INAUGURALS, TROUGLE FOR BRUNIN, and PEDALS … plus … WARD LAUNCHES PEDALS PETITION, HOW PITTSFIELD TAXPAYERS GOT ROBBED OF $7 MILLION, and BSC TONE DEAF
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JAN. 3, 2012) — Happy birthday to Planet Dad, who turned 91 today and will celebrate by taking a long walk on the Mary Flynn Trail in Stockbridge, Mass.! Gotta love it.
WELCOME ABOARD — Now that the new government is duly constituted, with oaths and all, the fun can begin. We offer new mayor Dan Bianchi the best as he attempts to govern a city far too long compromised by poison (literally thanks to GE and figuratively thanks to politcs) for its own good. Why they held the inauguration yesterday, on a legal holiday, only Judge Crater knows. Taxpayers are on the hook for the many hours of double time paid to city staff needed to open, maintain, and close the buildings — City Hall for the mayoral and council swearing in at 10 a.m. and PHS for the evening’s inaugural of the school committee. Money well spent or more $$ whizzed down the drain? Speaking of the school committee, The Stooley gave Kathleen Amuso an F for being overly concerned about the seating arrangements. We agree the schools have more important issues that where Kathy Amuso parks her derriere.
TROUGLE GREWING FOR BRUNIN — If the Boring Broadsheet can’t even get a proper noun correctly, what hope is there that it can understand, let alone intelligently present, on issues as complicated as the PEDA Land Swindle (PEDALS)? The BB’s Ned Oliver repeartedly identified PEDA executive board chairman Gary Grunin as Gary Brunin. It was not a typo. This is what happens when you do not have beat coverage of key issues. The bullpen approach doesn’t work. Ringers and newcomers do not have the institutional knowledge to intelligently cover complex local affairs. As a commentator pointed out yesterday, this website forced the BB’s hand in covering the PEDA story. Without THE PLANET’s coverage, the BB would have meekly complied with GOB orders to spike the story and continue to present the PEDA Land Swindle as the lolly-golly peaches-and-cream fluff ball of their initial announcement of the attempt to put Big Box retail on what should be a manufacturing site. THE PLANET commends the job of iBerkshires and reporter Joe Durwin for their followup coverage. We recommend you read Corydon Thurston hollow defense of PEDALS in Durwin’s article.
THURSTON DISPLAYS IGNORANCE, ARROGANCE — In his remarks to the Boring Broadsheet, Corydon Thurston, PEDA executive director, showed the kind of condescending attitude that has been far too typical of the Authority of late and to date. He blasted people who dared to question the plans, saying that they should wait until the full intent is made public. Excuse us? This deal has been in the works for a year now, and PEDA, acting in a unilateral fashion that typifies an authority’s blind charter, has not seen fit to include ANY level of public scrutiny. That this use violates the original PEDA founding documents doesn’t seem to trouble Thurston. He claims the language of prohibited uses (retail, shopping center, malls, etc). is non-specific and vague. THE PLANET cannot believe he believes that. Day by day, it becomes clear why Corydon Thurston was tapped to head PEDA, and each of those days reduces the hope that the property will be put to use to help revitalize the city of Pittsfield.
MFG. COMPONENT DWINDLES, AND THAT’S WHY IT’S A SWINDLE — Why do we call it the PEDA Land Swindle, or PEDALS? Because the anemic PEDA Board, under the unimaginative leadership of director Corydon Thurston, declared surrender. By dumbing down to a B- or C-level developer to bring in more Big Box retail, PEDALS announces the board’s failure. The very purpose of PEDA was to provide manufacturing, light industrial, biotech, and other high-tech business. These are the industries that pay a livable wage. Big Box retail will cannibalize the existing retail market (there are already too many stores and not enough shoppers) while making it even more difficult for downtown shops, many of which are barely hanging on as it is. PEDALS robs Pittsfield of its best, last chance for some semblance of prosperity.
PCBs, TOXINS NOT A DRAW — PEDALS also has several other immoral components. First, Pittsfield signed off on the Consent Agreement totally in GE’s favor. Mainly, it transferred property from GE to PEDA, which pays no taxes. That added $4 million to GE’s treasury and at the same time removed it from the city’s. Second, the deal leftmost of the GE poisons in place. Silver Lake is polluted. Hill 78 is a mountain of toxicity. Untold toxicity fouls property throughout the city. The PEDA property itself rests upon untold and uncounted toxic deposits. Remember, GE never removed all of the pollution. It buried most of it. That, my friends, is the reason for PEDA’s failure. There are too many other, more preferable options to companyies that are expanding, relocating, or starting up. Third, Until GE is forced to clean up the mess, Pittsfield will continue to be seen by the rest of the country, rightly or wrongly, as a Love Canal. Fourth, as long as the current executive director and board remain in place, PEDA has little chance. The current crew has been unimaginative, timid, and ineffectual. One ray of hope stems from a campaign promise: Mayor Bianchi promised to take a place on the PEDA board and assert his authority. We shall see. This address, for one, will be holding Bianchi to his promise.
WARD STEPS FORWARD WITH PRO-ACTION — Former Ward 4 councilor Mike Ward stepped down from his office to take up the most important position anyone can hold in a democracy: that of Private Citizen. Ward has launched an online petition opposing what he calls PEDA’s “wrong-headed shopping center plans.” More than 130 people have so far signed. You can sign the petition by going to this link: http://bit.ly/sB8VAc
THEY DON’T FEEL YOUR PAIN — Between the $3 million taken off the tax rolls by Berkshire Health Systems “non-profit” status and the $4 million by PEDALS, Pittsfield taxpayers have taken a beating. Each year, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski have to tighten their belts a little more. While the Big Shots at BHS and PEDA live high hog, the Kapanskis had to cancel their vacation to Hampton Beach. Instead of red meat, they are eating chicken. They’ve replaced premium brands with generic food products. They juggle their finances to buy food, prescription medicine, and keep the house heated. Government and Big Non-Profits don’t have to tighten the belt. The first has taxpayers to tap. The second simply has to make and spend all of its money, so that at year end, there’s no “profit.” Though the practice is legal, it’s a tax fraud every bit as corrupt as PEDALS.
NON-PROFIT TONE DEAFNESS — Tomorrow on THE PLANET, among other things, we shall be sharing an interesting letter from Max. Max had received a previous letter from Barrington Stage Company, a fund-raising pitch. Max responded with a question for BSC: He noted that, as a Pittsfield taxpayer, he already made a contribution. He gave part of the $500,000 that BSC received from the GE economic development fund. Wait until you read BSC’s reply. It reveals a level of tone-deftness that we can’t imagine much pleased BSC founder and director Julie Boyd.
HOPE YOU ARE SETTLED INTO THE NEW YEAR. DON’T FORGET TO MAKE THOSE LAST TWO DIGITS A “12″ and not an “11.” MEANWHILE …
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.
LOVE TO ALL.