DRUG BUST OF PPD OFFICER(s?) CONFIRMED, LAST CALL FOR COUNCIL QUARTET, THE POLITICS OF MOSQUITOES, & PEANUT ALLERGIES DRAW NUT CASES
BY DAN VALENTI
Last Call, Gents.
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, March 23, 2011) — First, the barkeep announces “Last call” for Peter Marchetti, Paul Capitanio, Uncle Gerry Lee, and Jonothan Lothrop for compliance on our Three Top Questions survey. Each has until midnight tonight to go on record stating their views on PCBs, Hill 78, and unfunded liabilities. After that, we dish out medicine.
Folks, this isn’t about The Planet. This is about the responsibility of every elected official to make their views known, through the media, to constituents. We have asked three vital questions regarding the city of Pittsfield’s futures. Elected officials have a MANDATE, not optional, to respond, or face consequences.
We make this final appeal to the quavering quartet: Don’t think of The Planet. Think about your constituents, for once. Keep repeating: “Don’t think about The Planet, don’t think about The Planet, don’t think about The Planet.”
Man up, you chickens. Cowboy up, you tenderfoots.
Federal Steroids Probe Under Way?
After the Boring Broadsheet published its “no story” story that there is no truth to Internet rumors about escalating violence in downtown Pittsfield, it has completely wh-wh-whiffed — called out on strikes, Uncle Charlie, low and away — on another conga line of Internet rumors involving the Pittsfield Police and State Police Departments.
The rumors allege that one or more members of each law enforcement department were busted and changed in connection with illegal possession of anabolic steroids. Allegedly, the officers were using the address of a well-known downtown Pittsfield business to receive the contraband in the mail. This brought in the Feds, again, so it is alleged, since using the mails to ship illegal substances is, well, illegal. The Planet has calls into the police chief and to the Boston office of the Postal Service Investigation unit.
Meanwhile, The Planet has confirmed:
- At least one Pittsfield police officer has been charged (and we think placed on administrative leave) on allegations related to illegal drug possession — buying, selling, receiving, or other ? That’s hasn’t been confirmed. There is reason to believe, though it is officially unconfirmed, that more than one member of the PPD is involved.
- One state police officer based in Berkshire County (barracks unknown) was similarly charged.
- An investigator in the Boston-area office of the Postal Inspector, when asked about the rumored particulars of the case, said, “This in an ongoing investigation. I am not at liberty to discuss at this time.” This appears to confirm that the federal government is investigating, presumably for illegal use of the U.S. mail.
In a call to the Pittsfield Police Department yesterday, a police spokesperson would only say that, “We haven’t heard of anything like this, but I don’t know and will check.” Our call was referred to Chief Michael Wynn. He was unavailable, on vacation, the spokesperson said. The police haven’t returned our calls for official comment.
Allowing a business address to be used to receive illegal substances is a serious offense. The Planet has heard the name of the downtown business where the illicit packages allegedly were received. A City Hall source could not confirm the identity of the business.
The Planet shall continue to monitor this story.
Mosquitoes Continue to Pester Pittsfield
Amid decisions to postpone the decision on the three controversial personnel moves until Mayor Jimmy Ruberto gets back from his Florida vacation (see yesterday’s Planet), the city council backed the mayor’s request to pull out of the state mosquito control program after but a one-year run. Even mosquitoes raise the political ruckus in Pittsfield.
Councilors voted 6-5 (Lee, Yon, Sherman, Capitanio, Marchetti, Ward) to affirm Ruberto’s request, basically on a cost-benefit basis. The $119,000 annual fee wasn’t worth as much in benefits for residents, so they determined. On the surface, The Planet agrees, and when we hit hardpan after drilling deep, we still do. However, after investigating the issue further, we realize the matter is more nuanced than it first seems. Mosquitoes are persistent that way.
One immediate question is the nature of the pullout. It appears clear the city can do this, without penalty. A year ago, the city inked a five-year deal with the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (MCB).
According to the MCB, to withdraw from the program, the city must notify the board as well as the local mosquito control district or project in writing. The MCB then notifies the Department of Revenue Division of Local Services, so that the municipality will not continue to be assessed. The city also must submit to the MCB a notarized certificate of the 6-5 vote taken last night “as soon after the official vote of the municipality” as possible. Until those steps are done, the program remains in effect, so it now becomes a bureaucratic matter.
Did the Mosquito Program Get a Fair Shake?
It’s hard to resist saving $476,000 (what it would cost to remain in the program for four more years), and again, the council made the correct decision to back the mayor. A fair question, though, must be raised, and Ward 6 councilor John Krol, an avid backer of the program, brought it up last night: Did the program get a fair one-year test during this past fiscal year?
Krol was hot last night. He came in ready to rumble. The Planet could tell, since he was wearing French cuffs, and we all know what that means: Kufflinks. Going into the meeting, observers predicted a 9-2 vote to pull out. Krol almost turned that around, turning it into a 6-5 nail biter. One could argue that the difference was Mike Ward, Ward 4 rep.
Ward initially advocated for buy-in into the city plan. By last night’s vote, he had changed his mind. From a perception standpoint, both Ward and Krol came out looking good. Ward showed his independence and the fact he’s not afraid to reverse a position based on facts. Krol stuck to his guns, and Ward’s surprising vote against JK showed that personal friendships must, as they did here, have no place in procedural votes, which must come as dispassionately as possible.
When Ward made the motion for the city to buy into the mosquito-control program, the politics began immediately. According to one well-placed City Hall source, mayoral assistant Tricia Farley-Bouvier began immediately to undermine the program.
TF-B ‘Tried to Sink It … from the Get Go’
“Tricia took this thing from the get-go and tried to sink it,” the source said. “She felt like the mayor was being pushed into this by Mike Ward.” That’s what makes Ward’s turn-around interesting. For whatever reason, Ward saw the light. Taxpayers will save $476,000 — not Pittsfield taxpayers, except indirectly as their share of state taxes. The move will keep $476,000 in state coffers, so officials may waste is somewhere else. It also shows that when it comes to Jimmy Ruberto, TF-B is a “mama grizzley” (not to invoke Palinity).
As a related matter, the state Department of Revenue Division of Local Services has a formula to generate the cost of funding, which will be assessed to the municipality through the local aid assessments (cherry sheets). This is an important point. The money is withheld by the state. The city therefore doesn’t actually save $119,000 a year. It just won’t get that much in state aid. It will only save its “buy in” costs as determined by the state’s formula. It would be nice if someone in the know could share that figure.
The source said Farley-Bouvier’s campaign to derail the program got a huge boost when “something went wrong” with the implementation.
“What happened was the transition from rural spraying to city spraying,” the source said. In fact, six other Berkshire communities are in the mosquito control program. All are rural. They are Clarksburg, Hinsdale, Otis, Sheffield, Stockbridge, and Tyringham. Inspection of town resident’s property is available on a call-in basis.
Who You Gonna Call? Bug Busters
Here’s where the goof came. Bug Busters from the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project, led by Supt. Jake Jurgenson and commissioners David Colburn and Wally Terrill (operating from 19 Harris St. in Pittsfield, 447-9808 and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org), indiscriminantly sprayed in Wards 3 and 4 without prior notification, as the law requires.
They must get permission from a homeowner in a residential neighborhood. Well, one of the homes the Bug Busters doused belonged to Dr. Phillip Adamo, city physician since 1998.
Uh oh! The good doctor turned from Marcus Welby, MD, to Marcus Aurelius, Warrior. It was the torrent that broke the mosquito’s back.
Our source: “Dr. Adamo then made a big fuss: ‘This should have gone to the board of health.’ He was upset with the spraying. This is the same Dr. Adamo who stands before the Public Health and Safety Commission and defends Hill 78 next to Allendale school because ‘the EPA says the toxin levels are safe.’ Well guess what the EPA says about Duet (the insecticide used on his property)? The EPA says its safe. [During the summer] they spray Tanglewood twice a week. Think of all the wine and chesse being eaten. New York City gets sprayed. [The program] became more controversial than it should have been.”
Somehow, the source, said, Dr. Phil conveniently ignored those facts.
Say It, Don’t Spray It
From that point on, the source said, Farley-Bouvier jumped on the error to lobby against a pullout. She managed to convince Mayor Ruberto, and Ruberto managed to convince the council.
It’s a fair question, though, one raised by Krol (we resist the temptation to call him Kufflinks Kroll, for the moment, anyhow): Did the program get a fair test in Pittsfield? Should we condemn the program by the mistakes made last year through local implementation?
Why spray in the first place? THE PROS: Think of it as preventive medicine. There are 51 species of mosquitoes in Massachusetts (3000 worldwide, 150 in the U.S.). They live in shady, damp areas out of the sun (sounds like some political practitioners The Planet has had the pleasure to have known). They need water to lay their eggs and plants in which to hide.
Not all mosquitoes bite humans, but they do play a big role in spreading disease. Mosquitoes carry germs that can make people and animals sick. In the state, they have been linked to West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis. Organized mosquito control programs perform surveillance, larviciding, adulticiding, and water management (hand cleaning of drainage ditches).
THE CONS: Look, we’ve been dealing with mosquitoes forever. The Planet’s best advice: Take action on your own. Don’t cry to Big Government. The best way to fight mosquitoes is to eliminate as much standing water as you can (swimming and wading pools, old tires, watering cans, flower pots, trash cans, puddles). Cut down weeds to increase sunlight. Buy personal bug protection. Wear long pants and long sleeves. Don’t go out as dusk. That’s enough.
FACTOID YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW: The Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project was created on June 25, 1945 by the passage of Act #455 of the year 1945.
Finally, why is common sense so uncommon. Check this report from Reuters:
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Some public school parents in Edgewater, Florida, want a first-grade girl with life-threatening peanut allergies removed from the classroom and home-schooled, rather than deal with special rules to protect her health, a school official said.
“That was one of the suggestions that kept coming forward from parents, to have her home-schooled. But we’re required by federal law to provide accommodations. That’s just not even an option for us,” said Nancy Wait, spokeswoman for the Volusia County School District.
Wait said the 6-year-old’s peanut allergy is so severe it is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To protect the girl, students in her class at Edgewater Elementary School are required to wash their hands before entering the classroom in the morning and after lunch, and rinse out their mouths, Wait said, and a peanut-sniffing dog checked out the school during last week’s spring break.
Chris Burr, a father of two older students at the school whose wife has protested at the campus, said a lot of small accommodations have added up to frustration for many parents.
“If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life,” said Burr.
The Planet sides with Mr. Burr. What is wrong with the picture when a public school must disrupt the lives of every other kid to protect one allergic child? The intent of federal protection may be benign, but its practical implementation is nuts.
TOMORROW THE PLANET RETUNS, IF NOT SOONER, TO BRING YOU MORE STORIES YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE, INCLUDING THE INCREDIBLE NO SHOWS OF DEANNA RUFFER AND MIKE SUPRANOWICZ FOR THE YEAR’S MOST IMPORTANT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MEETINGS, plus, LET’S GET PERSONNEL. LOVE TO ALL.
Steroids Probe Under Way