BY DAN VALENTI
It’s been a busy day on The Planet, with all sorts of weather fronts moving in and out — low pressure, high pressure, turbulence, wind (lots of hot air, some of it ours), rain, and sun (there’s no snow in this part of the universe).
Here are some items of the day.
* Not that we needed it, since we already knew, but for those who doubt that the Boring Broadsheet reads and monitors (there’s a difference) this sight, we offer the evidence. Next, we get an expert’s views of the PCB situation in Pittsfield. We then we give you a sobering piece on the federal deficit by a conservative columnist who tells the truth to what the GOP is up to in trying to appease the rabid right on reducing the size of government. Small government is the last thing the Republicans in Congress want to do, for it will upset too many vested interests. They only want to make it look like they care.
Without further delay, then …
For a Juror, Where Does the Jury Box End?
One of the comments in response to yesterday’s piece on Seth Rogovoy getting thrown off the jury in the child-molestation case of a former Catholic priest (found guilty, by the way) came from the Berkshire Eagle’s Conor Berry, who covered the case for the BB. The Planet knows for a fact that our musings are read by most everybody at 75 S. Church St. In fact, some of our biggest fans are there, not that we will out them. Occasionally, though, we will have someone dispute that Eagle staffers check in on The Planet. Our good friend Berry shows you, once again, The Planet gives you the truth.
In fairness to Mr. Rogovoy, he did NOT tweet from the jury box, as you’ve stated here. The messages were sent after hours from his home, apparently, not while he was sitting in the box. That would have been instantly noticed by court officers, considering Rogovoy was seated front and center in the bottom row, and jurors can’t bring any electronic devices into the courtroom.
In terms of the “Boring Broadsheet” getting scooped by “Hartford” and “Springfield,” I don’t know where you got that info. Eagle managing editor Kevin Moran posted an item about the “Rogovoy Incident” just minutes after it happened. How do I know this? Because photographer Ben Garver and I both phoned this information into Kevin (just like the old days, remember?), who quickly got it up online.
You can dislike and mock the paper all you like, but at least be sure your criticism is accurate.
Regards, Conor Berry
The Planet answered:
When I served as foreman of a jury in January 2007, the judge told us that when we left the courthouse, we were to consider that we were “still in the jury box.” That is the sense I used the term. [NOTE: The Planet even went back to modify the original story to explain that we never meant Rogovoy tweeted from the literal jury box while in actual court. But we still remember the judge’s instructions to us on the jury: when you stepped outside that courthouse, you were still duty bound not to say or communicate anything to anyone in any fashion about the trial. The fact that Judge Agostini kicked Rogovoy off the jury supports The Planet’s understanding and use of the phrase. The Rogovoy incident, by the way,made national news, including the Wall Street Journal. It wasn’t a trivial matter whatsoever].
Second, when I said the BB got scooped, I stand corrected. Thank you.
Third, I love reporting that harkens back to “the old days.”
Fourth, my criticisms of the BB are accurate, in terms of the performance of the newspaper in failing to live up to its obligations of the community.
Fifth, I enjoy your work. Why, though, did the paper muzzle you on the Massimiano and Stracuzzi coverage?
Sixth, please, to my colleagues, it’s Dan. Chuck the Mr. Valenti stuff.
Seventh, if you or anyone from the paper wants to debate me about the role of a daily newspaper in a community, and if the Eagle has done Pittsfield well since 1995 but especially since David Scribner left as editor, I’m game.
Eighth, appreciate the feedback.
PS: Why was the identity of Rogovoy buried at the end of the jump to A3? Rogovoy’s antics became the story at that point, unfortunately. Did anyone order you to bury it? I’m not saying they did, but I would like to know.
The ABCs of PCBs in Pittsfield from Tim Gray of HRI
Our expose on the city’s attempted purchase of PCB-laden property at 1644 East St. for a DPW cold storage garbage opened up the much more important issue of PCBs in Pittsfield. After almost a century of polluting Pittsfield, GE escaped with a $10 million “gift” to the city and token other requirements meant to “make us whole.” They never did.
The city is not whole. PCBs lace the soil throughout the city. The water table and wetlands have been poisoned. And the city still has no idea of how bad the problem is. That’s amazing in the most alarming sense imaginable. The Consent Decree has been modified 10 times, and there must be a debate on whether if the citizens of Pittsfield and Berkshire County (especially downstream) should force politicians, public officials, and bureaucrats to reopen the agreement and readdress the situation with GE, alomst starting at square one. That’s a debate none of the politicians and officials want us to have. This year’s election is when the pols must start singing a different tune.
Pursuant to this, Tim Gray of the Housatonic River Initiative writes this to readers of The Planet (edited slightly for style):
Gray Says the Record Shows GE Left Behind Massive Pollution
The city signed the consent decree, which allowed GE to put a Band-aid on the horrible mess the company created [in Pittsfield]. There is so much pollution surrounding the plant that still exists. The Housatonic River Initiative (HRI) along with Pittsfield neighbors Citizens for PCB Removal (CPR) fought with GE and Mass DEP to test homes. GE was forced to test a little more than 300. Over 50% needed cleanup. Then the testing totally stopped. Do the math! How many homes are in the city? Over 10,000 workers at GE for decades. Free fill on any Saturday from the scrap yard, along with haulers and builders who used it. How many homes remain contaminated with kids growing up on the properties?
Hill 78 was actually a 70-foot ravine in the 1930s. GE started filling it in with chemicals, transformers, capacitors and who knows what else. There is no liner and all the contents are exposed to the groundwater of the city. Across from Hill 78 in Brattlebrook Park are wells that the city drilled to get a source of drinking water. As soon as they hit the aquifer, it was tested and the project shut down. The original 1988 site assessment of Hill 78 said there were PCBs at 120,000 PPM. Other chemicals like solvents and even dioxin were reported, which is more toxic than PCBs.
As GE was famous for burying barrels [of toxins]. We still believe that many undiscovered sites remain. The Eagle never covered this, but we trained a video camera on GE when they started a project by the power lines on Newell Street near the river. We had told EPA and DEP that there was a huge barrel field. We knew this from interviews we have conducted with ex-GE workers. GE was only going to cap the site (consent decree again). Within a few hours, we had footage of GE digging up the first barrels. Soon one of the tops popped open and chemicals started oozing out. We gave the video to the press and it went around New England and GE was then forced to dig them up. Hundreds of barrels and thousands of capacitors!
In the depositions during the consent decree, Gerry Doyle’s father stated that the city accepted at least six tractor-trailer loads of contaminated material every day during the days when Pittsfield had a dump (softball complex and business park). I have been told he dump was open for decades. Another toxic mess.
PCB plumes are underground at several locations. They have been pumping over a decade. The old Grossman’s building is saturated around the foundation. Across the street the homes have recordable levels of PCBs that come up in their floor drains. The plan to cap Silver Lake is very sad. This chemical source should have been totally cleaned before starting [on the] the river. We continue the battle and 2012 will be twenty years fighting GE and the Pittsfield for HRI. We have pushed the Mass. Dept of Public Health to do health studies, only to be ignored. We did get them to test blood samples along the river corridor. If you go to http://www.housatonicriver.org. Scroll down you will see the findings of Dr. Carpenter on PCBs and the results of the small amount of blood samples. We tested the air in 17 homes around the GE plant and got PCB 1260 air readings in every house.
GE should never be let off the hook as we will be finding problems way into the future. How very sad.
It is sad in the extreme. For too long, groups like the HRI and the citizens group CPR have fighting this battle in isolation. In 2011, We The People must take charge of this issue and join the battle. In 2011, no candidate should escape without being pressed on the PCB issue. To reduce an issue of great complexity to its essence, the question to ALL candidates, no exception, is: Will you support initiatives that call upon GE and state and federal environmental authorities to finally make good and clean up what they left behind, as best as science and common sense allow?
GOP on National Debt: Lots of Talk, Signifying Nothing
The Republicans in Congress have been feeling the pressure from the right, the Tea Partiers, and even the concerned left to make good on the claims to reduce the size and cost of government.
They won’t, of course, because if they do they, they will upset their corporate master, the military-industrial complex, the lobbyists for fat cats, and all the other Vested Interests. They won’t touch, for example, the Pentagon Budget. They won’t vote to cut funding for this country’s disastrous adventurism in Afghanistan. Instead, they will make token cuts, unfortunately to much-needed programs. A hundred million compared to the scope of the national debt is peanuts, but to some programs, it’s a fortune.
Here is a link from David Brooks piece from today’s New York Times:
Adios, my good friends, and LOVE TO ALL.