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PITTSFIELD DESERVES A FOR VOICE AT THE PCB TABLE; CANDIDATES, DECLARE YOUR POSITIONS … plus, COLONIALS REFUTE BORING BROADSHEET’S CAMPAIGN OF INNUENDO, PLEDGING TO REMAIN FOR THE 2011 SEASON

By DAN VALENTI

FIRST ADD

There’s Still Time for Justice on the Industrial Toxins that Still Remain in Pittsfield; Re-open the Consent Agreement. NOW!

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, JUNE 17, 2011, THE DAY AFTER BLOOM’S DAY) — THE PLANET would love to know who out there can tell us what Bloom’s Day is and to whom it mostly refers. Hint: Think Irish and literary. A free subscription rides on your answer.

The more serious and urgent matter of PCBs rears its ugly head again. The EPA, trying to decide how to handle the remainder of the river beyond the already mediated Pittsfield portion down wind from the former GE campus, has to consider and decide IF — IF — Pittsfield will have a seat at the table of those discussions. What the heck? IF!?

Ruberto First in; Bianchi, Marchetti and Others Oh So Quiet

It’s interesting that the first major politician in on this vital issue is someone who won’t won’t have a seat at the table in either the September or November elections. It’s good to see Jimmy Ruberto using his lame-duck status to tell the EPA that Pittsfield must be a part of anything decided on the Housatonic River in Berkshire County.

Pittsfield was left one of the most aggrieved cities in America when GE pulled out and left behind countless tons of industrial poisons. To date, there is still no acconuting of much much pollution remains in the city’s soil, water, and sky or where it is.

We do know hot spots such as Hill 78, situated within feet of an elementary school. Hill 78 has to be one of the most polluted locations on the planet (not THE PLANET), and as one commentator noted on this site, in light of the city’s penchant to name things after people (deserving or not), perhaps the hill should be Christened Mount Doyle. Hill 78 is the perfect monument to our former mayor. The Mount is four-stories high at the summit and growing, with all of it being composed of the most toxic industrial wastes ever brewed.

Doyle “led” the city’s undermanned negotiations against a phalanx of GE’s top legal guns. The result, the 1998 Consent Agreement ratified by the courts in 2000, let GE off the hook for its poisoning of the city. GE left town pretty much free. In turn, it left the city with a set of Madonna iron ons, a bag of broken bats, and a year of free coffee.

The Planet asks: Where are the candidates on this crucial issue? Where’s Dan Bianchi? Where’s Peter Marchetti? Where ate the at-large, council, and school committee hopefuls? The GE issue represents a platinum opportunity to any campaign with the sagacity and the testosterone to address it.

Who Among the Candidates Will Be First to Follow Ruberto’s Lead? Forget Politics for a Second. Candidates: Think of the Good of the City.

Who will be the first to step up to the plate for the city and demand that the Consent Decree be reopened and that the city begin, 13 years too late, to remedy the toxic state of affairs? The Planet understands that not all of the toxicity can be removed, but we do know that certain spots must be IMMEDIATELY addressed. The Top Two are Silver Lake and Mount Doyle. After that, the lawyers need to hammer out a financial remuneration for the remains poison.

That can be done by finally revealing, as best as investigation and estimates allow, where the poison is and how much of it lurks in Shire City’s ecosystem. Then, a per pound fee should be assessed. Pittsfield deserved FAR FAR MORE than the paltry $10 million over 10 years that it got when the disastrous Consent Decree was signed by the various parties.

THE PLANET calls upon Bianchi, Marchetti, and the other candidates to take a position on this issue: If they think a re-opener is the way to go, call a press conference or issue a statement. If you don’t, tell us now, but don’t hedge. If you think Pittsfield got a good deal from the Consent Decree and that the remainder of GE’s toxic legacy should remain untouched, you owe it to the electorate to share this view early.

Phoney Bastards beware. This will not be the election to pull your blather. We will see to that, on behalf of We the People.

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Pittsfield Colonials Refute Boring Broadsheet: ‘We’re here to stay’

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, June 17, 2011) — It’s as THE PLANET said: The Pittsfield Colonials are staying put for the 2011 season. Despite the sandbagging of the Boring Broadsheet to create the other impression — an early pullout — the team in a press conference yesterday at Beloved Wahconah Park pledged to stay the course for 2011.

The team has met an early season confluence of events that have kept attendance below 800 per game. That includes schools being in session, the High Tourist Season in the Berkshires not arriving until the end of this month, some early rain outs, some promotional lapses, and the performance on the field (not last year’s 7-20 disaster but struggling to get to .500). Still, what other venue in town will draw 800 people to downtown Pittsfield more than 50 times by Labor Day?

The Season Has Only Just Begun

At the press conference yesterday, owner Buddy Lewis and director of community relations Heather Cachet  addressed some of these factors. THE PLANET points out that schools will be on summer break in a blink, The Tourists (like locusts) will soon arrive in plague-like numbers, and that the team has a lot of promotional nights planned at BWP. The weather is out of our hands (so it is rumored), and we expect the team to find itself and begin to win on a consistent basis. Is that the formula of 1,500 a game? Why not?

Lewis and Cachet addressed the misperception about the quality of play. Fact of the matter is, even when Pittsfield had affiliated baseball following the exit of the Double A Cubs, the Mets and Astros fed us short-season Single A ball — rosters filled with newly signed collegiate talent, mid-level prospects, and a bunch of guys who were minor-league filler (no chance of making it but there to provide warm bodies).

On the other hand, the Pittsfield Colonials feature players with years of high-level experience in Major League organizations, top college programs, and even Big League experience. These guys aren’t learning to play. They KNOW how to play. The Can Am League isn’t a developmental league. They play to win and for a second chance in affiliated baseball to make the Major Leagues. Many independent league players have been signed by Big League ball clubs. What does this boil down to? The best brand of baseball Pittsfield has seen since the Cubs left in 1989.

To present a third party look at the press conference, we republish Andy McKeever’s piece that ran yesterday on the iBerkshires website:

Buddy Lewis and Heather Cachat said there is an array of promotions scheduled for the rest of the season to help draw more attendance.

Colonials Promise To Stay In Pittsfield All Season

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
06:24PM / Thursday, June 16, 2011

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Lewis promised the community that he will do whatever he can to keep the team in Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Colonials Owner Leslie “Buddy” Lewis guaranteed the community Thursday that the team will be at Wahconah park all summer.

“We are confident that things will turn around,” Lewis said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to do everything in my power to keep [the team] here.”

The Can-Am league team has been rumored to be closing up shop before the season ends because of financial difficulties. While the organization is facing troubles because of poor attendance, the team is not going anywhere this year, Lewis said.

“Things have not been easy for us. It’s hard to run a business when you don’t have customers,” Lewis said. “People thought we were threatening to leave.”

Lewis previously said the club is on pace to lose $600,000 at the end of the season and that the team had fallen behind in paying its bills.

As for next season, Lewis could not promise the team would be back, but he hopes it can. Lewis said poor attendance early in the season could have been just because of other events happening – such as Little League and softball seasons. Once those end, the team expects to see the stands fill up.

“Baseball in the Berkshires is so important,” Lewis said. “It’s all about getting people here.”

Another factor keeping people from the ballpark is a misconception of the quality of games being played, he said. While city residents have seen affiliated baseball at the historic stadium in the past, they often think the Colonials are “bush league.” However, those naysayers must “not have seen a game here,” he said, because the Can-Am league is equivalent to Double A teams.

The Colonials have recently bumped up their marketing and sought out additional investors. Since the news broke that the team was facing financial troubles, Lewis said sponsors have backed off because of the uncertainty surrounding the team.

“The tone has changed. Some people are afraid that they will set up an event coming up and we’re not going to be here,” Director of Community Relations Heather Cachat said. “We want them to know that we will be here. Don’t be afraid to set up events with me or to bring a group.”

Cachat said there are many promotions upcoming to help bring crowds to the park – including Saint Patrick’s Night on Friday, when the players will dress in green and the stadium will serve green beer and corned beef. A full list of promotions has been posted and the organization also has a lot scheduled for the Fourth of July, she said.

We thank iBerkshires.com for allowing us to reprint McKeever’s piece.

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MORE TO COME. THE PLANET IS JUST GETTING GOING.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL

13 Responses to “PITTSFIELD DESERVES A FOR VOICE AT THE PCB TABLE; CANDIDATES, DECLARE YOUR POSITIONS … plus, COLONIALS REFUTE BORING BROADSHEET’S CAMPAIGN OF INNUENDO, PLEDGING TO REMAIN FOR THE 2011 SEASON”

  1. Dusty
    June 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    You suggest that Ruberto is leading the charge to get GE to fix the Housatonic. Where in the hell was he for the last 6-8 years while he was mayor? Was he so busy taking care of his business buddies that he did not noticed hill 78 was right next to a place children go everyday?

    The man is grandstanding knowing nothing else will be required of him now except to shoot his mouth off, pretending that he actually gives two stools about the city.

  2. danvalenti
    June 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    @ DUSTY
    JR was in office and not as a lame duck then. He played politics. Now, relieved of the burden to run, he can actually be a leader. I implied that in the article. Disregarding WHY he did it (his lame duck status) at least he did it. That’s why I say that the first legit candidate to demand GE’s feet be put to the fire will score a huge, early blow.

    • Dusty
      June 18, 2011 at 2:14 am #

      I guess that is a perfect explanation of why the city is so screwed up. Maybe when we revisit the city charter we should make it a requirement that the mayor must agree to be a leader beginning on the day he or she is elected.

  3. Jake
    June 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Im just glad the Colonials don’t owe me money! Sorry Dan but I want to see the “Chad Parontos” of baseball on their way up to the big leagues ,not on their way down.

    • danvalenti
      June 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      JAKE
      Thanks. I understand, and that’s a valid point.
      Remember, though, that my only argument is that the quality of baseball is decidedly better. The Can-Am League is Double A caliber. From 1990 through to the Astros leaving, Pittsfield got, as advertised, short season Single A. The play showed. Thus, in terms of the baseball, the play is better. Also, the Colonials run a more entertaining venue that previous ownerships, affiliated or not. Good to hear from you.

  4. Dave
    June 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    pittsfield has had somebody watching out for it for 15 years ME, I have been to more meeting than I care to count. When the consent decree was signed me and some of my friends kept going to the meetings and guess who stopped going THE CITY.HEY MAYOR have dan give you my number I’ll tell what’s going on.

  5. Dave Martindale
    June 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    It would make sense that every town, down stream from the GE plant, have a seat at the table for the on going negotiations and decisions on what course of action MUST be taken to remediate the “Rest of the River”.

    Until the toxic legacy of GE is actually cleaned up and an actual meaningful clean-up is implemented, the City of Pittsfield will continue to suffer an identity crisis. We want to present to prospective businesses that this is a great place to live and consequently have them bring their business here. We need jobs. People that make decisions to move a business, do their homework. They are not going to spend money and move a business to a city where the leaders ignore the real issues.

    A meaningful clean-up is not piled up toxins next to the elementary school. A meaningful clean-up is not covering up toxins with geotextile fabric and clean fill. A meaningful clean-up is not capping the bottom of Silver Lake with sand and patting each other on the back thinking the problem is taken care of. A meaningful clean-up is not chosing to ignore known drum fields in the former oxbows of the river or chosing to not remediate the old GE parking lot off Newell St.

    The “Consent Decree” flagrantly ignored ground water contamination. The City of Pittsfield sits on huge aquifers that can never be used for drinking water and there is no apparent plan to ever have them cleaned up. Hill 78 has no liner. GE’s own consultants reported PCB, Dioxin and Solvents present in the ground water below Hill 78.

    Put the water thing in perspective. Go down to the local convenience store and buy a bottle of water. The small ones cost over a dollar. Now multiply that dollar times ????, the number of bottles of clean water that will never be pulled out of the gound because we can’t drink the water. Priceless.

    Reopening the Consent Decree would sure make a lot of waves and seriously ruffle some feathers, particularly those on GE. This City owes GE nothing. They took their business and jobs away and left a toxic nighmare in their wake. In this City, we need a hero. It will take someone with great heroic stamina and fortitude to take on and lead the fight to have the Consent Decree reopened. It is a rightous fight and the people deserve no less than clean air and water and a fishable and swimable Housatonic River.

  6. Ed
    June 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Dan, the PCB issue is absolutely critically germane to the pending political platforms. However, by calling out merely two of the declared mayoral candidates and ignoring the others has a tendency to demonstrate a lack of political objectiveness or favoritism on your part. Why ? What is there that brings Bianchi and Marcetti to the forefront of your mind-set ? Is it because of their long tenured involvement in the quagmire of the smoke filled rooms of Pittsfield politics ?
    As a matter of fact there are only two certified mayoral candidates at this time, and Mr. Bianchi isn’t one of them. Your Mr. Marchetti is one and JOE NICHOLS is the other !
    Any press is usually good press when running for office. Please be an equal opportunity media blogger.

  7. Taylor
    June 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    We (my wife and I) are here for the summer, to Labor Day. I hope this doesn’t make us “the bad guys.” We appreciate this web site, since we know how difficult it can be for the truth telling of an investigative journalist in a town with the apparent politics of Pittsfield. I’ve long said that the main deterrent to economic development in Pittsfield is what was called GE’s “toxic legacy.” I am the CEO of a small tech company. I live in NYC. I know full well the pull of the beautiful Berkshires, as do many of my colleagues. As the only city of consequence in the county, we would only consider moving there, but not until the GE mess is cleaned up. For what it’s worth.

  8. pjmh
    June 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    It would have been nice to be in Dingle yesterday enjoying a pint and discussing Leopold.

    Re. Buddy and The Colonial’s… I attend with my boys and have had a great time every time we’ve attended . One day last summer I said I have to check this thing out – so I did- and I’m sold. MLB, Double A, Independent… I don’t care, I love the game and as long as the teams are playing hard, I’m all good.

    However, l just don’t see it happening long term. Pittsfield can’t support a vibrant North Street, and I don’t see baseball making it either. Bummer.

  9. dave
    June 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    this says it all

    In response to the “Mayor: Voice needed in PCB cleanup” article:

    In a recent article in the Berkshire Eagle, Mayor Ruberto complained that the City of Pittsfield had no seat at the table when it came to discussions regarding the cleanup of PCBs from the Housatonic River. This is an interesting comment since the city does in fact have a seat at the table, but has seldom bothered to sit at it. On rare occasions (but not in the last year or so) the City’s Conservation Agent, Caleb Mitchell, or the City’s Open Space Director, Jim McGrath, have attended the Citizens Coordinating Council meetings (the table). However the Conservation Agent has shown his lack of interest in the cleanup by not even familiarizing himself with restrictions placed by the Consent Decree on projects coming before the Conservation Commission. Even when citizens have pointed out such restrictions to the agent, the Conservation Commission voted to allow work that later had to be modified to comply with the restrictions. The City has shown no interest in this on-going process while many river, watershed, and environmental groups have attended and fought every step of the way for a better cleanup for both the environment and the people. The City’s lack of interest is clearly evident from the Mayor’s lack of awareness of the process and of the City’s role.

    Let’s keep in mind that it is the City of Pittsfield that sold the people out by agreeing to the Consent Decree, which among other things, allowed two toxic waste dumps to be created right next to Allendale Elementary School. Is that a city protecting its citizens or is that a city catering to the needs of corporate interests? It was the Housatonic River Initiative that tried to intervene to stop the construction of that dump by fighting against the City to protect the citizens of Pittsfield. HRI has pointed out many times that more than half the properties tested for PCBs did in fact have PCBs, and yet very few properties have been tested. At what point will the city step up and decide to protect its citizens rather than GE’s profits? The City has allowed tons of PCBs to be left in place in the City and just covered over, while environmental groups fought for the citizens by trying to have all the PCBs removed when areas were torn up. Instead GE was allowed to remove just the top few feet of contamination, then put down a barrier over the rest and cover it all up.

    To the best of my knowledge, the Mayor has never shown up at any of the meetings designed to give the City and all citizens affected by the cleanup access to information and input into the process.

    Now the corporate interests are at it again. GE sings, and the trained bears dance. “Just leave the PCBs in place,” they say. “Don’t upset the tourists.” “Don’t make GE clean up its mess.”

    People – speak up! We want a clean and beautiful river for our grandchildren and for our great grandchildren to enjoy. Let’s not let short term interests of a few destroy a resource that belongs to all of us. If we let GE and their allies have their way, this river will stay polluted for countless generations to come.

    Make GE clean our river!

    Jane Winn
    Pittsfield
    Jane is Executive Director, Berkshire Environmental Action Team

  10. Jim Gleason
    June 22, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    ruberto has been silent for 8 years because he was protecting GE’s interests, plain and simple. He is now making it seem like he cares about the people and kids of Pittsfield, which, in my opinion, he doesn’t, just a few of his rich friends like the disgraced former head of GFCU, Angeblow. On the colonials, Buddy Lewis reminds me of a used car salesman and you’re starting to sound like one too, Dan, trying to make people like something they don’t.

    • danvalenti
      June 22, 2011 at 7:27 am #

      JIM
      Thanks for the comments. As for Ruberto, I don’t know WHY he has come out on PCBs. I only judge the actions: He DID come out for the city. To me, that’s a good thing. As for the Colonials, the 800 a game that go enjoy the heck out of the product. In fact, most who go for a game come back for more. Can you name another venue that will draw 800+ people to downtown 50+ times between Memorial Day and Labor Day? Answer: No.