SHERMAN RESPONDS TO “COUNCIL PREZ” STORY, CALLING IT ‘A LIE OR FABRICATION’ …PLANET CORRECTED BY SEN. DOWNING ON COST OF STATE HOUSE … plus … and WHAT DOES A CHRISTMAS TREE AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS HAVE IN COMMON? SHERIFF BOWLER HELPS US OUT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
FIRST ADD, 10/3/11
SHERMAN RESPONDS, CALLS COMMENTS ‘A LIE OR FABRICATION’
THE PLANET has received a response to our posting about Kevin Sherman and the open meeting laws from my Right Honorable Good Friend Councilor Sherman. We post it the substance of the message as follows.
“For the record, I am focused solely on my re-election campaign to a third term as Councilor at Large. I am not taking this election for granted given its importance and the fact that there is a full slate of capable candidates. I have not lobbied any sitting councilor or candidates for council with regards to the council presidency. I have been approached by candidates about my interest in the position and been consistent in the fact that I am focused on my re-election campaign. Personally, should I be awarded a third term by the voters I do believe I would be a strong candidate for the presidency given my tenure and leadership skills. However, to repeat, while others have approached me on the subject, I have not actively pursued votes from any candidates with regard to the position. Any comment to the contrary is a lie or fabrication.”
THE PLANET replied, thank Sherman for “setting the record straight from your point of view.” We told him, as we tell our readers, that THE PLANET didn’t contact anyone about this story. We were approached first by a city councilor saying (s)he had been contacted by Sherman regarding the presidency. Weeks later, the matter came up again with another councilor. The information was confirmed.
THE PLANET has no reason to doubt Sherman’s statement. We have found him to be a well-informed councilor, diligent and forthcoming. The seemingly conflicting accounts leave the truth somewhere to be reconciled.
For what it’s worth, THE PLANET told Sherman in a “PS” that we thought he’d make an effective council prez.
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, OCT. 3, 2011) — Unlike the Boring Broadsheet, which buries its corrections in the Siberia section of the paper (“Come to think of it,” Jasper replied, “isn’t every section of the BB like Siberia?”), THE PLANET shares them out in the open, top billing.
SMALL CONSOLATION, TAXPAYERS
Eagle-eyed state senator Ben Downing got in touch with us regarding our posting that Massachusetts has the most expensive state legislature in the country. Seems our missive struck a chord with the senator. He corrects us, saying that New York State tops Massachusetts, and my Right Honorable Good Friend is correct.
The Empire State pays its emperors $91,125 a year plus pension and bennies. Downing also informs THE PLANET that California pays more for its lawmakers than the Bay State. California tops the 50 sates with a salary of $95,291. It does not provide pensions for those taking office after 1990. We apologize to our readers for the oversight and thank Ben Downing for the notice. Of course, that still means we lucky ones here in the Bay State are paying plenty for our statehouse: $61,133 a year, plus pension and bennies, plus per diems that can add up to five figures.
THE PLANET should point out that California and New York, with the most expensive state legislatures, are in a financial mess — enormous structural deficits and income not matching outflow. Perhaps there is a relationship between compensation for lawmakers and fiscal health. If so, it does not bode well for Massachusetts, which is #3 out of 50.
Also, we reinforce the point that in most other states, houses and senate meet in session that range from 1.5 to 5.5 months. Few states meet year-round. Massachusetts tops a small list that includes New York, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
DID SHERMAN VIOLATE THE OPEN MEETINGS LAWS? AND WHY THAT IS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION
Our posting on councilor-at-large Kevin Sherman’s interest in becoming the next council president generated a surprising amount of interest and discussion, both on and off the record. We have not heard from Sherman himself about his scorched-earth policy intent on grabbing the council leadership, but we would welcome any comments he wishes to convey.
THE PLANET, whilst making our routine rounds over the weekend, heard of a complaint possibly being prepared for the state ethics commission. Some would laugh it off, but THE PLANET holds the state Open Meeting Laws in high regard and with all due seriousness.
These laws are meant to bring government out in the open. NEver forget: The elected were put their offices by their bosses, We The People. The People’s business must be conducted openly and transparently, in full view. That’s the law. Does the open meeting law apply in a case where a sitting legislator is lobbying among his colleagues prior to an election, that is, a new government being formed? We don’t know, but it’s an interesting line of thought. We shall let the state rule on that, should a complaint be filed.
Enforcing relatively small violations regarding Open Meetings will have two positive effects on city councilors and other local public officials — provided they have good intentions:
(1) It will motivate them to become educated on how the Open Meeting law works, what is allowed, and what isn’t. Ignorance of these laws is no excuse for breaking them.
(2) It will make those who know the law but want to ignore it less likely to do so. That is, if they realize that We The People — through the press doing its job such as this website — are paying attention and keeping score, they’re going to wonder: Will I be called on this? While not necessary politically fatal, no public official needs an ethics complain, much less a violation, on his or her record.
FORMER LOCAL OFFICIAL WEIGHS IN ON SHERMAN CASE
We also received this note from a former elected official and council candidate:
“Interesting point on the council president with Kevin Sherman. I would think that is little bit of a reach at this point, since there isn’t a governmental body yet. Why would he hunger for the city council presidency? Does he have higher aspirations? Let’s first see if he is re- elected before he pounds down the gavel to call the meeting to order. I heard Ricky Scapin on the Bill Sturgeon show, and we saw how powerful it made him. … Good point though on Kevin though. I never really thought of it that way.”
That’s just the point. Many times, officials act with the best of intentions but they don’t think through the implications of their actions, particularly when it comes to private lobbying for particular items.
If THE PLANET is correct, electing a council president is the first order of business to be done IN SESSION, OUT IN THE OPEN, by the newly sworn council. Now you know, and I know, and Judge Crater knows, that prior to the meeting, lobbying goes on for the presidency. THE PLANET would submit, however, that it should be an election among the electors, as much an open contest as when the candidates themselves were before the public schlepping for votes. Anyone can campaign, but it should be done openly. If it’s done in secret, they need to be called on it.
THE PLANET would be willing to let the state decide this question.
CITY LAUNCHES TREE HUNT; GOT TREE? and HOW DOES DEARCH FOR A TREE RELATE TO THE PROBLEM OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN CITY?
In Pittsfield, an exhaustive hunt is on for another likely suspect. No, this does not involve a new wrinkle Pittsfield’s triple murder case. In this case, it’s a tree hunt.
The Pittsfield Department of Parks and Recreation is looking for Park Square’s next Christmas tree. Anyone out there have a tree they want to donate? Call the Parks Department at 499-9370 no later than Nov. 4.
It can’t be just any old tree. The official city Christmas tree must be at least 30 feet tall, have “superior shape,” easy access for cutting, enough room to safely take it down, and “ease of transporting the tree.” THE PLANET is as baffled by that last requirement as you are. It sounds a bit Star Trekian to me, you know, Scotty using the transporter.
The trees will be inspected and the winner selected during the week of Nov. 7. The city doesn’t say who will perform the inspection. Perhaps council president Gerry Lee can be persuaded to come out of hibernation and perform one last act of heroism before he retires to the American Legion tap room collecting his two pensions from the taxpayers. Didn’t there used to be a Pittsfield soda shop called the Double Dip?
The tree will be installed in Park Square during the week of Nov. 21. For the two weeks between the cutting of the tree and it’s installation, the tree will be put up at a city motel, room and board, courtesy of taxpayers. We will even send it college for free. In short, we will tree it like an illegal immigrant.
IS BOWLER BLOWING IT ON THE PROBLEM OF ILLEGALS?
This will be the last year the city will be able to house and feed the tree in such a way, that is, on taxpayers. As you recall from last week’s news, Sheriff Tom Bowler decided there wasn’t enough activity involving illegal immigrants in Berkshire County and Pittsfield.
Unlike three sheriffs in neighboring counties, who are up to their keisters in illegals and have opted into a program designed to help them fight the problem, Bowler says there’s no issue with that sort of thing around these here parts. He says in the past 10 years, the sheriff’s office has had to deal with 100 illegals. No chance, of course, that the high sheriff all those years simply wasn’t looking for them.
So is the problem of illegals in the county and city THAT miniscule?
Now either Bowler is correct in his assessment or not.
If he is correct, and we don’t have that problem now, fasten your seat belts, because we likely soon will. With three neighboring counties cracking down, don’t you think the tidal wave of foreign-born law breakers will head to the seat of Berkshire County, Pittsfield? And you think we have problems now.
If he is incorrect, the flow of illegals will happen because they will know unfriendly versus friendly territory. The grapevine works exceedingly well among illegals, and Pittsfield’s message, sent courtesy of the new sheriff in town, shall be broadcast far and wide: Give me your tired and oppressed, your lawbreakers and your layabouts, and we shall take care of them, courtesy of the taxpayers.
WHILE ON THE TOPIC OF CRITICISM …
We will also take this opportunity to remind our Right Honorable Good Friend the sheriff, who we think is doing a good job by the way, that during the campaign, he told us, in fact insisted to THE PLANET, that he wanted our criticisms and that he was open to taking the heat. We say that based on a long experience of candidates telling us that in the campaign (Gerry Doyle, Sara Hathaway, Gerry Lee) and acting differently after they got in.
THE PLANET also will say the absolute, by-far, league leader in living up to his word in regard to criticism is my good friend Jimmy Ruberto. He told us he wanted to know when he screwed up, and over the eight years in office, we have given him rough rides when we thought so. Ruberto never took it personally. He’s be the first to call me up or drop in at the studio to tell me why I was wrong — and in no uncertain terms!! — but he know and I knew that public policy ends once he’s not acting as a mayor and I’m not acting as a journalist.
We wold hold public officials to The Ruberto Standard when it comes to taking THE PLANET’s heat. And as always, we offer ALL of our commentary and critiques constructively. It is NEVER personal on our part. NEVER. Pity that more officials and other public figures can’t believe that. We will also offer a comforting reminder to OUR critics and those who have un on their enemy lists: (a) We love you and (b) No one, including you, takes more guff than THE PLANET! There, feel better now?
THAT’S ALL FOR NOW, FOLKS, EXCEPT …
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.