PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, AUG. 11, 2011) — The controversy over the city’s withdrawal of its 4% pay hike offer to Pittsfield fire fighters in exchange for the union’s agreement to random drug testing continues to burn out of control. No back-up units will be called in for support.

The Easy Solution: If You’re Clean, You’ll Have No Problem Taking a Drug Test

As the many comments sent to THE PLANET from both sides of the debate testify, the issue hits a nerve. As has been suggested, there is one way for all public servants to honorably settle the matter of restoring the public trust: submit to testing. What’s the big deal if you’re clean? It only becomes an issue if you have an organization of imbibers.

The irony here is that the honest cops and jakes want testing. They know whose going and whose blowing, and they would love the bad actors (and one is too many) to be exposed. And yet they have been muzzled by sometimes well-intended union “leadership,” the “Band of Brothers” mentality, that wants to protect ALL, even the bad apples. The honest firemen and police officers, however, have been muzzled by “unionism.” They are afraid to speak out. Even in defense of the union stance, they don’t use their real names. Amazing.

The Mystery and Methods of a Working Journalist

THE PLANET stands second to none in our respect for honest, hard-working jakes. We have had many of them at students over the years, and each one has been a pleasure to work with and teach. For that matter, we can say the same for the many Pittsfield police officers who have taken composition from Professor Planet. Each of these has been solid in every way.

Our close contact with all sorts of people in the city — from ordinary taxpayers to public officials, from retirees and truck drivers to city hall employees to engineers to street sweepers and factory workers — brings to us waves of information. Add to that our vast ring of informants and sources, our “spies,” and you have a command center for the raw intelligence that comes from the field.

To be honest, while THE PLANET accepts all information, we publish little. Unlike what our critics imply, we do a responsible job — a meticulous job — of accepting then vetting our information, to the best of our abilities. We strive for truth and in truth accuracy.

Investigative journalism being what it is, it’s hard to be Don Larsen and throw a perfect game. Information is shared often by people with agendas. They push for their version of “truth.” Often, they are afraid to give you their names. It is THE PLANET’s job to receive, examine, and then judge the fitness for publication of material. Probably 95% of what we receive remains with us as either “backgrounder”  or simply allowed to wither in the vine.

We’ve been asked in connection with this story: Why doesn’t the Boring Broadsheet cover stories like this? We shall let everyone answer this question as they wish, while saying that any daily newspaper that DOESN’T “do” investigative reporting cannot be respected or even self-respecting.

The Amazing Accuracy of THE PLANET’s Facts in this Case

Our story about the contract situation between the city of Pittsfield and the fire department has been proven accurate on the facts.

FACT: We reported that the city offered jakes a 4 percent pay hike. True.

FACT: We reported that the offer came with a proviso: that the union would agree to random drug testing. True.

FACT: We reported that the PFD union considered the offer for two weeks without responding. True.

FACT: We reported that the city, in frustration over the non-action on what it saw as a generous deal, withdrew the offer. True. We add as a related aside that our use of the word “reject” to describe how the PFD responded to the city’s offer was colloquial and not meant in a technical sense. If the fire department wants to argue the technicality, we shall gladly acede to their point.

Facts Come with Context

In support of these facts and to provide the context to the story, we also stated the reason why, according to our sources, the firemen and the city acted in their respective ways. The city was angry at its perceived “rejection” of what it deemed a most generous offer. The fire fighters’ were upset at the testing provision. And yes, THE PLANET did have multiple sources. We had our original source and then several secondary sources who helped us vet the story. We will say that each one has what we can call “inside” information.

Journalism strives for the truth. THE PLANET’s editorial philosophy has been one adopted from the late, great H. L. Mencken, which he inherited from the later and greater Ambrose Bierce: “Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

We write and speak for the mythical Little Guy. We write and speak for the downtrodden. We write and speak on behalf of the honest, ordinary, working stiffs whose back-breaking taxes support the “entitlement crowd” below them, the “rich folk” above, and the unsustainable benefits won by the teachers, police, and fire unions that cut them from the middle.

My audience is the great, bedraggled middle class, the people who do the living and dying, who keep their noses clean (and not powered with white stuff), who obey the law, who keep quiet, who want to be left alone by bureaucracy, and who simply want a fair shake.

A fair shake is the one thing government is not giving them, in part because of the stranglehold that municipal unions have over them. Spineless officials, year after year and contract after contract, gave away the store. The great Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, meanwhile, kept paying more and more for less and less. As we have seen globally, nationally, and regionally, the local economy can no longer sustain the pyramid of benefits that unions legally stole from taxpayers due to the negligence of chicken-livered politicians.

If Not Now, Then When: THE PLANET Asks of All Who are Running for Office This Year

So if in this case the city of Pittsfield doesn’t begin to derail the gravy train, then when?

THE PLANET wants to know: Which candidate for office this fall will support unconditional random drug testing for all public employees?

That’s the underlying question raised by the city-PFD contract squabble. Will Peter Marchetti, Dan Bianchi, and Joe Nichols support immediate, unconditional, random drug testing for all public employees? Will Paul Capitanio and Jeff Ferrin? Will Melissa Mazzeo and John Krol?Will Alf Barbalunga and Terry Kinnas? Will ____________________ fill in the blank? Will all candidates? Will the new mayor, the new council, and the new school committee support it?

We live in troubled times when society is literally breaking down before our eyes, or what’s a walk down North Street for? You see them: the “entitled,” the “takers” who live off of public welfare. You see them: the single moms with four kids from four different fathers, the alcoholics and druggies, the punks. You see them: The Walking Creepy Crawlies who infest Persip Park and the bus station. The cultural breakdown overwhelms society’s ability to remedy. So where do we start?

Why not with at least the assurance for Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski and their best friends, John and Jane Q. Public, that at least their public servants are drug and substance free? There is no longer a public trust that this is so. This is not 1958. This is 2011, with the slouching best creeping ever closer to a once-great city, the county seat of one The Berkshires.

Random drug testing, NOW, for all public employees.






  1. Dusty
    August 11, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    A strong mayor could do a lot. The past mayor for eight years fiddled while the city went off the cliff. Maybe he did not sit by and fiddle. Maybe he led the charge.

  2. Terry Kinnas
    August 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Dan, I support the random drug testing of all public employees including elected and appointed individuals.

  3. In Da Know
    August 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm #


    Just a few facts to clarify your discusion on the current contact negotiations between The Fire Fighters of Pittsfield and the current administration.

    1. On the first part that the Right Honorable Mayors claim that the Fire Fighters turned down the cities offer; not true. The Fire Fighters have been working without a contract since the current bargaining agreement expired in 2009. The Fire Fighters and City have been negotiating in good faith during the interim. Rumor spread that an agreement had been reached and a Union Meeting was called to explain to the membership the details of the meeting. A meeting was held on the last week of July. The contract presented to the membership was hastily put together, had paragraphs crossed out, pen written in the margins. There were several changes in the contract that the union leadership were not able to explain. Our Union as a whole asked that the wording of all new changes be written in legal form. Several Union members were on vacation at this meeting and were unavailble to attend. Since it had been two years since the previous Collective bargaining agreement had been settled, it did not seem unusual for the Fire Fighters to have a chance to have the wording properly written, and all members to read the contract they would be voting on. During the first week of August, rumors spread that the Right Honorable Mayor had pulled the contract offer due to the Union’s “stalling”.

    2. Your claim of a 4 percent pay raise I guess is technically correct. But the previous contract expired two years ago. This contract would be good for two more years so even though I am no math major I can figure out that is about a one percent per year. Further more, to fund this Payraise, the City asked that we give up our meager yearly clothing allowance. Dan, while sitting at your keyboard, have you ever been, spit on, vomited on, dealt with severe trauma, froze in the winter, sweat in the summer, stepped in human feces, hazardous materials, etc. So the big pay raise basically amounts to less the one percent a year.

    3. Oh and Dan, the Biggy. Your claim to fame, the butter for your bread. The Dreaded Drug Policy. At our Union Meeting several members asked for specifics on this policy. You know Dan, minor details, like specifics. Who is going to administer it. Who is going to pay for it. The Pittsfield Fire Department already has in plan a detailed drug and alcohol screening policy. The City had absolutely no idea on what the specifics and or consequences of their new policy would be. Any rube with half a brain reads the fine print before signing anything, especially when the specifics are not explained.
    4. Hidden amongst the details of the new contract were vaguely written details taking away bargained benefits that the Union agreed on during previous administrations. These too were not specific and needed clarification.
    So Dan, what was the Right Honorable Mayor’s rush to push this contract though. After over …….. two years of negotiations he expected the whole Union to vote on an illprepared legal document that was worded vaguely and incomplete. But Dan, keep up the good work. Some day Howie Carr may retire or have the big one and you can head east and fill his shoes. The Green Fields of Fenway smell Freshest in the spring, while the river behind Wahconah Park often emits a foul odor

  4. Hearse Driver
    August 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    i agree. all city employees wether elected or appointed should be drug tested. especially if the job they are doing requires them to drive a city vehicle. I am pretty sure that before an employee is hired they have to take a drug test. In my profession, we are tested before we are hired and subject to random testing per DOT. The city needs a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drug tests. You fail the test, pack your bags. There are plenty of people looking for work who don’t use drugs. Lets get rid of the bad apples before they rot the whole pie.

  5. San Simeon
    August 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    I applaud Mr. Kinnas coming out with his position. And, take a note all you other candidates for school committee, that he used his real name. We need more people like Mr. Kinnas in elected office. He has my vote for school board.

  6. rick
    August 12, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    talks have been going on for so long now i think we should wait for the new mayor to come in to do the talking with the unions. or at least have those running for mayor have some input.. id like to hear what they have to say on this issue, i think after these past years of roberto that he dosent care what we the people think…….and we should be kept up on whats going on in the talks, after all its we the people that pay them.

  7. Maxwell Edison
    August 12, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    Perhaps Mr. Kinnas should have inhaled.

  8. daNa
    August 12, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    great point about waiting for the new mayor to deal with the unions. Someone who won’t giveaway the story, someone who will finally stick up for taxpayers instead of always caving into the union demands. i want to know how nichols, bianchi, and marchetti feel about random drug testing for all city employees starting with cops and fire

  9. Jeffrey Turner
    August 12, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I support random drug testing of all bloggers. They should also be checked for overeating, unhealthy diets, drinking, smoking, not calling their mother, and anything else that might upset small children or pets.