The GREAT GARDEN VARIETY THEFT: SOURCES, DOCUMENTS REVEAL CZARINA RUFFER & BCAC TAKEOVER OF WESTSIDE FARM PROJECT WAS HOSTILE … & IT WAS AN INSIDE JOB
BY DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MARCH 16, 2011) — The plot thickens like gobs of gorilla glue in the subarctic regarding the hostile annexing by The Machine of the Westside Farm Project (WFP) from the hands of grassroots gardeners.
The move, which sources say is the brainchild of Department of Community Development Czarina Deanna Ruffer, let the good people of the WFP break their backs for three years only to swoop in and pluck the well-run program to put it in the hands of the politically connected Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC). Then they can say, “See! Look what we did!”
If this were a game of Clue, The Planet would announce to the hushed, assembled room of usual suspects: “The Czarina, on Robbins Avenue, with a pitchfork.”
One Man, with a Shovel and a Dream
How did this garden grow?: In 2008, with one man, one shovel, and a dream to bring a little joy to a part of the city in need. Thom Pecoraro began the WFP on an abandoned plot of land on Robbins Avenue. With a few friends, he diligently cleaned, tilled, and prepped the soil. He planted. Veggies grew.
While others on the west side cursed the darkness in between drive-by shootings and drug deals, Pecoraro lit the lamp of hope, bidding life out of the urban soil. The little plots on Robbins Avenue became of magnet of good will, and last year, provided one and a third tons of free, delicious, nutritious produce to need families. In three years, the operation became a model of what neighbors can do if “da government just leaves ‘em ta hell alone,” as Jimmy Durante used to say.
That’s all changed now. The politically charged BCAC — with four officers, nine board members, eight members of the managerial staff, and politics by the bushel barrel — will call the shots where the WFP used to till. In the background pulling the strings will be The Czarina, who sources say engineered the takeover from behind the scenes. How far behind the scenes? The answer may lie in a seemingly innocuous code change passed in 2009 (see below).
All Hail, the Czarina
Reasonable people had all doubt removed about Ruffer when she placed her fingerprints on the murder weapon. This occurred in the Boring Broadsheet’s gushing story about what a great this thing Goliath-robs-David theft was for the city of Pittsfield.
Instead of letting BCAC executive director Donald Atwater get his name in the paper, the Czarina hogged the limelight to look like the WFP’s savior. Indeed, the BB story reads as if Czarina Ruffer rescued the farm initiative not just from a tickle in the throat but from its deathbed. Why, she told the BB’s Dick Lindsay with suitable breathlessness, without her actions, the WFP could not sustain itself, could not manage its growth, and would turn to tumbleweed. All hail Czarina Ruffer.
Meanwhile, the Planet has unearthed documents that lay out the evolution of the plot (not garden plots but political plots). In an e-mail dated Nov. 22, 2010, Thom Pecoraro writes to the recipient of the coup de lettuce:
Pecoraro: The City, BCAC Acted ‘in Bad Faith’
“ … we continue to operate in the westside neighborhood. We collaborated with BCAC in 2010 and apparently, the Director, Don Atwater, recognized the value of what we are doing and — in an act of bad faith — decided to ‘get into the business’ and offer Becky Rushford [who had worked with WFP] a position. I suppose the City will license their lot to them (on Robbins Ave.), as BCAC is well connected with city politics and the Dept. of Community Development.
I never would have dreamed, at the beginning of the project, that it would attract people [and] organizations that would disingenuously usurp our efforts. The WFP is a grassroots organization, and any efforts to disempower that effort should be severely scrutinized. What encouragement could this possibly garner for other up-and-coming — or planned — grassroots initiatives”?
This damning e-mail confirms several things:
· The garden theft was engineered by Ruffer using Atwater as her stooge
· This was a hostile takeover, unlike what the BB tried to convey in its irresponsible story. The story reminds The Planet of George Orwell’s famous denunciation of political language, which attempts to make murder acceptable and gives solidity to the wind.
· This is all about politics and power and not about helping a grassroots movement.
· This is how the city of Pittsfield works behind the scenes to discourage initiatives from anyone who is not in some way is not a political hostage. When Pecoraro objected, the city told him that he didn’t matter, because he didn’t live in Pittsfield [EDITOR'S NOTE: The Planet believes Pecoraro lives in nearby New York State but isn't certain].
· This action has a chilling effect on other grassroots initiatives. Who knows how many good people had similarly good ideas and decided not to get involved with the city of Pittsfield for the nefarious reasons spelled out in this, The Great Garden Variety Theft.
BCAC Website as Non-Trasparent as it Gets: What are they Hiding?
How do these disclosures square up with what is found, and not found, on the BCAC website? BCAC declares with a straight face that it’s “primary purpose is to promote the well-being of low-income people in all of the cities and towns of Berkshire County.” Pray, tell, how does theft of an entire grassroots’ grown garden serve that end? Perhaps Donald Atwater would care to answer?
The BCAC comes off a do-good organization that provides a bunch of good-pay, good-benefits job to its managers; exploits the poor for political purposes; and primarily exists to aid and abet the totalitarian one-party political system in this end of the state that imposes its litmus test on anyone looking to become involved in public life. It’s all about the PC crowd, baby, the PC crowd!
And it’s a mere coincidence, isn’t it, that on Oct. 28, 2009, the Ruberto Administration amended the city charter to approve an ordinance addressing the “right to farm” within city limits. Here is the disclosure notification:
The Right to Farm is hereby recognized to exist within the city of Pittsfield. Agricultural
activities as defined in the Right to Farm Ordinance, Chapter 2, Article XLVI of the
Pittsfield City Code as may be amended, may occur on holidays, weekdays, and
weekends by day or night and shall include the attendant incidental dust, noise and odors
associated with normally accepted agricultural practices. It is hereby determined that
whatever impact may be caused to others through the normal practice of agriculture is
more than offset by the benefits of farming to the neighborhood, community, and society
in general. The benefits and protections of this ordinance are intended to apply
exclusively to those commercial agricultural and farming operations and activities
conducted in accordance with generally accepted agricultural practices. Moreover,
nothing in this Right to Farm Ordinance shall be deemed as acquiring any interest in land,
or as imposing any land use regulation, which is properly the subject of state statute,
regulation, or local zoning law.
The city council approved this 9-0 (Mr. Green Jeans and Old McDonald abstained) on its first reading (9/23/09) and 11-0 on the second (10/13/09). The mayor signed it into law on 10/28/09. The Planet wonders: Did my Right Honorable Good Friends on the City Council realize what they were doing when they unanimously approved the innocent-looking measure? Did they realize they were becoming accessories prior to the fact of a robbery?
“Site NOT Under Construction”
Another sign of phoniness and suspicion is the BCAC website. The Planet visited this morning, looking to find mention of the inside Garden job. Here’s all you need to know about disclosure and transparency in the city of Pittsfield and the seemingly “independent” political organizations of The Welfare State.
The Planet wanted to learn about BCAC’s finances and management. We also wanted to know when its next meeting would be held. Here’s what we got:
· When you click on the “BCAC Financial Reports” link, you get a message reading: “Site under construction.”
· When you click on the “BCAC Meeting Minutes” link, you get, “Site under construction.”
· When you click on the link that proudly advertises “BCAC Meeting Schedule,” you get, “Site under construction.”
Get it? “Information Technology: Site Under Kickbacked Construction, Suckers,” or “IT SUCKS.”
Memo to Donald Atwater: Get your abominable website updated. We’re not talking fancy graphics. We’re talking straight information.
What’s the Connection Between BCAC and DCD?
The Planet wonders, out of the blue, of course, and apropos to nothing, when was the last time an independent audit was conducted of BCAC finances and operations?
We also ponder the imponderable: What is the nature of the strong link between BCAC and the Czarina of Ruffer? What allegiances are required of BCAC?
We invite Ruffer, Atwater, and Mariday Geyer, BCAC’s chief fiscal officer, to e-mail their defense. The Planet will publish, if it meets our standards, for our growing numbers of readers, who know that there is at least one media outlet that is on the side of The Little Guy.
The Planet also wonders what the four councilors at-large and the ward councilor think of the takeover of WFI by BCAC at the instigation of the Czarina and associate mayor?
MORE PRODUCE REMAINS TO BE PICKED IN THE PLANET’S VAST GARDENS AND ORCHARDS. KEEP YOUR PAWS OFF, CZARINA AND BCAC. WITH THAT, LOVE TO ALL.