MIXED RESULTS FROM THE BB, $1 MILLION PLUS RAISE FOR CITY TEACHERS ISN’T ENOUGH, and CZARINA RUFFER STEALS A COMMUNITY GARDEN
BY DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, March 15, 2011) — The Boring Broadsheet is forever living up to its name, though once it a while it presents a story that actually would qualify as fitting for a real newspaper. The Planet refers to Dick Lindsay’s informative piece on the continuing riff-tiff between the Pittsfield School Committee and the United Educators of Pittsfield.
This is Lindsay’s best work in some time. He dealt nicely with the all-to-present space constraints that the BB forces upon its writers. Space is measured physically, in newsprint. Newsprint costs have risen monthly for more than a year (in August, the BB was paying almost $650 a metric ton), ads revenues continue to drop (according to a source in the BB circulation department, January figures dropped steeply from a year ago), and the news hole shrinks. Not a good combination.
The Planet recognizes Lindsay and the paper for its work.
On the other hand, on the same day, the BB continued to prove its unstinting loyalty to the Special Interests. It wasn’t enough to flog the economic impact of Congress’ foolish and wasteful decision to fund new warships the US doesn’t need because it created a handful of good, high-paying local jobs at General Dynamic. It wasn’t enough to treat this slim ray of good news (although is feeding the bloated waste of military spending “good”?) for what the aberration it was. No, it has to be trotted out again and made into a Cecil B. DeMille epic.
Clarence Fanto’s piece that eats up half of page one makes one cringe. The Planet assigns no fault to Fanto, who is a filling in as journeyman reporter for the ailing (and we hope recovering) Derek Gentile. Such is the life of a hired writer. When a writer-for-hire is assigned fluff, you try to create the fluffiest possible. We find no fault with our good friend CF. That the editor-in-chief would approve a story like this, though, given the serious, life-and-death issues that the BB routinely ignores, would boil the blood of any Horace Greeley.
Such spineless coverage results when management that has its first loyalty to the chain hires a sports editor (Tim Farkas, formerly of the Albany Times-Union) as top editorial dog. You get a lapdog. A genuine newspaper needs a German shepherd.
The Planet now lectures publisher Andy Mick, Farkas, and says this for all the good people chaffing at the way the paper is being run (into the ground). This is for THEIR morale:
— A newspaper’s first responsibility is to tell the truth about its community. The BB earns a grade of F.
— A newspaper must have as its first loyalty its readers, not its advertisers, local big shots, or the GOB network. Grade: F.
— A newspaper’s most important trait or characteristic is independence. Grade: F.
— The news must be made comprehensive and proportional. Grade: F.
$1 million+ for Teachers Not Enough for UEP’s Scott Eldridge
The underneath the substance of Lindsay’s story is the he-said, she-said nature of the dispute between the city teachers’ union and the school committee.
For taxpayers, here’s all you need to know.
· Schoolteachers make on average nearly $60,000 a year in the city of Pittsfield.
· They work 183 days (less because “professional days” count as work).
· Through summer vacation, in-year vacations, holidays, personal time, etc., they work less than 180 days, on average.
· Benefits far exceed those in the Dreaded Private Sector.
· Teachers are in line to receive $678,000 as an already-agreed-upon step raise.
· On top of that, the school committee has offered teachers another $328,000.
· In short, on top of their present deals, teachers will hit strapped taxpayers for an additional $1.06 million.
The United Educators of Pittsfield leadership team nonetheless has gone public about how much it is being disrespected. UEP chief Scott Eldridge told Lindsay, “the school committee is not approaching this with the necessary urgency.”
We agree with Eldrige. We need “urgency.” The Planet therefore supports any attempt at urgency that drives pension reform and cancels of give-away-the-store benefits (pensions, health care) that teachers, as sainted public employees, currently hold. It’s not that we want them not to receive, it’s just that taxpayers have nothing left to give.
Taxpayers face a bill of $331 million of promised benefits to the city’s public employees. Not a cent has been paid. At some point, the TRUE stalling tactics will be over, and that bill will be due.
City Council Scorecard Update: 4 to 7
Here’s a scorecard update. We are making progress for We the People. We have now heard from four city councilors on our tripart question of PCBs, Hill 78, and unfunded liabilities. They are John Krol, Mike Ward, Joe Nichols, and Kevin Sherman.
The other eight (Yon, White, Capitanio, Lothrop, Lee, Marchetti, and Mazzeo) have until the end of the say tomorrow. We will post the comments on Thursday. As to the point of calling out people before the deadline, this is a practice learned from experience, the hard way. By repeating, publicly, that we seek comment, none of our Right Honorable Good Friends who always ignore our requests (they know who they are) cannot later say: “We didn’t know about it.”
There is no excuse for refusing to state clear positions on three issues that are critical for the long-term health and stability on the city of Pittsfield. We shall leave a candle burning in the window for the eight who have yet to reply. We will not assign any motives to their delay, other than to assume the best: They need the time to make sure they reply thoughtfully, since this is for the record.
“And We Got to Get Back to the Garden”
Once upon a time, a group of community-minded West Side friends and neighbors got together and decided that instead of cursing blight, they would plant a garden. The garden grew, and people enjoyed 3,000 pounds of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers … and each other.
The garden, in city-owned parcels at 146, 148, and 154 Robbins Ave., enjoyed too much success for its own good, apparently. The city of Pittsfield, under OCD Czarina Deanna Ruffer, has seized the three plots and imposed The Bureaucracy. According to The Planet’s sources, this was done without consulting the gardeners and, as it turns out, against their wishes.
What began as a low-key, easy, fun way for neighbors to socialize and grow closer now has turned into a City Program. the Czarina assigned her serfs at the Bekshire Community Action Council to take over the gardens. This year, look for a new crop to be added to the mix: healthy rows of red tape, plum politics, and lots of bullshit for fertilizer.
The City Will F**K It Up?
We will no longer give the city the benefit of the doubt on such matters. The safe assumption for any reasonable person is that the city will take over and screw this up, big time. After November, it will be certain that the neighborhoods will have plenty of pitchforks on hand to chase the refuse from the election out of town.
The Czarina told Dick Lindsay that such a garden “needs a structure” to keep it “sustainable” and so it can expand. Who says. Word to the All Important Underweared Municipal OCD Bureaucrat: The community gardens on Robbins Avenue had a “structure.” It “sustained” itself for three years before you got involved to f**k it up. It “grew” nicely, thank you.
People of the West Side. Channel your anger. Get involved. This is a political year. Vote for anyone who will fight your fight.
If the West Side Neighborhood Initiative was doing a lousy job, there might, might, be a justification for the city sticking its long schnozz into the soil there. The Initiative did a great job. For literally urning the dirt and reclaiming a small patch of blight in the name of hope and decency, the WSNI finds itself rolled, mugged, and robbed by Ruffer Hood: she steals from the Little Guy and gives to The Empire.
We suggest that Ruffer serve as a model for a life-sized scarecrow at the garden. It will terrify crows, women and children, and, with luck, will be hung in effigy.
MOVING ON, KEEPING ON, WITH LOVE TO ALL.