THE PLANET HAS TWO MODEST PROPOSALS FOR INCOMING SCHOOL COMMITTEE, CITY COUNCILORS, AND MAYOR: INITIATE A TOP-TO-BOTTOM FORENSIC AUDIT OF THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT BUDGET & REQUIRE EVERY ‘NOT-FOR-PROFIT’ ORGANIZATION RECEIVING HUGE TAX BREAKS TO APPEAR IN HEARINGS AND JUSTIFY THEIR TAX STATUS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, DEC. 8, 2011) — The two topics that have taken up the majority of THE PLANET‘s interest recently, as well that of the values commentators to this site, have been the Pittsfield School Department and the complex financial and political position Berkshire Health Systems occupies in its monopolistic hold over regional health care in Berkshire County, particularly the city of Pittsfield. While we’ve been covering this, The Boring Broadsheet has told you all about the Rotary Club’s upcoming pancake breakfast.
Follow the Money
Don’t look for a Grand Scheme or Overarching Design, but the strategic commonality in THE PLANET’s pursuit of these two topics is money. The Pittsfield School Department eats up, depending on how you count it, $82 to $89 million of the city”s $120 million budget. That’s anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the entire budget. Berkshire Health Systems, for its part, generates income in the hundreds of millions on holdings measured as portions of a billion dollars (yes, “B”illion with a “B”).
That’s a lot of cabbage, enough to keep an near-infinity of rabbits happy for a near-infinity of time.
For a city with an unfunded liability more than one-third of a billion dollars and a punishingly high commercial tax rate ($30.95 per thousand, which alone is enough to keep many businesses out of town) and residential rate ($15.19, which alone is enough to drive many families out of town), these two segments should be of vital and immediate interest of every elected and appointed official doing business in the name of We The People.
Uncle Gerry and His Ilk Represent the Past; There’s a New Way That’s Going to Take Pittsfield Politics by Storm
Instead, what Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski have received is non-representative representation, epitomized by the likes of Gerry Lee, former police chief, long-time council president, double-dipper at the public trough, and insider who’s job has been to take care of the GOBs, the Vested Interests, and the Fat Cats all these years. His tame councils, pretty much, have gone along to get along … and to survive politically.
Uncle Gerry is “a nice guy.” So it everyone, and that argument for justifying a co-opted government can no longer be good enough. He represents the past, however. His comatose style of rolling over and playing dead to appease his Big Shot masters, who, like the Wizard of Oz remain hidden behind the curtain, has passed. It’s time for Toto to draw the curtain and unveil the hoax.
It’s time that We The People begin to put pressure on our elected officials to do OUR business, and not at our own expense. It’s time for people to get more involved, to “Occupy” the incoming city council, new mayoral administration, and school committee. There are reps who have proven themselves to be on the side of The People, folks such as Melissa Mazzeo and Terry Kinnas. Now with a change of government, We The People will expect officials such as Dan Bianchi, Jonathan Lothrop, Barry Clairmont, Churchill Cotton, and all the others. From now on, THE PLANET declares that:
— Excellent performance shall be considered standard.
— Standard performance shall be considered sub-standard.
— And sub-standed performance will be UNACCEPTABLE.
The People are mad as heck, don’t you know, and they aren’t going to take it much longer.
In the Cause of Reform and Right, THE PLANET has Two Modest, Though Specific, Proposals, Both Eminently Doable.
It’s time for change. THE PLANET proposes:
(1) That the incoming school committee authorize a truly independent (these are the two, key operative words) forensic audit of all school operations. A similar review of just one school in nearby Springfield unearthed millions in corruption and waste. If this takes special hearings, so be it. The audit can’t be the usual check-the-math kiss in the mail. It must be aggressive, fearless, and follow where the trail leads, regardless of political consequences.
(2) That the incoming city council — Chris Yon, Kevin Morandi, Paul Capitanio, Chris Connell, Jonathan Lothrop, Jonathan Lothrop, Tony Simonelli, Kevin Sherman, Melissa Mazzeo, Barry Clairmont, and Churchill Cotton — with the new mayor (Dan Bianchi) order every not-for-profit organization getting off from paying taxes to the city to appear before council to justify continuing their non-profit status. Again, special hearings will likely be in order.
These two measures could add countless millions to city coffers, improve the quality of life in the city, and begin to give We The People a sliver of hope that We have retaken control of the government.
These two measures are not draconian. They are affordable. They are doable. Other communities have done or are doing the same (1) (Springfield) and (2) (Boston), for example. There’s no reasonable excuse for this not being done in Pittsfield. If there is, we want to hear about it now. We call upon every incoming school committee member, city councilor, and the mayor, to speak now and explain, rationally and reasonably, why these two steps cannot or should not be done. Speak now, or as they say in shotgun weddings, stick a rag in it.
MOLLY Makes a Compelling Case Based on Reasonable Questions
In yesterday’s PLANET, we explained how not-for-profit is sometimes used as a tax dodge. In the case of BHS, a corporation that generates hundreds of millions in income on untaxed holdings of Who Know How Much, many people did not even know the company was “not-for-profit.” Our coverage has therefore done a great deal in giving people more of the true picture. We are educating them, more than the BB has done lo these many years.
THE PLANET received several FB, e-mail, and other messages to that effect. So to be clear, YES, BHS IS A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION FOR TAX PURPOSES. FOR ALL OTHER PURPOSES, HOWVER, THERE’s PLENTY OF “PROFIT” (ONLY THEY DON’T CALL IT “PROFIT.”
We urge everyone to review our recent columns covering this issue.
Here’s a simple question that BHS refuses to answer, even though they could come up with it in ten seconds: In lieu of taxes, what is the “substantial” (BHS’ word) donation that you make to the city of Pittsfield? Is it $100,000? More or less? Are you embarrassed to tell us? If so, why? If not, why the silence? Also, why hasn’t anyone from the city of Pittsfield come forward with this figure? This is We The People’s business, and THE PLANET, in the name of The People, is DEMANDING this number.
In this vein, we present this guest post, originally given to us by MOLLY, one of THE PLANET’s valued correspondents. We present MOLLY’s comments as food for thought. Feast away:
No, MOLLY. you are not naive. You are intelligent, and you are part of The New Way that will refuse to take this type of crud for much longer.
THE PLANET awaits the response of the incoming elected officials to our modest proposals. We also await comment from a far-more-important constituency, The Little Guy, because we are the only #$%^@*& place in town that cares about you.
AND SO MY GOOD FRIENDS, HUFFING AND PUFFING ALL THE WAY, EXIT, STAGE LEFT.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.