MINING CEDS’ DATA REVEALS DEVASTATING PICTURE THAT IS THE CITY OF PITTEFIELD, plus, PUBLIC EMPLOYEES HAVE IT BETTER THAN WORKERS IN DREADED PRIVATE SECTOR
BY DAN VALENTI
In its draft document assessing Berkshire County’s strengths and weaknesses, the CEDS (community economic development strategy) committee produced a work that reveals the following:
From 1970 to 2009, the population of the United States grew 51.01%. In Massachusetts, the population grew 15.90%. Berkshire County, however, experienced a 13.46% drop.
- The county’s two cities, Pittsfield and North Adams, shrank by 25.60% and 28.02% respectively.
- Using economic, social, and demographic data from the U.S. Census, the federal Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFIF) classifies Pittsfield, Adams, and North Adams as “underserved” and thus qualified “Investment Areas” or “New Market Tax Credit Areas.”
We stop our bullet points here to comment. In plain English, the CDFIF designation of Pittsfield (and the other two communities) as “investment or tax credit” worthy means the federal government is practically begging give away “free” money. We haven’t been receiving it, though (e.g., the last successful CEDS came in 2001). In other words, the level of incompetency and/or political hostility has to be enormous for Pittsfield to NOT receive these taxpayer handouts. And yet, that’s just what Pittsfield has done: screwed up a sure thing.
Feifdom and Servitude: It’s the Dark Ages, Not the Renaissance
The insular political fiefdoms have created localized centers of power in the city. These powers exist solely for their own self-service, rewarding a small handful of “top players” and lieutenants while suppressing the remainder of the population (The Little Guy for whom the The Planet fights and hold dearly). This is how Pittsfield keeps screwing up the CEDS’ process and the money that goes with it: the creation of warring city-states that keep the nobility and bourgeoisie ermine and furs and the commoners in rags.
Even if somehow the city were to win federal money, history shows it would botch that as well. The money would help for rich get richer, the fat cats get fatter, and those in power acquire more power. Think of what the city did with millions in urban renewal. In the 1970s, it devastated its downtown west side. In 2000s, it built an intermodal transportation center that can’t give space away.
One thing could change this unresponsive performance in a big hurry: 75% voter turnout. Ah, but the apathy that enables these technically legal crimes is another topic.
Back to the Bullets, Kemosabe:
- In terms of industry, U.S. Census figures reveals that “educational services, healthcare, and social assistance” is the county’s largest single category, 28.33% and growing. This is followed by “retail trade” (13.08%) and “arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services” (10.89%). In other words, more than half the area economy is based on low-paying, poor-benefits service job, the modern economy’s version of slave labor.
- The “manufacturing” sector makes up just 10.17% of the local economy. That number is dropping as a result of recent mill closings countywide.
- Here are the top employers in Berkshire County:
- Berkshire Health Systems (includes BMC and Hillcrest)
- Crane & Company
- Canyon Ranch
- Jiminy Peak
- Williams College
- Berkshire Community College
- Berkshire Eagle
- Big Y Foods
A ‘Smoking Gun’ Sentence Proves The Planet Was Right and ‘They’ Were Dishonest
The CEDS’ report includes this sentence, buried within an avalanche of words, charts, and tables: “Although the growth of such industries like leisure and service are acceptable, there is a trickle-down effect in which median household incomes will begin to drop” (The Planet had added italics for emphasis).
There it is in black & white, even though buried: The Establishment confirming what The Planet and other fair-minded observers have been saying about the fatal, pell-mell, sword-and-pistol decimation of the local economy to create a “recreation and resort economy.” It was not a fair exchange.
When the city of Pittsfield, from Mayor Jimmy Ruberto down to virtually all of the officials and politicians, refer to this phenomenon, they call it “The Pittsfield Renaissance.” In the real world, it’s the Dawn of the Dark Ages.
Statistics are Neutral: Information Not Emotion or a Con
The statistics dispassionately and with complete neutrality reveal:
* The average manufacturing job in Berkshire Country yields a salary of $1,173 a week.
- The average “arts, entertainment, and recreation” job pays $453 a week.
Dear reader, pause and let that sink in a bit. Ponder these two figures, $36,000 apart per year, and recall each time a Pittsfield politicians has hailed a “Patriots Resorts” on Dan Fox Drive (now out of businesses) or the opening of a new or restaurant cinema on North Street, usually with taxpayer incentives. Ask: What kind of jobs were being created by this nonsense?
In Berkshire County from 2000 to 2009, the population of employed persons remained relatively stable, peaking at about 70,250 in mid-2006 and falling to 67,250 in 2009. However, during the decade, the county (and city, especially) shed high-paying jobs and added low-paying ones.
- Taxpayers in Pittsfield got hammered during that time. Residential tax rates went up to $14.20 (2009 figure; current rate tops $15 per thousand; commercial rates are at a ruinous double that amount) while assessments rose dramatically to an average value of $187,519. Higher rate and inflated assessments: That’s a 1-2 punch not survivable for many people.
- The area workforce is largely uneducated: 39% with a high school diploma, 15 with some high school but no diploma, and 16% with less than 9th grade as the highest grade completed. This totals 75% of the workforce (figures taken from 2006-2008 census data).
- Area dropout rates are consistently higher than state and national averages.
Boring Broadsheet Soils the Bed
CEDS, Pittsfield political corruption, and the raw, hard numbers of hardship comprise the story the Boring Broadsheet refuses to cover. It has a vested interest in hiding the truth. The newspaper has sold its soul to city hall, top advertisers, and the area elite, who are more than happy to maintain have a “house organ” to maintain the status quo via PR, puffery, and propaganda.
This data, which CEDS had to admit because of transparency requirements, quantifies the truth of The Planet’s claims. Prior to The Planet, CEDS committees could hide this stuff and no one would go through the effort to dig it out, certainly not the BB.
The BB, Indicted
More than any single city institution, the Berkshire Eagle is the blame for helping to maintain the land of fiefdoms and servitude that used to be known as the city of Pittsfield. A crusading newspaper would have covered the ineptness, the greed, and the failure from the get-go, at least going back to GE’s pullout.
— A crusading paper wouldn’t have been complicit in the signing of a disastrous Consent Agreement that literally sold the city down the river.
— A crusading newspaper wouldn’t have been a party in a governmental coup by Barroom Politics when the bums wheeled in a Trojan Horse (aka New Stadium) hiding the Civic Authority.
— A crusading newspaper wouldn’t have buried key stories surrounding the arrest and conviction of the president and CEO of the county’s largest financial institution.
— A crusading newspaper would have defended the population from the rapacious corporation, especially when it skipped town from its responsibilities to clean up its mess.
A crusading website, however, is just getting started!
Public Workers of the World, Unite: You Have Nothing to Lose
but Your Cushy Deals that are Breaking Taxpayers’ Backs
In most discussions of employment, union leaders often claim how bad public workers have it compared to the Dreaded Private Sector. They say, “We don’t get Social Secrurity.” They leave out the inconvenient retort: “Yes, and you didn’t have Uncle Sam raid every paycheck you ever earned from the time you were 16 to when you retired at 65.” They also rarely if ever cite data, because the data shows the opposite. Data shows that public employees are by far more compensated than their counterparts in the marketplace.
Who Needs Performance When You Have Taxpayers?
When a private worker needs a raise, the company can only provide one if the firm is doing well in the market. When public employees want more pay and benefits, no problem. It doesn’t need the market. It doesn’t need performance or quality. It has taxpayers.
The formula is simple: unions pressure the politicians, who cave and sign ruinous deals that the taxpayer has to fund.
The Planet presents this excerpt from an AP story that ran on Yahoo.com today on public- versus private-sector compensation:
“It’s the government sector worker who’s the new elite, the highest-paid worker on the block,” said David Gregory, who teaches labor and employment law at New York’s St. John’s University.
For instance, most non-uniformed public employees who have worked in New Jersey for 30 years with an ending salary of $85,000 can look forward to retiring at 55 with an annual pension of about $46,000. Working until age 60 and a salary of $90,000 can bring a pension of $57,000. And many of the New Jersey’s public-sector retirees have no or low premiums for their health insurance.
For a private-section worker who retires at 55, relying solely on a 401(k) without an employer match, it would take a $100 contribution to a plan every week for 30 years and getting an annual return over 7 percent to get to the same level of pension benefit as the public worker retiring at that age. Those benefits would run out after 25 years for the 401(k) retiree.
New Jersey’s Treasury Department says the average annual pension due state workers who retired between July 2009 and June 2010 was just over $30,000 per year; for local government employees, it was about $20,000.
As of last September, professional and management workers in the private sector were making $34.91 in hourly salary; public sector professionals made $33.17 an hour. The government entities spent 1.7 times as much on health care per employee-hour worked and nearly twice as much on retirement costs. Public-sector workers — who are more often represented by unions — are far more likely to have defined-benefit pensions with promises to pay for the retirees’ whole lives.
There’s one clear downside for the public employees: “We also know that the public-sector pensions are in deep trouble financially,” Mitchell said, pointing to studies that suggest that they’re underfunded by a total of $3 trillion, largely because governments have skipped payments. “Exactly what will be done about that, nobody knows.”
Unchanged, those retirement systems could eventually stop paying entirely.
“One way or another, if we don’t make changes, the government will collapse,” said Abel Stewart, of Toledo, Ohio.
As we discussed on The Planet’s expose of the unfunded liability situation, the taxpayers will be expected to pay up. The money, however, isn’t there. The politicians, as in the Pittsfield City Council’s refusal to confront the city’s $331 million unfunded liability, are doing nothing. Something, somewhere down the line, is going to give. It won’t be pretty.
SUN AND SAVIOR FAIRE BID US AND BECKON ANON, AND THUS WE TAKE LEAVE FOR THE MOMENT. LOVE TO ALL.