Article

CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOLIDAY CAROLS (NO WISE MEN, NO VIRGINS, BUT PLENTY OF ASSES) … THE CONS AND PROS OF METH CLINIC … plus … DR. JAKE SHOWS UP AND ADMITS PLANET WAS RIGHT ON BUDGET ANALYSIS…

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

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Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, NOV. 29, 2011) — In keeping with the hurry-up nature of the season, which has been rushing you along into Bing Crosby Christmas since the day after Halloween, THE PLANET tells you that the annual lighting of the city’ of Pittsfield’s Christmas tree will take place 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, at Park Square.

We’re somewhat amiss that they still call this a “Christmas” tree and not a holiday tree. Won’t somebody in the Great Somewhere be offended by a “Christmas” tree, and isn’t that enough of a reason to prevent the tree from being erected? Oh, wait. That only applies to Nativity scenes.

Christmas Trees and ‘Holiday’ Carols

The city’s press release informs us that the “Taconic High School chorus will perform a variety of carols …” We presume that since THS is a public school, these will be “holiday” carols. If not, we shall contact our barrister and ponder a lawsuit.

THE PLANET hears from our spies that Santa Claus will be making an appearance, providing that he doesn’t get rolled on his way to the park. Crime is up lately, don’t you know, and this is pre-meth clinic. Patrick’s Pub will be providing free chocolate, the city tells us, but we know better. There is no such thing as a “free” cup of hot chocolate in the city of Pittsfield, especially when Patrick’s is involved — the restaurant that loves the tips of its employees so much it cuts them off.

The city asks those planning to attend to bring a non-perishable food item with them. The food will be donated to the food pantry at the Christian Center … er, we mean, the Holiday-tian Center.

There will be no Nativity display this year on Park Square. This isn’t for religious reasons. THE PLANET’s investigation uncovered the REAL reason: No one’s been able to round up Three Wise Men in city government, and there are no virgins. There are, however, plenty, plenty of asses to fill the stable.

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THE PLANET Presents the Case Against and the Case For a Meth Clinic for Downtown Pittsfield

Meth or no meth?

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol’s petition to prohibit methadone clinics from the city of Pittsfield needs a proper airing, and it will likely get one. Krol’s petition would ban such clinics from the downtown and require a special zoning permit for such a facility anywhere else in the city.

In helping you consider the issue, THE PLANET presents the case for and against:

THE CASE AGAINST

* The city doesn’t have a legal definition of a methadone clinic. Those opposed to Spectrum Health Systems say the company wants to exploit this gap by claiming that its clinic would be a “health center” (permitted by zoning) offering an “educational use” (also permitted by current law). We can’t allow outside companies to come in and through fancy legal dancing dictate to the city what its zoning policies are or should be.

* Methadone clinics draw heroin users and other substance abusers.

* Methadone treatment requires strict adherence to proscribed regimen. Those who won’t follow the regimen, that is, who won’t take responsibility for treatment, will not benefit and may get worse.

* Methadone treatment is risky. Some consider it medically unsafe.

* Methadone treatment is not curative. Rather, it is considered a maintenance treatment. In other words, the addicted person remains addicted, with the ever-present temptation to resume durg abuse. Hence, where you find meth clinics, you will find drug dealers nearby.

* A little-considered ill-effect for a community from a methadone clinic is the “traffic” it draws. History in other communities shows that police are often called to methadone clinics to deal with fights. Plus, the level of litter (cigarette butts, junk-food containers, coffee cups) rises sharply. Who will pay to clean the mess? Taxpayers?

* Drug deals in the parking lot or “around the corner” are a frequent part of meth clinics. Drug dealers know that people who report daily to a meth clinic for treatment provide a screened customer base.

* Druggies on meth treatment ride on the taxpayers’ coat-tails. Estimated cost to the taxpayer, daily, for each “patient,” is — according to some sources — $80 plus mileage.

* Taxpayers should NOT have to pay the price for the poor choices made by drug abusers. Critics make the argument that, by and large, druggies are the dregs of society. They typically show lots of cleverness in “working the system,” making a living (subsidized food, treatment, shelter, and a host of other benefits) without having to work. Pittsfield does not need another layer of scammers to ride on the backs of taxpayers.

THE CASE FOR

* Spectrum Health Systems has done market studies. It would not approach Pittsfield without convincing its bean counters the company could make money. In short, it’s merely filling a market need based on supply and demand. They, an outside company, have judged that the demand is present.

* Studies suggest that every dollar spent on treating heroin users with meth saves a community $7 (less crime, more productivity, more people able to resume jobs and family life).

* Krol’s petition has the following explanatory statement, after he makes his case why it would not be good for the city’s “Downtown business District” and its “Arts Overlay District”: “This area does not (Krol’s boldface and italics) include Berkshire Medical Center, which I believe is a more suitable location for the controlled and patient-centered facility for a methadone … clinic.”

* Why did Mayor Jimmy Ruberto refuse to even meet with executives from Spectrum Health Systems? Federal law prohibits the banning of methadone clinics. Did Ruberto’s behavior amount to a ban? If so, are there legal implications?

* Spectrum, based in Worcester, Mass., runs five methadone clinics in Massachusetts. It has experience, and proponents say its locations suffer non of the issues mentioned in the “REASONS AGAINST” list. Proponents laud the company for its professionalism and high degree of patient care.

* Proponents say the majority of methadone patients hold jobs, which is why the clinic’s hours would begin at 6 a.m. — so the clientele can get to work. In other words, they are not the “dregs” of society but productive members.

* Proponents say the cost per hit of methadone is $10-$14, not $80.

* Government officials and addiction specialists claim methadone maintenance is the most effective method for the treatment of opiate addiction. Methadone is a synthetic opiate that relieves cravings for drugs like heroin, morphione, and oxycodone. Properly administered and used, it is medically safe.

* Pittsfield has a serious heroin problem. Without this clinic, crime, robberies, and drug dealing will continue to climb.

* Treatment is monitored by nursing staff and directed by physicians.

A Couple of Key Questions for Councilor Krol

Those are the PROS and CONS. THE PLANET finds an argument on both sides, and we lean toward “We’re not yet convinced” — though we will keep an open mind.

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THE PLANET Thanks ‘Jake’ for His Contributions to the Schools Discussion, and Finally, an Admission of Transparency on the Budget (or THE PLANET Was Right!)

Pittsfield Supt. of School Jake Eberwein certainly raised his game in responding to THE PLANET’s critiques of the system he operates. We found Dr. Eberwein’s posts informative, suitably defensive, and an exercise in apologetics. We commend him for taking it straight to our audience. It bodes well for him and his department, this kind of face-to-face approach.

We commend Dr. Eberwein for contributing to the discussion with an expertise and an insider’s seat that only he possesses. He has set an example for every public official in town: Respond to We The People via media outlets such as THE PLANET — maybe especially THE PLANET, since we stand alone in consistently asking the tough questions that are part of community life.

We found Dr. Eberwein’s information to be useful to the discussion. One gets the feeling, with a new school committee in place, a new council, and the growing sense that there are not many more dollars to squeeze out of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski (a.k.a., The Pittsfield Taxpayer), the school will be in for extra scrutiny and that he has read the tea leaves.

An Admission on the Nature of the School Department Budget

THE PLANET finds it gratifying that, for the first time in our long institutional memory, a Pittsfield superintendent of schools has agreed with our statement on the school department budget.

In the past, when we pointed out that the school department budget used for “advertising” and informational purposes DOES NOT INCLUDE skyrocketing costs for health insurance of department employees and retirees or the costs of bussing students. We recall Eberwein’s predecessor, Dr. Darlington, and her opaqueness on this topic.

Eberwein admits our analysis is correct. The school department budget isn’t the $52+ million listed on its own tally sheet. Rather, the budget is $82+ million, when you add the costs of health insurance, maintenance, and bussing hidden on the city side. The only question is whether the $7 million in federal money should be counted. If so, the full cost of the schools amounts to $89+ million of a $120+ million budget. That equals 74.1% — three out of every four taxpayer dollars to run the city.

This discussion is not over. It’s only just begun. With Dr. Eberwein as an active participant, all of us can be better assured of a more accurate portrayal of a vitally important component of the city of Pittsfield’s future … and its quality.

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ON AND ON AND ON WE RIDE. WHO SAYS LOVE IS AN EASY RIDE?

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

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35 Responses to “CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOLIDAY CAROLS (NO WISE MEN, NO VIRGINS, BUT PLENTY OF ASSES) … THE CONS AND PROS OF METH CLINIC … plus … DR. JAKE SHOWS UP AND ADMITS PLANET WAS RIGHT ON BUDGET ANALYSIS…”

  1. Ed
    November 29, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    Interesting points regarding Councilor Krol’s stated position on the proposed methadone clinic were raised in a previous Planet post, in addition to the conflict of interest inherent with his employment by a competing enity. The question was raised regarding any political or financial influences stemming from the current lucrative transportation contract with the Commonwealth to transport Pittsfield patients to the methadone clinic in Holyoke. Apparently the cost to the taxpayers is around $1000.00 per patient per month with an average of 27 to 30 patients being transported per week, and only a single city licensed company has this contract.
    This present program seems to do nothing to deter addicts from residing in the city. The adverse may be true.

    • danvalenti
      November 29, 2011 at 8:29 am #

      ED
      Thank you. If these figures are correct, it’s a potentially HUGE part of the story. This would mean a contract worth $27K to $30K a month, with one company getting all the business. What is the name of the company? That’s the first question. The second question is: What are the politics surrounding their exclusivity for all this business?

      • danvalenti
        November 29, 2011 at 8:30 am #

        ED (AND OTHERS)
        Also see the correction we printed regarding councilor Krol’s employment status. He is not employed by Berkshire Health Systems as we originally stated.

    • Steve Wade
      November 29, 2011 at 10:13 am #

      Dan Im wondering why most names are in black print, yet yours and a few others like Ed are in orange? They aren’t the same person are they?

      • Joe Pinhead
        November 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

        Orange? Not like Orange Orange is it? Are you sure its not say a shade of green is it? Does it show up on anyone else’s screen in different colors? Steve it shows up in different colors depending upon the weather, or if you are part of a blogging group. Example if you have a blogspot through google the name in orange can lead you to other blogs and or e-mails that person has registered with or signed into. That’s the nickel version anyway. Click on EDS name and it will hyper link you somewhere. Dans should take you to his blog (home) sorry for the fun at your expense.

        • Joe Pinhead
          November 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

          Oops for got just like hyperlinks inserted in this blog are orange it signifys a redirection

      • Joe Pinhead
        November 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

        Steve Im orange now click me

        • Molly
          November 29, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

          Cool web page. Amazing, and so scary!

    • Ed
      November 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      Recheck your math. 30 patient trips per week equates to approximately 120 patients transported per month or $ 120,000 per month. or $1.4 million per year.
      I can’t confirm nor deny these numbers but with yesterday’s poster, three unrelated sources have reiterated them.
      DV, encourage investigation, if you deem of interest.
      I hate to respond to the ever entertaining, albeit with a grain of salt. Steve Wade, but I am not the creator of this community blog. Thank you.

  2. Recovering Addict
    November 29, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    As a recovering addict, three years clean, I can tell you that bringing a methadone clinic is by far the worst thing Pittsfield could bring to the table to solve the drug problem. It won’t alleviate the issue at all, because after a period of time patients are allowed ‘take home’ doses, up to a months supply. They will then sell and share these doses, providing more ‘supply’ which will create more ‘demand.’ I’ve seen this happen personally by almost all patients of this neighboring program in Holyoke. Common sense to me but I’ve lived a different type of life. We need to provide children and teens education and recreational activities before they become addicts, instead of trying to fix the problem after it happens. Clinics, such as the one Valenti talks about, hurt the area surrounding them far more than they help. P.s. To travel to Holyoke, patients are also given travel compensation up to $160 per month. Guess who pays for that?

    • danvalenti
      November 29, 2011 at 8:31 am #

      RA
      Thank you for your first-hand testimony.

  3. Ray Ovac
    November 29, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Seems to me that the presence of methadone clinics would be an open admission by the GOBs that indeed Berkshire County has some real big city problems. Isn’t it like the local dilettantes to want to sweep reality under the rug? Bad for tourism. How could such beautiful landscape be home to so many drugged-out losers?

  4. Dead to Rights
    November 29, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    No meth clinic for Pittsfield. These clinics are make-money schemes for the company (Spectrum). The users are often scammers too, as Recovring Addict mentions above. I have some experience with these facilities. Not good at all. i support councilor Krols petition and will be calling my councilor and all the atr large ones too.

  5. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    November 29, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    What is the name of the Taxi company that has the exclusive contract and who is the owner?

    • Steve Wade
      November 29, 2011 at 10:17 am #

      Im not sure what the name of the taxi company is, but I will say they sure don’t put the fee income back into their taxis. They all look like they would not make the trip to Holyoke without breaking down.

  6. Taxi Squad
    November 29, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Yes, hilly, I would also like to know what company has this $30,000 mo. contract and would like to know WHO they know if you get my drift. Can this be on the up and up? Anybody out there know hte name?

  7. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    November 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Its gotta be Rainbow Taxi…

  8. Anytime
    November 29, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    This NIMBY attitude denies the serious drug problem, opieates, playing out every day and night in downtown Pittsfield. I disagree with councilor krol’s suggestion that a methadone clinic would spoil the downtown business district. This makes no sense look around at the druggies, bums alcoholics, and other obviously troubled people who hang out there. Theres the youth courts. Theres ad lib. Theres the unemployment office (that jobs place on North street). The clinic will be on aside street out of view … but there is no beauty left to spoil. The clinic will help people get them back on their feet, back to work and back contributing to society again. Not all but some and some is enough for me.

  9. Ray Ovac
    November 29, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    DV, I know you’ve not focused on the controversy over the Fieldman Memorial in Kennedy Park but there is an aspect to it that has yet to be dealt with and may be of significance. Was the Fieldman Memorial, once approved by the Lenox Selectmen, ever put out to public bid? If not, it would be a clear and serious violation of state law. Even though the memorial was being paid for with private monies, the work was still being done on public land in a public park, and thus the workmen doing the excavation and construction are required by state law to be paid prevailing wages. In addition, the Selectmen are supposed to advertise the project in area newspapers and in the Dodge Report so contractors throughout the state can have equal opportunity to bid for the work, and so the awarding authority can have access to the lowest price to do the job. Further, that awarding authority, the Selectmen in this case, are supposed to open all bids in a public meeting the date and time for which is supposed to be specified in the bid ads. This job of excavating and constructing the Fieldman Memorial should have been handled like any other public works project. If the project was not put out to public bid and if the heavy equipment operators and other workmen were not paid prevailing wages then it’s a serious violation of state law.

    • Ray Ovac
      November 29, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

      DV, also with regard to the Fieldman Memorial, it is being claimed by at least one blogger that Kennedy Park Restoration Committeeman Robert Akroyd voted twice on the matter of the memorial. Problem is that Mr. Akroyd was paid designer for the memorial project (a $5000 is alleged) and if he voted even once, let alone twice, on any aspect of building the memorial simultaneous with his being the paid designer for the project, then that would be a clear violation of State Ethics law, and there are fines and penalties that attach to exactly this type of breach of Mass. state law by public officials. (Remember, for example, the recent matter of Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto being cited and penalized for accepting Red Sox World Series tix at face value from Dan Duquette, lessee of Wahconah Park, who acknowledged to the Ethics Commission that he was trying to curry favor with the Mayor.)

      • danvalenti
        November 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

        RAY O
        If that is true, it would seem Mr. Akroyd is in violation.

  10. Scott
    November 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    We already have top of the line drug treatment centers to me all a meth clinic will do (although it will help some I’m sure.) is keep most people addicted and give them their fix until they get money to get the good stuff I say go cold turkey or go to a rehab and detox under medical supervision if you’re really serious. All this company is doing is exploiting an area they see a need for profit in the name helping people get off drugs but the idea is they will never be off drugs.

  11. Ray Ovac
    November 29, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    DV, here’s the link to the Dodge Report where all public works projects in Massachusetts are supposed to be advertised (in addition to local newspapers) so contractors throughout the state may have equal opportunity to bid: http://dodgeprojects.construction.com/?src1=MHC4&src2=MHC4

  12. Poker Boy
    November 29, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Great to see this kinf of open ,respectful debate. Never thought it could happen in cyberspsce, given the disaster of the BB’s Topix. Keep up the good work!

  13. Joetaxpayer
    November 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Think it could be C.R.T transporting patience to the methodone clinic in Holyoke

  14. Joetaxpayer
    November 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    C.R.T is a division of rainbow taxi

  15. Terry Kinnas
    November 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    This may be a littlle late, but I would like to thank Mr. Eberwein for providing information related to Pittsfield Public School to the bloggers on this site. Some of the questions and follow up information provided by some of bloggers indicated that they have a better understanding of some of the problems in the City of Pittsfield than some of the elected officials do.

    • Scott
      November 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      It’s his job to know it still doesn’t change anything sounded more like damage control to me yeah we are not with out flaws blah, blah, blah no shit.

  16. Jake Eberwein
    November 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Dan:

    Just to clarify. The $7 million I have cited in several posts is state aid that comes to the city directly. This is not an additional element of our budget. The school department receives $37 million from the state through the chapter 70 formula and the city gets about $7 million in unrestricted gov’t aid. Both of these allocations are used to offset the local contribution. I had offered this information as one individual had requested a breakdown of where the money comes from as defined by federal, state, and local sources.

    Hope this helps.

    Jake

    • danvalenti
      November 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

      JAKE
      Yes, this helps. So then, according to what you’ve just said, the more accurate figure is $82 million, not $89, correct?

      • Molly
        November 30, 2011 at 12:04 am #

        City taxpayer $ to PPS: 30 million ($15 mil oper cost
        $15 mil city-side)
        State $ from Chapter 70: 37 million
        Grants – fed/state/private: 15 million
        Unrestricted gov’t aid (state) 7 million (city-side)
        ==========
        Total: 89 million

        Operating budget for PPS = 67 million
        City-side budget for

  17. Concern
    November 29, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Meth clinic case against and for. To me case against wins hands down. Recovering addict statement says a lot to this debate, and I want to thank him/her. I again strongly hope this clinic doesn’t end up here. Will bring nothing but so many problems, what we don’t need.

  18. Anytime
    November 30, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    Looking at Molly’s tote board hard to see how Jake’s claim of :”only” $82 million is more on the mark than the $89 million as molly lays it out.
    As for drug clinic you can’t ignore the need. If Spectrum doesnt do it I guarantee BHS will Why? It’s a money maker. Something fishy is going on with the fight against the clinic.

    • Molly
      November 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

      Dr. Eberwein explained that the $7 million is not part of their operating budget but is on the city’s budget which covers school building maintenance and insurance. Yes – it is still Mass taxpayer money, and it also likely keeps the budget somewhat lower. The School Committee approves the “Operating Budget” only.