(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, JUNE 15, 2011) —Quick hits and funky bits:

* PROMGATE — Funny how $10,000 of school money is stolen, drugs and booze are consumed inside of PHS, and the building is vandalized, and the apologists for this crime eagerly dismisses this as high school hijinx — you know, boys will be boys, and “Aw, it’s Prank Night. Let the children have some fun.”

The children. Bartender, gimme a Bromo, please.

Trevor Benson has hidden from this. The School Committee has hidden from this. The mayor has hidden from this. Chief Wynn has hidden from this. Jake Eberwein has hidden from this. There have been no arrests despite a million clues and a gaggle of informants who can NAME NAMES. What, is The Planet the only place capable of doing 2+2 detective work? Do we know whodunnit. Uh, maybe is all we’ll say.

Promgate, in short, is a microcosm of a peculiary Pittsfield virus called non accountabilitus vitam, or “There’s no accountability in life at this location.” That. my dear friends, is why the city flounders. The disease, which first appeared in mild form during Ed Reilly’s comatose term, bloomed into a full-blown pandemic under Gerry Doyle and Barroom Politics. Sara Hathaway’s two-year stint as battlefield nurse couldn’t keep up with the rampaging virus.

TAXES, BUT ONLY FOR SOME — My grandparents, immigrants from Austria and Italy, came here, got a foothold into the American Dream, and paid taxes. My parents, as solid a couple as you would want to meet, pay their taxes as well, on time and every penny. They’re 90 years old. The Planet pays our unfair share — every penny. So don’t you just love it when you learn how much goes uncollected by the chiselers and bums, the goldbrickers and freeloaders, who consume public services but do not contribute. These are the scofflaws.

The city of Pittsfield entered this year with $3.1 million of property taxes NOT COLLECTED. You think $3.1 million would come in handy?

The tax amnesty program, which allowes delinquents to pay up with no penalty, yielded just over $331,000 during the four months of the program (February through May). That there’s amnesty to begin with is an insult to every property owner in the city who pays on time. That 89% still remains uncollected — roughly $2.8 million — is an outrage times ten.

The salt poured into the taxpayers’ open wounds stems from the casual approach and attitude by city officials. Sue Carmel, the in-over-her-head treasurer and finance director, said the failed amnesty program left her “a little disappointed.” Peter Marchetti, who chairs the council’s finance committee, told the BB’s Dick Lindsay, “Anytime we collect what is owed to us is a success” (11% is a success?!). Mayor Jimmy Ruberto went even further, acting as if all the money had been paid. Like Marchetti, he ignored the 89% NOT collected and focused on the 11% received, saying, “We are pleased …”

There’s nothing to be pleased about. Fact is, the city is owed almost $3 million by deadbeats. The city knows who they are. It knows where they live. The city has all the weight of law on its side. It’s missing only the will to “get ‘er done.” The solution? Go after the deadbeats, and hard, demand payment, and tell them of the immediate consequences that shall rain down on their heads like Thor’s hammer should they keep ignoring their responsibility as citizens. Don’t accept: “It can’t be done. It would cost too much. We don’t have the resources. The sun got in our eyes” or any other flimsy excuses officials give for not collecting these taxes. As long as the city accepts 11% as pleasing, it makes suckers out of the good, honest people who do the right thing. It’s time the city begins rewarding the good people and not the bums.

HATHAWAY FOR MAYOR? — On Facebook, there’s a new fan page whose purpose seems to be to convince Sara Hathaway to run for mayor again. The Planet has found out that the page was put up without Hathaway’s knowledge. Our source, who is in position to know, expressed that Hathaway was “f***ing outraged” when she found out about the page. Interesting, though, that Hathaway has not declared herself OUT of the running. On the surface of it, a Hathaway candidacy would appear to be an attempt to sink Marchetti. The Planet suggests, though, that should Hathaway run, she would be eminently electable.

WHAT PROPOSITION 2-1/2? — Mayor Ruberto has submitted a municipal budget to the city council of more than $129 million. To put that into perspective, it wasn’t so long ago, in a galaxy not too far away, that it cost $60 million to run the city. Two major culprits are the cost of health care and the over-generous benefits packages the city has with the Big Three unions (teachers, police, and fire). Officials have for years failed to address these issues, and as a result, the city has an UNFUNDED pension and health care liability to its workers and ex-workers of $331 million (figure is from the state taxpayers’ association. See The Planet’s Archives, posts from Feb. 25 and Feb. 28, for the full discussion. On the toolbar at the Planet’s homepage, go to blog then click on “archives” on the yellow toolbar just below it).

Ruberto’s spending plan works out to be a 4.39% tax hike for the average, single-family property owner. It’s worse than that, though. Once they city gets done counting everything, every bean in the jar, the average tax hike for that typical owner is 4.97% — let’s call it 5%. The mayor says the budget “is consistent with the values we have” — whatever that means. All we know is that 5% is two times greater — 100% greater — than 2 1/2 percent, the phony tax “ceiling” imposed by Swiss-cheese law.

The winner of the mayoral election will be the person who pledges to put an end to the persecution of Pittsfield taxpayers, who addresses the ungodly pollution still left in the ground by General Electric, who comes clean with the finances and particularly the $331 million UNFUNDED liability that is the taxpayers’ ticking time bomb, who will get close to every penny owed by tax dodgers, and who can clean-up and make safe the downtown (aggressive foot patrols that get rid of the drugs, the violence, and the scum).






  1. Jim Gleason
    June 15, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Iwas wondering, in a phone conversation with va friend the other day, why the 2 1/2% limit has been ignored under ruberto’s rule for the past 8 years? I guess if you’re friends with the governor you can do as you please, eh?

  2. Baby Baby
    June 15, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Dont tax people and clean up the 331 million liability. Please tell us how.

  3. danvalenti
    June 15, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I have outlined how in many and numerous articles and broadcasts prior. If you listen more carefully, you will know.
    Essentially, you get spending in control via municipal contracts with the Big Three, you collect delinquent taxes, you offer a 60-40 split on health insurance to city employees, you eliminate fat, and you reinstitute a $30K cap on pensions. These steps alone would address the $$ concerns. It could offer a tax decrease and an increase in services.

  4. Dusty
    June 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Dan you say the winner of the mayoral race will be the one who promises to bring taxes under control right? Well guess what Rubertos main theme was way back when? That’s right. He promised above all else to reduce the tax burden.

    Little did we know he was talking to the Bersteins and Stanleys’ of the city and not the hard working folk who make the city a city. I have not believed a word out of his mouth since.

    • danvalenti
      June 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      You are correct. We well remember a Ruberto campaign piece that addressed how under Sara Hathaway Pittsfield taxpayers had been burdened. Then he went right out and played an even worse tax game, as you point out. You also raise a good point: Talk is cheap in the campaign, especially when candidates design campaigns only for the minority who will get out and vote. Most of those votes are already locked up by one side or the other. The only thing that will drive the profound sea change required in the city’s approach to finances is a revolutionary candidate who’s nut on the fringe OR a huge turnout from the electorate.

  5. PCP
    June 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Let us not forget the mayor’s good friend, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick “I will relieve you of your property tax burden”. Close quote. Has anyone’s property taxes gone down? From last night’s council meeting: Connell (Ward 4 candidate) had what sounded like a good petition to help take care of the unpaid taxes in a timely manner.Connell, put on a good 3 minute presentation. Kinnas (school committee candidate) actually asked the council to cut the school budget. He had facts to back it up. The 3 minute part is usually better than the regular meeting. Just a reminder, Dan, Sara stopped Pittsfield’s health insurance investigation fiasco by having the last minute letter arrive from some agency. The City was at least 6 to 10 million in the hole. Doyle, Reilly, and ,I think, Bianchi were all in the middle of that one.

  6. arpaint
    June 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    A vote for Marchetti would be the same as a vote for Ruberto. Until we elect someone who won’t turn into a politician as soon as they get elected, Pittsfield working class who made this town will not have any representation and the taxes will keep on going up.

  7. beezer
    June 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    @ arpaint. Taxes are going up anyway. If you were at the budget hearings you would see the same thing as the last ten years, up, up, and away.

  8. danvalenti
    June 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    The budget hearings are like deja vu, all over again, a version of “Groundhog’s Day.” Sue Carmel calls up the budget from last year, plugs in the increases, the mayor sends this to the council, and, except for token review, the council passes the bloated document. The “budget process” includes a healthy dose of fear mongering, scaring people with their drastic scenarios of a sainted cent gets cut from “favored” programs or departments. It’s the annual Municipal Farce.

  9. PCP
    June 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Democrate x speaker of Mass House DiMasi found GUILTY.

    • Taylor
      June 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      Good! The Phoney bastard

  10. Joetaxpayer
    June 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Dan, Agree there are ways to cut spending and still keep services.Start auctioning off all city owned property not being used,lets get it back on the tax rolls and make a few bucks.Close one of the 9 elementary schools in the city (1 Catholic and 8 public)I would think Crosby would be a good canidate since it is horrible condition and is with in a mile of Conte.Also do not spend 210.000 dollars on full day pre-school this is a waste of money that the school should use on more pressing expendtures.We have lost 1,000 students in the last 10 years but school budget continues to rise.Close one of the 5 fire stations in the city,they are all within 1 and half miles of each other and would have little impact on response time.I know chief ” there will be death” unfortunatly there will always be death Chief,should we open up 5 more to stop death.Last but certainly not least STOP THE OT.Someone has to get a handle on this If the city could cut overtime inhalf this would huge savings.Come on city council and future mayor grow a set,represent,get creative,stop the tax increases.

  11. Tom
    June 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Dan, I have faith that you can digest this:

    • Tom
      June 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

      apparently not

  12. just saying
    June 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    What has deputy mayor John B. Done? Nothing I can see.
    What is he being paid? About $70000 a year? For what?

    • Dusty
      June 16, 2011 at 2:01 am #

      Once you strip away the cover it is nothing more than welfare. He collects welfare just like all the other unfortunates who either will not or cannot work.

      In his case it is particularly parasitic but not atypical of political cronyism.