BY DAN VALENTI
We started this modest enterprise at the tail end of September 2010. Why? Print is dying. Cyberspace is alive.
The Planet recognizes that cyberspace is the dominant communications forum for pertinent issues and will remain so until a holocaust of some sort drives us all back to smoke signals and writing on clay tablets. That day could come. Until then, we shall continue to explore and learn this new medium.
The Planet has taken out no commercial advertising to let people know of this site’s existence. Two reasons: First, we needed to learn the protocols (including technical issues) of running a site like this. Second, we needed to see if we could produce at a high level of quantity and quality on a daily basis. We have done that. Our numbers are growing every day, mostly by word of mouth. The Planet has seen exponential growth.
That has attracted commercial interests (some local but most not). We have thus far refused accepting money to run ads. We remain “Unbought & Unbossed.” We operate on the philosophy that if we share good information, make it lively and entertaining, and not pull punches, PlanetValenti Dot Com will find readers.
We Won’t Bother You with Commercials … Yet, At Any Rate
The Planet judges that for at least the remainder of the year, we shall stay that a non-commercial site. We are examining options in terms of growing the site such as redesign, new content, etc. The possibilities are numerous. At this moment, we want to keep the site as is: a main story every day and other items of interest. Our indications of growth suggest that me will have to manage it, not sooner or later, but now.
There may come a time where you see the main news and commentary “hole” as well as content blocks for “Arts” and “Sports.” If we expand content, it won’t be boring listing of events. No Arts Calendar. No plug for the Rotary’s artery clogging pancake breakfasts. That is done to death. Our content will be like no other local medium can now boast. It will be hard, no holds barred coverage — accurate, entertaining, and provocative as we can make it.
Yes, if we expand, there will be the occasional soft features, but our critics will be demanding, our writers will be the sharpest, and our interests the most eclectic. Arts and Sports have as much intrigue and politics as do other types of news. None of that is being covered now. One concrete example, on the “feature-y” : We are negotiating with the interested parties to cover Pittsfield Colonials baseball this summer, game stories and features. The Planet may write SOME of the content, but basically we will hire a baseball writer and it will be his or her “beat.” We will mange the content.
Bottom line: For now, no changes. Later this year, MAYBE content changes and redesign.
Will Corey Thurston Be What PEDA Needs, or Will He Be Another Thurston J. Howell?
Yesterday, The Planet broke the news — Yes, you heard it here first, ahead of the BB and everyone else — that the PEDA board of directors named Corey Thurston as its new director.
The essential first point: Thurston will need at least a year on the job before we can make any judgments approaching definitive. In short, people will need to give the guy a chance. Thurston may turn out to be to PEDA what Henry Ford was to the automotive industry. He may also turn out to be what Thurston J. Howell III was to “Gilligan’s Island.” Good God, Lovey.
Is he the right person for the job? Does he have an instinct for business? Is he aggressive enough? Is he enough of a salesman? Does he or doesn’t take crud from fools? Time will tell, oh my brothers and sisters.
We can safely make the following observations:
* Since 1998 to present, the project has been a colossal bust. Only one tenant is on the site, WMECO with its solar panels on Silver Lake Boulevard. WMECO put the panels on land that it already owned plus some real estate from PEDA, so it’s a fable to call the electric company a bona fide tenant. It’s a something’s-better-than-nothing tenant.
* The PEDA board had a chance to set a different tone. If whiffed.
* PEDA has the opportunity to get rid of the wall of secrecy that has been its chief tool to date, a surreptitious exercise in clandestine activity that has over nearly 13 years created a PR disaster equal to the amount of poisons left there by General Electric.
* The board chose not to be transparent. It kept virtually all the pertinent information relating to its search for the new CEO hidden. Former councilor Ben Kaplan headed the search committee. He did not make the information available. In announcing Thurston as the winner (though we’re not sure “winner” is the correct term), neither board chairman Gary Grunin, Kaplan, nor any board member said much beyond 13 initial candidates, narrowed down to five to two and to one.
* Who were these people? How were they selected? What were the criteria? None of that was shared in making the Thurston announcement. Would that not have been the PERFECT tine? You betcha.
* How far and wide did PEDA search for its new director? Who were the other applicants? What is there background? How do we know Thurston was the best qualified? Are we simply supposed to take PEDA’s word?
* Thurston is the son of Don Thurston, a man who created his radio empire in North County. Corey Thurston did not build his father’s business, so: Was he simply a guy born on third base who thought he had hit a triple? Did he play a large part in the business on his own? That’s not clear.
* What were Don Thurston’s ties to Pittsfield politics? What are Corey Thurston’s. PEDA acting CEO Bill Hines turned into a contortionist to tell the Boring Broadsheet’s business writer Tony Dobrowolski that one factor in selecting Thurston was the fact that he wasn’t a PEDA insider and does not have ANY connection with Pittsfield politics. Right. Fair question: Would that be possible with a father of the caliber of Don Thurston?
* Is Thurston his own man? Is he the kind of CEO who is going to rile the board if necessary to make PEDA succeed. We know FOR A FACT that PEDA’s methods to date have failed. The site is empty, save WMECO. There has been NO economic development there, despite hearing time after time that there were “prospects but we can’t talk about them.”
* PEDA has kept pretty much everything hidden and out of view. That worked in 1998. It won’t work in 2011 in he same way the Pittsfield Police Department was unable to bury SteroidsGate: the Internet. Thurston takes over at a time when a simple tweet to the right place will make public news.
All in all, given the manner in which this announcement was made, it wasn’t a good debut for Cory Thurston.
Mayor Ruberto Asked a Great Question of PEDA, but the Lawyer had no Answer. Will the taxpayer again be paying through the nose?
In other PEDA news, The Planet loves the way Mayor Jimmy Ruberto asked the big and awkward question at the last meeting.
The board discussed the concrete cap that has to be put over the 150,000 square feet of flooring from the original GE buildings. GE is supplying $750,000 for that job. Will that be enough?
As we understand it, the old floors have to be capped with a thick layer of concrete because of the toxins, essentially to “emtonb” whatever is there (one shudders to imagine).
Mayor Ruberto questioned what happens if the costs go above $750,000? They probably will, since these estimates invariably are low balled. Again, it’s a case where GE wanted to get off as cheaply as possible. Great question. PEDA’s attorney, sweet girl, fumbled for an answer and didn’t have one except for a Ralph Kramden “homina homina homina.”
How did PEDA arrive at $750,000? Did they fight GE for more? What happened when foundations, footings, and pilings need to be put in and must be driven down underneath the cap? Who pays for remediation if toxins are exposed? Who pays the overage if the casing costs exceed $750K. The city taxpayers? The mayor didn’t get an answer. He expressed deep concern on this issue.
* Is this the REAL reason why no outside company has, from PEDA’s conception to date (going on 13 years) wanted to locate on what would otherwise seem an ideal location? Think about it: Great site, next to water and rail, with large inducements, yet not one bite. What aren’t they saying? Is that why every time PEDA says it’s talking to a company, it NEVER identifies the company? Are there records of these negotiations? Is GE’s industrial toxins keeping industry out of Pittsfield? CORY THURSTON: THE PEOPLE WANT AN ANSWER.
* One can only guess about all this, because there has been no exhaustive listing of what’s in that ground. If GE doesn’t know or isn’t saying, if PEDA knows and isn’t saying, why would any company want to move there? What’s in the five feet of toxic goo that covers the bottom of Silver Lake? A reasonable person must conclude that companies want no part of this site because of the uncertainties in cost, the potential liability for the poisons GE left there, and the secrecy by which PEDA operates.
We hope that with Corey Thurston on board as CEO, there will be more hard questions from the board of the kind that Mayor Ruberto raised. People will expect Thurston to RAISE these questions and demand from the board, from GE, or from anyone with information, the answers.
SteroidsGate: New Revelations
And now, the issue you’ve all been waiting for: SteroidsGate.
Yes, there have been numerous developments in SteroidsGate, a term that The Planet is using as a catch-all label to describe the present internal workings of the Pittsfield Police Department. The atmosphere in the PPD is roiled.
They are turning over tables and chairs to try to find out who’s talking to The Planet. There are complaints from within regarding the leadership of Chief Wynn, who also has his defenders. There are complaints from within with the way union boss Marc Maddalena tried to muzzle the membership from talking to the press. There are those who defend that action. Meanwhile, does use of the juice extend beyond one officer. Are there others? If so, who? If so, how many? Or is the PPD exceptional in what seems to be a nationwide problem of cops (mostly young and male) using illegal steroids.
Use of the Juice: Rampant, It Would Appear
The Planet has talked to members of several Berkshire County police forces in the course of covering this story. Each member reports a rampant problem with young male cops juicing and an institutional dysfunction that’s trying to pretend it’s not a problem. We hope to present soon a story on the devastating effects of steroids use. Good, honest cops are disgusted by this but feel intimidated from speaking out.
For those who want to refresh their memories, review previous coverage. The Planet will share developments as they warrant and after we have had a chance to make judgments on the veracity of information.
We repeat: The Planet is on the side of the PPD. In saying that, we mean we are against all illegal and unethical behavior from bad cops, and we support 100% the good cops who feel the same way. It’s unfortunate that because of the cloak of secrecy on relevant issues, good cops bear the taint of suspicion. Is only one officer guilty of using steroids? The police internal report names one. It found that this man engaged in criminal conduct unbecoming a member of the force. Those are internal findings.
The PPD, Not The Planet, Found Ofc. Kirchner Acted Criminally and in a Way Unbecoming an Officer of the Department
Some have criticized The Planet for revealing the facts behind the case. We shared the internal report conducted by Capt. David Granger.
* Capt. Granger, not The Planet, determined that officer David Kirchner acted criminally and in a way unbecoming the code of the PPD in connection with his involvement with steroids.
* Capt. Granger, not The Planet, determined the facts that led to his conclusions.
* Chief Wynn, not The Planet, signed off on Capt. Granger’s report.
* Ofc. Kirchner, not The Planet, agreed with Capt. Granger’s findings, essentially admitting guilt. AGAIN: This is NOT guilt as a finding of the courts. No criminal charges have been filed by the courts. Federal investigators are still looking into it. Never has The Planet alleged criminality outside of what Capt. Granger uncovered in his internal investigation.
In short, don’t blame the messenger when he has to deliver news that is less than pleasant.
This Could Have Been Headed Off at the Pass, but No
Much of the intrigue that now swirls about Pittsfield, planting doubt in citizens’ minds because of this, could have been avoided in toto had Chief Michael Wynn — along with any others he would have included such as the city attorney, the mayor, DA David Capeless, and the like — called a press conference to address the funnel cloud of rumors that began in early March.
The PPD and the Chief did not do that. The department acted like this was 1958 with no such thing as the Internet, cyberspace, texting, and Twitter. It thought it could secretly conduct its investigation, mete out punishment (five-day suspension and demotion), and that would be the end of it.
Meanwhile, from early March to about two or three weeks later, the story was buzzing. Conor Berry ( whom we haven’t heard from lately either on this site or in the papers on this story) says he heard about it in early March. Others did as well, who use computers and not typewriters.
Bulletin Board Material
Finally, to show that The Planet has reliable sources (multiple) within the PPD who are sharing factual information, we present this “Bulletin Board Bard.”
After police union President Marc Maddalena sent out an e-mail to his members not to speak to the press (complete with excerpts from The Planet’s reportage), someone posted a hard copy of the e-mail on the bulletin board within PPD.
This is in an area where only an officer, commander, or someone else working in there with full access could see. Some wag hand wrote below it, in big capital letters for all to see, “ARE YOU KIDDIN ME??”.
The e-mail didn’t go over well with many members of the union, who are in support of airing this story so that all of it surfaces. It is from among these good cops that we have learned what we have learned.
MARES EAT OATS, AND DOES EAT OATS, AND LITTLE LAMBS LIKE IVY, BUT THE PLANET LIKES TO SIGN OFF. FRESH CONTENT MONDAY, BECAUSE SUNDAY IS OUR DAY OF REST. LOVE TO ALL.