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YES, THE PLANET IS (LARRY) FINE … BB CIRCULATION AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE … PITTSFIELD HAS BIG ROLE TO PLAY IN NOT-FOR-PROFIT TAX DODGE … plus … BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER IN THE HOUSIE

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY

We are (Larry) Fine, Thank You. 

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, DEC. 12, 2011) — As some of you noted, THE PLANET did not post this past Friday. In fact, from Thursday noon until Sunday night, we did not so much as light one photon on a computer screen. We checked nothing and wrote nothing. It was enough to send a bunch of messages our way — via e-mail, FB, voice mail, pony express, carrier pigeon, and smoke signals — with inquiries.

We are fine, thank you. We weren’t bought off, knocked off, tipped off, filed, stamped, briefed, or debriefed. Sheesh — all we did was head to NY for a little business. We got our business done, came back with the deal we sought, and that’s that. There’s no grassy knoll, except the one in someone’s mind.

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Circulation 18,000 and Falling, or, Once Upon A Time There Used to be a Newspaper Called the Eagle 

Still hanging in the old Eagle building, the beautiful flatiron brickworks on Eagle Street, our spies spotted and photographed this poster:

POSTER from the late 1980s boasts a circulation of 35,000 and growing for the Eagle. Today, it's the Boring Broadsheet, and the number is under 20,000 and falling.

The Sunday Berkshire Eagle poster dates back to the late 1980s, according to Phineas A. T. Conklin, THE PLANET’s resident historian.

Today, almost a quarter century later, the once-proud Eagle has become The Boring Broadsheet, a newspaper so timid that when it waves its hand under the motion -activated paper-towel machine in the Men’s Room, nothing comes out.

Take away the freebies, the printed copies that don’t sell, and the overrun printed but thrown away — in short, when you remove the padding from the BB’s “official” circulation  — you have the true number, which they will never tell their advertisers: a circulation of about 18,000 and falling by the moment.

Sure, in part the fall can be attributed to the whammy put on all print vehicles by this medium, cyberspace. However, THE PLANET believes that if the BB were to go back to its institutional roots and begin reporting The News, in a fearless manner, it would begin to sell papers again.

We at THE PLANET have covered many important stories that the BB will not go near: the city of Pittsfield’s economic development folly exemplified by its CEDS submission, the GE-PCB tragedy (Silver Lake, Hill 78, and the reopening of the Consent Agreement), honest coverage of the school department budget, and our recent look at the tax dodge known as “not-for-profit.” During this election season, only THE PLANET called every race, in advance, and batted 1.000. We mention this not to sound our own fog horn but to demonstrate that hard hitting journalism and not fluff’n'puff is how to sell papers or columns in cyberspace.

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Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day

THE PLANET received this press release from the city:

Mayor James M. Ruberto has announced that the City of Pittsfield will officially open the recently completed skate park at a ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m., Monday Dec. 12.  The new skate park is located at the corner of East Street and Appleton Avenue, adjacent to Pittsfield High School.

 

The new custom concrete skate park, professionally designed with input received by skateboarders and trick bike riders at numerous public meetings, was funded partially by the City of Pittsfield and with a $150,500 grant received by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs through the PARC (Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities) program. “The opening of this new skate park achieves the long-term goal of providing a safe and challenging facility for the youth of our City.  I am thrilled to call Pittsfield home to the best skate park in western Massachusetts” said Mayor Ruberto. 

 

The skate park was designed by Who Skates and constructed by SPC Construction, both ofKennebunkport, Maine. The new facility replaces the previous skate park which was located within the First Street Common, which is currently undergoing a multi-phase rehabilitation.     

THE PLANET congratulates the city for the completion of this project. Let’s see, going forward, how well this park is maintained and policed. We wonder if city youth will appreciate this effort, courtesy of the taxpayers? Will they be responsible, and will they police the park themselves? Will they kick out the bad actors and keep away the bad apples?

How long until the punks get there with their spray paint to mark their territory? How long until the drug deals that were completed at this very location since the tennis courts were abandoned find their way back to East and Appleton, within a “school zone” as defined by current drug laws? How long until the “bad seeds” ruin it for everybody by destroying equipment?

 

We hope the park stays on the up and up and doesn’t become another casualty of a culture and a system in so many ways run amok. 

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City Has Major Role to Play in Determining the Legitimacy of the Not-for-Profit Tax Dodge

(THE PLANET apologizes for the format issues that have decided to pay a white-gloved visit).

THE PLANET disagrees with the notion that since non-profit designation is not within the jurisdiction of the city that Pittsfield should not play a major role in determining the proper use of the lucrative tax designation.

Pittsfield has even more of a responsibility, since if it doesn’t look into the not-for-profit situation in town, you can be sure neither will the state or the feds.

It does not matter that the state and feds determine the $$-rewarding not-for-profit tax designation. The city, as the locale that bears the tax consequences of keeping properties and companies on or off the tax roles, has much to say about the proper and improper use of “non-profit” status, especially in cases where it may find itself employed simple as a tax dodge.

THE PLANET repeats its call upon the incoming city council and mayor to research its role in hosting tax-exempt not-for-profit companies. Every non-profit company, agency, corporation, or organization operating with that status in Pittsfield should be invited to present to the council and mayor, representing We The People, justifying its tax-exempt status. This includes the biggest, which is Berkshire Health Systems, to the smallest.

The purpose of this review would be to:

(1) Present an advisory opinion to the Commonwealth on the appropriateness of each tax classification.

(2) To recommend that, in cases where not-for-profit status seems unjustified, upon petition, legislation be enacted to placed the organization on the tax rolls.

(3) To increase citizen confidence in the tax system, which seems grossly out of tilt against Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, The Little Guy, and all the rest of the common, ordinary citizens that are making possible huge paydays for executives of so-called not-for-profits.

Of course, for this action to be done, we would need a new government that actually had some honesty and courage. These are the two ingredients largely missing from government. We know it, and They know it.

We shall wait and see.

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Bridge Alongside Troubled Waters

This downed bridge litters the banks of the Housatonic River near Fred Garner River Park, off Eric Drive. (Photo for THE PLANET, courtesy of Dave Bubriski)

Here’s a photograph of a downed bridge littering the banks of the Housatonic River. The picture symbolizes the neglect done by the Vested Interests — GE, the city, the EPA, the DEP, and others — to this once-pristine waterway.

With the fate of the river still up in the air, THE PLANET offers this picture as a testimony of neglect. It suggests much more than a downed structure. It illustrates how a company could use the city for 100 years; poison the air, land, and water; and then when its competitive position changed, leave the city and its pollution behind in a state of environmental sin and political abandonment.

The city of Pittsfield signed its soul away in agreement to an ill-advised Consent contract that is tilted all in GE’s favor. How else can Hill 78 still be looming over Allendale School? How else could Silver Lake remain sullied with toxicity straight from a science fiction film? How could the city ever agree with cap the poisons in Silver Lake rather than insist on total removal? How? How? How.

It’s the same “how” we see in this picture. How could a bridge like this sit in the water for so long? How long? Months? Years?

We see in this photo the neglect born of a heartless pursuit of The Almighty Dollar, We The People be steamrolled.

According to Sen. Ben Downing, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife owns land on one side of the location and GE owns the other side. But who owns the bridge? Downing says he has contacted DFW and GE, asking them to “resolve the situation.” The senator says “The city of Pittsfield is aware of the bridge issue, as well. All three parties are talking and determining next steps.”

THE PLANET will say it: The “resolution of the situation” had better not cost Pittsfield or state taxpayers one dime. Perhaps Dave Bubriski is right: Instead of the state, GE, and Pittsfield all poiting fingers at each other, “maybe we need some volunteers and a team of draft horses to pull the darn thing to shore.”

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WE HAVE CLIMBED ABOARD THE PEACE TRAIN, HOLY ROLLER, AND ARE MOVING DOWN THE LINE WITH SMOOTHIES, SENTENCES, AND SIESTAS IN OUR FUTURE. MEANWHILE …

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

21 Responses to “YES, THE PLANET IS (LARRY) FINE … BB CIRCULATION AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE … PITTSFIELD HAS BIG ROLE TO PLAY IN NOT-FOR-PROFIT TAX DODGE … plus … BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER IN THE HOUSIE”

  1. Shakes His Head
    December 12, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Institutions and organizations, such as hospitals, schools, churches and cultural facilities, may qualify for exemption from local taxes on their real and personal property. These exemptions are found in various clauses of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, Section 5 (M.G.L. c.59, § 5). However, a religious or charitable organization is not automatically exempt from local taxation when it organizes or acquires property. It must meet specific eligibility criteria and follow certain procedures to obtain an exemption.”

    From: http://www.mass.gov/Ador/docs/dls/publ/brochures/charity.pdf

    Owned by the not-for profit, occupied by the not-for-profit, and used by the not-for profit for the charitable purpose(s).

  2. jimbo
    December 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    They must be doing something right at the Eagle. Compete.com shows their unique visitor count at over 80K (80,845) in September, compared to the Planet’s 555 in that same time period. I know you’d rather report on “hits” but unique visitor count is the true measure of your customer base.

    • Rivetor
      December 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

      Jealous, Jimbo? We’ll take Dan, regardless of hits.

      • jimbo
        December 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

        Not at all, why would I be? “Take” whoever you the “we” you refer to want to “take”…whatever that means. I’m just pointing out a fact. Print is being cannabalized by cyberspace and the same can be said about any print publication nationwide. It isn’t necessary a reflection of the content, for some, as evidence by the monthly unique visitor count. Just sayin

        • Scott
          December 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

          Used to advertise in the Eagle and over the years I have seen a decline in the number of calls I get that lead to jobs so I stopped advertising with them. Direct mail and word of mouth is the best advertising with the best results for me anyways.

          • danvalenti
            December 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

            SCOTT
            Thanks. We have heard so many stories like this.

    • danvalenti
      December 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      JIMBO
      I thank you for your post. I don’t know the Eagle’s numbers, but I can tell you, honestly, that the count for THE PLANET in the time frame you mention is considerably more than 555 — unique hits, yes. We will never match the BB in hits (unless they go out of business), but we will always beat them with content. Appreciate your contributions.

      • LV
        December 13, 2011 at 3:38 am #

        Dan, you have to work on that “like” button.

  3. joetaxpayer
    December 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Jimbo,Eagle serves a purpose to some,but lets face it,not a very good paper.Only a shadow of what it was,and they have trouble giving both sides of a story.

    • ambrose
      December 12, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      You’re right, its not a very good paper, in fact its a lousty paper. However, it was never a really good paper. It had no competition and printed only what the Millers wanted printed. No real difference than whats goning on right now.

  4. dusty
    December 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Where is this bridge in the river? That is disgusting. Who has jurisdiction over it? Someone should lose their job for leaving it there. Pittsfield has been pouring money down the drain for years but could not deal with something this important?

    How very sad. but there probably were no kickbacks to removing it so it will stay there until whenever.

  5. Ray Ovac
    December 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    DV: in re: the bridge from somewhere to nowhere. Which two points were connected by this structure, and what connects those two points now?

  6. Kevin
    December 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    This bridgeis the perfect symbol for the way the city was screwed by GE, the state, and especially its own politicians, especially Doyle and his gang.

  7. Ray Ovac
    December 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    DV, if the bridge in its present wrecked condition is located near where it was originally constructed (as it appears to be from the Yahoo and Google images below), and if indeed that bridge connected land owned by General Electric Co. to land owned by the Commonwealth of Mass., it might be a good idea to test lands on either side of that bridge for PCBs as well as for the other industrial chemicals GE was known to be using during its time in Pittsfield. There exists the possibility this relatively obscure area was one in which GE or its contractors disposed of GE’s chemical wastes. The two housing developments to the West (bounded by Palomino Dr.) and to the East (bounded by Eric Dr.) appear to date only from the 1960′s and 1970′s, respectively. Prior to that the land to the West appears to have been part of a local polo club (the deeds for the 1960′s housing development mention the name Polo Club Acres). Whereas, the 1970′s-era development to the East was developed by an entity called Pico Corporation. What better locale from whenever to the 1950′s for GE to use as a dump than an out of the way piece of land along the Housatonic and reached only by a backwoods little bridge. From above, the area appears to be land nobody would have much necessity to visit and which was never very accessible anyway but for that little bridge. Knowing as we now do GE’s propensity to dump whereever accessible around Pittsfield, and given this was undeveloped land until at least the 1960′s, this area should definitely be checked out for chemical contamination not least because it lies immediately within the Housatonic River floodplain.
    Here’s a Yahoo map link that appears to show the bridge structure BEFORE it got washed away:
    http://maps.yahoo.com/#q=Eric+Dr%2C+Pittsfield%2C+MA++01201&conf=1&start=1&lat=42.41925888137291&lon=-73.23618561029434&zoom=19&mvt=h&trf=0
    And here are coordinates for the Google Earth image that appears to be of more recent vintage (and definitely of higher resolution) and that shows what appears to be the skeletal remains of a bridge.
    Google Earth: 42* 25′ 09.74″ N. 73*14′ 14.53″ W.

  8. CONCERNED
    December 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    You people are so right how bad the Eagle is. However its all you have to read local news, obits, etc. Editorials and all there articles (except Wills once in awhile) are so liberal its disgusting. But letters to the editorials for the most are from all liberals so I guess they love the Eagle.

  9. CONCERNED
    December 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Letter to Editors (sorry)

  10. Ray Ovac
    December 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    DV, FYI, Google Earth’s satellite image is recent: 09/18/2011, just three weeks after tropical storm Irene would have wiped out the bridge. The Yahoo image appears to date from 07/15/2008.

  11. Rivetor
    December 13, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Ray I checked out the images and youre right, the land is between Holmes Road and E New Lenox, and in the photo you can def see the bridge I agree with your siggestion to test land. Might this be enough of a reason to reopen consent contract w GE?
    And all who dump on the eagle, its not called the Boring Broadsheet for nothing

    • Ray Ovac
      December 13, 2011 at 8:26 am #

      Rivetor, Google Earth has a nice feature I never noticed before wherein images from satellite scans of earlier years are available for viewing and for comparison. Activate at bottom of screen. That’s how I learned the Yahoo image was from 2008 because the Yahoo and Google images from that time were identical.

      • danvalenti
        December 13, 2011 at 8:40 am #

        RAY-O
        THE PLANET thanks you for the great follow-up work on the ridiculous bridge situation. That downed bridge symbolizes the utter contempt that GE and the state, as well as certain Pittsfield politicians themselves, have had for the good people of the city. Any politician worth the office would be screaming to get this mess cleaned up and, as you suggest, begin testing the soil. All-but-guaranteed: There’s a toxic waste dump site there.

        • Ray Ovac
          December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

          DV, be thankful no one at GE or the City did anything about the no-name bridge until Pittsfield canoeist Joe Doboszynski happened onto the scene. Especially if it turns out to be the sole access used to transport toxic waste to a site north of the heretofore hidden river crossing. Were it not for Tropical Storm Irene, were it not for Doboszynski’s December 4 letter to the BB, and were it not for Dave Bubriski’s photo today on PlanetValenti, this whole matter would certainly have escaped serious investigation.