BY DAN VALENTI
Behind the Times
You would think that the good folks at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission would change the outdated information on its CEDS page (listing the “next meeting” taking place on Jan. 25) given the fact that The Planet notified them of the embarrassing error. Moreover, based on the amount of mocking, anger, and sarcasm directed at the CEDS committee based on our public-spirited act of goodwill, you’d think maybe they might want to show more responsiveness to the public.
That is not the case. The website as of today still advertises for the future a meeting conducted seven weeks ago. Do you need more proof that the Powers that Be, who have held the region’s economy back by incompetence and nepotism, don’t care?
This inaction on such a simple (yet important) thing aligns nicely with a comment made today on yesterday’s Planet posting. It’s from a person who went to the city of Pittsfield website, looking for contact information for members of municipal boards and commissions. Go there yourself. You’ll find:
(a) Outdated information
(b) No phone numbers or mail addresses
(c) No e-mail or other electronic addresses.
In fact, the city’s website as a whole lists no e-mails for any municipal employees except for city councilors. If you were an out of town businessperson looking to expand in Pittsfield and wanted to e-mail Deanna Ruffer in the Office of Community Development, you couldn’t find that information on the “user-friendly” website.
Campaign Promise Not Fulfilled: Don’t Stop the Presses
In the 2009 municipal election, in a televised debate, The Planet brought the lack of e-mail addresses up to Mayor Jimmy Ruberto. He said he wasn’t aware of the problem and then pledged to look into it immediately, giving the impression he would address the problem. As it turns out, nothing was done. The site hasn’t changed in years.
The city’s web presence is like something from the stone ages. It consists of dated PR and puffery, not at all easy to use, and a detriment more than a help.
Here’s the no-cost solution: Work with Berkshire Community College, get the school’s top three web designers and programmers, and offer them the job. BCC would make payment in the form of three credits earned for each of the students (equal to one course for one semester). The city then gets a new and better site at virtually no expense. The students get a nice item for their resumes. Taxpayers get a cost break. People get better service.
Free advice to the next mayor and council: For one of your first joint projects, get the city’s web presence out of 1996 and into 2012. To the present mayor and council: One simple fix that will do wonders would be to hire a temp to insert working e-mail addresses for all city personnel in the appropriate places on the official web site.
Where’s the Money?
Many are still wondering about the identities of the “eight to 12″ companies identified by 1Berkshire that in addition to GE provided start-up money to the group. In April 2010, the board of four existing Berkshire rah-rah organizations — including the Berkshire Chamber of Mike Supranowicz — formed for the purpose of …
… Let’s stop right there. No one knows why they formed. No one knows why they needed to add a layer of redundancy to the already non-functioning plethora of “economic development agencies” that crop up in Pittsfield (county seat, don’t cha know) like poppies in the fields of Iraq.
We don’t know why the group formed. It just did, and from April of last year to January of this year, 1Berkshire did nothing (The Planet doesn’t count halitosis in the form of say-nothing press releases). Then it 1Berkshires found Facebook, alleluia, where it announced its first policy initiative: a clean-up plan for the Housatonic River that matched GE’s plan like a set of dueling pistols. Dum-de-dum-dum.
The Plot Thickens
The plot thickened when 1Berkshire first flatly denied receiving funds from GE then got caught in the lie and admitted taking $300,000. In the Berkshire Record, David Scribner reported that a 1Berkshire board member told him of GE’s promise of millions more to come. Eugenie Sills, publisher of the Women’s Times, resigned from 1Berkshire in wake of the revelations. Meanwhile, more discontent from within the ranks has been reported. The group has many principled members, people The Planet knows and respects, and they aren’t happy with the GE development.
The discontent with 1Berkshire seems to be growing, and it wouldn’t surprise The Planet to learn of more resignations and to hear from upset members who will stick with it but need to share what they know with the public. Stay tuned on this one, folks.
The Boston Globe spoke to two 1Berkshire members on condition of anonymity. The Planet also has multiple such sources. Are they the same? We don’t know. We can report that our anonymous sources wish to remain that way because of the fear of professional reprisal, the same reason used by the Globe’s sources.
We ask how can fear and intimidation can be seen as a good way to lure outsiders who might make relocate or set up in Pittsfield. Unless the politics change, that would be a fatal mistake. It might explain, for example, why in the 14 years since the Consent Agreement was signed, the PEDA site in Pittsfield remains idle. It might also explain why Dan Fox Drive went from being “Pittsfield Silicon Valley” to “Recreation & Resort Service-Job Central.”
How stupid to the Grand High Exalted Mytic Poo-Bahs think We The People are?
Question Needing Answers
If we can believe 1Berkshire that they have received money from “8 to twelve” companies, one of which is GE, the following questions need immediate answers:
* How much is the total amount received? GE gave a reported $300,000. What about the seven to 11 other companies. How much is there?
* Other than brochures and press releases, what is the money’s purpose? Who’s getting paid in the group and how much?
* Where is that money? Is it on deposit? Can honest accounting be presented that will lead a reasonable person to believe that all is above board here?
* What were the stipulations placed on receipt of the money? 1Berkshire has carefully worded its response to the question as it pertains to the GE $300K, saying GE provided the money but “not specifically to support the Smart Clean-Up Coalition” (quote from Tony Dobrowolski’s article in the Feb. 19 Berkshire Eagle). How do we read that? “Not specifically” would seen to include but not be limited to pushing the Smart plan. Wiggle room, they call it.
1Berkshire has to answer these questions publicly, with verification and supporting documents, for the public to feel that its Smart Clean-Up Plan is a legitimate option and not just a front for GE. The pity is that perhaps the so-called “Smart” (less invasive) cleanup IS the best option at this point. 1Berkshire, though, has poisoned the waters.
The Usual and Unusual Suspects
CEDS: Who Attended and Who Didn’t
The Planet can report that since we’ve been writing about the Pittsfield CEDs process, attendance by the CEDS committee has been on the uptick.
During the Jan. 25 meeting, Chamber chief Mike Supranowicz finally cleared time from his feverishly busy day (“busier than a one-armed paper hanger”) to attend. Nice of him. We were beginning to think Mountain Mike didn’t want to waste his valuable time on this non-starter. “Showing up” absent (if that is possible) were Deanna Ruffer, Heather Boulger, and Robert Wilson.
Ruffer’s absence is understandable. She’s busy running the city as Deputy Mayor along with First Deputy Mayor John Barrett. Yes, and Mayor Ruberto wants to give Tricia Farley-Bouvier a $15,000 raise by making her “First Assistant Deputy Mayor.”
The Planet gives honor and praise to Allison Johnson, who was the lone member of the public to attend. The next meeting of the CEDS committee is NOT Jan. 25, as the CEDS site boasts, but at 12:30 p.m., March 8, at BRPC, 1 Fenn St., Suite 201. We hope other members of the public can attend to watch the paint dry and the grass not grow.
It’s All in How You Define It
The Jan. 25 CEDS meeting included a discussion of how to define the “New Economy,” which the committee established last spring. The master minds at CEDS decided they needed a “New Economy.” That’s like the ugly person buying a new mirror because the old one showed too much. He thinks the new mirror will reveal Adonis.
There is this tidbit in the minutes: The CEDS team has received 82 proposals to present to the Feds for funding. Proposals will be scored and evaluated by the committee (“It’s not what you know, kid, it’s WHO you know”). Proposals would be ranked with “High, Medium, and Low” priorities.
“High” — A proposal with this ranking is “in the bank.” It is submitted by people with high-end political connections and table-tilted business pull. These people are “Connected.” You can say they are “Made,” the way the Mob uses the word.
“Medium” — Proposals from people who want to be “Players” but still haven’t forked over the required “tribute” or kissed the right bums. If they cough up, maybe they get greased.
“Low” — These describe diligent, descriptive proposals that might actually open up the local economy (and its politics) to fresh blood. These proposals make practical sense and would help ordinary people. The CEDS team uses colorful internal language for “Low” priority proposals. They are labeled “Fat Chance” and filed under “N” for “Now a Snowball’s Chance.”
He Said It (and We Wish THEY Would, Too)
The Planet shares this quote from the governor of Wisconsin. Never mind his name or party affiliation (in an attempt to avoid a hackneyed descent into partisan politics. We just find it heartening that there is a politician out there capable of uttering such a hopeful statement.
Now if only we could get Deval Patrick to say this and mean it (also Jimmy Ruberto, Chris Yon, Peter White, Paul Capitanio, Mike Ward, Jonathan Lothrop, John Krol, Joe Nichols, Gerry Lee, Kevin Shreman, Peter Marchetti, and Meliss MAzzeo, plus the School committee): “This is a major step forward in correcting the imbalance between taxpayers and the government unions that work for them,” Kasich said.
BYE FOR NOW, MY GOOD FRIENDS. LOVE TO ALL.