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
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.
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.
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.
ON AND ON AND ON WE RIDE. WHO SAYS LOVE IS AN EASY RIDE?
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.