(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, May 31, 2011) — Ward 2 councilor Peter White posted this query on his Facebook page:

For everyone who asks me not to vote to raise taxes in Pittsfield, I ask what services would you cut from the budget?

The Planet scolds our Right Honorable Good Friend not to do this to people. Peter, you are giving them a FALSE CHOICE. You should know better. That isn’t the choice at all.

White’s question elicited 95 comments and counting. It hits a nerve because of the FALSE CHOICE he is presenting. The pity is that — since The Planet knows White to be an honest man — he actually believes that this is the “choice” come budget time. It’s not the choice. Rather, setting up the budget dilemma as a “choice” between higher taxes or loss of services is the choice THEY would have you believe.

THEY in this case consists of two constituencies, both easily definable: (1) Leaders of the Big Three unions in town — Teachers, Cops, and Firemen in descending order; (2) Gutless politicians, who are afraid of displeasing the unions because of the worst of all reasons: stinking politics.

Year After Year, the Same Phony ‘Choice’

Year after year, it’s the same false choice. The Planet has for 20 years written, broadcast, and spoken about this, and every year THEY present the old hoax. Why? Because THEY can get away with it. Why is that? Because You The People have either fallen for it or you have become so disgusted that you have opted out of the Democracy Game. That Game requires your participation, or else the skunks do what they want.

The REAL Choice for the Budget

The genuine, authentic, and real budget choice is this: Will the council provide tax relief for bedraggled homeowners and businesses or will it CUT THE FAT? The FAT is there. You can find it by examining all the provisions contained in the contracts the city has with The Big Three. Over the years, a pyramid of contract deals has escalated the cost of the status quo to unsustainable portions.

Lest anyone accuse The Planet of not providing solutions, here are SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS that, if implemented, would allow for TAX CUTS as well as maintenance or even an increase in services.

A Set of Doable Solutions

* Press each of the municipal unions, beginning with the teachers (since negotiations with them have long been under way), for givebacks. The economy has tanked. Pittsfield’s tax base is shrinking. Municipal costs are out of control. The average teachers salary is $60K a year, plus another 20K in benefits. An average of $80,000 per teacher cannot be maintained.

* Eliminate the bloated ranks of school department administration. If you go through the list of high-salaried bureaucrats and compare it will the poor results of public schools, it’s an easy choice: The ranks need thinning.

* Eliminate tenure. It protects too many bad teachers. The good teachers don’t need lifetime guarantees, since no right-minded school board would want to get rid of them.

* Givebacks should include before all else a 60-40 split on health insurance costs. Taxpayers can no longer pay 90% (retirees) and 85% (all others) for health insurance, whose costs are rising at a compunding double-digit rate. In the Dreaded Private Sector, 60% is common providing a big IF: IF the company contributes at all to cover employees with health benefits. This change will save taxpayers millions.

* Another area the council can rectify is pension reform. In the 1980s, the city council pulled a fast one, in cahoots with the muni unions. They petitioned Boston then voted to uncap pensions. That’s when the train started to leave the fiscal tracks in Pittsfield. This has led to outrageous pensions based on the the top three years of a person’s salary. That provision must go. Pensions should be capped at $30,000 a year. The council can do this with resolve and hard work. It won’t, through, because the council has no balls.

* Require and independent investigation into what appears to be a massive abuse of disability insurance and compensation claims. Too many cops, firemen, maintenance workers, and others have milked this TAX FREE lunch and stuck taxpayers with the bill. No one would deny compensation for genuine need, but there is no way the taxpayers should be paying for goldbrickers. And don’t kid yourself: They are. Totally unacceptable.

There are numerous other ways the city council can avoid the false choice that Peter White has proposed. The changes alone, suggested by The Planet above, would trim countless millions of dollars from a bloated municipal budget and allow for an increase of services.

Will You let THEM Get Away with Robbery, Again, This Year?

Eventually, it amounts to You The People. Will you let the budget hearings go by unattended, except for a committed few watchdogs? The answer will be yes. It’s a pity, because the budget hearings should be the MOST ATTENDED of the year. Council chambers should be packed, with the overflow spilling outside the building. Instead, you will hear the hollow words echoing through the near empty chambers — empty, that is, of taxpayers.

You can be sure that if it means the preservation of their fattened deals, the Big Three will pack the chambers, putting the fear of the devil into councilors. God will have nothing to do with what we can honestly call a Municipal Sin.

This is an election year. Voters take note of every councilor who sells you out. Come September and November of all the “councilor sinners.” That, The Planet realizes, presupposed a healthy turnout on Election Day. Oh, what optimists we still be!






  1. Bizzaro
    May 31, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Dan Just wondering How much Mrs Planet gets in retirement bennys from Country Curtains? Must be pretty good how else could she retire in her mid 50’s?

    • danvalenti
      May 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      PA-LENTI, as in VA-LENTI!

  2. Mike
    May 31, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    I dont agree with ragging on a councilor who puts forth that question. he is the only one doing so and regardless of whether you think its false hope or not, you have to start somewhere. That being said heres a bit of psychology. if someone is very good at their job but suddenly given notice that for the next 20 years they can just do the bare minimum and get a steady raise worry free of being fired, will they continue to do the same great job? or will they slowly cut back year after year, possibly without even noticing a decline? this is the problem with 2 year tenure. good teachers need to be rewarded, good administrators need to be rewarded, and good students should be rewarded, but right now the only one of those 3 that faces punishment are the students. Always interested in your facts Dan, not so much the name-calling.

    • danvalenti
      May 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

      Thanks. I, too, praise my good friend Peter for prompting the discussion no FB. We shall try to present as many facts as possible with as little name calling. Criticism on that front well spoken and accepted as constructive.

  3. Kris Knutson
    May 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    Mr. Valenti

    On the one hand, we have a situation where anonymous PPD informants went to you with information regarding alleged abuses within the Police Department. You decided to report this information on your site for the purpose of keeping the citizens informed as to what their tax dollars were being used for.
    On the other hand, we have a situation where individuals were coming to you with information regarding an alleged pedophile ring made up of older men with deep ties to law enforcement. This second situation, you neglected to report on.
    Why would you be so selective with what you choose to report on? Seems like cherry picking. Please answer the question.

    • danvalenti
      May 31, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

      The first situation had credible sources, real persons, from within the PPD. They were vetted and cross checked.
      The second situation had incredible sources. They, too, were vetted and cross checked. For charges of pedophilia, you need more than hearsay and he said he said.
      Simple as that.

  4. Jim Gleason
    May 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Dan, Pete White and most others on the council have been brainwashed by ruberto and his cronies to feel the way they do. He doesn’t have enough experience in the world to know a lie when he hears one. Everyone pays 85%, retirees don’t get a special rate on health insurance. Me being one, I know. In the new GIC plan, everyone gets screwed equally.

  5. Jim Gleason
    May 31, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    We can expect more of the same in tax raises if people vote for Pete Marchetti for mayor. He said himself in an article in the BB that he will follow the ruberto credo and I’m sure raising taxes will be part of that. Heard a rumor that the School Committee offered the teachers 13% over three years. Anyone else hear this? Must be nice to be a teacher. Most other unions got offered a fraction of 1%, but the teachers get offered 4 1/3 per year for three years? What a town we live in.

    • danvalenti
      May 31, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

      If there’s one remark Peter Marchetti regrets making, it has to be the one in the BB that you mention. If Bianchi doesn’t pound on this at every stump stop, he’s missing the boat. I hadn’t heard the 13%, but if that’s true, it’s highway robbery. Hope you’re well, my friend.

      • rick
        June 1, 2011 at 3:17 am #

        peter did not have to say it, his voting record confirmed his affiliation with roberto and the powers that be….at least he stands behind his statement.

  6. Life is But a ...What?
    May 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Great post, Planet ya still got it. looks like this is your fastball! You can still hum the pea!

  7. Joe Pinhead
    May 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    I’m not certain if Mr. White really means that question or not but it is both disturbing and telling.
    Are we to believe that the people who asked us to put them in a position of leadership have that little to offer? 2 is the ward he represents not the number of choices in a 130 million dollar budget. How is it that corporations have to manage the expenditures vs. income? One could ask the question of Mr. White and the Council as a whole, have you expanded the tax base? If not have you adjusted the appetite on the expenditure side? What other entity could have a board of directors that has a member that poses that type of question to the share holders? I hope every senior in the city asks Mr. White what do I eliminate Food or medicine? Gas is now $4.00 a gallon a huge portion of a household budget, not to mention the prices of all goods transported. Is there that little understanding of the economy from the Councilor? Or is there that little maturity and understanding? Isn’t he the same councilor who warned of snow in the winter? Wouldn’t his time have been better spent looking for creative ways to save the city monies? For example did he vote for the approval of the Vice Mayor? Has he spent time both quantifying and qualifying that decision? Was it a value? If so please explain to us how we saved? Etc etc.
    How many business leaders read that comment? How many thought it a sign of leadership and that someone was leading the City through tuff times with insight and determination?
    I guess now Mr. White will favor a charter school for the city; he’s all about choice right?
    I am sure some will see this as picking on the young lad trust me I am just asking questions…

    • Allen
      May 31, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

      Another way of looking at it is that Pittsfield has lived within the guidelines of Proposition 2 1/2 since 1982. That means the amount of money raised through taxes has averaged less than 2.5% since 1982. That’s pretty reasonable, Joe. As you astutely observed, stuff tends to cost more every year. So why do you expect government to be different? Do you expect the cops to work for 1982 wages, Joe? Inflation has averaged more than 2.5% since 1982 so by definition we actually have less government now than we did in 1982. So apparently city government isn’t contracting enough for you?

      • Joe Pinhead
        May 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

        Yes, The City has been living within the rules of prop 2 ½ the Issue that you are failing to see is while the rate cant increase more than 2 ½ % the base isn’t limited at all. I don’t expect anyone to work for 1982 wages , but silly me I do expect the councilors and leadership of the city to invest in real economic development. What overall has the return on “investment” been on the 10 million from GE funds? What of a CEDS program? See you are only looking at the top the base of the pyramid is where the strength comes from and should be expanded so the top can be supported. Do you believe Job creation is not possible? Have we not “invested” as requested? The music thing Workshop live current employment? Zero. The restaurant on North street tax breaks on property taxes untold owed in sales tax etc net gain?
        Patriot resorts on south street how much in tax breaks and “investment” return? You have a number Allen? If so share, need I continue? See the problem isn’t the 2 ½ limit the issue is the direction and leadership of those spending it..

      • Jim Gleason
        June 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

        @Allen. The tax rate is going up by 4.39 this year and has more than doubled or, in some cases, tripled since ruberto has been in office the past eight years. How is that staying below 2.5%?

    • Dusty
      June 1, 2011 at 12:52 am #

      Is the budget really up to 130 million already? I believe it was only 100 million when Ruberto came to town and promised to cut taxes. So he has raised taxes 30 million dollars in the short time he has been in charge. That is disgusting and irresponsible. And that is on top of all the unfunded debt the city has. He runs a parasitic form of government where the connected feed off the blue collar folk. I just want to leave Pittsfield….the GOB cancer is too embedded and chronic.

  8. PCP
    June 1, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    The 13% was turned down by the union because they would have to be at school 40 minutes more a week after the 3rd year. It was announced by the school committee chair at the school committee meeting May 25th. What about the 3 million plus, Pittsfield taxpayers send to other schools in the county? That is about ONE DOLLAR on the residential tax rate according to Kinnas. He asked each regular member of the school commmittee to write a personal check for 500 k to cover the 3 million.

  9. Marcus Borealis
    June 1, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    TErry Kinnas, you Rool.
    Planet, you Rool
    PCP You Rool
    Teachers union heads You Suck
    Councilors, you will suck if you approve this continuing madnass