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THE MUNICIPAL CAMPAIGN WILL BE COMING OUT OF ITS COMA, AND THE ELECTORATE WANTS SPECIFIC POSITIONS ON A FEW HOT ISSUES, INCLUDING WHAT TO DO ABOUT GE’S POISONOUS PILLAGING OF PITTSFIELD, OR WHITHER AND WITHER, SILVER LAKE?

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, AUG. 23, 2011) — There are several issues that must become pandemic and ongoing to Pittsfield’s Campaign 2011. These include:

* Mandatory, random, and unconditional drug testing for all public employees, accepted as a requirement for employment, with no grandfathering.

* Adjusting the taxapayer’s share of paying for health insurance for municipal workers, which now stands at 85%. Employees pay 15%. Most companies in the Dreaded Private Sector either provide no contribution or percentages that usually top out at 50 or 60%.

* Addressing the looming problem of unfunded liabilities taxpayers must bear related to benefits of public employees (for example, healthcare, pensions, and other bennies not in these two categories). According to state data published in THE PLANET on Feb. 25 and March 1, the current outstanding liability for public employee benefits is $330,000,000. That’s not a typo: three hundred and thirty million dollars) [WEBMASTER'S NOTE: These stories are available in THE PLANET's Archives. To access Archives, go to this site's home page and put your mouse on the word BLOG in the black toolbar near the top. You will see then see the word "Archive" in the yellow bar directly underneath. Click on "Archive" to get past issues of THE PLANET).

* The issue of the poisonous pillaging of Pittsfield by General Electric Company, the firm that left the vast majority of its witch’s brew of toxicity in Pittsfield’s air, water, and soil after it bolted and took 14,000 jobs with it.

The electorate wants to know and demands to know: Where do ALL of the candidates stand on these questions.

At Issue: What to Do About GE’s Poisonous Pillage of Pittsfield?

Today, we revisit PCB and other GE poisons. For additional information, you can visit THE PLANET archives, March 10, 11, and 14, in which we brought this issue preliminarily to the fore. THE PLANET reasserts its position here and now, that Pittsfield’s only hope of sustained economic development and of luring new manufacturing jobs lies in once and for all addressing this problem.

Until the problem of Pittsfield toxic environment is addressed, the perception remains with the rest of the world that Pittsfield, once a great place to do business, is now radioactive and to be avoided. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.

The fight won’t be easy. It will take nerves of steel and champions of We The People. It will mean taking on a corporate behemoth. IT CAN, THOUGH, BE DONE. An effective stealth and harassment campaign can work for us as well as it worked for the Colonists in defeating the British. So, which of the candidates has the moxy?

Joe Nichols? Peter Marchetti? Dan Bianchi? Tricia Farley-Bouvier? Pam Malumphy? Ryan Scago? Peter White? Jeff Ferrin? Melissa Mazzeo? John Krol? Terry Kinnas? Churchill Cotton? Alf Barbalunga? Kathleen Amuso? We won’t list all of them. You get the point.

GE Got Off Pretty Much Free as a Bird

The remediation of a small portion of the Housatonic River did little to solve the problem. GE dumped its poisons all over the city. Where are these locations? Where are the toxicity maps that must exist somewhere, that identify where the stuff is? You talk to the old timers, the GE retirees, and they’ll put the pop into it when they tell you what they know. That’s all anecdotal? Where are the documents that answer the question: WHAT THE HECK IS IN PITTSFIELD WATER, SOIL, and AIR. WE STILL DON’T KNOW!

We know of one location, in addition to the Housatonic River: Hill 78 next to Allendale School. The hill has grown into a mountain nearly five stories tall. This massive Everest of poison stands literally next door to the grammar school, which is about reopen for the 2011-12 school year. THE PLANET wonders: How susceptible are the lungs, the skin, the internal organs of developing young boys and girls to The Monsters Inside of Hill 78?

So, candidates:

* What do you recommend doing about Hill 78? Something or nothing? Do you take the company’s word that everything is OK there?

* What do you recommend on further remediation of pollution in the Housatonic River?

* Do you favor GE’s solution to put a thin sand-cap layer on the bottom of Silver Lake as a means of addressing the horrific toxicity in that despoiled body of water? If not, what then? Should we press for removal of as much of the toxins as possible and restore the lake to a semblance of its former purity?

* Do you favor reopening the Consent Agreement? The agreement, signed in the late 1990s and tilted heavily in GE’s favor, can be reopened. In fact, it’s been reopened at least 10 times. Will Pittsfield newly elected politicians have the courage and backbone to finally press for more from the company, whether it’s in the form of remediation, cash payments, or both?

Case in Point: Silver Lake

What does case law say about water pollution, for example, as it pertains to Silver Lake? THE PLANET has been researching this, and we present our findings here. Much of this material is from the website law.jrank.org. We cite relevant federal statues, which will almost always supercede state and municipal law:

The Refuse Act

Federal statutory regulation of water pollution has been governed primarily by three pieces of legislation: the Refuse Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and the Clean Water Act.

The Rivers and Harbors Appropriations Act of 1899, 33 U.S.C.A. § 401 et seq., commonly known as the Refuse Act, was the first major piece of federal legislation regulating water pollution. The Refuse Act set effluent standards for the discharge of pollutants into bodies of water. An effluent standard limits the amount of pollutant that can be released from a specific point or source, such as a smokestack or sewage pipe.

The Refuse Act flatly prohibited pollution dischargedfrom ship and shore installations.

The italics are THE PLANET’s. The key point is that despite the fact that The Refuse Act was long on the books prohibiting discharges from shore installations, GE dumped massive amounts of poison into Silver Lake. Why were they allowed to do this? What is the penalty, now, well after the fact? A lousy five-inch ayer of sand? We must insist on more, much more. We must make them pay.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act

The Refuse Act was followed by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 (FWPCA), 33 U.S.C.A. § 1251 et seq.

Instead of focusing on sources of pollution through effluent standards, the FWPCA created water quality standards, which prescribed the levels of pollutants permitted in a given body of water. Where the Refuse Act concentrated on deterring specific types of polluters, the FWPCA concentrated on reducing specific types of pollution.

Since 1972, federal regulation of water pollution has been primarily governed by the Clean Water Act (CWA) 33 U.S.C.A. § 1251 et seq., which overhauled FWCPA. The CWA forbids any person to discharge pollutants into U.S. waters unless the discharge conforms with certain provisions of the act. Among those provisions are several that call upon the EPA to promulgate effluent standards for particular categories of water polluters.

Again, the emphasis is THE PLANET’s. Do you mean to say that all of the effluent into Silver Lake since the establishment of the FWPCA and CWA was legally allowed by permit? If not, who was monitoring the situation? Who in Pittsfield raised objections at the time?

Sadly, the time for objections passed not once, during the years of the pollution, but twice, with the one-sided Second Pillage of Pittsfield known as the Consent Agreement. Candidates: Will you let a Third Pillage of Pittsfield happen by not agreeing to finally hold GE fully accountable for making Pittsfield one of the most poisonous cities in the Northeast, if not in the country?

Do Companies Like GE Deliberately Lobby to Make Environmental Laws Vague and Easily Ignored?

To implement these standards, the CWA requires each polluter to obtain a discharge permit issued by the EPA through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Although the EPA closely monitors water pollution dischargers through the NPDES, primary responsibility for enforcement of the CWA rests with the states. Most states have also drafted permit systems similar to the NPDES.

These systems are designed to protect local supplies of groundwater, surface water, and drinking water. Persons who violate either the federal or state permit system face civil fines, criminal penalties, and suspension of their discharge privileges. Fine, but what about massive corporations? Can they violate at will because they shower huge amounts of money on politicians on the take?

The CWA also relies on modern technology to curb water pollution. It requires many polluters to implement the best practicable control technology, the best available technology economically achievable, or the best practicable waste treatment technology. The development of such technology for nontoxic polluters is based on a cost-benefit analysis in which the feasibility and expense of the technology is balanced against the expected benefits to the environment.

The CWA was amended in 1977 to address the nation’s increasing concern about toxic pollutants. Pursuant to the 1977 amendments, the EPA increased the number of pollutants it deemed toxic from nine to 65, and set effluent limitations for the 21 industries that discharge them. These limitations are based on measures of the danger these pollutants pose to the public health rather than on cost-benefit analyses.

It was in the Details

Many states have enacted their own water pollution legislation regulating the discharge of toxic and other pollutants into their streams and lakes. Enforcement of these water pollution measures has been frustrated by vaguely worded legislation and a scarcity of inspectors in several states. That’s probably the smoking gun in allowing GE to destroy the city and skip town, basically unchallenged.

Candidates: Step Up and Be Counted … or Defeated

So to return to our original point: Candidates for municipal and state office (the special election for state rep in Pittsfield made necessary by the No Show, The Larded Lout) — What do you propose, if anything, to do about this rape of the city that you all claim to love?

The electorate wants to know.

————————————————————

JUST A REMINDER: THE PITTSFIELD COLONIALS RETURN HOME TONIGHT AT BELOVED WAHCONAH PARK TO FACE THE WORCESTER TORNADOES. GAME TIME IS 7 P.M.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE!”

LOVE TO ALL.

36 Responses to “THE MUNICIPAL CAMPAIGN WILL BE COMING OUT OF ITS COMA, AND THE ELECTORATE WANTS SPECIFIC POSITIONS ON A FEW HOT ISSUES, INCLUDING WHAT TO DO ABOUT GE’S POISONOUS PILLAGING OF PITTSFIELD, OR WHITHER AND WITHER, SILVER LAKE?”

  1. Jim Gleason
    August 23, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Changing the subject, heard ruberto got caught taking down Tricia Farley Blah Blah’s opponents signs by a lady who called in and called him on this on Sturgeon’sshow. He admitted it but said he had permission from the landlord. I wonder how much pressure he put on the landlord to let him do it? He is truly A SCUM BAG and the epitome of Tammany Hall politics.Can’t wait till we’re rid of him for good, it’ll be the best thing to happen to Pittsfield in ten years.

    • Real Deal 2
      August 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

      Unreal. Thanks for posting this G-Spot, although I’m still waiting to hear what type/model of Pittsfield Cadillac you drive?

      Dan, a couple of points to your post. I agree with mandatory unannounced drug testing for all city employees: current and new hires. The city needs to adopt penalties like Major League Baseball, but harder: 1st time caught (30 days suspension, drug counseling and monthly testing the rest of your career-at the employees expense. 2nd time: fired.

      GE, that’s a done deal. GE will litigate and just drag this on and on. They have the money, power, and attorneys, to just out spend, out wit, and outlast Pittsfield,

      Health Insurance: why should the city employees pay 50/50 split? Their wages are low compared to other cities of their size and especially towns in Berkshire County. Besides as a BCC employee, don’t you pay an 80/20 split or a 70/30-far cry from 50/50. And a prof’s salary is a lot higher than a FF, police officer, or city public works employee.

      • danvalenti
        August 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

        RD2
        —Yes, I like the idea of stiff penalties for drug violations for muni workers.
        — GE will do this if it’s allowed to drag it on in courts. There are other ways, though, to win the PR battle and force their hand.
        — THE PLANET didn’t suggest 50-50; even a modest change to 75-25 will provide millions in savings for the city.

        • Real Deal 2
          August 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

          Ok maybe you didn’t say 50/50, but what about eliminating health insurance and retirement benefits for part-time employees at colleges-including profs?

          • danvalenti
            August 23, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

            RD2
            Sure. Actually, I would be in favor of elimination of retirement benefits for adjunct faculty such as myself. I have 20 years teaching there, and the only reason I have retirement benefits is that I had no choice in the matter, just as I had no choice in joining THREE teachers’ unions to retain my right to teach each year. I would have much preferred to hang on to all my money and to have none of it taken out for the retirement plan, because I would have beaten the performance in the market, as my own investments have regularly done. You also asked about health insurance. We are not covered. Yes, there is legislation to include adjunct faculty. Again, though, it wouldn’t affect me. I have my own plan and coverage elsewhere and am pleased with the arrangement.

          • Shakes His Head
            August 24, 2011 at 7:08 am #

            I’m sure in this day and age benefits are prorated for years of service. My dues paid as adjunct faculty at both of the universities I was at did not affect my paycheck other than lightiening my wallet each pay period. Even if you are able to choose not to join the union, you typically have to pay for them to bargain on your behalf.

          • danvalenti
            August 24, 2011 at 9:01 am #

            SHH
            Yes, if I choose not to join the union, I have to pay an “agency fee” (euphemism for a shakedown) that costs even more than joining the NEA, MTA, and MCCC. There’s no choice: you have to do one of the other. That’s blackmail. I would much prefer opting out and doing my own bargaining as a free agent. It’s not to be, however, and my love of teaching outweighs my aversion to totalitarianism. I pay my dues as a lump sum to get it over with. My salary as an adjunct is a public record. As a senior member, I make just over $3300 a course. I never did, don’t, and will never teach for the money. It’s something I would do (and have done) for free.

  2. CONCERNED
    August 23, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Thats is low not to say probably illegal IF true. Who’s sign was he taking down???

    • Jim Gleason
      August 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      Scago’s.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

      I talked to the mayor about this. I’ll be posting on this later tonight.

  3. Still wondering
    August 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Ruberto and his henchmen did exactly the same thing during the last election.

    • Real Deal 2
      August 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

      Just taking a page from the “Tom Bowler” for sheriff book on how to run an election campaign.

      Speaking of Sheriff Bowler, what is his stance on drug testing? His guys have seemed to be raked over the coals on this and other sites. You would think he would address this head on….unless of course, what’s being said is true?

  4. Real Deal 2
    August 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Dan, if you are truly for the “little person,” than why are you not beating your chest about part time professors at community colleges and state colleges getting full health benefits and retirement packages?

    This taken from mscaunion.org:

    Beginning in 2001, legislative strategies to make part-time faculty eligible for health insurance and retirement benefits were developed by the MTA Higher Education
    Leadership Council (HELC), of which MSCA and MCCC leadership are members. MTA filed legislation to provide health insurance benefits for part-time faculty in every legislative session for the past 10 years.

    I think a full time FF, police officer, or DPW worker deserves full health benefits at whatever is decided contract wise or other. Part-time employees deserve no benefits unless your serving in the military/national guard. I guess I can chalk you guys up among Pittsfield bus drivers. Part time workers with full time benefits.

    I’m willing to bet you part-time profs cost us “little guy tax payers” a hell of a lot more than an 85/15 split among Pittsfield employees.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

      RD2
      To add to my comments after another of your posts, I never got involved in teaching for benefits. It would not matter one bit to me to receive any of the benefits you mention, so yeah: Add them or take them away. It doesn’t matter to me. I teach not because I am a mercenary but because I love it. My bread and butter has never come from teaching, though I will take the salary they pay me every time I lead a new platoon of students through boot camp of Comp I and II.

      • Steve Wade
        August 24, 2011 at 3:40 am #

        Dan your so full of bull you cant see . You people that eat Dans bull should wake up.

  5. Robocop Steroidcop
    August 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Great post on Silver Lake and GE. Yes, I want the candidates to tell us where thy stand. I will vote for the one who are willing to fight for Pittsfield on this one.

  6. CONCERNED
    August 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I find it odd he would be taking a Scago sign down. Heard most of the GOB are backing Scago. Jim and Scago family are friends last I knew

  7. acf
    August 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    This would “Maybe ” be a worth while blog about Pittsfield ( my home for 51 years) ( birthplace) Except that the person who is maintaining this blog , Does NOT live in Pittsfield, And hasn’t in many years, he has many points of interest, but if he is not paying taxes here ( I am to the tune of $4000 a year, ) , he should probably keep his big mouth shut. I am sure that west stockbrdge could use his vast experience to make sure their town is being run properly.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

      ACF
      Calm down, big fella. First, you have me living in the wrong town. Second, I paid taxes in that town from 1980 to 2008, when I moved my offices to Stockbridge, where I live. Third, Pittsfield, too, is my birthplace. Fourth, well there is no need of a fourth, is there?

    • Capatin
      August 29, 2011 at 5:14 am #

      I’m not wothry to be in the same forum. ROTFL

  8. just saying
    August 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Random drug testing is clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.
    Certainly if an employee shows up to work high or intoxicated the issue must be dealt with.
    It is the random part that is in violation of our rights.
    I have had the misfortune to have people close to me abuse some very terrible substances. I have seen what these chemicals do to a person’s life.
    However, its still a choice people make. What you do on Friday night should in no way effect your job the next week.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      JS
      Good addition, here, except that the courts have held in favor of an employer’s right to such testing. The Fourth Amendment has lost in this argument, on precedent. You are correct: the choice to abuse drugs IS a “choice,” but a person never has a choice to disobey the law without consequence.

      • Real Deal 2
        August 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

        True and like I said in an earlier post, if an entity (i.e.-City of Pittsfield FD or PPD) take any federal grant money, they then subject themselves to the Federal Drug Free Workplace Act 1998. Federal law supercedes a union contract. I’m still waiting (with bated breath) to see a what “corrections” were needed to the PFD contract.

        Currently I get nothing for having to do a random, mandatory, drug test. If I refuse, I get a couple of parting gifts: from work (a pink slip), my wife (her foot in my ass). For a four percent pay raise, I would include a fecal sample.

      • just saying
        August 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

        DV,

        No matter the courts ruling, I still hold that the writers of the Constitution would in fact disagree.
        Also the law is written to provide a means of removing a dangerous substance from society. It is not to penalize otherwise solid citizens at a later date.

  9. Hearse Driver
    August 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Ruberto is supporting Tricia because she has been his “little girl” ever since she was on the council. He even gave her a job “under the table”.. i seen a Tricia sign at the plastic surgeons office..i think its cuz she is a patient there..

    As far as the drug testing policy goes. I spoke to a PFD member today. DV you are way the hell out of left field here. the PFD already has a drug testing policy in place. If you show up and are suspected of being under the influence they can send you right to the pee pee testing site. you also get tested if you get hurt on the job.

    the PFD was offered a 4% pay raise over the next 3 years. They have not had a raise in about 3 years. They took 0% for those 3 years and have been without a contract for 2 years. they also must buy all their own uniforms. they are given $100 a year to spend on additional uniform needs. They are sacrificing additional uniform needs to get a pay raise. I think they should be applauded for giving up things they need to get a 1.5% pay raise each year.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      HD
      Yes, and I was correct on my reporting of the facts. They firemen were offered 4%. They were also asked to agree to the same deal the cops accepted on drug testing. They do have a policy. I never reported they didn’t. The city is asking for a more stringent testing. So actually, I not only wasn’t in left field. I was on the pitcher’s mound, fanning the side.

      Yes, Ruberto is supporting TFB. Why shouldn’t he, if he feels she is the best person in the race?

      • Hearse Driver
        August 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

        the FD wanted the language of the contract changed because it referred to the “officers: and “detectives” and opposed to fire fighters. A 4% raise over 3 years is not a 4% raise. its about 1.25% a year for the life of the contract. Is that fair?

        DV
        when was the last pay rasie you got at BCC and how much did you get? Do you get the benefits package paid for by taxpayers? Your on the mound? You couldnt fan the side of the Pittsfield Colonials. even tho they are probably one of the worst teams to ever play here. Even the berkshire black bears drew more fans

    • rick
      August 24, 2011 at 2:58 am #

      i dont see anything “little” about tfb…a few more lbs. we can fly her down north street in the next parade.

    • Nomad
      August 24, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

      Hearse Driver

      A dozen, or so, years ago…Monica L. got a position “under the table”.

  10. CONCERNED
    August 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Whats wrong with this picture: These article in Eagle today. Bike path in Lee gets $293,000.00 grant. Lee Land Trust received $136,000.00 from Feds, another $34,000.00 from State.for a short access road and small parking lot Yet towns can’t find monies to run there schools ???????????

  11. Shakes His Head
    August 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Can somebody please cite the City code that establishes zoning and other signage guidelines? I looked for it online, but of course in this day and age I couldn’t actually imagine finding them. The same with City Council minutes and materials.

  12. CONCERNED
    August 24, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    Beezer: You must not be looking, there all over the place!!!!!!!!

  13. beezer
    August 24, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    Scago’s running, funny, haven’t seen any of his signs?

  14. rick
    August 24, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    thats because robertos got all of them.

  15. Wahconah Park Lover
    August 24, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    Let’ s not forget the questions valenti put up top that all candidates should answer. yes, we’ll hear a lot of hot air about job jobs jobs, but I want candidates to address the polution, pcbs, unfundated liabilities, more fair health insurance split for taxpayers and random drug testing. “signgate” is an ineresting side item, though, I must admit.

  16. Mom in Pittsfield
    August 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Tricia told me that Allendale School is safe. I guess we know she will be a do nothing in terms of advocating for re-opening of the consent decree. She will do what the boys in power tell her to do.