SHERMAN’S “IN,” WHILE MYSTERY CANDIDATE AWAITS IN WARD 7, plus, IT’S FINALLY TIME FOR PITTSFIELD TO HOLD GE TO ACCOUNTS: REOPEN CONSENT DECREE & HAVE THEM PAY UP
BY DAN VALENTI
This is a campaign year, and in the City of Pittsfield, it promises to be wild, wooly, wet, and wanting. Wild because several would-be incumbents are now lame ducks (Ruberto, Lee, Lothrop), wooly because the hair will fly as campaigns have become more caustic each year, wet because voters will again get hosed, and wanting because there will be no dream candidates (such do not exist).
Thus, the city will end up with an amalgam of the good, the bad, and the ugly from which, once again, it will form a government that will have its highs, lows, and so-so’s. In short, despite the hyperbole we will hear about sea changes and reinvention, life will go on pretty much the same as it is now.
Or will it?
New governors can always usher in surprise. If a man like Joe Nichols won the corner office, for example, sound bites would be in the air like locusts in an awry, biblical event. Some councilors, surely, wouldn’t like a Nichols’ ascendancy and will work to scuttle it, and without doubt, the Boring Broadsheet all of a sudden would no longer be the embarrassing mouthpiece of city hall but would begin attacking with or without cause.
The Planet, as it has done, will continue to keep you abreast of who’s in and who’s out. We have a couple of “ins” to report.
Sherman Makes it Unofficially ‘Official’
Councilor-at-Large informed his Facebook pals, and yesterday The Planet, that he’s running for re-election to the citywide post.
“I am very much looking forward to the campaign,” Sherman told The Planet. “I know you are keeping a tally, and you can mark me as ‘in.’”
The Planet welcomes Sherman’s declaration. He has shown himself to be open- minded on issues, forthright about his responsibilities, and responsive to constituents. He has more to learn, as he would admit, and he’s been on his share of the wrong side of issues, but this, too, will change as he grows more in confidence and independence. The learning curve will continue to flatten, as long as he doesn’t forget The Little Guy.
Personally, The Planet has enjoyed our exchanges years with Sherman, which began when he unsuccessfully challenged William “Smitty” Pignatelli in the Democratic primary for state rep several years back. He is affable, willing to listen, can take a punch, and, always in debate, remain reasonable. Now all he needs is The Wayback Machine.
Is Kevin too young to get that?
Ward 7 Mystery Person Waiting in the Wings
The Planet can name the next Ward 7 councilor. We just won’t, for reasons we will keep to ourselves.
When Joe Nichols takes out his papers for mayor, he leaves behind his Ward 7 seat. We have heard several names tossed around for this important seat that brings residents of north Pittsfield to the council table, but the names do not include the person who will run and win this race.
This person has an unbeatable combination of characteristics. They include lighting-quick smarts, a fiendishly punishing work ethic, great institutional skills, heavy private sector experience, and the organizational skills of a general. This person has served honorably in the military, holds a large job for a household-name company, travels throughout the U.S., and loves Pittsfield. This person doesn’t love how complacency has spawned corruption to petrify into the cancerous mass known as “The Pittsfield 100” (call it what you will — The Establishment, the Gay Mafia — it refers to the nature of Shire City power as oligarchic).
How certain is it that this person will be the next Ward 7 councilor? When this person announces her/his candidacy, the city should not bother with the formality of an election. Just give the person the seat, fait accompli. That’s how much this person will be certain to win. Now we can’t tell how we know that, only that we do know that.
Sherman’s Corrects the “GMP” Record
In his brief guvreet with The Planet yesterday, Sherman clarified his position on the proposed DPW land deal at 1644 East St. Both Sherman and The Planet were guests on “Good Morning, Pittsfield,” hosted by ward 6 councilor John Krol. Sherman did the first half hour, and we did the second.
During our time with Krol, the question of the 1644 East deal surfaced. We stated our objections to the deal. A council subcommittee vote had recommended approving purchase by the city, 4-1 (Christine Yon voting against). “The street” read the tealeaves and gave the advance word that the full council would approve the purchase, done deal.
Then this website began an 11th hour public discussion of some of the issues involved: PCB contamination, too high an asking price, a multimillion-dollar renovation budget, murky ownerships issues, and more. A fierce public debate followed. When the issue came to a vote, the council had come to its senses. It rejected the purchase 8-3 (Krol, Lothrop, and Peter White still voting to approve).
On “GMP,” Krol said the council did not reject anything. He said the council sent it back to the mayor, implying that it would be brought back to the council again, with the council’s concerns addressed. Krol then said that Sherman had stated as much, again, implying that eventually, the deal would go through.
Sherman disputed this.
“If you check the tape of my discussion with John on “GMP,” Sherman told The Planet, “it was about the fact that the purchase and sale agreement had expired re:1644 East St. I never said it will or should be brought back during the interview. We acted in the only way we could. We referred the petition back to the mayor with several recommendations, including exploring the leasing of the property, renegotiating the price, and as we discussed in multiple forums having the agreement contingent upon PCB testing through a 21E evaluation. Ten parts per million of PCB is acceptable by EPA standards. They and the DEP have no records of prior sampling.”
Sherman’s statement is interesting. First, he distances himself from the claim that the deal “will be or should be” brought back. The Planet hopes Sherman opposes this deal, unless the city gets its for dirt cheap with NO (N-O) remedial liabilities on PCBs for taxpayers.
Second is his statement that the EPA and DEP “have no records of prior sampling.” This would seem to contradict claims by the administration. Didn’t DPW chief Bruce Collingwood admit the presence of PCBs in that area? If Sherman’s is correct, it means the administration proposed purchasing a property in what is likely a PCB hot zone without having done ANY testing. We will leave readers to draw their own implications.
PCBs: A Poison that Didn’t Go Away When GE Did;
Is Solution to the ‘Nightmare’ Reopening the Consent Decree?
One of the great aspects of this type of news and opinion media platform is the interaction. Today, for example, in response to yesterday’s guest column by environmentalist Bruce Winn, two readers — Dave Martindale and Glenn Heller — made points that deserved to be highlighted.
PCBs could, and should, emerge as a dominant issue in the 2011 campaign. If it doesn’t, it would only suggest that Da Boyz “got to” the candidates and told them, you know, it might be smart not to bring this up. It’s time for Pittsfield to realize it got duped by GE, and that citizens, through their representatives, can do something about it. We shall begin now our campaign calling on We The People to begin putting LOTS OF HEAT on anybody schlepping for votes. Candidates should be pressured to take a public position: Are they in favor of finally ending a toxic “nightmare” (see “Martindale,” below) or are they content with leaving the city a veritable Love Canal?
“Unfortunately, GE has left behind a toxic legacy that we do not really know the extent of.” Martindale writes. “I venture that in years to come this same scenario will surface again and again. GE’s careless handling of PCB has left behind a nightmare that we can only guess as to the actual extent. We continue to downplay and cover up the extent that this pollution plays on the health of our community.”
In response to another reader’s question of why the city of Pittsfield let GE off the hook regarding PCBs, Heller wrote: “GE is not exactly off the hook just yet. The question is whether anyone wants to do battle with GE. The Consent Decree can indeed be modified (it’s been modified 10 times thus far), but unless one wants a big court battle, all the parties (Mass. DEP, USEPA, City of Pittsfield, State of CT, GE, etc.) have to consent to any modification and that modification then has to be approved by the federal judge overseeing the case.”
Put these together, and what do you have:
(1) The City of Pittsfield, as it tries to market itself to the outside world as a great place to live, work, and play, has no idea of how much poison lies in the land inside its perimeters. GE, as Martindale put it “left behind a nightmare.” Until we address this, why would anyone want to relocate there?
(2) The Consent Decree can be modified. That outstanding fact perhaps contains the method by which Pittsfield can awaken from its chemical nightmare. Sure, modification will be difficult, but as noted, it’s been done multiple times. It can be done now, to force GE to pay, either through remediation or cold cash, for its sins.
(3) If city government, elected and appointed officials, and the people spoke with one voice and DEMANDED that GE own up to its moral responsibilities to the town it poisoned, reopening the Consent Decree could produce the solution this city deserves. SO, THE PLANET ASKS, WHICH OF THE CANDIDATES WILL BE WILLING TO TAKE THIS ON, AND TAKE THE PLEDGE TO
(4) REOPEN THE CONCENT DECREE!