Article

CEDS’ CAUGHT IN TIME WARP, SOME FACTS on PRIVATE SECTOR v. PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT $$ GAP, and POLICE UNION WANTS OUT FROM GIC

BY DAN VALENTI

If you go to the website of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, as The Planet did today for information, you will see this posting:

The next regularly scheduled CEDS Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 25, 2011 from 12:30 pm to 2:30pm at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission conference room.

Hmmm … are we missing something? Did we somehow get inside the (Kevin) Sherman and Mr. Peabody Way Back Machine? Hasn’t Jan. 25 passed us by?

Further probing on the site (don’t you love the way they make you search for this stuff the way a miner tries to avoid the pyrite to find the gold?) reveals that the most recent meeting (never mind the “next” meeting) was Feb. 15. The next “NEXT” meeting is March 8. Got that?

Asleep at the Wheel

Can’t say this type of “asleep at the wheel” helps explain the city’s decade-long CEDS (community economic development strategy) efforts, but, surely, it can’t help. And we aren’t calling anyone “Shirley” in saying this.

—————————————————–

Why Hide the Warts from the Locals? They Already Know the Problems

The Planet has not seen final copy, only drafts, but the CEDS process produces valuable documents. In CEDS, communities put together “strategies” (not “tactics”) for the federal Department of Commerce. DOC reviews the plans and awards money based on merit.

CEDS requires a region to self-assess. The Berkshire CEDS’ draft from Jan. 11, 2011, contains a section titled, “Regional Threats and Weaknesses.” The document lists:

  • Population Decline — Not enough skilled workers as a consequence
  • Aging Population — Young are leaving, the old are getting older
  • Industry transistion — Manufacturing gone, replaced by low-paying service jobs
  • Drop in Household Income — Lack of discretionary money
  • Lack of Educated Workforce — Keeps companies away
  • Housing — Housing isn’t affordable to most, and housing stock is aging
  • Environmental Constraints — Toxic wastes abound

Here’s where politics can (“can,” not “does”) come into play. In identifying weaknesses, the CEDS panel as constituted in the Berkshires (dominated by Pittsfield) tends to walk a tightrope. On the one hand, it must demonstrate need to the Feds. Essentially, that’s putting on your best, most pathetic “Oliver Twist May I Have More Gruel” face, so Uncle Sam will be inclined to lean our way. On the other hand, in Officialland, Pittsfield, frankly acknowledging weaknesses is seen as the equivalent of handing Luke Skywalker the blueprints to the Death Star.

“Use the Farce, Luke. Use the Farce”

The euphemisms employed in the draft copy illustrate this. Our favorite example: “Aging population” is actually tabbed “Uneven Stratification of Age Cohorts.” We kid you not. Euphemisms sugarcoat harsh realities. The US Army doesn’t unintentionally slaughter civilians. We “experience collateral damage.” Pittsfield’s population doesn’t age. It undergoes an “uneven stratification of cohorts.”

The primarily Pittsfield-100-based “See No Evil, hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” institutional apologists for failure and lack of performance — the Boring Broadsheet and the current top executive of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce — do not want “threats and weaknesses” to become public coin.

Thus, the BB will never bring the CEDS “Threats and Weaknesses” section to your attention. Instead, it will feed you pabulum: such “vital” stories as “tooth decay is bad for children” and today’s “Mountain Man” feature that eat up half of Page One. Oh, readers did get a whitewash story on PCBs today: Removal = bad. Leaving them in the environment = good. We hear tomorrow the BB will have the expose “James Taylor and Arlo Guthrie are natives of Berkshire County.” Tim Farkas quakes again.

“Use the Farkas, Luke. Use the Farkas.”

George Orwell put it best when he said such “political” language makes murder seem harmless and gives the appearance of solidity to the breeze.

How much longer will the sleeping citizenry of Pittsfield let officials put them to death?

——————————–

Hey, Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone!

The Planet presents this additional sign that Armageddon is near. Check out this AP story:

ATHERTON, Calif. – A California school teacher was placed on paid administrative leave after he rattled a table to get the attention of his math students, startling an eighth-grade girl who used her cell phone to call police.

Atherton police Sgt. Tim Lynch tells the Palo Alto Daily News that officers went to Selby Lane School Tuesday afternoon because of reports a teacher was causing a disturbance. Officers found a calm teacher with class in session.

The sergeant says the teacher’s table-rattling startled a student and she used her cell phone to call 911. He says other students in the class weren’t bothered by the teacher’s actions. Redwood City School District deputy superintendent John Baker says the teacher was placed on leave because there was a police response.

Submitted without comment, as Rod Serling used to say.

—————————-

Whither, the Unions

In our continuing discussion of unfunded liabilities, we share some helpful facts:

  • Nearly 40 percent of government workers are unionized, compared with 7 percent in the private-sector work force.
  • The average state and local government employee now makes 46 percent more in combined salary and benefits than his private sector counterpart does, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
  • Four of five public-sector workers have lifetime pensions. State and local governments owe more than $1.5 trillion in unfunded health-care and non-pension benefits, according to one estimate by Credit Suisse. As The Planet explored yesterday, this is an under-estimated figure, based on unrealistic assumptions such as health care costs rising only 5 percent. The more accurate figure is $3.5 trillion.

The endgame for this crisis, which politicians do not want to address, will be disaster for The Little Guy, taxpayers, ordinary citizens, and those not privileged to be one of the “Elite.”

Contract Rumbling in Pittsfield

While the city’s teachers union continues its recalcitrance and persists in failing to bargain in good faith, sources tell The Planet that in the Pitsfield Police will be trying to negotiate a separte deal with the city on health insurance. The police don’t like the current arrangement, which puts them in the state GIC insurance pool.

The city will not dare take on the Big 3 unions, and it doesn’t have to. The Planet suggests meeting all reasonable demands that the police and fire departments have. These are the two branches of city government that secure our safety. Pittsfield needs to sharpen its teeth with the School Department, though. Of a $126 million budget, schools eat up more than half. The city should push teachers and administrators for:

  • Pension and benefit reform
  • 60-40 insurance copay
  • Elimination of unnecessary administrative staff
  • Longer schools days,
  • More school days
  • Promotion by ability and not through seniority
  • Elimination of tenure.

These strategies are for the openers. The Planet writes this as a realist member of three teachers’ unions.

———————————-

On and on it goes, and where it stops, The Planet knows. It stops now. Till later, Love to All.

9 Responses to “CEDS’ CAUGHT IN TIME WARP, SOME FACTS on PRIVATE SECTOR v. PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT $$ GAP, and POLICE UNION WANTS OUT FROM GIC”

  1. Still wondering
    March 2, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Regarding “Honest Henry”. I’ve known him for years and those who DO know him say the same thing.
    “Honest Henry, MY FOOT!”

  2. Jim Gleason
    March 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    I don’t blame the Police union for wanting out of the GIC but the city can’t let one group out without doing the same for ALL the others, including retirees. There’s no way one group gets out without the others getting to do the same. They collectively bargained this agreement and we all go or none do.

  3. Joetaxpayer
    March 2, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    Agree with you Dan on school days.Before we add hours and days lets start by giving the kids there 180 days the state mandates.We in Pittsfield have 10 to 11 half days depending on grade.They get counted as full.Also at the high shool level the students go for 1 or 2 classes take mid-terms then leave,this goes on for 4 days.Sure the do the same at the end of year exams too.

  4. rick
    March 3, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    if the police can get the same package deal some where else then they should go for it……but if they cost us any more no. but it dosent end there, they can go and kick in any extra money out of their pockets to upgrade their health package… if all these union folks dont like what they agreed to last contract, then why did the accept it?????. i feel that all the city union people are making decent money, and that they should be on their own for healthcare. that would save taxpayers a lot of money.

  5. PCP
    March 3, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Dan, you should try the City of Pittsfield’s web site and look at the boards and commissions rosters as listed by the City Clerks office. Are these real people? No address,no phone numbers, and many have not been reappointed.The disfunctional city goverment strikes again. Serious problem, if your trying to find out information. I hope all the cable tv people look at the joke that is the cable commission.
    All there phone numbers and home addresses used to be there.

  6. Son of Samantha
    March 3, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Agree with Rick If cops can get a better deal then go for it but don’t add a dime to taxpayers bill. If they want to pay for it they should be allowed. Agree with the Planet about school dept they eat half the city’s budget. The school board and council and mayor MUST ge ttough there.

  7. GMHeller
    March 3, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    What an encouraging feeling knowing that the City of Pittsfield is technically bankrupt.

  8. GMHeller
    March 3, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    Hopefully a Liberal Democrat will be elected next fall to solve the city’s fiscal problems.

  9. Albert Prince
    March 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    If we are to take the Mass Taxpayers Assn as accurate, that’s the best way to put it: the city of Pittsfield is bankrupt its liabilities far exceed its assets and receiveables. Watch though how they’ll continue to fund pay and benefit raises for the payroll patriots