PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

FIRST ADD, 10/3/11


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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?






  1. Richard
    October 3, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    SHERMAN council president NO,NO,NO.

  2. Silence Dogood
    October 3, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    The tree thing is just a way for some hack to have a tree removed from her/his property at taxpayer expense

    • danvalenti
      October 3, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      If the tree fits, chop it. If it falls, and the city council is not there to hear it, does it make a sound?

      • Silence Dogood
        October 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

        only if the council has branches all over town….love to needle the city about x-mas trees and pine over x-mas past…did this spruce up you column? Gives you followers something to bark about.

        • danvalenti
          October 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

          Lovely word play! You comment stems from a good place, but you can pack your trunk on this line of thought and leave it there.

          • Silence Dogood
            October 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

            I’m stumped

    • Steve Wade
      October 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      Merry Xmas Scrooge!

  3. Eric V
    October 3, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    My understanding of one of the ways the opening meeting law can be broken is this, if enough members of a committee or board have gathered, “enough” meaning , enough to form a quorum, without posting their meeting for the public notice, then the law has been violated. This does not sound like what has happened in this case, but rather a few councilors speaking one on one, is that correct? If that is so, then my understanding is nothing has been violated.

    • danvalenti
      October 3, 2011 at 10:46 am #

      Yes, it sounds like councilors speaking one on one. That is not a violation, I don’t think. A serial meeting, however, is another matter. Councilors couldn’t meet one-on-one eleven separate times on the same issue, in private.

  4. Steve Wade
    October 3, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Eric V. Dan knows this but he just wants to stir up the Indians who are too dumb to know the laws!

  5. Maxwell Edison
    October 3, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Your analogy between the council president election and a standard public election doesn’t work. The way you’re framing it, door-to-door campaigning would constitute a serial meeting if you spoke with enough voters.

    • danvalenti
      October 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

      Not at all, Maxwell, because voters who are not public officials have not taken a public oath to conduct all their business in public, nor are members of the public required by law to do so. If you go door-to-door with a quorum of other council members, you’re in “uh-oh” land.

  6. Shakes His Head
    October 3, 2011 at 11:54 am #


    1. Read the Yarmouth determination, it would follow that there was not an open meetings law violation unless he contacted 6 of the Councilpeople.
    2. In the statement” (2) It will make those who know the [OMA}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.”
    You improperly confuse an open meetings law violation with an ethics law violation. They are not interchangeable.
    3. Isn’t Capeless the head law enforcement official in this County? A commentary from his office regarding the need for special attention to illegal immigrants would be useful. I imagine that even legal immigrants commit illegal acts they are violating terms of their visit. If they are guilty of a crime does it really matter where they are from, Sheriff Bowler is primarily contending with arrested people awaiting trial or convicted criminals.

    • danvalenti
      October 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

      1. Thank you for the link.
      2. Yes, they are not the same. That was confusing wording on our part.
      3. Agree. Does the DA share the sheriff’s view that illegals aren’t a problem here?

      • Joe Pinhead
        October 3, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

        How do we know how many people were contacted for support? He garnered the support of 2 reportedly. Did he ask 5 and get 2? The 5 plus himself =6 or a quorum. Did the 2 who threw their support his way each ask 2 others? That would be 7 once again a quorum. The Otis decision outlines a serial meeting very nicely. How many other issues are discussed this way? We simply don’t know. With the new open meeting law each Councilor was required to read and sign stating that they understand the Open meeting law. IE he should know better. The AG’s office has a phone and a computer meaning he could have contacted them for an advisory opinion. Or avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Sherman makes no mention of telling the individuals that spoke to him about being President, that they may be on shaky ground with the law instead he tells them not now. Is he planning on having this discussion in this manner after the election? We simply don’t know but his answer here is telling. read the Otis select board.

        • danvalenti
          October 3, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

          We don’t know the answers. We know that at least two councilors and Sherman discussed the issue in private. That’s the point of secret meetings: most of them we will never know about. There’s good evidence to believe that’s business as usual in Benigno Numine.

  7. Real Deal 2
    October 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    I’m glad Sheriff Bowler has decided who he will enforce the laws against and who he won’t. What part of the word does Bowler not understand about ILLEGAL aliens? They are here illegally, hence, breaking the law. By Bolwer’s logic, why detain and jail those people who only violated traffic laws (i.e.-driving on a suspended license, or who didn’t pay speeding/court fines, etc)? I mean there not violent offenses, they are ILLEGAL, but so are people who enter this country ILLEGALLY. Bowler was elected to enforce the law against ALL who break the laws, not pick and choose those he wants to and those he doesn’t.

    Look at some of those states in the south that are over run by illegal aliens. There education and health care budgets are through the roof. The USA simply cannot afford these people anymore. You think the wait time at the BMC ER is bad now, wait until Pittsfield has about 5-10,000 more people with no health insurance. You think Pittsfield spends a lot on education now. Wait until Pittsfield has to hire many more bi-lingual teachers and have to offer ESL (English as a second language) classes just to teach elementary through high school kids to read and write basic English. You think your car insurance rates are high, wait until your driving your car and get rear ended, side swipped, etc, and watch as the 3-4 people from the vehicle that hit you take off running from the scene because they have no license, no insurance, making your rates go up. You better have FULL coverage: comprehensive and collision, or you’ll eat the damages.

    I know Sheriff Bowler, their just hard working people, looking to make a better life-at our expense.

      October 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

      But they are illegally here period. I’m all for people here legally

  8. Dusty
    October 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Ruberto standard…..that’s a riot!!!

    and I thought Ruberto revoked the open meeting laws the first day he took office

    • danvalenti
      October 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      He may have, but my only point was that he took whatever THE PLANET dished out and didn’t do what many others do. Pout then deal with it anonymously. He can take a punch, he can give one, and at the end of the day, it’s not personal. That’s the gold standard in the often messy business of democracy’s give and take.

      • Dusty
        October 4, 2011 at 1:24 am #

        He does not take things personal? Does Pam Malumphy feel that way? Dan I think you could find more than a couple of people who would disagree with that assessment of his character.

        • danvalenti
          October 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

          I understand your point, but I can only speak of my relationship with Ruberto and in comparison to the countless pols, public officials, and public figures with whom I’ve dealt — in town and out — over the years. Yes, others have a different experience with Jim. I can only speak to mine, and while people may not like to hear of my friendship with him or be disappointed I don’t say he’s this and that, I have found him to be as I’ve described.

    October 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Again I was a staunch support of Thomas Bowler for Sheriff. I can’t believe he doesn’t see the problem here with ILLEAGAL. And you are so right, all he is doing is making those ILLEGALS flood to Pittsfield, adding to what ILLEGALs already are here I would guess that he got his marching order from the Govenor and the GOB demo. Well after one is released commits a bad crime how will he feel then. Also law enforcement personal I have talked to can’t believe this. Don’t forget they are the ones that will deal with these ILLEGALS. Shame on you Sheriff Bowler.

  10. rick
    October 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    i would like to see the council prez be the top vote getter in the election…. amazing watching these weazels scamper around trying to get a little power. any body ever hear of the bullit the world of politics theres a way around everything thats good and honest.

    • Steve Wade
      October 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

      So Ward councilors could never be council pres? Whats wrong with a bullit vote? If I only like one candidate why should I vote for thier opponent?

  11. Amanda Blake
    October 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Theyre all a bunch of phonies. Every last one ofthem. Sherman, Krol, Mazzeo, Nichols, Lee, Cappy, Malumphy, Tricia FB, etc etc. Phonies.

  12. Ron Kitterman
    October 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    I wonder why they didn’t replant one several years back that would serve that purpose every Christmas time, but lets do a citywide search for the perfect tree again what a cool idea.

  13. Silence Dogood
    October 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Is anybody watching the 3rd Berkshire debate? Mark Jester is the only one making sense……the others are trying out leftwing each other

    • scott
      October 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

      That’s because Jester cares about real issues.

      • Dusty
        October 4, 2011 at 1:27 am #

        Yes, I was trying to make sense of Tricia’s answer to the Single Payer health care question and she totally left me in a dust spin. I have no clue what question she was answering if any, but it was not the one that was asked.

        • Still wondering
          October 4, 2011 at 5:20 am #

          I wish I had a dollar for every time TFB said she “has concerns”. She did not directly answer a question all evening.

  14. Amanda Blake
    October 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    We need a JEster in the General Court, a Court JEster.

  15. Joetaxpayer
    October 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Way too many dembags to make any difference in Boston.

  16. Joe Pinhead
    October 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    DV: While your list puts us behind NY and CA in what the pay is. Once you factor in the business that moves out or decides to go else where I wonder what the costs are. And if that doesn’t tip the scales Please ask Mr. Downing to factor in the prosecution time, trial fees and “housing” costs for the trail of speakers who have or are currently checked into the grey bar hotel. Just sayin

  17. Payroll Patriot
    October 4, 2011 at 3:20 am #

    All Berkshire County state reps and senator pay NO FEDERIAL INCOME TAX on their state pay. Talk about paying a fair share!

    In reference to the state rep debate from Pittsfield last night:

    NONE OF THE ABOVE would be a choice in some states.

    If that is the best the democratic (TFB) and republican (MJ) parties can do in Pittsfield, there is no promised land. Could these two pass the MCAS test? I mean the 8th grade as well as the 10th grade one.

  18. rick
    October 4, 2011 at 3:21 am #

    each ma.rep should be investigated monthly for corruption.. once these people get some power and they start getting to know more and more lobbyist and the temptation becomes to great, they cave to their vices. speakers of the house go to jail….how many ill.goves are doing time… we are just as corrupt as the next state….the good thing is as we put them in jail ,theres more running for office with their own corruptive thoughts on hoe to fill their pockets. and we wonder why people aren voting……..

  19. Gall Ball
    October 4, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    As for debate last night, Yikes! TFB came off like a stuffed baloney sandwich. Her inept performance made JEster look like a statesman. She will win of course because of low turnout and the GOB Mob connection but when she gets to Boston the city will still have no third district rep, just a suck up who will do her masters bidding