Toxins, Hill 78, and Unfunded Liabilities: Planet Puts Councilors on the Spot

First things first, as my sequential numeraries insist: Today, The Planet sent the following e-mail to 11 city councilors:

For, I am looking for on-the-record positions on the following issues. I invite your written comments to
(1) Regarding PCBs and other toxins in the Housatonic River put there and throughout the city by GE, what do you advocate — removal, partial removal, or leave alone.
(2) Do you favor removal of Hill 78 from its present location and out of the city?
(3) Do you think unfunded liabilities (currently $331 million facing city taxpayers) should be addressed immediately or not?
Please be as specific as you can. I welcome your input so I can relate your positions to my readers. My deadline is Wednesday, March 16, at 4 p.m.

The issues are crucial to the city, and MUST be addressed. The deadline is reasonable. We expect on behalf of every citizen in the city of Pittsfield to receive answers. We shall post the responses, and we shall identify in the harshest terms those who ignore this request.

Here are the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of the Pittsfield City Council. Feel free to contact them requesting that they respond to The Planet’s questions on behalf of We The People:

* Ward 1, Christine Yon,, 442-1774

* Ward 2, Peter White,, 464-9044

* Ward 3, Paul Capitanio,, 442-4754

* Ward 4, Mike Ward,, 499-0462

* Ward 5, Jonathan Lothrop,, 281-0994

* Ward 6, John Krol,, 464-7539

* Ward 7, Joe Nichols,, 841-1737 (note: Nichols has already responded on Planet Post of March 11, 2011)

* At-large, Kevin Sherman,, 822-9511

* At-large, Melissa Mazzeo,, 443-4079

* At-large Gerry Lee,, 499-0569

* At-large, Peter Marchetti,, 499-7320.


‘Gonna Wave My Freak Flag High’ — Jimi Hendrix, “If 6 Was 9”

As you might know, for its 250th anniversary, there is a competition under way to design a city flag. Pretty much all you need to know about it is that the Boring Broadsheet has something to do with it. Which reminds the more sober among us, who ironically has the greater sense of humor, to wonder how in the name of Benigno “O. B. Joyful” Numine did the city manage without one for 250 years.

For the bicentennial in 1961, neither residents nor officials thought we needed a flag. In 2011, the age of self-glorification, one commissions a flag if the grandkids learn “Chopsticks” on the piano.

The designs submitted for the official competition have been pedestrian at best and retarded at worst (yes, we are using the “r” word in its proper usage, all you PC People out there). The Planet has quietly solicited alternate ideas, and from them, commissioned a guest essay that you will read in its entirety below. The Top Three ideas submitted to The Planet, in no particular order:

(1) The Heap Big Magic Pothole Medicine Machine (HBMPMM) is depicted on a field, forgotten in the city yard, rusting to death. In LAtin are the words, “So Sue Me.”

(2) Mr. and Mrs. Joe Taxpayer are shown in comas. Above them are 50 stars and birds flying in circles around their heads. Standing above them is The Politician, with a club in one hand and a big money bag in the next. In Latin: “Give Me More of Your Money, Suckah”

(3) Picture a flag-proportioned rectangle. A river (the Housy, of course) runs from diagonal, upper right to lower left. In top left half of the flag, we see Silver Lake, glowing fluorescent green. The river is orange. In the lower right hand we see the GE meatball. In Latin: “We Bring Good Things to Death.”

You get the idea, or as The Stooley commented, “Flag, my ass.” The Planet gets his message. While the city is bankrupt from unfunded liabilities, while a mind-boggling number of industrial poisons continue their destruction of the environment, and while the mayor and city council spending money like jokers on things like HBMMPM and $15,ooo pay raises for political chums, and while taxes go up relentlessly each year, they waste their time on flags.

Here is the essay from our guest author:


By Zach Cutler

On Feb. 2nd, a ground-breaking announcement was made that would send shock waves of excitement through the Berkshires; one can dream, right? In another sure fire attempt to champion his support of the arts, Mayor Ruberto announced that he and State Senator Ben Downing would be sponsoring a competition for the region’s artisans to design an “official flag” for the city of Pittsfield.

Finally, Pittsfudlians everywhere will have an emblem to salute as we continue to flounder without industry and keep working at convincing ourselves that the city is 100% suitable for a tourist economy.

Actually, the idea at first didn’t seem terrible, and I base that opinion on my hope that the city would finally be able to a hail a banner of the late Peter Arlos unyielding his endless civic wisdom to hopeful strangers in a booth at the Highland, preferably on beef stew night.

Then the entries began to pour in, each one a painfully banal display of capturing the essence of Pittsfield. And so the field has been narrowed down to the top five for us to vote on, courtesy of web polling monitored by the “Boring Cybersheet”. Even among the crème de la crème, it’s more than apparent that each design is as flawed as the first.

Flag #1, perhaps the most grandiose in social commentary features an eagle caressing an oval with a green backdrop, in the middle a rendering of the soldier monument on Park Square. The idea is apparently to throw together as many broad concepts moderately related to Pittsfield history as possible. These concepts include: the emblem of the city’s major media source, though owned by a Colorado-based company (which makes one wonder why this particular flag was placed #1 on the ballot…me thinks the BB wants to show that Pittsfield revolves around it?), a soldier to illuminate Pittsfield’s deep military history, and the shade of green within the oval to display Pittsfield commitment to a green lifestyle, all while the three-eyed fish swim in Silver Lake.

Flag #2 most certainly came from an artist within the city’s hipster community because of the European feel. Trust me, the closest thing you‘ll find to “hip” and “European” in the city of Pittsfield are the episodes of late-night ratings sensation “’Polka Time with Ed Targonski” on Pittsfield Community Television.

Flag #3 is not terrible. I like the display of patriotism with the red, white, and blue theme, though it seems ironic that it represents Pittsfield’s renowned elm trees when all of Pittsfield’s elm trees were killed by disease years ago! Perhaps our smock brandishing buddy meant to symbolize our world-famous Elm Street. After all, Palmers is the Hallmark of variety stores!

Flag #4 would be cool if baseball were actually invented in Pittsfield. Can we please stop kidding ourselves over this one? Some municipality will eventually come out of the woodwork with a valid claim prior to ours, so let’s drop the charade.

Flag #5 is simply dreadful. A poor MS Paint rendering of upper East street buildings on a drab green background. If the city is looking to honor poor computerized images, I have plenty of doodles from the days of Windows 95 that I would be more than happy to put on display.

Perhaps one cannot truly encapsulate the essence of Pittsfield in a concentrated artistic effort. As the identity of the city has been perpetually changing from beacon of industry, to a barren North Street and a deflated economy, to baseball capital, U.S.A, to a resurging community led by our new-found appreciation of the arts, it’s hard to pinpoint what one could call the ideal pennant of the city.

If the contest did one good thing, it has opened the field for debate over how we chose to identify the city. I’m sticking with my vision of the late Arlos of City Council glory enjoying the beef stew special at Pittsfield’s venerable Highland Restaurant.




  1. Scott Laugenour
    March 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    I suggest candidates who offer their positions on these important issues also offer voters some specifics on how they, once in office, should be held accountable for the continuous advocacy and advance of these positions.

    And …. always wondered what it meant for a mayor and a senator to ‘sponsor’ a contest. Are they funding anything? If so, does it come from a personal account or a campaign account or from somewhere else. Or is it just a photo-op at an awards ceremony? Gee, didn’t any State Rep in Pittsfield get invited to sponsor this?

    • danvalenti
      March 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      Great Q about the “sponsorship.” What exactly does that mean? If it’s a penny of public dollars, the flag jazz is another egregious waste. That’s all these clowns know. Waste taxpayers money while the city stands at the verge of bankruptcy.

    • Joetaxpayer
      March 12, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

      scott, like your part about sponrship unfortunatly it is all about the pork, intermotal center,the common,putting solar panels on a out dated need to be renovated buildings called BCC

  2. GMHeller
    March 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    Mr. Valenti,
    Request you make specific mention of Silver Lake in any questions sent to city councillors and/or mayoral candidates.
    As bad as Hill 78 is in location and types/varieties of toxic pollution it dispenses, Silver Lake poses yet an even greater threat especially considering its ability to pollute local air as well as soil and ground water with some incredibly carcinogenic compounds.

    Oh, and please remind those Pittsfield City Councillors and Mayoral candidates to please inhale deeply when driving past Silver Lake.
    All that wonderful chemistry (PCB’s, Hexavalent Chromium, Dioxins, etc.) dissolved in Silver Lake’s water has the ability to go airborne as each chemical’s toxic molecule can attach itself to molecules of water vapor.
    Into a person’s lungs means directly into the blood.
    Result: Brain Cancers, Lymphatic Cancers; Bone Cancers; etc..

    So if you smell something — anything, but especially that Clorox-type aroma — while driving by Silver Lake, it means you’ve just increased by an incremental amount your odds of developing an otherwise rare Cancer someplace in your body.

    Think about that as you cruise around Pittsfield with your car windows open on a bright sunny day this Spring and Summer .


    Hexavalent Chromium:

    Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (what one gets from overheating PCB’s — such as during a power transformer malfunction; a transformer which then was brought back to G.E.’s Transformer Division in Pittsfield for servicing and the old PCB oil (now PCDF-laced oil) is removed, dumped, and replaced with fresh PCB oil):

    Polychlorinated biphenyls:

    From Wiki: “It is the MOST POTENT compound of the series” and “….may also be formed along with other polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofuranes in any burning, especially if certain metal catalysts such as copper are present…”
    e.g. As when a power tranformer burns/overheats — a transformer whose primary and secondary windings are made of pure copper.:,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin

    All the above exotic chemical compounds were dumped into Silver Lake — IN ABUNDANCE — by General Electric Company and remain there to this day!

    • danvalenti
      March 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      Silver Lake will be the topic of a separate e-mail.

  3. Jonathan Melle
    March 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    If I lived in PITTSfield instead of N.H., I would support making PITTSfield & the Housatonic River a SUPERFUND site. I would close Allendale Elementary School until Hill 78 was removed. I would address the city’s unfunded liabilities by calling on the state government to restructure the debts of local governments. I would ask for a Bail-Out.
    On another subject, what’s the deal with the Berkshire Eagle’s multiple digital pictures of “Luciforo”?

    • Joetaxpayer
      March 12, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

      stay in new hampshire you dont want are issuess

  4. GMHeller
    March 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Oh, and by the way, it just might be that due to the special circumstances surrounding remediation of Silver Lake (draining and dredging of a 26-foot deep glacial lake along with special disposal procedures attached to capture and disposal of highly toxic, highly carcinogenic compounds mixed throughout Silver Lake’s mud and silt), that the actual cost for remediating Silver Lake may greatly surpass the $1023 per pound cost for remediating the Hudson River’s PCB’s.
    It could be that remediating just Silver Lake alone might cost General Electric Company a cool One Billion dollars.
    That amount would be separate from the costs associated with remediation of the rest of the Housatonic River downstream including Woods Pond and the river’s flood plain.

  5. toto
    March 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    olive oil-zoned-silence-felix the cat-toad-phelps-dingbat-doh,popeye-dobie-mallow cup.

  6. GEE Whiz
    March 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Eagerly looking forward to the replies of the councilors to your questions.

  7. Rosco K. Barrett
    March 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    Danny V,

    Let me be the first to toot the horn on so-called Flag contest. The history of the city of Pittsfield runs deep and the city has long deserved a flag to hang long side the other +/- 300 city and town flags in The Hall of Flags on Beacon Hill. It is time Pittsfield has its day, coincidentally its 250th anniversary. Well I was surprised the fourth idea you should have mentioned wasn’t Mike Ward’s Unicycle in the forefront with a view of the city skyline from Silver Lake Boulevard serving as background. But really in all seriousness, the finalist flags are nothing but disappointing.

    In considering comparable flags that hang on Beacon Hill, most are not much more complex than a flag with the seal of the city/town on it. Would an entry with just the seal on it even been considered or is that just too plain uncreative. In all honestly, the five flags that will eventually be trimmed to one to represent Pittsfield just do not do a good job. Each one may have some upsides and certainly downsides but against a flag with real thought put into none of these would stand a chance. There are a great deal of different ideas and concepts that could be created in to more professional emblems for the city. It’s kind of like the State Quarter series; what best overall represents as state that most will agree on. There are a great deal more significant landmarks for which the city is notable for, almost too many to choose from. The content of the flag should be thoroughly considered.

    The contest itself seems to be a whirlwind of sorts. To think that this contest is in the final voting only less than a month and a half after its inception shows why the entry pool was so limited for superb designs. There are flaws too with the voting itself. Aside from being able to vote multiple times, one can be unrelated to the city completely and find out and vote thru an internet campaign. This flag will be associated with the city for years to come and it should be taken seriously for that matter. A more systematic way of determining the fair winner should be created even if that requires going to some sort of public vote in the fall. Hopefully there will be an opportunity for a wider pool of finalist to be screened and voted fairly on by the citizens of Pittsfield.

  8. FAN OF them ALL
    March 12, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Agree with Roscoe. and the planet. and Mr. cutler. the final five flags are too simplistic, to “computery.” Roscoe puts it nicely: we need something with more complexity. I like the idea of just the city seal, and maybe some kind of heraldic trim. These entires are pathethetic and the city deserves fare better.

    • Joetaxpayer
      March 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

      All I can say about Allendale school is the school dept. is not ready to take there teneceles off this property (Hibbiard Mercer and 2nd st.)truely the gift that keeps on giving to the tax payers.

      • Joetaxpayer
        March 12, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

        All I can state is the fact that tha city of pittsdfield has 9 elementary schools indside the city limits.Do we need this over run,or should we take this oppertunity and consilidate a school.Then move the admin. to the other school that is closed.Mercer and Hibbard schools shouldnbe closed

  9. RandyB
    March 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    Ah yes, a flag is just what the city needs. Let’s waste taxpayer dollars so we can hang a flag on beacon hill because that accomplishes or improves… absolutely nothing. I am also curious as to if the Eagle is getting any monetary compensation for having the voting on its website?
    The Roberto regime is a prime example of ridiculous govt. waste, tit-for-tat politics, corruption, and dishonesty.
    I feel badly for whoever the new mayor will be; they have quite the mess to clean up (or depending on who is elected, ignore the problems and keep raising taxes).

  10. dave
    March 13, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    I have the perfect plan -take city hall move it to allendale school move the kids into city hall, build the time share condos that no one wants by the lake put them on Hill 78. Its only one week exposure a year and it puts Hill 78 on the tax rolls

  11. Shopping Center
    March 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Great article, I’ve bookmarked this page and have a feeling I’ll be returning to it regularly.

  12. Morning Sickness
    March 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Cool post, just subscribed.

  13. Foxy Lady
    March 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Hill 78 and Silver Lake: Please Dan don’t let up. I had a generation of family work there and die later, all of cncer. Til now I never felt anyone understood the pain and grief from all this. Please councilors, mayor ruberto and anyone else who can help us, please help.

  14. Luxor Rex
    March 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Just back from FLA. I thank the planet for the post all winter. It kept us in touch with palookaville. candidates in 2011: We are back. We vote! Total cleanup of Housie, Hill 78, and silver lake. viva valenti for his massive effort.

  15. toto
    March 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    How about a plain white flag, I surrender.

  16. toto
    March 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    Good night Uncle Fester, who luvs ya baby!

  17. Luxor Rex
    March 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Just caught up on Heap Big Magic Pothole Medicine Machine. The HBMPMM can cure hepatitis, core apples, vaccuum and clean the rugs, and knit sweaters. That’s what the city of Pitts promised the city councilrs, I guess, and eight bought it. Literally bought it. What a waste of $$.

  18. SALTY
    March 14, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    I think one of the ideas presented by the planet best: city flag with a rusted out HBMPMM.

  19. toto
    March 14, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    A picture of the mayor with his hand in your pocket, with Fenway Park in the backdrop….that makes it ok.

  20. danbeaut
    March 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Anyone hear the comments made by Ron Lee of WBRK this morning on the stupuid show? Talking about and making fun of the situation over there? He should be fired, it wasn’t funny.

  21. danbeaut
    March 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    That she be stupid} show. Someone did call in and let them know it wasn’t good!

  22. DJ
    March 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    And Ruberto said, “Let them have flags.”

    The flag contest is a bit of prestidigitation, look over here while I fleece you and have a city council with nothing to lose vote for everything I put out there.

    Payola job for a friend who ran my campaign from city offices and using city resources. CHECK!
    A barely show, made up job for my “friend” from North Adams, CHECK!

    A pothole machine that will actually only increase costs recommended by my “friend” from North Adams. CHECK!

    A city councilor, now moving on after we gave his company thousands of dollars for marketing and e-mail services, without bidding it out. Of course he has voted for every stupid thing I have recently put to the council. CHECK!

    City offices handing out alcohol in city buildings without checking ID, while the local bars get the shaft. CHECK!

    Touting how “green” Pittsfield is, while pouring green poison down the sewers and adding thousands of dollars a day in electricity bills for lights in the North and South Street “theater district”. CHECK

    Getting thousands of dollars in free baseball tickets. Check!