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SNOW SHOW, plus PLANET ENDORSES BIANCHI FOR MAYOR … SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL AUDIT HAS LESSONS FOR PITTSFIELD … and … NORTH STREET BUMPOUTS FAIL FIRST TEST

BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, OCT. 31, 2011) — No, in the name of my good friend Pete White, we will not say a word about the “oh, woe are we” snows that graced the area in copious quantities of alabaster fluff. We were in New York, and hotels guests are required to do no shoveling. THE PLANET does add, however, that we take the weather as the meteorologists dish it. We love snow and winter, so let the skating and sliding commence.

THE PLANET ENDORSES DAN BIANCHI FOR MAYOR

One week and one day away, and the voters of Pittsfield — all 29,104 of them — must decide between two stark alternatives for mayor as well as determine the makeup of the new council with which the new mayor must work (or is it, “tame”?).

Closer to election day, we will make our predictions. Keep in mind that for three elections within the past two months (both state rep special versions and the municipal prelims) THE PLANET has been eerily exact: We have been perfect not only on outcomes but also on the finish of each race for each of the full fields. Moreoever, our prognosticators have been leagues within the standard deviation when it comes to predicting turnout, not just in percentages but in actual voters. Scary. Also remember that predicted outcome is not the same as our endorsed outcomes.

With that, we make our endorsement for mayor. THE PLANET endorses Dan Bianchi. We were going to hold off until one week from today, but the acceleration of the campaign’s development — particularly Staffergate, which exposed Marchetti’s team as Not Ready For Prime Time — prompts us to do it now.

We won’t flap our gums on the typical qualities that often lure editorial support: integrity, honesty, experience, and the like. THE PLANET assumes these minimal qualities in ANY candidate for public office. In other words, if you have to tell us you have integrity, that you are honest, we consider that redundant. We even discounted the fact that we’ve known Dan Bianchi for years, for we have a similar amount of experience with his opponent. We have known Bianchi and Marchetti for years, and we have been honored to have each as a friend.

THE PLANET back Bianchi based on the specifics of his campaign.

Specific Proposals Win THE PLANET’s Endorsement

Of the two, Bianchi is the only one to outline what can be considered a specific strategy for implementation beginning on the day of the inaugural. If you go on Bianchi’s  website at votebianchi.com, you can read the details of his “Action Plan for Pittsfield.” We won’t give you a re-hash here. Read it for yourself. In our judgment, compared to what his opponent has offered in the campaign, we find Bianchi’s Rx for city government the product of more intelligence and insight.

We will say, however, that our favorite specific proposal is the creation of a “tax panel to recommend ways to improve services while reducing costs.”

Is Bianchi sincere about this? We recall over the years talk about a citizens tax board that never got off the ground. A sincere tax advisory board would be free to put all — and we mean ALL — municipal expenses on the table. Only time will determine if the tax panel is for real or if it’s merely a clever campaign promise. For now, we take Bianchi at his word and look forward to the makeup of the group. It must include mostly citizens of the watchdog type. It must avoid too many “usual suspects.”

The tax panel is just one of seven specific proposals Bianchi outlines to address what is the singlemost problematic issue for the city. Taxes are too high, services have not kept pace, the tax base is shrinking, and taxpayers need relief. They need a different approach other than tax-and-spend.

The mayor must finally stand up to the Special Interests, tighten the belt, and give the break to the rank-and-file, the Mary Jane and Joe Kapanskis of the city. These are the ones who pay their taxes and make great sacrifices to do so. They don’t ask for special favors. They have no behind-the-scenes access. They keep their yards and homes clean. They don’t break the law. They have time and again reduced their spending to accommodate the growing demands government places on them in the form of tribute.

Bianchi’s Action Plan Addressed a Multitude of City Areas, Problems

In addition to taxes, Bianchi’s “Action Plan” has sections on “overall vision, city services (do more with less), education, economic development, open government, and public safety.” Again, only time will tell how much is this is honest and how much is campaign pandering. For the moment, we can only hope and trust. THE PLANET admires the specificity of the plans, as opposed to the once-size-fits-all prescriptions offer by Marchetti, which read and sound as if they were produced by a committee that lacked the brightest bulbs.

Marchetti erred greatly when he basically told Jimmy Ruberto and John Barrett that he didn’t want their help and instead ran into the arms of Gerry Doyle and Angelo Stracuzzi. That happened early in the campaign, and that decision marked the exact moment the Marchetti express began to derail.

Ruberto and Barrett were slighted by Marchetti, who for some mysterious reason did not take advantage of the fund-raising capabilities and seasoned political wisdom of these two men. Marchetti’s snub gives credence to the theory that deep down, he doesn’t want to win this race. Rejecting two stalwarts such as Ruberto and Barrett suggests Peter has a political death wish.

Let us also remind readers that THE PLANET will have nothing to do with the outcome of the mayor’s race. When Marchetti loses, his camp will want to place the blame here. That’s one C.O.D. delivery we shall not accept.

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SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL DEPT. AUDIT HAS LESSONS FOR PITTSFIELD

THE PLANET shares this story out of Springfield, first reported by WHSM. It brings to mind the need for a similar audit of every municipal department, starting with schools. The School Department eats up more than half the budget of Pittsfield. The return on investment has been scandalous on the low side. Something’s not adding up. Read this:

After an internal audit at Putnam Vocational High School, Springfield school officials are taking preventative measures. Officials have ordered an audit for all high schools and middle schools because the audit from Putnam produced a paper trail no one expected. (THE PLANET’s underline).

“I want to send a message loud and clear that we have cleaned up the financial management at Putnam and there is now a very clear segregation of duties at the school with checks and balances,” says Springfield Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram.

But for about five years, there wasn’t a system of checks and balances that went through the school district’s central office. When Gil Traverso started the 2010 school year as principal at Putnam Vocational High School, he requested the audit. After 13 months of compiling figures, the findings are public.

“(The discoveries of the school audit include) the use of school funds to purchase equipment for personal use, double billing the system for reimbursements, disregarding protocol for vendor selections and using the school’s vocational resources for personal use,” Ingram says.

The Books Weren’t Balanced

School officials say from December 2005 to November 2010, the books weren’t balanced correctly and were done manually with pen and paper. Receipts were missing, there weren’t deposits, and explanations for writing checks were never reconciled with bank statements.

As a result of the findings, four employees were fired, two resigned and one was suspended and demoted.

“Those actions have taken place and we now have actions and practices in place that should prevent this from ever happening again,” says Ingram.

With new record keeping policies on the table for Putnam, officials are dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s to see if money manipulation is happening anywhere else in the district.

“All of our high schools and middle schools have had the funds audited,” the superintendent says. “We’re waiting for the final report to finalize our recommendations for the school committees.”

Officials are not naming any names at this time.  The Attorney General’s office is investigating.

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THE DOWNTOWN BUMPOUTS FAIL THEIR FIRST TEST

The surprise October snowstorm gave the infamous North Street bumpouts a test. Based on conversations with the plowers, PROF. PLANET assigns a bumpout grade of F, though we give the plow guys an “A” for coping.

Snow plow pilots reported what they feared and what THE PLANET pointed out in our exclusive coverage last week: The “round corners,” as one of them called the bumpouts in a delightful Berra-ism, forced the drivers to discontinue plowing each time one of the idiotic curves came into the path of the blade. Plows had to be slowed, feathered, and piloted in a much more exacting way. One estimated that plowing North Street will take twice as long and be half as efficient.

One problem could be seen yesterday and, for all we know, might still be there. On a drive through downtown yesterday in the PLANETMOBILE, the bumpouts had created snow mounds that would not have been there under the old design. These mounds were also pushed further into the road lanes because of the wider sidewalks. If this is what happens after one snow, with the ground not frozen, what will it look like after numerous storms on frozen turf?

We wonder if Deanna Ruffer, who heads the OCD office in Pittsfield and has power equivalent of deputy mayor, has her resume in order? She has one year left on her contract, we believe, but will Mayor Bianchi want her around?

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AS THE SNOW MELTS OFF THE ROOFTOP IN A CADENCE OF DROPS, WE SAY,

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

35 Responses to “SNOW SHOW, plus PLANET ENDORSES BIANCHI FOR MAYOR … SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL AUDIT HAS LESSONS FOR PITTSFIELD … and … NORTH STREET BUMPOUTS FAIL FIRST TEST”

  1. Still wondering
    October 31, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    For Pittsfield’s sake I hope Deanna has already cleaned out her desk. It’s time for the grown-ups to take over City Hall.

  2. Layla Lady Lay
    October 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I worked with Ms. Ruffers office on a business related project, won’t share the details but I wanted to locate my business in Pittsfield. I had financing plans etc, but I received odd questions that strcuk me as having more to do with politics than with free enterprise. My business now does great business, thank you Ms. Ruffer, in Gt. Barrington. And it wasn’t an existing business. Totally new service employing four people full time.

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      LLL
      I would invite you to contact THE PLANET, privately if you wish, and share some details. I have a few questions. Thank you.

      • Still wondering
        October 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

        There is a “plan” in place to deal with Ms. Ruffer and her contract. It will be fun to watch her deal with the new regime.

  3. Baby Baby
    October 31, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Mrs. Ruffer has 3 years on her contract.

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      BABY
      Thanks.

  4. dusty
    October 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    can’t swallow that Marchetti abandoned Ruberto…I think Ruberto has his hand up Marchettis back…as far as Doyle and Stracuzzi I think the whole bunch of them work together as a team to defraud the taxpayer…and they are damn good at it

    • danvalenti
      October 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

      DUSTY
      Thanks. I will say that I receive my information on a claim such as this only from Qualified Sources, who would know. There’s no rumor involved but accurate information from the mouths of the horses involved.

      • Curious
        October 31, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

        “Qualified Sources”…you’re such a joke Valenti. Did you even try picking up the phone or sending an email to Ruberto, Doyle, etc. to get the real story? I can’t imagine it would be that difficult, even for a coward like you.

        • Jim Gleason
          October 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

          @Curious,
          For you to call Dan a coward while using a pseudonym is hypocritical at least. if you want to call someone a coward have the balls to use your real name, coward.

          • Curious
            October 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

            So then wouldn’t it make Dan a double coward by 1) being too scared to reach out to those he’s accusing and 2) not revealing the names of his qualified sources?

        • danvalenti
          October 31, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

          C
          Thank you for your views. THE PLANET never reveals our sources, unless we have permission. We are bound by our ethics.

  5. Luxor Rex
    October 31, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    I love it when THE PLANET baits a fool such as “Curious”! The smart guys are no match for Valenti so when an idiot like “Curious” responds, its gales of laughter!

  6. Curious
    October 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    No better compliment than an insult from a bigot like yourself. Keep drinking the kool aid you fool.

  7. Rivetor
    October 31, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    “Curious”, also the new Steve Wade. Except that Steve at least says something constructive once in a great while. Viva le Planet!

    • Steve Wade
      November 1, 2011 at 5:06 am #

      thanks for the compliment !

  8. CONCERNED
    October 31, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Curious: I know Peter M reads the Planet, so why didn’t he answer us right here. I will ask him again, is Angelo and Doyle backing you. Have they had anything to do with your campaign?????????

    • danvalenti
      November 1, 2011 at 6:35 am #

      CONCERNED
      That’s the point. This is an OPEN forum. Peter Marchetti has the same rights and privileges, no more and no less, than anyone. We haven’t seen any such denial from his camp on Angelo or Gerry.

  9. Richard
    October 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    I didn’t need to wait for a storm to tell that it was a mistake on north st. They should have involve the workers in the decision. Can’t wait to see what they will do to screw up the schools.

  10. scott
    November 1, 2011 at 4:46 am #

    Dan, do you even live in Pittsfield?

    • Steve Wade
      November 1, 2011 at 5:05 am #

      Sorry Dan Bianchi you just received the KISS OF DEATH from Dan. HIS ENDORSEMENT !!!!

      • danvalenti
        November 1, 2011 at 6:33 am #

        STEVE
        Could well be. Let’s see what Election Day has in store.

      • scott
        November 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

        He doesn’t even live in Pittsfield and who cares the fact that Marchettie was revealed for what he really is (not talking about homosexuality) we can only hope the voters will wake up. You all woke me up now I’m involved Bianchi get’s my vote.

        • danvalenti
          November 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

          SCOTT
          Thanks for your input.

  11. tito
    November 1, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    What is alarming is the re-up of her contract.Yes we know he is still the mayor, but when you have a new administration coming in with such an important political positon, the city is put in jeopardy if the contract is terminated and the cost of the contract to the taxpayer and subsequent search for another candidate. What seems to be happening is the current mayor is stacking the deck to ensure that either the voters will select Marchetti, and if that doesn’t happen he’ll have certains gob’s in position to protect the current agenda.

    • danvalenti
      November 1, 2011 at 6:33 am #

      TITO
      I agree in principle with the notion that the decks should be cleared for the new administration. There are certain positions, however, that profit from continuation with the same personnel. I don’t know what Bianchi will do with OCD if he becomes mayor. My guess is that he will honor Deanna’s contract and try to establish a professional relationship. She will have to get used to a new way of doing things, and that will be her test.

    • Maxwell Edison
      November 1, 2011 at 7:10 am #

      Her position is only political in that it reports to the mayor. She doesn’t decide who to offer tax deals to.

  12. Layla Lady Lay
    November 1, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    LEt me get serious, I appreciate this website for giving people a voice. I have been waiting for a few years before I told my experience trying to open a food-related business and Ms Ruffer turned it into a poltical exercise. I had funding, wasnt asking for a dime of taxpayer money, just some assistance with forms, legalities, and finding a location. It was a nightmare working with her office though her office had some helpful people. I went to Gt Barrington where they helped me and now I employ four full-time and am making my living dfoing something I love.

  13. Layla Lady Lay
    November 1, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    reply to tito, I too fear the gob political holdover appointments that Mr. Bianchi will be stuck with. My fear is not only they will protect the gob agenda but also work to see that Mr. bianchi fails. Mayor Bianchi has my vote, though.

  14. tito
    November 1, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    …right on triple L…all the more reason to get rid of the retread councilors.

  15. Jim Gleason
    November 1, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    I hear Gerry Lee shilling for Marchetti on the radio today and think back to who appointed him Chief of Police. It was Gerry Doyle and Lee pumped up his pension for 4 years to chief’s pay for retirement while spending most of his time at the Legion smoking cigars and boozing. The city was awash with crime. I’m thinking these ads for Marchetti are nothing more than payback to Doyle to try to keep him in control. The GOB’s at their rotten worst.

  16. Hearse Driver
    November 1, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    DV is a PHONY BASTARD!!!!! He stated on this very website that he does not endorse candidates and what does he do…he endorses the one candidate who has done nothing but lie about his voting record…

    • danvalenti
      November 1, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

      HD
      Appreciate your views!

    • Jim Gleason
      November 2, 2011 at 7:12 am #

      OK John Krol. I saw the same claim posted on your Facebook page. Of course someone cut and pasted a copy to me because I’m not your frield there or anywhere and don’t want to be. Dan B has told the truth consistently on all matters while P P Peter Marchetti has lied about voting for a 40% pay raise for Tricia to assume a new title at the mayor’s office. Open government? Not under Marchetti. He is controlled by Gerry Doyle and Angeblow.

      • scott
        November 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

        Yeah I heard that radio ad today what a joke. PM should stick to the public school board and other activities he’s involved in it’s great for the community he don’t have to be mayor to continue doing those things.