NEW DETAILS EMERGE ON FIRE DEPARTMENT-CITY CONTRACT TALKS, AS UNION PRESIDENT OBFUSCATES … MAYORAL CAMPAIGN ENTERS ‘OUCH’ PHASE as BIANCHI DRAWS FIRST BLOOD … and … COLONIALS SWEEP THEIR WAY INTO CAN-AM PLAYOFFS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, SATURDAY, Sept. 3, 2011) — FIRE STARTS UP AGAIN … KIND OF.
More information emerged in the past few days about the problematic contract talks between the firefighters union local 2647 and the city of Pittsfield.
You may recall that THE PLANET posed several questions to union head Tim Bartini. These were questions brought up by one of our commentators, queries we deemed relevant and worthwhile to pose. Bartini did not respond, despite telling THE PLANET in the now (in)famous letter he sent to us cosigned with the acting fire chief, no less, that he would “make every attempt to answer your questions openly and in a prompt manner.”
We waited and waited and waited after posting questions sent to us by a commentator who uses the handle RAY OVAC. See PLANET archives, Aug. 20 post.
Bartini and acting chief Robert Czerwinski told THE PLANET:
“We’d like to suggest to you, Mr. Valenti, if you have any questions regarding this fire department’s procedures, policies, and personnel, please feel free to contact either one of the undersigned. We’d like to think that we’re probably a couple of the most knowledgeable people on such subjects. We will make every attempt to answer your questions openly in a prompt manner. Please remember that we may be limited in our information sharing due to confidentiality requirements. Most importantly, you may quote us and place our names in your stories for all to see. While innuendo and half-truths may make for sensationalism journalism, we believe that the most honorable and respectable journalist would prefer to use a truly reliable source over some anonymous donor.”
As we said, we heard nothing, for 11 days. On Aug. 31, we sent Bartini this e-mail, based on contacts both from within the fire department and city hall, clarifying some aspects of the talks and also indicating that there had been a secret bargaining session, likely informal:
VALENTI’s E-MAIL TO BARTINI, 8/31/11
I have new information from sources that
1. The city and firefighters recently had a session, within the last week or so. Yes? If so, what date?
2. I learned that the city wanted to take away uniform/clothing allowances and bereavement time? True?
3. I heard (this is less sure) that the firemen accepted random drug testing, in principle. True?
Also, if you could respond to these questions and statement:
* In the letter you cosigned with the acting chief, you wrote:
“We had the meeting and the members voted to have some of the language rewritten by our lawyer. There was some concern with the random drug policy language. This is a delicate policy that needs to have all of the ” i”s dotted and all of the “T”s crossed.”
QUESTION: What is that original language. The public should know.
* Please share the lawyer’s rewrite or give some idea of the changes.
* QUESTION: As for drug testing, why should city employees be compensated for obeying the same laws of those in the private sector? We are a nation of laws. No one gets to pick and choose which laws to obey, and no one gets paid to follow the law. We are required to do so as one of the responsibilities of good citizenship.
Finally, you said there is already a drug policy in place. Can you provide that language?
———————- END OF E-MAIL 1——————
Bartini replied on Sept. 2. He said, “You should have Emailed me 3 weeks ago. This is old news as there are no offers on the table. I will confirm that Pittsfield Firefighters were never against random drug testing. We have a drug policy that is in place and can be seen in our current contract, which is a public document at city hall.”
Not satisfied with this evasive response, we followed up:
VALENTI’S E-MAIL TO BARTINI, SEPT. 2
It’s not old news about the takeaways for clothes and bereavement, is it? Are you saying it was published elsewhere?
You didn’t answer the question on the original language that your lawyers modified or the one about the current policy.
Does that mean you choose not to comment, an oversight, or what?
I’m offering you a chance to state your union’s side of things and will ask once more for a more definitive statement.
You also haven’t denied a new meeting.
Also, does “There are no offers on the table” mean that you and the city are back to square one?
Thanks for the confirmation of the firefighters’ position on random drug testing.”
——————— END OF E-MAIL 2 ——————–
At 9:22 a.m. this morning, Bartini answered:
“We are in mediation with the State JLMC Joint labor management committee. No meetings have been scheduled at this time. I wont comment on what is being negotiated because things change at every bargaining session. If you want I will comment when we have a new signed agreement.”
That’s it. So much for the open and reliable “knowledgeable source” that “an honorable and respected journalist” prefers.
PLANET ADDRESSES TIM
Timmy, baby, you stonewalled We The People. And we don’t by your escape clause — “Please remember that we may be limited in our information sharing due to confidentiality requirements” as it applies to your two e-mails in response to my questions. THE PLANET, on behalf of taxpayers, did not ask you for any proprietary information. You “won’t commented on what is being negotiated because things change at every bargaining session”?
That doesn’t make sense. We understand the confidentiality both sides hide behind when it comes to contract talks. But here, you’ve just told We the People that the reason you are not cooperating isn’t that requirement but because “what is being negotiated” changes “at every bargaining session.”
Let me tell it to you straight, Tim. That’s a crock, and you know it.
We also note for our readers:
* Bartini did not deny a recent (within the past week) of the union and the city. Meanwhile, city sources said that such a meeting took place. VERDICT: AT LEAST ONE MEETING TOOK PLACE.
* Bartini says the firemen “were never against random drug testing.” So are they for it? Will they accept it, unconditionally. VERDICT: HE AVOIDS THE QUESTION.
- He does not deny the city’s insistence on the two givebacks. The city confirms it. VERDICT: THE CITY ASKED FOR AT LEAST THESE TWO GIVEBACKS
- Bartini says the firemen aren’t opposed to testing. The city confirms that. The city also says that in return, the union wanted the uniform allowance and bereavement benefits restored.
* Bartini’s statement in his first e-mail referenced above states that “there are no offers on the table” (THE PLANET’S ITALICS AND UNDERLINE, FOR EMPHASIS) is confusing. Taken at face value, he’s saying the city and the union are back to the beginning!! Is this true? Has all the progress to date been scrapped? If so, this is a big story. If not, the union president has made a significant mis-statement either through an innocent choice of unfortunate of wording or a deliberate attempt to mislead.
Clearly, the public has a right to know which of the two is correct? Have the firemen and city gone back to square one, meaning that two years of bargaining sessions have been a waste of taxpayer money? Or has the union president made a serious mistake? We would welcome a clarification from Bartini.
MAYORAL CAMPAIGN ENTERS ‘OUCH’ PHASE
Yesterday, THE PLANET reported on statements made by Dan Bianchi’s campaign manager criticizing the Peter Marchetti platform as vague and platitudinous, saying little more than the obvious. We also included Marchetti’s response. What can one draw from this?
Compared to the duration of the 10 weeks to November, the event has little significance. Place it in the truncated three weeks of September until the prelim, though, and the event takes on a bit more weight — still not a deal maker or breaker but enough to permit some initial observations.
- Many people were wondering which side, Bianchi versus Marchetti, would fire the first salvo. It was Team Bianchi, through his campaign coordinator, Owen Davis. Bianchi scored a strategic victory, putting Marchetti on the defensive.
- Yesterday, a Marchetti supporter told THE PLANET that she wanted to know why Bianchi “was hiding behind his campaign manager”? We explained that we didn’t think he was doing that. Davis was playing catch-up, having been late in returning THE PLANET’s several attempts to reach the campaign the week earlier, when we wanted Dan’s position on random drug testing for city employees (he’s against it). When we’ve needed to talk to Bianchi directly since the initial pause, we’ve gotten through. Bianchi also has reached out with communication and contact.
- Marchetti pulled the trigger quickly in response. He answered THE PLANET’s request for comment that same night, providing a careful, measured reaction. He’s clearly keeping his power dry at this point. Some might say it’s too cautious, and Marchetti will have to shake his deserved reputation for indecisiveness and wanting to hem and haw nearly every time he’s asked to state a position.
- There is no love lost between the two campaigns. This doesn’t surprise us, but once the campaign began, the hostility quickly has surfaced. Bianchi and Marchetti have not criticized each other but have done so to THE PLANET through backers. Each man has support personnel who are more than staffers or supporters. They are loyalists. They emote with zealotry. Too soon to judge what this means, although initially, it would seem to indicate a primary go-round strong on emotion and weak on logic and rationale, long on the amorphous and short on substance, focused more on the micro rather than the macro, ideology over issues.
- If this election turns into a mandate on Ruberto, Marchetti loses. Marchetti increases his odds of winning by distancing himself from the mayor in the eyes of those clamoring for a sea change in the corner office. He must do so without alienating the interests aligned with Ruberto. They won’t support Bianchi or Joe Nichols, and if they don’t feel comfortable with Marchetti, they won’t vote. Each one of Ruberto’s supporters who doesn’t vote is taking away a vote for Marchetti. In effect, keeping a point off of Peter’s tally adds one to the others.
- Keep an eye on Joe Nichols. He’s been campaigning since December. People may underestimate the extent of his support and the effectiveness of his organization. Nichols’ vote in supporting Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s FY12 budget hurt him, some say. THE PLANET disagrees. To us, it indicated on how serious Nichols is about his pursuit of Ruberto’s job. Nichols’ vote was clearly political, but so what? This is politics. He can now refute it every time his critics try to say he’s against everything. Maybe Joe Nichols is a more astute politician that people realize.
COLONIALS MAKE THE PLAYOFFS, SWEEP NEW YORK AT BWP
By CHAD COOPER
PLANET VALENTI Sports
(PITTSFIELD, GAME OF FRIDAY NIGHT, SEPT. 2, 2011) — The Pittsfield Colonials clinched a spot in the Can-Am League postseason for the second straight year with a doubleheader sweep of the New York Federals. The Colonials took game one by a 6-2 final before a 14-2 drubbing in game two.
Pittsfield will play their first playoff game on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 7:05 p.m. at a site to be determined against a yet unknown opponent. All playoff games will be carried on the Colonials’ flagship station, 89.7 WTBR FM.
In game one, Pittsfield jumped out with a run in the bottom of the first before attacking the Federals with three runs in the second, highlighted by a two-run homer by Jerod Edmondson. The Colonials got single runs in the third and fifth. New York scored their only two of the game on a homer by Tom Maloney in the seventh.
Miguel Flores (4-9) tossed a complete game to earn the win, striking out 10 along the way. Brett Moore took the game one loss.
Game two saw an offensive explosion from the outset as the Colonials plated six first-inning runs. As Pittsfield scored throughout the contest, the game was highlighted by Edmondson’s second homer of the night and 17th of the season. The Colonials also hit four triples in the game, two by Billy Mottram, giving him 10 on the season, tying the league record.
T. J. Wink (5-2) tossed five shutout innings for the victory. Andrew Wells (0-2) took the loss for New York.
The final game of the regular season is on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Tim Stronach (3-2, 3.62) will get the start for the Colonials against Jim Schult (1-6, 5.40) for the Federals. The pregame show on WTBR will begin at 6:40 p.m.
THE PLANET IS NOW OFF INTO THE LABOR DAY WEEKEND, REPLETE WITH PLENTY OF PARTIES AND FUN.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.