PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

Tighten the Belt

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 7, 2011) — You can always make do. That’s a lesson THE PLANET learned early in life from our parents, who grew up in the Depression and understood the twin concepts of adaptation and value. They appreciated what they had, wasted nothing, and weren’t desirous or self-indulgent about the things they didn’t have or couldn’t afford. They sucked it up, tightened the belt, and did the best they could.

It AWALYS worked, because there’s ALWAYS a way.

During the GE strike of 1969, money got tight. There wasn’t a material Christmas that year, but there was food on the table, heat in the house, and clothes to wear to school. You could say that spiritually, we had a GREAT christmas.

A Budget’s Bluff is Called

It’s gratifying to see that when someone calls the bluff on inflated public budgets, all too rarely done, there’s usually A Way forward.

Sheriff Tom Bowler lobbied the state for new money and didn’t get it. Whatever Doomsday scenarios there were if the money didn’t arrive quickly got tossed aside. The union right quick agreed to take furlough days, chip in an occasional hour of “free” work, and everyone kept a job. Loss of a job is the greatest sick-and-carrot combination in dealing with public employee unions. More administrators need to be using that kind of “convincer” on behalf of the bedraggled taxpaying public.

The same “Budget Bluff Call” process is needed with other public employee unions, especially police, fire, and teachers. With each of these three, the public gets held hostage. Teachers: “If we don’t get the extra money, public education as we know it ends.” Police: “If we don’t get the money, the streets turn into the Wild, Wild West.” Fire: “If we don’t get the money, buildings and homes will burn and lives will be lost.”

Politicians in the Pockets Playing Pocket Pool

Unions take these stances because they know they have the politicians in their pockets. With low turnouts each elections, municipal unions provide a big block of votes. That’s why you see Peter Marchetti supporting year after year of bloated budgets. That’s why you see Dan Bianchi saying he’s opposed to random drug testing for public employees. They aren’t talking to Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. They’re sending signals to the unions, sucking up by saying: “Not to worry. You’re safe with me.”

As the case at the jail illustrates, however, when unrealistic administration budget requests are turned down and crippling union demands are rejected, the affected entity must do what my parents did, what we did, what John and Jane Q. Public do: Tighten the belt, trim the fat, and keep the business going.


Hell’s Angels and the Rush to Judgment

The situation of the three disappearing men in connection with the trial of a member of the local Hell’s Angels is no cause for humor, although THE PLANET has heard a lot of gallows-type remarks of the “cement galoshes” kind.

A police detective, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the police have and are pursuing “some interesting leads” that point to foul play. Our source naturally couched his terms, saying that the probe is in its early stages and the findings are “inconclusive.”

THE PLANET will not comment on the arrest of an officer of the local motorcycle club or what our source has told us in connection with this. That is a separate matter left to the courts to handle.

THE PLANET would also caution against a rush to judgment in the public simply because the name HELL’S ANGELS is involved. Back in the 1970s, we got to know some of the local Angels when they were occasionally in the employ of QUICK FOX, a hard-rock power trio that traveled the Northeast, fronted by my brother Mick.

The Angels were a varied bunch, but for the most part we found them to be among the most loyal and principled groups we’ve ever met. They were loyal to each other. They often stuck up for The Little Guy. They often saved their wrath for those who were deserving of it. They were principled when it came to giving their word. If they promised something, they delivered. If you promised something, they expected you to deliver. We’re not saying that all the Angels were angels, but we met many solid guys.

This is not an apology for an outfit that has been known to more than muss the hair of society. It’s only that we shouldn’t make a rush to judgment on an entire operation because there may be one, two, of a small handful of exceptions.


More on the Sad Situation of the Colonials

With Wahconah Park under water, it seems that Mother Nature would have made a home playoff game tonight a moot, as well as a wet, point. As you know, the Pittsfield Colonials front office decided to take the money and run, agreeing to the league’s demands to play their “home” playoff games on the road. The opening game of round one is scheduled for tonight in New Jersey.

THE PLANET finds poetic justice in this.

We have talked to numerous people about this situation, from loyal fans who attended many games to critics who were against Buddy Lewis from the beginning. We can report two distinct lines of thought. Those who saw this team play, to a person, have not faulted the on-the-field product. As THE PLANET has pointed out all year, on the field, this team delivered. The Cs went 24-9 in their final 33 games to nail down a trip to the post-season.

In the second line of commentary, everyone — fans and critics alike — ripped the front office for a year’s worth of mistakes.

Buddy Lewis gave the keys to the car to a staff too green, too immature, and too clueless. Jamie Keefe, Can-Am League Manager of the Year, was nominally the GM. Keefe, however, found his duties occupied first with the field, as they should have been. He didn’t have enough time or support to tend to the job of GM. That proved to be a key organizational flaw.

The GM duties largely fell to a committee headed by Nick Avanzato, a kid barely in his mid-20s who was in over his head in his titles of assistant GM and director of stadium operations. Avanzato lacked executive experience and, it would seem based on what we evidenced, ability. He had negligent people skills. He didn’t know how to communicate. For example, ask DPW employee Tony Stracuzzi about the bathrooms. Stracuzzi and DPW’s Vinny Barbarotta did a super job all year, more than living up to the city’s end. But the team’s administration kept dropping the ball.

Another example. When THE PLANET early on tried to point out better ways to do things, Avanzato and Heather Cachet, the “director of fun” (we kid you not) took our constructive criticism personally and sent us us a blistering e-mail. They did this behind the back of Keefe. When we notifed Lewis and Keefe, they two were embarrassed.

Mayor Ruberto: ‘I’m Very Disappointed’

In an interview this morning with THE PLANET, Pittsfield Mayor Jimmy Ruberto said, “I’m very disappointed that the league decided to turn the Colonials into a traveling team.” Ruberto said it was his understanding that the decision to vacate Wahconah Park and the team’s fans for the playoffs came from Can-Am League commissioner Miles Wolfe. That may be so, but we wonder if Lewis could have overridden that request. Did the team have a choice?

“I just think that [decision by the league] showed no respect at all to the good fans of the Colonials who came regularly to their games,” the mayor added. Ruberto made numerous appearances at home games this year. “I also feel this is an unfortunate circumstance, [because] the product on the field was so very good. Also, the park lent itself to a great fan experience. And I can only conclude that the people of Pittsfield aren’t ready to support pro ball or any type of baseball. That’s indeed a sad day.”

The mayor then got in a jab: “It’s unfortunate that your blog [referring to this website] includes cynics who did not attend games yet spoke ill of the efforts that went into making two years of successful on-year performance. ”

THE PLANET has a call into Colonials GM and fielded manager Jamie Keefe seeking his comments.






  1. Ron Kitterman
    September 7, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    I’m confused did they (Colonials) vacate Wahconah Park or Dowd Park ?

  2. OTR Driver
    September 7, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Following up on previous questions and Planet posts. Does the Pittsfield Fire Dept.’s union contract meet or exceed the federal laws and safety regulations as they pertain to fire truck operation, especially CDL and drug screening requirements ( as detailed on prior posts) ? And did mr. Bianchi clarify his position on this drug screening caveat as requested by the Planet ?

    • danvalenti
      September 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

      I can’t answer the first question.
      As for the second, Bianchi said he was opposed to random drug testing for municipal employees.

  3. beezer
    September 7, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    @ Ron,Je suis confus.

  4. Shakes His Head
    September 7, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Of course, the mayor attended six games this year, according to his quote from an earlier article. I attended eight games this year. I enjoyed the games and the team obviously blistered the rest of the league in the second half. He must be less supportive of baseball within the City than I am. I think the mayor is unwilling to admit that he never really put the personal follow-through into the Colonials.

    Baseball, the same as any other sports team or business venture, relies on a solid plan and operational consistency. It’s been my experience that there are two types of successful small business owners (let’s face it, that’s what this is):

    1. An owner that works hard to build sweat equity in the business and the business becomes an extension of the ethic and perseverence.

    2. An owner with enough patient capital to allow others to grow the business slowly watch contently from the sidelines.

    Lewis may know talent. Lewis may have had to cut deals with the contractors to put people on his payroll. Lewis had the best of intentions. But Lewis, unable to afford and/or part with control, did not have a sound model to base decisions about the business side of running a baseball operation. There are professionals that spend their entire careers running minor league baseball operations. Branding and consistency are so very important for survival, and the lack of them is why the C’s did not.

    I have no idea what the conversation to the League was, but if it consisted of tossing in a couple thousand dollars to the players in order to make up the gate, then a responsible owner fronts that, gets the fans in, and recovers what they can of the cost so that there is excitement for the next season. Miles Wolff knows this- he started by turning baseball teams around in dismal facilities- and I think his guarded statements avoided throwing Lewis under the BRTA bus.

  5. Ray Ovac
    September 7, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Maybe it’s only circumstantial evidence but some might view the Colonials leaving Pittsfield as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. It does not bode well for the city’s economic recovery.

    • Allen
      September 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

      I can’t agree. The price is so low it’s no hurdle. Nobody is staying away because they can’t afford to go.

  6. Dusty
    September 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    The mayor is disappointed huh? He should try being a citizen taxpayer in Pittsfield for a couple of years. There is no gravy train at ground level….try being a regular citizen outside of the ring of payola and then tell us about disappointment fella

  7. Matthew
    September 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I attended 4 games this year with my Dad. We planned on seeing at least 2-3 playoff games, depending on how they fared. Like others who noted, my anger if not directed towards the players, they did a GREAT job! It was the HORRIBLE performance by the GM his support crew. One day the Colonials were scheduled to play a doubleheader at Wahconah Park, and my father and I decided to see it. We arrived to an empty parking lot. I proceeded to go up the the gate and surrounding entrances and ticket area, and found NO information about what was going on. The next day I heard they played in North Adams. I don’t remember the reason, but the communication to the fans sucked! That next day I wrote an email to the team to explain my frustration and to relay my thoughts about their lack of communication with the public. Really, nobody could leave some kind of note for the public?? This wasn’t planned days ahead, it was decided that day to move the game. Needless to say I never heard back from the Colonials’ office. Why wasn’t that a surprise?
    Dan, your comments fairly well summed up reasons for the Colonials problems this year, but my I do send my congratulations to the Colonials who wore the uniform. Whatever happens in the playoffs, thanks for bringing back excitement to Wahconah Park the past two years. Good Luck!

    • danvalenti
      September 7, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

      This is truly a beautiful and insightful comment. Thank you for doing it.

  8. For Pittsfield
    September 8, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Where is Mr. MArchetti in all this? He has nothing to say about this latest failure? And I don’t want to hear anymore “but he’s a good guy.” Id rather have a competent bastard than a “good guy” fool.

  9. Jim Gleason
    September 8, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    ruberto criticizes me for not going to any games but running the operation down. It may interest him to know that the biggest reason I didn’t go to any games was that HE had a lot to do with this team and their being here. I WILL NOT attend any local venue that he has had Anything to do with bringing here, including the Colonials and Spice, as well as the Beacon Theater, and I know of quite a few people who feel and do the same thing. Good riddance ruberto, get out and giver us our town back.

    • Dusty
      September 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

      You pretty much echo my sentiments Jim. The difference between us though is that I do like Waconah park. But Ruberto and his cronies at the parks dept leave a sour taste in my mouth. so there is at least two of us naysayers (as the mayor would refer to us as)

  10. art
    September 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    Right On Mr. Gleason, Maybe when the idiot that is running the city now, leaves, we can get some satisfaction, God I hope that he is taking Barret with him, They need each other.

  11. Jeffrey Turner
    September 9, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    The corrections workers wanted a “lawman” not a manager who knew how to get money from the state budget and other sources. They get my heartiest congratulations on getting what they wanted.

    I suggest that anyone who follows your lead, Dan, will get the same – a refresher course in how to make do with less.

    As for the Clownials, didn’t some bigwig at Berkshire Life offer free season tickets to school kids? And the team was great at beating up on the two homeless teams in the league, especially 5-40 NY. But still nobody showed up to the games. That’s not the front office’s fault. Even having you as a paid mouthpiece didn’t help much. No one wanted to see a bunch of never wases play unaffiliated baseball.