BRIDGE TO NOWHERE IS GETTING HAULED AWAY … STOOLEY QUESTIONS BARRETT’S ‘JOB’ WITH BERKSHIREWORKS … COUNCIL HOT ON WALMART & MORE PEDALS COVERAGE … MELISSA MAZZEO’S PROMISE … IS BIG BOX ANCHOR A DOLLAR STORE? … plus … CLIFF NILAN’S DAUGHTER ISSUED CITATION IN HIT-and-RUN CASE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JAN. 11, 2012) — Before we begin wading into the muck, let us share a story of the Power of The People. Several weeks ago, Dave Bubriski of the Ward 4 Rest of the River watch group contacted THE PLANET about The Bridge to Nowhere, the mysterious span crossing the Housatonic River behind Eric Drive.
We still don’t have a clear picture of why the bridge was put there in the first place, though old timers talk of the span being used to truck and dump industrial waste from GE. The bridge had collapsed at some point, and there it rested, clogging the river, a nightmare of abandonment and waste, perfectly symbolic of the city’s post-GE condition.
Sen. Downing Goes into Action
Of Dec. 12, THE PLANET contacted Sen. Ben Downing about the Bridge to Nowhere. On behalf of We The People, we pressed for action shortly after personally meeting with the senator for 90 minutes. Downing contacted the city, state, and GE. The three parties began talks to determine the next steps.
Those steps have arrived. The Bridge to Nowhere is being removed and the river cleared of the wreckage. There are still questions: Who owns the bridge? Who is paying for the cleanup? How and when did the bridge come down (accident or deliberate)? What was it used for? Nonetheless, THE PLANET sees the removal of the mess one positive sign, that when We The People begin to speak up, good results can happen.
THE PLANET thanks Dave Bubriski for his stewardship and vigilance, the readers of this blog for pressuring to get this done, and Sen. Downing for responding in such a timely and forthright manner.
Does ‘Big Wind from North’ Have a Job or a ‘Job’?
As readers of this blog know, we designate the appellation THE STOOLEY for any number of forward thinking citizens who have information or views to share but wish to do so anonymously. This can be matters of hard news and fact (such as the Bridge to Nowhere or the Case of the Mysterious Hit-‘n-Run on Winesap and East) or speculations based on experience and observation (what we call inductive reasoning). With that, we present this from THE STOOLEY regarding Big Wind from North:
“Good morning. As an interesting sidebar to the state of the Pittsfield/North Adams political conncetion, it seems incredulous that former North Adams mayor, [current North Adams city councilor], and Pittsfield consultant John Barrett has ostensibly disappeared from the Central Berkshire scene. I understand that Barrett is still listed as the interim director of BerkshireWorks, an appointment of the former mayor [Jimmy Ruberto]. FYI, there have been recent attempts to contact Mr. Barrett at BerkshireWorks, and all have been unsuccessful, as he was “out of the office.” Also, try and ring the Berkshireworks receptionist via their automated answering system. It rings without answer. It seems to me that the employment situation in Berkshire County needs aggressive attention and proper management. There may be more to this than John Q. Public is cognizent of (attendance). Simply, a potential new front to investigate.”
THE PLANET did try calling BerkshireWorks. It rang, and it rang, and it rang, and it rang, and … Gee, you don’t think that after der WunderBarrett‘s consultancy with the city of Pittsfield expired that Ruberto appointed the Barretmeister to a no-show job at a make-work agency, do you? We don’t.
Its website describes BerkshireWorks as “a partnership between [the] Berkshire Training & Employment Program and the Massachusetts Division of Career Services, chartered by the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board Inc.” No chance of bureaucracy sneaking into that morass of layered government, is there?
Council’s Big Box Blustering Has an Ironic Ring
Does anyone find it ironic that just as several of my Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield city council were bemoaning the injustice of a Big Box retailer — Walmart in this case — getting tax breaks, a group of qualified GOBs, a.k.a. the PEDA Executive Board, wants to bring Big Box shopping to the former GE campus in the PEDALS (the PEDA Land Swindle).
Due to a trick of accounting (changing from a limited partnership to a corporation, M.G.L. Chapter 59), Walmart in Pittsfield will be paying a lot less in taxes on personal property to the city of Pittsfield. The tax-year 2011 bill of $211,464 will be dropping to $24,510.
Our Right Honorable Good Friend, Ward 5 councilor Jonathan Lothrop, quoted by the BB‘s Dick Lindsay, made the point that “Mom and Pop stores [pay] their personal property taxes and Walmart not; that creates iniquity.” J-Lo is mistaken. It isn’t that Walmart will not pay personal property taxes, just that it won’t be paying nearly as much. Nonetheless, Ward 6 councilor John Krol was right submitting the petition asking for Walmart’s execs to come in before the council and “don some ‘splainin.'”
The council should keep this in mind when the PEDALS comes before it for approval later this year. You can’t blame Walmart for playing by the rules, but you can blame cities and towns who invite the voracious Big Box retailers in to eviscerate the “mom and pop” stores trying to hold on for dear life.
Do Electronic Petitions Mean Anything?
THE PLANET received this Letter to the Editor from our “Dalton Correspondent. DC writes:
Couldn’t agree with you more about the misuse of the PEDA property. To me, it is a no-brainer. BAD USE. I can not put my name to a petition though. It’s Pittsfield property and Pittsfield’s problem. I do not know how or if I should contact Mike Ward, but I have received numerous emails in the past informing me about electronic petitions and their value. It seems they are not acceptable and I believe it has to do with the signatures needing to be originals. It makes sense that virtually anyone could submit one containing anyone elses name.
I wonder if Mike wouldn’t be better off placing petitions in key location around the city. It would be too bad to see a well intentioned effort go for naught.
We thank our good friend DC. We honestly don’t know the answer to the question. At minimum, though, we would think that any petition, electronic or otherwise, that is done legitimately (as Mike Ward’s obviously is) has intrinsic value on registering We the People’s views of such a key issue. We would hope to hear from Ward, for his view of this and what the status is of his petition.
Is PEDALS Big Box Anchor Dollar General? Clues are There
Speaking of Big Boxes, the word on the street has it that Lowe’s is the anchor for the proposed PEDALS. Think again. Could it be Dollar General? We heard the name whispered last week, from one of the PEDA board members. Then, we dug up this Jan. 4 article from the Boston Herald. (Sorry for the code glitches)
Dollar General draws up expansion plans.
Chain to march into Mass.
By Donna Goodison
Wednesday, January 4, 2012 – Updated 3 days ago
The largest of the so-called ���dollar stores��� plans to expand into Massachusetts this year.
Dollar General ��� which has 9,800-plus stores in 38 states and claims more locations than any other U.S. retailer ��� will enter the Bay State and California amid a 625-store growing spree, the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company announced yesterday.
The discount retailer sells a third of its merchandise for a buck or less. It���s known for its strong selection of private-label products in addition to well-known brands of those that shoppers frequently use and replenish, such as food, snacks, health and beauty aids, cleaning supplies, basic clothing, housewares and seasonal items.
���They���re really at the low end of pricing,��� said Mark Montagna, an analyst at Avondale Partners. ���Their No. 1 competitor is Walmart, and they actually have equivalent pricing to Walmart. On a per-ounce or per-unit basis, their prices are the same, but they carry smaller packages than Walmart so you end up putting out less cash to buy what you need to buy.���
Dollar General will open a handful of Massachusetts stores this year starting next spring and is targeting locations in the western half of the state, according to spokeswoman Tawn Earnest. ���Dollar General distinguishes itself with small stores that are designed to draw from a three- to five-mile radius,��� Earnest said. ���Shoppers pull right up to the door, and get in and out in an average of about 10 minutes.���
The publicly traded Dollar General posted $13.04 billion in sales last year and has performed fantastically in terms of sales, margins and profit since 2008, according to Montagna.
���It���s due to the guidance from the CEO, but also the economic downturn has caused more people to shop at Dollar General,��� Montagna said.
Dollar General will join its smaller rivals, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree, when it opens here. Family Dollar has 105 Massachusetts stores, along with leases for six new locations this year in Easthampton, Worcester, Chelsea, Boston, Haverhill and Framingham.
���(Dollar General is) a great competitor, and we co-exist in a lot of markets,��� Family Dollar spokesman Josh Braverman said. ���It���s business as usual for us, and we���re growing and expanding by hundreds of stores as well.���
Western Massachusetts? It would be Pittsfield’s speed, wouldn’t it, and PEDA’s sense, to bring in a Dollar Store whose top competitor is Walmart.
Melissa: Remember that a Promise is a Promise
THE PLANET presents this reminder to our Right Honorable Good Friend, the esteemed at-large councilwoman from Pittsfield, Melissa Mazzeo. Prior to the November election, Mazzeo told THE PLANET: ““Since reading on THE PLANET about the issue of the PCB cleanup and Hill 78 etc., I attended the Lenox meeting and have been getting up to speed, so when the New Year starts, if I am re-elected, I will push for new talks and a re-opening of the Consent Decree.” Mazzeo also pledged to do “whatever else needs to be done” on the matter of GE toxins still in Pittsfield. That would be led, of course, by the fight for the reclamation of Silver Lake: Don’t Cap It, Clean It.”
We respectfully remind our Right Honorable Good Friend that the New Year has started. The clock has started ticking. We shall hold you to your promise.
Cops File Misdemeanor Citation Against Cliff Nilan’s Daughter in Hit-and-Run Case
Finally, THE PLANET sees that a two-count misdemeanor citation has been filed against Meredith Nilan, 24-year-old daughter of central Berkshire Probation Chief Cliff Nilan‘s daughter in connection with a hit-and-run accident on East and Winesap in Pittsfield on Dec. 8.
In that accident, Peter Moore was almost killed by a hit-and-run driver while jogging with his dog. Meredith was driving her old man’s Subaru Forester on that day. Police say she swerved into the wrong lane and hit Moore, who was seriously injured.
Police filed two misdemeanor counts. The pressure will be on the courts to see that Ms. Nilan receives no special treatment because of who her daddy is. Pedro‘s Daddy was the New York Yankees. Meredith’s Daddy is Cliffy. As the world found out in 2004, that didn’t make any difference for the Yankees in 2004. It should not make any difference for Meredith in 2012. Let the show-cause hearing fairly and honestly determine if there’s enough evidence to file charges in court.
“We have a driver, we have a victim, and we have a vehicle,” said city police Capt. John Mullin, quoted in Andrew Amelinckx‘s story in today’s BB.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is in part why this website exists. To poke and prod, and get the county’s dominant (and the city’s only) daily to begin to do its job.
AND SO WE MOVE ON, INTO THE REST OF A BUSY BUT PRODUCTIVE DAY, AND WHILE DOING SO, SAY:
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL