [i.e., the general public]. This is a change from past CEDS requirements, in which the composition of the Committee was geared more towards municipalities.”
In light of this, is it not, therefore, a reasonable question to ask if the present CEDs committee, dominated as it is by the public employee and non-for-profit sectors, fails out of the starting gate to meet federal requirements?
Moreover, how many city councilors have been attending the CEDS meetings? As one correspondent to this site has pointed out, councilors John Krol and Peter White can break into their Facebook pages with heart-stopping “emergency” announcements that it’s going to snow in January, but where have they been on economic development save for talking the usual rose-colored trash and bullspit?
As long as public officials act to preclude the public from public processes as CEDS, and as long as politicians such as Krol and White look the other way and pretend everything’s great, Pittsfield and Berkshire County have no chance — not a shot — on the 2011 CEDS. We can also take every rosy statement on how great the economy is, the jobs situation is, in Pittsfield with a grain of guano.
Remember, Chamber president Mike Supranowicz only yesterday told you how wonderful and hunk dory the city’s doing economically. Too bad he didn’t care enough about economic development to drag his carcass to the Nov. 29 CEDS meeting.
What Supranowicz there today? Who else skipped class? The minutes will tell all.