BY DAN VALENTI
In a corrected score to our recent poll of city councilors on three of the most important questions facing the city (PCBs and industrial toxins, Hill 78, and unfunded liabilities), The Planet stands at 7-4 as Ward 1 councilor Christine Yon posted the following on our website:
CHRISTINE YON, WARD 1
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.
I’m not a scientist or a member of the EPA or DEP. I am a ward councilor. I’m not dismissing the importance of the PCB cleanup in the river, but I would rather leave the scientific procedures, plans, and practices to those educated in this field. My common sense answer would be to aggressively remove the pockets of higher-level PCBs where needed and be more conservative in areas with trace amounts of PCBs, preserving the natural environment of the river as much as possible.
2. Do you favor removal of Hill 78 from its present location and out of the city?
The obvious answer is yes, remove it and take it far away, but the complicated question is how? Creating a hazardous waste site in a residential neighborhood adjacent to an elementary school playground is beyond comprehension. During a meeting at Allendale School a few years back, we were informed the consent decree is “iron clad.” Waging a fight against GE’s four floors of corporate lawyers in Fairfield CT to remove Hill 78 is a monumental task, which could take a lifetime and a fortune and could prove to be futile. My question is: “Is there an Erin Brockovich out there that would be willing to take this one on?”
3. Do you think unfunded liabilities (currently $331 million facing city taxpayers) should be addressed immediately or not?
Absolutely, unfunded liabilities need to be addressed. Is Social Security the answer; one retirement system for everyone, municipal and private sector? The current municipal pension system was created for an era that no longer exists. As we move forward, we need to rethink the entire process. We need to reduce future unfunded liabilities as we work at paying down the current ones.
Pressure Continues to Build on Capitanio, Marchetti
The Planet thanks councilor Yon. We were surprised when she didn’t respond to our initial poll, and it turned out to be nothing more than a miscommunication, the details of which are not germane to this entry. The Planet has had a productive relationship with the Ward 1 councilor, and we thank her for once again answering the call.
Councilor Yon joins councilors White, Ward, Krol, Nichols, Mazzeo, and Sherman in the responsive and responsible ranks. Still refusing to reply to our questions and thereby insulting We The People are councilors Capitanio, Lothrop Marchetti, and Lee. Councilor Lee gets a “skate” since he’s a lame duck, as is Mr. Lothrop (only he doesn’t know it).
For Peter Marchetti and Paul Capitanio — Marchetti especially — it’s a different story. The pressures on them are increasing. Assuming they will be running for office this campaign season, they cannot continue to avoid The Planet in open inquiry.
Capitanio has whiffed on two challenges: The Planet’s and the call of candidate Jeff Ferrin for a response. Capitanio will face an aggressive challenge in Ward 3 from city activist and former DPW employee Ferrin, who is prepared to run hard. Ferrin, by virtue of his former employment and his current involvement in public life, represents a formidable obstacle for Capitanio in Ward 3 re-election.
Marchetti: Facing a Career-Defining Choice
For Marchetti, continued avoidance of The Planet will become more marked as the campaign season gains traction, due mainly to the nature of the office he is seeking. Running for mayor will be different than any other campaign in which he’s been involved. This is Pittsfield’s signature office. He will be forced into an area in which he’s not comfortable — debates.
Moreover, he won’t have the comfort of a large field of “at large” candidates to provide cover. We remember moderating “at-large” debates with 10 candidates. Even with five, there’s plenty of time for a candidate to hide. Once you get to more than three or four, individual candidates are required to do little more than spew boilerplate. Marchetti’s waffling nature is perfect for that type of format, wherein he can say nothing while appearing to say as much as his opponents. One on one, if he should survive September prelim, will put him front and center. He’s never been asked to perform under those circumstances.
The longer he continues to run away from The Planet’s inquiries (which will only increase in intensity as we head toward September) the more unbearable it will become for him and his campaign. Gerry Doyle ignored The Planet. Sara Hathaway ignored The Planet. Both lost the corner office. To his credit, Jimmy Ruberto never ignored us. He’s chewed us out. He’s dished back three for every two we gave, but that’s the point: he engaged us in ideas.
Back then, especially the Doyle and Hathaway years, we had a daily radio show. Now, we have a daily website that’s as popular (and by November, will be even more so for the coverage we shall devote to Campaign ’11).
The Planet has great respect for Peter Marchetti. We have told him plenty of times in person, especially during more informal moments, but does he believe that? Are his insecurities preventing that? We don’t know. We can’t play psychiatrist. We can say this campaign represents the opportunity for Marchetti to confront those issues and to flourish in public life in a way he has not yet done. As in the young man in Stephan Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage,” opportunity, of course, comes with a steep and perilous potential downside. We hope Marchetti makes the healthy choice.
Ferrin Takes Up the Challenge and Cleans Cappy’s Clock
Since the currently sitting (on his rear) Ward 3 councilor could not find time to deliver his positions on the three questions, we will post what a candidate in Ward 3 offered. The Planet did not ask anyone other than sitting councilors for input on the questions. At the same time, we didn’t limit then responses to just sitting councilors. Ward 3 hopeful Jeff Ferrin showed great instincts in jumping at an opportunity. That’s the type of representation We The People need.
I advocate for removal of as much of the PCBs as possible. Although GE was a booming business that provided good jobs for Pittsfield, I feel it must take full responsibility for contaminating our city. They made millions in profits while lowering the cost of proper disposal of chemicals including PCBs. We now know PCBs are a known carcinogen and many have fallen ill as a result. Even as a kid, I remember PCB oils being spread on the dirt roads in towns as far as Sheffield to keep the dust down.
It is time for this city and the EPA to enforce full cleanup measures on all contaminated properties public and private. Any other company in this country would be held to that responsibility and standard. Why not GE? To recap: Full clean up is the goal.
If PCBs are a carcinogen that had to be removed from the river and other areas like the Longfellow neighborhoods near Little Italy, then I am hopeful someone can explain to me how they are less dangerous being 50 feet from a school? The Hill must be removed and taken from this city for proper disposal as “dirty dirt.” It is we take a stance in this city and stop being afraid of a company like GE just because the have deep pockets and pockets full of lawyers. They know they are wrong, they know what they did, and they must be held accountable to the fullest. Lets force the hand of the EPA to do their job.
We must start ASAP to address this problem. Before long, we will be at $400,000,000. This is not a situation like Popeye, where Wimpy will gladly pay tomorrow for a hamburger today. The country as a whole is facing the same dilemma as we are in Pittsfield. We, however, seem to add new jobs, higher pay, and in doing so add to the crisis. We must develop a financial strategy to start paying down that debt so that we do not leave it in the billion-dollar range for our children. We should not be waiting to see if the Commonwealth or Federal Government would help us. We must tackle this on our own and soon. I suggest we start with looking at seriously having a forensic audit done of the city and finding where money is being wasted and misused. We have the ability to accomplish a successful debiting down of this very important problem over a 25- to 35-year year period while maintaining our required yearly contributions as required by law, if we do it right and have leaders who do not redirect the funds. We must stop adding big raises like we have seen in the seven to ten thousand dollar plus range as we have seen with this mayor and council on the approvals of those raises.
The unfunded issue is more over a result of those who are in the upper management levels, like those we have seen in Springfield and Holyoke, with retirees making between $90-110,000 a year in pensions. So yes we must address this and do it now. The next council and mayor will have some serious decisions to make when it comes to budgets and cutbacks. This includes tackling this issue, PCBs, PEDA, loss of business regardless of how small, the ever-increasing tax burden associated with the tax split between residential and commercial rates, and out of control spending as if we were in the greatest financial position with nothing to worry about.
I am convinced a true Forensic Audit is what we need to get a handle on what our true debt is. As a Ward 3 councilor, I would push to have that done.
TOMORROW, WE HAVE SOME AMAZING REVELATIONS FROM THE NAKED CITY, PLUS, THE PLANET’S FOOR WRITER TELLS US ABOUT HER LOCAL WISDOM. FOOD FOR THOUGHT AND BODY. LOVE TO ALL.