FIRE OVER CITY-PFD CONTRACT OFFER AND WITHDRAWAL BURNS OUT OF CONTROL; PLANET SUPPORTS RANDOM DRUG TESTING FOR ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. Q: WHICH CANDIDATE FOR OFFICE SUPPORTS THIS?
By DAN VALENTI
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.
NOW ON TO THE REST OF THE DAY AND NIGHT, AS WE SING,
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.