STOOLEY ASKS 10 QUESTIONS AND NAILS THE PLANET TWICE …SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING: WEDNESDAY NIGHT FIGHTS AND KARTOON KARNIVAL ALL IN ONE … MAZZEO’S PROMISE … plus … COUNCIL WANTS STATE REPS TO WALLOP WALMART, BUT SAM’S CLUB HOLDS THE BIG STICK
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JAN. 13, 2012) — First, we present a guest submission from THE STOOLEY. THE STOOLEY raises a few questions. These are questions, mind you, and we stress. They are not accusations, indictments, claims of fact, or testimonies of circumstance. THE PLANET gets nailed twice here, so we remind everyone: They are merely questions, nothing more, and certainly no indication of certainty presence, the kind that truth exudes:
TEN QUESTIONS FOR A WONDERING COMMUNITY
1. Is Dan Valenti on Mitt Romney‘s payroll? For how much?
2. When will Cliffy Nilan just go away from having worn out his act?
3. When will Chris Speranzo ever put in a full day’s work as Clerk Magistrate?
4. Is the BerkshireWorks employee who hired his daughter, legally made off with a $38,000 check for sick-leave not taken then filing for and receiving unemployment benefits former executive director Michael Herrick?
5. ———————————————– ?
6. ———————————————– ?
7. How “Happy” was the “Happy Hour” hosted by Berkshire Young Professionals on Dec. 8, 2011, at a chi-chi restaurant in Great Barrington? Would some BYPs like to say?
8. How is Cliff Nilan’s son finding LSU these days?
9. Have most of the minutes of certain past and key PEDA meetings disappeared due to “an electronic malfunction”?
10. Does Dan Valenti have an open tab at Blantyre? Does he ever see a bill?
We can’t answer to any of the questions but #1 and #10. ANSWER #1: Yes. $400 a haircut. THE PLANET is Mitt’s hair stylist. #10: No. We don’t drink soda.
ANIMATED HIJINX AT SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
THE PLANET present a quick look at Kartoon Kapers, also known as the School Committee meeting from Wednesday, Jan. 11. The animated “highlight” of the meeting came when chairman Alf Barbalunga doled out committee assignments. Herr Chairman bounced Kathleen Amuso off of her coveted School Building Needs Committee. Amuso was not amused so.
A Huff, A Fast Burn, and a Blue Streak, and then, Whoosh!, She Was Gone!
Board members, attendees, and those watching on PCTV couldn’t believe her reaction. She huffed away, doing a fast burn and leaving a blue streak in her wake. The Bluebirds of Paradise watched from the trees, tweeting away. Oh, it was the most interesting tweeting. It was the most captivating moment for the committee since Dr. Darlington ate a Chiquita banana in Panama while Mercury fumed. What’s puzzling about Amuso’s “Markie Maypo” hissy fit is that it didn’t have to happen. Cathy Yon nobly offered to switch committee assignments with Amuso, giving the latter her position on the SBNC. Amuso would have none and refused the grand gesture with all the coldness of a stepmother’s kiss.
One of the three students representative on the committee (non-voting positions) saw the misadventure as his escape and used the outburst as a reason for quitting. Right, kid, and you’re asking us to believe you did it on principal and not because you just got sick of the responsibility. That kid’s got a future in government. THE PLANET worries about hjigh school kids who would rather sit on the school committee than get in the backseat with a good girl on Lover’s Lane.
There’s some confusion about Amuso’s SBNC post. Both the mayor and the superintendent of schools have appointing power to the SBNC. Was she there as a mayoral appointment or a superintendent’s appointment, and would that make a difference for the chairman. In short, if Amuso was on the SBNC at mayoral request, does Barbalunga have the power to remove her?
Yon, Elilas Ref the Heavyweight Battle; Alf Wins a TKO
Yon and Dan Elias had to referee the Amuso-Barbalunga spat. Alf won in a unanimous decision on a technical KO (Amuso returned to the ring about 10 minutes after storming off, but by then the fight was over). The Kapers took the attention away from the rest of the meeting. Probably just as well. The committee voted 6-1 to approve pay hikes for school custodians, secretaries, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and monitors. Terry Kinnas cast the lone vote of fiscal responsibility, arguing that paperwork submitted in support of the raises was incomplete. Didn’t matter. City-side custodians, secretaries, etc., who already make far less for the same work as their school counterparts, will delighted at the raise they aren’t getting.
We The People did score a small triumph, however, and it’s something that can be attributed to the crusading of THE PLANET. In our recent series of articles on the school department, we have been insisting on transparency from the school department and committee when referring to the department budget. It’s an $82 million budget, not a $52 million budget. The schools have not been counting the $30 million listed on the city side for transportation, health insurance, and other cost goblins that get buried in the municipal budget.
That appears to be changing. According to Kinnas, who chairs the school committee’s finance subcommittee, the group will be looking at and presenting the current budget as an $82 million item. Kinnas says Barbalunga agrees that this is the more honest presentation. THE PLANET applauds this step into reason and transparency.
Letter to the Editor: Another Look at Kartoon Karnival
THE PLANET received this alternate view of Wednesday’s school committee meeting. The author posted it as a commentary to yesterday’s column. We feel it’s noteworthy enough for extended play. Here is the comment, verbatim, with minor editing:
On January 11, 2012, I witnessed one of the most dysfunctional public meetings I have ever seen: the Pittsfield School Committee. The new chair, Alf Barbalunga, dominated the meeting barking directives to his minions, disrespecting a fellow committee member, and pontificating about his personal opinions. He wasted precious time to brag that he read an article about education in Time magazine about South Korea. He then informed us that he intends to make it a regular part of future meetings to educate us about magazine articles he reads.
While allowing Terry Kinnas to ramble on about his seemingly endless string of jobs in the private sector, he lost focus and control of the meeting. He then decreed his subcommittee appointments and seemed to revel in humiliating former chair and long time member Kathy Amuso by placing her on the least important subcommittees.
Mrs. Amuso was the highest vote getter in the last election [CORRECTION: THAT WOULD BE LINDA TYER], ran respectful meetings, and was very responsive to parents and community members. She is dedicated and very involved in the schools and she does not deserve to be relegated to meaningless jobs. When she asked Mr. Barbalunga why he did not appoint her to a more substantive committee that she had requested, he said he based his decision on seniority.
She pointed out she was the second most senior member of the committee. Mr. Barbalunga said that was true and yet did not answer why he had ignored her request to be placed on the policy committee. The blatant disrespect shown to a dedicated member like Mrs. Amuso does not speak well for the leadership abilities of Mr. Barbalunga. The hostility was so apparent that one student member of the committee resigned his position and walked out, saying he could not be a part of such chaos. This student was the most courageous and articulate member of the bunch. He had the grace to praise Dr. Eberwein and thank him for his leadership while others, specifically Mr. Kinnas, had the audacity to obliquely insult Dr. Eberwein. As the parent of two children who have thrived in the Pittsfield public schools, I am very concerned about the dysfunctional direction the school committee is headed. I hope Mr. Barbalunga will learn to lead respectful, collaborative meetings and not act like a dictator.
THE PLANET THANKS “DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION” FOR THIS VIEW. IF YOU WISH TO SEND IN A LETTER TO THE EDITOR, DO SO AT THIS ADDRESS OR TO firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘BUT I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP, AND MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP …’
The question isn’t “Does Melissa Mazzeo keep her promises”? The question is:” “Will she keep the biggest one she made during the campaign”? We reminded everyone yesterday that Mazzeo promised to aggressively address the GE Consent Agreement, Silver Lake, and Hill 78.
Yesterday, she contacted THE PLANET. We share her remarks, sent to us electronically:
Hi Dan… I just finished ready your blog and wanted to let you know that I spent over an hour in the Solicitor’s office today outling my ideas for dealing with PEDA and the Consent Decree. I thought it best to start with the new administration.
My idea is to gather a group of people, old GE engineers, and private citizens (like Dave Bubriski), folks interested in the cleanup, lawyers, the Mayor, etc. and get the conversation started on opening this Decree. I have been “trying” to read it and its tough to follow, so i gave it to several lawyers to tackle it. I am told that we may have a shot at getting this opened, since laws and technology change, and if we can make an arguement it may happen. I will keep you updated on this group, which I want to see put together asap. A promise is a promise. Take care, Melissa
Mazzeo’s statement: “I am told that we may have a shot at getting this reopened” is one of the most hopeful statement heard from an official source on this toxic mess in years. We, too, have plodded through the cottony language of the Consent Decreee, which seems to be deliberately written as densely as possible to make understanding as difficult as it can be. We concur. The agreement has mechanisms for reopening. Moreover, there are triggers of possible violation that could put everything on the table again, this time giving We The People a better chance that the first time around, when Mayor Gerry Doyle signed off on a document disastrous for the city of Pittsfield.
We shall be presenting more details on Mazzeo’s action pursuant to the Consent Agreement on Monday’s PLANET.
WALMART LOOPHOLE DRIVING COUNCIL FOR A LOOP
Sources say city clerk Linda Tyer is putting together a draft of a document for the city council, whereby my Right Honorable Good Friends would, en masse, ask the Berkshire legislative delegation (Sen. Ben Downing, and Reps. Smitty Pignatelli, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Paul Mark, and Gail Cariddi) to storm Beacon Hill asking for a change in state law requiring Big Box retailers to pay more of a fair share in local taxes.
The move was in response to Ward 6 councilor John Krol‘s petition introduced at the Tuesday council meeting. Krol wanted Walmart exces to “provide an explanation for the significant reduction in its tax obligations to the City of Pittsfield for 2012” (from the council Agenda).
The council realized that Walmart execs (1) would honor the request (the city council does not have subpoena power) and that (2) it understands why and how Walmart succeeding in getting a whopping tax reduction. Why = To save money. How = By using state corporate law on the books for decades.
The Long Legal Haul: Walmart’s Lawyers Have Attorneys, Who Have Barristers
Walmart is doing to Pittsfield and North Adams what GE did to Pittsfield during the Consent Agreement negotiations: Using the law to get a sweetheart deal. Where GE created new law tilted in its favor, Walmart’s lawyers found a loophole in existing state law and have exploited it. Betcha those Walmart barristers who found this glitch in the law will be in for some mighty big company discounts come Christmas.
“We’re not trying to get in the way of companies that provide opportunities for good jobs,” Krol said about the letter to the state delegation. “We want to see if there’s a way to get Big Box retailers to pay more of a fair share.”
Krol says the state of Maine is involved in a similar attempt. The dicey question will be this: If the state tries to modify with existing law to get the Walmarts of the world to cough up more money, these giant corporations will cry: “Foul play.” They don’t employ a city solicitor. They have buildings full of lawyers.
Instant prognosis: The state delegation will love this, because it will make them look like they are doing something. In reality, Walmart’s legal eagles will begin speaking in dollared tongues, and this will pass into oblivion. Also, remember that the five-person Berkshire consists of two rookies and a interim rep serving the remainder of an abandoned term (thanks to No Show, the Larded Lout). Three back benchers won’t move mountains, and pebbles won’t amount to a hill of beanies, babies.
DIVE INTO THE WEEKEND GENTLY, EVERYONE, AND AS YOU DO SO, GO IN FEET FIRST BECAUSE THE WATERS MAY BE SHALLOW …
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.