A WIN OR LOSS FOR RUBERTO ON CREATION OF MORE CITY HALL BUREAUCRACY?, plus, AN ALTERNATE VIEW OF THE MUSEUM’S CHASE OF STUART
BY DAN VALENTI
Peter Marchetti, where were you? Your friends on the council’s Gang of Seven could have used your vote. You could have helped them hit the taxpayer in the wallet again and at the same time grow local government into a more unwieldy bureaucracy.
Be honest, my Right Honorable Good Friend. There’s no way you would have supported the taxpayers versus the Fat Cats Tuesday night. There’s no way you would have decided for common sense, reasonableness, and fiscal constraint and by voting against Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s plan to fatten the office of the mayor. Is The Planet right? If not, let us know.
Our reasoning is that since you almost always side with the Big Bad Guys against the little, ordinary citizens, you wouldn’t have done it on Tuesday.
For those keeping score at home, the Council’s Magnificent Seven on Tuesday night (Feb. 22, 2011) thought they had wrapped up the gift for their master, the mayor. Uncle Gerry Lee burped the Ruberto Groupies (Krol, White, and Lothrop) while hearing confession from the Malleable Others (Yon, Ward, and Capitanio). The Theraputic Three (Mazzeo, Sherman, and Nichols) argued correctly that the 7-3 vote to create a Director of Administration post was either illegal, wrong on the merits, or both.
What Does the Law Say (not that Such Matters in Pittsfield)
The mayor’s enablers will likely need Marchetti to get a required eighth vote when this comes up again, since city ordinance requires a supermajority (eight) to create new positions. Peter, remember, if you vote against the Little Guy this time, it will defeat you in November.
Let’s go to the record book, and this amended charter act from March 1981:
Chap. 10. AN ACT PROVIDING THAT THE AFFIRMATIVE VOTE OF AT LEAST EIGHT MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL SHALL BE REQUIRED FOR THE PASSAGE OF ANY ORDINANCE CREATING A NEW POSITION IN THE CITY OF PITTSFIELD. Be it enacted as follows: SECTION 1. Section 21 of chapter 280 of the acts of 1932 is hereby amended by striking out the fourth paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph: “ All final votes of the city council involving the expenditure of two hundred dollars or more shall be by yeas and nays which shall be entered in the records of the city council. On the request of one member any vote shall be by yeas and nays, which shall be entered in the records. The affirmative vote of at least six members of the city council shall be required for the passage of any order, ordinance, resolution or vote; provided, however, that the affirmative vote of at least eight members of the city council shall be required for the passage of any ordinance creating a new position. SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon its passage. Approved March 6,1981. [The Planet’s italics]
Was there anything going on in 1981 that would have required a supermajority vote? One of The Planet’s best gumshoes did a media content analysis of the back pages from 30 years ago. Agent Z-12 filed a report. We can share this paragraph from Z-12’s secret cable:
Sorry for not phoning up the articles for you on a flash drive but I didn’t have one with me, so jotted down some head lines to sort of give you an idea what was going on. You might recall [the Vested Interests were trying to convince taxpayers that] ‘the sky was falling’ at that time. Prop 2 ½ was coming. They asked: ‘How could we possibly run a city without the revenues we need’? Sort of like the Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana thing, isn’t it? But, if you can make any sense of these headlines, I think the crux of it was that the cities and towns were in trouble and couldn’t look to the state to bail them out. They were going broke. They panicked. Some of … the same things we’re dealing with now.
What our secret agent means is that, knowing that this year’s budget will induce angst and agita, and knowing that the Fear Tactics of the Special Interests will be playing soon at a budget near you, the administration is trying to get this government lard voted in right now — you know, the old hurry hurry hurry. Don’t bother with questions.
Mazzeo, Sherman, and Nichols Get It
Mazzeo, Sherman, and Nichols had done their homework prior to the vote. They read the charter. It’s there, in black and white. With the vote, Sherman cements a growing reputation for independence and political maturity, probably obtained courtesy of the Way Back Machine. The glowworm Lothrop, sucking up as always, argued that since the job already exists [dubious, at best, and only on the more transparent of technicalities], a simple majority is all that the Gang needed. Councilors referred the matter to city attorney Rich Dohoney. The city’s barrister said he would rule before the next council meeting.
So we don’t know if the first vote will be deemed a victory or defeat for Ruberto. If Dohoney does his job and interprets the law in a fair and impartial manner, the first vote will have failed for lack of a supermajority. The matter would be considered defeated. If Dohoney caves and abets this sneakery, the vote wins and the new position is created on second reading, March 8, when Uncle Jerry gets the rubber stamp from the drawer.
There was some scuttlebutt that the city solicitor could declare the vote null and void, but The Planet finds not basis to believe that will be the case.
The Council Slips on Its Rubbers
The rubber stamp is the council’s version of a prophylactic; Uncle and the Enablers slip on their rubbers, thus preventing the new life that might come from if they actually started listening to The Little Guy.
The Director of Administration. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It refers to the senior secretary’s job that Krol first held under the mayor. When the city had 60,000 people, there the mayor had one secretary. The city managed OK. Now, with a population under 40,000, they want to turn the mayor’s office in the stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera.” The stateroom on board ship is so packed with people that when an unsuspecting waiter opens the door, people pour out in a waterfall-like tumble. That’s what’s going to happen when one opens the door of the corner office if this goes through.
Voice of a Toadie
Lothrop — a man who has sold out to Da Man for a set of Davy Crockett iron-ons — argued that a position created in the prehistory of the Dobelle Administration and not filled since is still on the books. The Planet has heard of a toadie carrying the star’s water. We’ve heard of sycophant that sniffs the hero’s jockstrap, but we had yet to hear of a flunkie sniffing the guano of ancient history. Ah, J-Lo, you never cease to amaze.
As for Krol, he tells the Boring Broadsheet’s Dick Lindsay, “This is a way to shape City Hall and make it more efficient.” Fair enough of a statement, and that case could be made, but don’t you just love the way the BB style sheet calls for the capitals in “city hall.” Oh, the Reverence! Oh, the Kid Gloves! Oh, the Dick Lindsay!
City Hall: Cap C, cap H, whereby the BB indicates its fawning adoration of the Status Quo by making the building a proper noun! Lindsay also has this cute bit in his whitewash story: “If both measures are approved [creating administration and personnel positions], the net annual increase to the city budget at most would be $15,000.” [The Planet’s underline and italics]
“At most,” this so-called newsman writes. The phrase reveals that he’s shucking corn for the Massas at Marse Dean’s Plantation in S. Church Street. The Planet responds:
— Who says the increase to taxpayers would “at most” be $15,000? Lindsay doesn’t provide where he got that figure. We challenge him to publish the data.
— Where did he get “at most.” Is that a quote? Is he editorializing in a straight news piece?
— In plain English, what does the modifier “net” mean above? Does it mean, “Taxpayers, hold on to your wallets”?
— How could the copy desk at the Boring Broadsheet allow Lindsay’s editorializing in what is presented as a straight news piece? (Is that why the BB doesn’t dare assign Conor Berry to cover city hall? Is that why they have dry-inked his capable pen?)
Mazzeo made the essential point by noting that, since Ruberto is a lame duck, why not wait until the new mayor is elected and see then what the preference is. What’s the big hurry?
The Planet, and no one else, has answered that. The “hurry” is the fraud that is about to be committed at budget time.
“The sky is falling.”
Come budget time, we will be hearing this over and over from the Suits, the Establishment, the Vested Interests, the Special Interests, the Big 3 Unions, the Pittsfield 100, Mike Supranowicz, and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver: “We are in a financial crisis. Give us our pay raises, or the schools will close, crime will run rampant, and buildings will burn down. We are out of money, therefore, create new administrative positions in city hall.”
Some logic, eh? And how, and WHO, you might ask, pays for all this? If you are a Pittsfield taxpayer — Gotta mirror?
Museum Chases Chase: A Board Member Speaks Out
The Planet has more on the soon-to-be-gone-but-not-forgotten CEO of the Berkshire Museum. A source connected to the museumboard said Stuart Chase got off on the wrong foot with his first purchase. Chase, the source reminded indeed us, commissioned an expensive photo shoot whose end result produced what was intended to be an iconic shot of the North Street and Columbus Avenue intersection and make Pittsfield famous.
The photographer needed about 15 years and 25 truckloads worth of equipment to get the shot you could take with your $98 digital Panasonic. It resulted in Pittsfield being mocked and panned as a dead city in the international press. The source (TS) didn’t know what the museum paid for the photo.
It’s the Bottom Line, Baby
TS cited bottom-line issues as a factor in Stuart’s move. In a year (2009 to 2010), the museum’s summer attendance dropped by a third. At the same time, the budget rose by $200,000. That’s not a good combination, as TS laconically observed. Other complaints included the exhibits: not dynamic enough, not publicized enough, and did not revolve with enough frequency.
TS claimed Chase created an atmosphere unfriendly to locals, adding that Chase never got the pulse of the city.” Also mentioned: Chase reduced staff by one-quarter (the museum now employs 21)
Museum Source on BB: Another ‘Wallpaper Job.’
TS called the Boring Broadsheet’s coverage of Chase’s resignation a PR piece. TS questioned the claim in the story that it was a friendly parting. TS said it appeared otherwise but conceded it would be hard to judge with certainty.
The Planet is not familiar enough with the politics and intrigue of the Berkshire Museum to make a judgment one way or the other on Chase’s exit. We publish TS’s views to present an alternate take and in the interests of the marketplace of ideas.
AND SO WE MOVE ON, A PLANET AGAINST THE CURRENT, BORNE CEASELESSLY INTO THE FUTURE. LOVE TO ALL.