(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, DEC. 13, 2011) — Pittsfield can learn from the experience of Boston when it comes to not-for-profit organizations. Non-profits reap huge tax benefits denied to the rest of us. What they don’t contribute to the “fair share” has to be made up by someone. Do you know who that someone is? Here’s a hint: Got a mirror?

Is each and every granting of non-profit status in the city of Pittsfield justified? If the answer is yes, then what are the criteria? If a strong case can be made for non-profit status, no one should object to a top-to-bottom review. If not, though, the taxpayers should know about it, because every property returned to the tax rolls eases the heavy burden shared among a shrinking number of participants who comprise the city’s tax base. This include residents and businesses.

Moreover, who has asked these questions of late — save THE PLANET? Why has there been so much grumbling by the Status Quo to an review of the not-for-profit status of every organization with this coveted status. Being declared “not-for-profit” for the purposes of taxation is the next best thing to having a printing press to churn out money.

Hubbub in the Hub Over ‘Non-Profit’ Organizations Shirking their Tax Resposibilities

The city of Boston established — yes, the city, not the state — established its not-for-profit structure through its assessment department? Is this how Pittsfield handles it? We do not know. It appears, though, from the experience of other municipalities such as the Hub and Pittsburgh, Pa., that the city determines taxation status, either exclusively or in tandem with the state.

This would refute the argument made for why Pittsfield is allegedly helpless to readjust the status of its non-profits. THE PLANET sense a lot of fear even at the mention of this possibility, and fear is the one quality that keeps the politicians, so-called public servants, and places like the Boring Broadsheet in line, like meek little lambs. THE PLANET is having none of it.

In Boston, city officials designed its not-for-profit program based on a formula. The formula includes factors such as the amount of property owned by the applying agency, the assessed value, its use, proposed construction costs, or — if the buildings are pre-existingt — the market valuation and maintenance/upkeep costs. The huge “however” in Boston, though, is that the city never put the program into practice (

We stop right here for two questions pertaining to the city of Pittsfield:

* What is the formula used by the city (with or without the state) to determine the legitimacy of not-for-profit status?

* Has the formula been enacted?

When the Not-for-Profit Inmates Run the Taxation Assignment

Today, Boston’s payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) program is not the product of design, since the rules were ignored, but one of evolution. Darwin notwithstanding, it’s hard to see how random selection works best when it comes to the equitable management of We The People’s tax dollars. As a result, not-for-profit groups and not the city decide how much, if anything, to “volunteer” as contributions for their coveted tax-exempt status.

Has this happened in Pittsfield? Are the not-for-profits themselves deciding how much to contribute in lieu of tax payments? THE PLANET thinks this is the case, especially with Berkshire Health Systems, and we shall follow the evidence that leads to this conclusion, which shall stand unless and until it is proven otherwise. Of course, BHS has refuse to provide a number to the dollars is “voluntarily donates” to the city tax rolls in lieu of taxation.

Again, we ask:

* What is the dollar amount BHS gives the city each year in lieu of tax payments?

* How is this number determined? By formula? By throwing a dart at a tote board?

* Does BHS or the city of Pittsfield decide what that amount should be?

These are simple, straightforward questions. The longer they go unanswered, the more doubt and suspicion that there’s something They Don’t Want Us To Know.

It’s unanswered questions like this, more than anything, that DEMAND review of the status of EVERY not-for-profit operating within the city. This is a time for honesty, courage, and integrity. It is not a time for politics as usual, timidness, or fear of the GOBs and Vested Interests.

Council and mayor-elect: TAKE NOTE.

Millions of Tax Dollars Fritted Away Each Year in Pittsfield Because of the ‘Not-for-Profit’ Tax Dodge

The city loses millions of dollars each year because certain groups get off scott-free when it comes to taxes. The new economics of today have rendered that situation unacceptable. The city must review the situation on a case-by-case basis and make new determinations, forward them along to Beacon Hill via our representatives, and insist on follow through. If, as we suspect, the city has more of an active role in determining not-for-profit status and contributions, then it must take action. There is no longer any acceptable excuse for this long overdue reform NOT to be enacted.

In January, owing to the city’s frustration of being ripped off by organizations that were “not for profit” in name only, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino created a PILOT task force. The group has called for the city to ask all non-profit organization for financial support in lieu of taxes equal to 25% of what they would owe if they paid taxes to the city. THE PLANET recommends this formula for Pittsfield, except we recommend 35% contribution. Every group that has non-profit status would pay 35% of its “would be tax bill.” This is still giving such groups a 2/3  free ride on the backs of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.

The 35% of assessed value would be imposed IF, and only if, the organization could prove its request for non-profit status is legitimate.

Such a 35% contribution from all non-profits in Pittsfield would make this segment the largest sector of taxpayers in the city. Pittsfield can’t afford to walk away from this opportunity at tax equity.

For Example, Take Wentworth Institute of Technology, Please

Just as a comparison, Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston pays $40,000 to the city in lieu of taxes. That figure is less than 1% of the $5.6 million it would pay if its property were taxable. The 25% contribution would mean $1.4 million for the city, or an extra $1.36 million taken off the backs of taxpayers. THE PLANET wonders about the case of Berkshire Health Systems, by far the largest tax-exempt organization in the city and one of the largest in the state: is its self-described “substantial” contribution to the city in the Wentworth range, that is, a mere fraction of 1%?

This issue should issue should not go away. The incoming council-elect and Mayor-elect Dan Bianchi must seriously examine the PILOT issue and take immediate action.


Another Sign that the Mayan Calendar is Spot On, or, Kiss It Goodbye

For the first time in its 51+-year history, Berkshire Community College, where THE PLANET teaches as an adjunct professor of English, more incoming students were placed into remedial writing (ENG 060) than Composition 101 (college level writing I).

The results, obtained from BCC’s testing center, proves without doubt that the Pittsfield Public Schools and public education in general has failed to prepare students to take on college-level work upon graduation. How does this fly with the district’s stated intent of making EVERY — 100%, ALL — its student prepared to take on such work? The PSD is either lying, delusional, or hopelessly out of touch with its evaluative metrics.

Public schools in America are failing. In Pittsfield, the failure is masked by the schools’ disproportionate hogging of the municipal budget. The $82 million it takes to achieve failure stands as a testimony to the triumph of politics over education. Shame on all who defend this dysfunctional system that condemns too many kids to a lifetime of failure.

At one time, when BCC did not have an open admission policy — when, in other words, you actually had to qualify and prove you could handle college work — there was a reasonable assurance that if a young man or woman passed the entrance exams, they could compete at the college level. Students would enter in Composition I, then called Freshman Comp.

Today, colleges and universities across the country join BCC in having to provide remedial reading, writing, and math to prepare many students for college. How naive of THE PLANET. We though and continue to think that is the job of the public schools, pre-school through 12.


Boring Broadsheet Continues to Reach New Heights of Irrelevancy

While THE PLANET shares with you such vital information (our series on non-profits) and brings you stories that the Boring Broadsheet is afraid to publish (the wrecked bridge that pollutes the Housatonic River, from yesterday’s PLANET), the BB devoted 3/4 of its front page on Sunday to a cottony-soft fluff-piece promoting the tourist economy.

“Way to Grow,” the headline reads. Yeah, don’t we all.

Our good friend Clarence Fanto, who is now a staff writer there, dials up a fantasy about the “recovery” of the “crucial” hospitality industry in the Berkshires.

Fanto quotes Lauri Klefos, president and CEO of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau (an impartial expert if ever there was one), to bolster the claim that things are “going in the right direction” in a “steady recovery.”

There are enough gaps between the lines to squeeze Sophie Tucker through after she’s been the the Country Buffet. That’s the best a rah-rah type such as Klefos can do, a woman who’s job is to candy coat foil-wrapped chocolate dollars and pass them off as the real thing? When she tells us that the Recreation and Resort economy is “going in the right direction,” she’s actually saying that it’s not been going that way but has shown signs of changing direction. Problem is, when you look back on last year, and the year before, and the year before, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau says the same thing. Things are always “going in the right direction.” There are always “positive signs.”

Kelfos says to Fanto, “We’ve had some real wins this year.”

Don’t you love the modifier “real,” as if she has to distinguish these wins from the fake ones?Seems a teeny weeny, tadsy wadsy bit defensive, if you ask us. “We’ve had some real wins this year, but then the tropical storn hurt everyone’s projections.”

Say, what?

The “real wins” weren’t “real” at all apparently. She blames it on “tropical storms.” THE PLANET will add sunspots, swamp gas, subterranean waters, and St. Elmo’s Fire.

Fantos writes: “Statewide, tourism is the second-largest industry, with technology No. 1. In Berkshire County, tourism ranks either second or third, depending on the measurements used, Klefos said. Health care is No. 1 in the Berkshires economy, and the public sector ranks No. 2 or 3.”

There it is, in black and white, though the BB is trying to sneak that one by you. The healthcare segment ranks first local economy. And what company ranks first in healthcare, boys and girls? That’s right: Berkshire Health Systems, a not-for-profit  company taking in hundreds of millions of dollars each year and spending most of it on salaries.

Any economy that counts healthcare and the public sector as the first and second most productive sectors is in deep, deep trouble. It means there are few private sector jobs in the technology and manufacturing sectors. Not good, children. Not good at all.

While the BB ate up 3/4 of its Sunday front page with this tripe, it also included an article on — drum roll, please, doctor — “swim safety.” In December. In Pittsfield.

Amanda Korman‘s dead-on-arrival piece (poor girl, she had no choice but to write up this turkey on orders from her editors) tells of another of those “Laws” named after a usually tragically deceased child. This one is “Christian’s Law.” We won’t bother you with the details, except to point out that this is how the BB fills up its newshole: Not on news that matters to you, but news that distracts you away from the incestuousness that is going in in this city among the GOBs, the BB, and the Vested Interests, a series of romps made possible by poison politics and — Cardinal Sin — done in the name of We The People.

There is no conspiracy going on. They don’t need to do that. They have discouraged you, my good friends, into apathy. Most everything they do is “legal” — including the not-for-profit rip off. You don’t need to hide under cover when you can pull off the robbery in broad daylight, in the name of the law.

The time has come for the residents of Pittsfield to DEMAND of their representatives A NEW WAY OF DOING BUSINESS.








  1. dusty
    December 13, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    I am curious as to the school budgets of other cities Pittsfield size, both dollar wise and as a percentage of the whole budget.

    And keep in mind Dan, that if someone does start to peel the “incestuous” as you put it, onion that is politics in Pittsfield, some of your “good honorable friends” at city hall are going to be caught up in it big time.

  2. danvalenti
    December 13, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    The onion should be peeled down to its sweet center. For Pittsfield to survive long-term as a viable city, it MUST be peeled. Where is Norman Vincent Peel when we need him, or the keg of Piels beer?

  3. Shakes His Head
    December 13, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    I suppose since the state doesnt collect property taxes, they really dont have an interest to make sure the rules or the laws are followed. Who would have standing to sue a community for not following the state laws/regulations of local property tax exemption for religious and charitable organizations?

    I posted a link in yesterday’s discussion from the State Treasurer’s website. My untrained eye seems to read a series of ‘Bright Line’ requirements. Does this just glossed over?

    Also, Parfaits have layers too.

  4. joetaxpayer
    December 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Where is the planning for the future for these schools.Hurry up and sign-up to renovating elementary schools that we dont even need.Not saying all of them,but there could be some closing of one or two of our elementary schools in the future,or retro fitting into a middle school.Who knows,lets get a plan in place before we go out and build a new high school and renovate 4 more sc hools(1 high school 3 elementary schools)

  5. Jim Gleason
    December 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I hate to disparage students attending BCC, and this doesn’t count for all of them, but aren’t most of those who go there the ones who didn’t or couldn’t get in to better schools? It would seem logical to me, therefore, that the bottom part of the barrel wouldn’t be as articulate as the National Honor Society students who go to such places as the Eisenberg School of Business at UMass and Syravcuse University, where my nieces attend respectively. They were both National Honor members and have no trouble writing or speaking English, as well as any other college required activity scholastically.A s I said, this doesn’t refer to all at BCC but it only makes sense to me. As far as the BB goes, it usually takes me around 15 minutes to read because there isn’t a lot to stimulate the interest in it. Mostly fluff based on opinion, not fact, and a lot of misrepresentation regarding the local government and the people running it. They didn’t even have Melissa Mazzeo getting in on the At-Large slate this election season and she was top vote getter in the city. They have a potentially good series written by Mr Sullivan on the most significant people in the 250 years history of Pittsfield but his choice of people to put in, while sometime hitting the mark with people like Larry Bossidy, has left a lot of people out such as my Dad, Don Gleason, who did more for kids and families in his 53 years of service to the community than ANYONE ELSE, bar none. Give credit where it’s due and not where not deserved.

  6. Kevin
    December 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    The nonprofit tax scheme has always bothered me, especially when I look to see how “profitable” the BHS is, with all the money it has for huge salaries. If nonprofit is honest and for the good let it be, if not then put it back on the tax rolls.

  7. Kim
    December 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Light and fluffy…..

    I think City Hall could use a reality check. Let actual citizens make some choices. Put on a pair of jeans, lose the tie, and do some “real” work! Get your hands dirty because it’s the right thing to do, not because there’s a camera nearby. It’s amazing how people lose compassion. I’m sure we are all born with it. So, what happens? The Police Dept covers their own….umm..donut whenever they can. Council members are good at “looking” busy, although I don’t think they are doing anything. And, if I am wrong, I’m sorry, but the proof is in the puddin’. I go to work everyday and pay taxes. It kills me to pay people to do “stuff”. All so they can close their offices before the rest of us are done with our days, and never return phone calls. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to know right from wrong. Every bit of the North St disaster, I mean construction was a big fat waste of money! North Street is the little street that COULDN”T! North Street is scary! Between the people hanging out, or rather, seeking refuge, in every bus stop, and stinking the place up, it’s gross. Let me in to City Hall. I love cleaning! Some of these people in the drivers seats need to start taking the bus. The solution? Do good. It’s painless. And free.

    • dusty
      December 14, 2011 at 1:43 am #

      What I would like to see about city hall is openness. And I mean the whole financial aspect of it. Where does the money come in from? From who and where? Where does the money NOT come in from where perhaps it should be? Where does the money go out to? Who does the contracting for the city? Where are they from and why did they get the contract in the first place? Why might it not have gone local?

      This city is supposed to belong to the goddamn people who live here and pay taxes but we are treated more like serfs who are lucky to be allowed to live here. City hall is supposed to work for us, not the other way around. The special interests have inverted the equation and it needs to change.

    • Rivetor
      December 14, 2011 at 7:18 am #

      Kim this is an awesome posting. I agree about city hall, let them do some real work but more the school department, where they get twice the pay for the same jobs and do a lot of loafing. Just do some real work, as you say, and stay open until 5 pm and not 4 pm (must be nice). Also your on the money on North St, which stinks, is dirty and has become the lounge for the Scary Peeple.

  8. Concern
    December 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Jim. Some people go to BCC because their parents can not afford these other college. I have known a lot of people who went to BCC for two years then on the a four year college for next two. They graduate from for example, Boston College. But when ask they can say ” I have a Boston College diploma”. I knew your father and you are correct of what he did for people. He was a good man

    • Jim Gleason
      December 14, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

      As I said, my comments don’t apply to all students attending BCC. When I graduated what I said applied maybe more than it does now, but in some cases that scenario is true.

      • Jim Gleason
        December 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

        Should’ve said the scenario I originally described is still true.

      • danvalenti
        December 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

        Fact is, BCC is the same as most colleges and universities nationwide. Increasingly, they must provide remedial reading, writing, and math to try to cram in the work that the public schools should have been handling from K-12. We are reaping the bitter fruit of a generation of lowered performance standards in the schools, a breakdown of control and discipline, and a focus on “self esteem” instead of “the three Rs.” It isn’t a BCC thing solely.

  9. Kim
    December 14, 2011 at 3:39 am #


    I totally agree. Any money coming in and going out should be for anyone to see. I think the city should focus on “fixing” some of the foreclosed properties, or knock them down! There is more to Pittsfield than North St! (North St is an eye sore). Want more money?? Let’s bust all these people who sit on their duffs all the live long day popping out kids. They live for free, eat better than working folk, have free insurance, cell phones, transportation, free daycare……the list is endless. I don’t know the rules on claiming your kids and getting a deduction in that case, since I work, but I think these non-workers actually collect a tax refund. (Again, I am not sure). I think it needs to be taken seriously that when “Jane” says she is a single mother, but really has “Dick” living there, using a phoney address, sucking up the section 8 like a Slurpee. I get that some really need help, but how can you try to make North Street out to be this beautiful place, with fancy pants places to go, when smack dab in the center is The Department of transitional Assistance, the court house for delinquents, and a bus station to get our fine people there for free. It needs to be addressed. UGH!!

    Atleast the flowers will be watered automatically this summer! AWESOME!

    • Shakes His Head
      December 14, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      Like knocking down the burned out house over off Lincoln Street, close to where the City is trying to sell/lease its own property?

  10. Still wondering
    December 14, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Regarding the automatically watered flowers. It looks like construction has ended for the winter on North Street. I wonder what Deanna has to say about that. All we the people can say is THANKS DEANNA!!

  11. Jim Gleason
    December 14, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    I know you’re being facetious saying thank you to Mr Ruffer nad the real time to thank him is when he leaves city hall!!

    • Boom
      December 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

      I know that referring to Deanna as a male THREE times above, and then insinuating she (or he as you say) should be fired, must have just been a series of typos, right? BCC really needs to tighten up their admissions process.