COUNCIL PREZ SHERMAN WEIGHS IN ON ‘MASSACRE’ … AN UNPAID POLITICAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM A CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE … NOW THAT ‘CHARACTER’ IS FAIR GAME, CAPPY, WILL YOU LOOK INTO THE CHARACTERS OF THE WARD 3 DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE CANDIDATES? … PLUS, THE PLANET DOES TV AND OUR ALIBI CHECKS OUT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE,WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22, 2012) — THE PLANET thought to talk with one essential party in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre whose voice has heretofore been missing. That would be our Right Honorable Good Friend, council president Kevin Sherman.
SHERMAN: WALKED THE TIGHTROPE WITHOUT FALLING INTO THE LAVA PIT
The new council’s tenure hasn’t even included four meetings, and already, President Sherman has had his parliamentary mettle tested. Did Sherman act correctly in allowing a free-reign discussion of the objections to Ferrin’s nomination, or did he play too much the “nice guy” and in doing so allow the meeting to get away from him?
For out point of view, we thought Sherman walked the tightrope as well as could be expected. He made it to the other side without falling into the lava pit created by Jonathan Lothrup in the manner that he introduced his objections to Mayor Dan Bianchi‘s appointment of Jeff Ferrin to the ambulance review board.
THE PLANET’s instincts will always be to free, wide-ranging, no holds barred debate, discussion and deliberation. In parliamentary procedure, the chair should wield the gavel sparingly yet judiciously. The chair must know when to hold, hit, and lay the cards on the table.
Just as Sherman was right in allowing John Krol and Barry Clairmont wide latitude in their questioning of PEDA’s Corydon Thurston, he made the right play in his handling of the Ferrin appointment. Some have objected that the tone of the Gang of Four (Lothrop, Clairmont, Chris Yon, and Paul Capitanio) was too overtly political, but we remind everyone that councilors are, in fact, engaged in politics. Does an individual councilor put service to his constituents and to We The People above the selfish aims of crass politics? That seems to be a more relevant question, one that is often as difficult to determine as a person’s “character.”
Before we say anything else, let’s not forget this essential fact: Jeff Ferrin is an EMT. By training, by temperament, and by disposition, he is more than qualified to sit on the ambulance review board.
‘Character’? Who Can Read the Soul of the Person Next to Them?
Who possesses such insight as to judge definitively a person’s “character”? Most of us are not like the student teller of the Woody Allen joke: “I got kicked out of my metaphysics final for looking into the soul of the kid next to me.”
We can and should make judgments on the actions of public figures. Compare that general statement, though, with the specifics of the Ferrin case. Ferrin’s past employment record with the city of Pittsfield is well known and documented. Ferrin himself set a shining example for honesty and transparency when in two campaigns (’09 mayoral and ’11 council) put everything out in the open.
Ferrin received write-ups amounting to harassment by his employers in the DPW because he was a whistle blower. He saw corruption and pursued it. He uncovered a massive, six-figure overtime theft in the water department, for example. This being Pittsfield, no charges were brought. The accused were simply told to pack their bags quietly and get out of town.
It’s clear to this writer that the Gang of Four went after Ferrin (a) as payback to a whistle blower. By using Ferrin as an example, the GOB wishes to maintain an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that prevents otherwise good people from speaking out about what they know of local government corruption, malfeasance, and misappropriation. They also “got” him (b) to send a message to Bianchi that there are plenty of people who are looking for any excuse to make the next two years as miserable as possible for the new mayor.
Sherman’s Statement on the Massacre
With that being said, here are President Sherman’s remarks, verbatim:
I think we all need to pump the breaks a little regarding this issue. In the past, though rare, we have had appointments debated for whatever reason and my stance has always been that the sitting mayor should have the right to appoint whomever he or she feels fit to serve. This is particularly true when we are talking about volunteer boards. I felt that way when Mayor Ruberto was appointing and not re-appointing members to the School Building Needs Commission in 2008 and this past Fall when he was making appointments and re-appointments. We are not a personnel review board. In prior votes, though I may not have agreed with my colleagues, I have always respected their votes and their right to make their own decisions. I think it is ironic, if not hypocritical, though, that some public perception appears to now favor unanimous decisions whereas in previous years that would be considered a “rubber stamp.” But I digress.
Going into our Feb. 14 meeting, I had a feeling that we may have had some opposed to one or two nominations but I did not know that we would be discussing a man’s past personnel record. While the information was public in more ways than one given the nominee’s exposure over the past several years, I was surprised that it was discussed as much as it was. My preference would have been more communication on the part of councilors with Mayor Bianchi prior to the meeting to make sure he was aware of any concerning items and to get his take on the matter. Also, a heads up to me prior to the night of the meeting that this matter was going to be broached so broadly would have helped me gather my thoughts on how to handle it. On a side note, Executive Session never came up because it was not a current personnel nor legal matter. It was also public information as opposed to allegations so I did not feel that personal attacks were being levied.
All that being said, the bottom line is that we have 11 diverse councilors who have the right and power to vote however they choose and defend their votes in a professional and civil manner. We have seen this for the past several years and debate should not be discouraged. Nor should matters be handled or debated outside of the public meeting. My regret in this matter is the amount of attention that it has garnered.
This issue will be voted on, up or down, in the near future and then we can get back to the business of the people, the vast majority of whom are worried about living paycheck to paycheck, the state of their children’s’ schools, and the fact that we continue to have some nut (or nuts) holding up small businesses. I think the energy of our leaders and our citizens should be poured into those issues and I know that they will. In the meantime, we can not treat every meeting and every vote as a life or death experience. That’s not the type of leadership our city needs.
We have good councilors and I’m excited to work with all of them for the next two years. Our new councilors have already each offered contributions in meetings and through constituent work and our veterans are filling their new roles. I think it’s fitting on Presidents’ Day that we all step back from this tempest and remember why we got involved in the first place.
We thank our Right Honorable Good Friend for his comments. The well-written missive confirms: the Gang of Four sandbagged him. Sherman points out the proper way for the Gang to have expressed their concerns: By talking to Bianchi first. Did any of the Gang do that? No. Clearly, they were out for blood.
Ain’t politics heck.
THE FOLLOWING IS AN UNPAID POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT FROM THE COMMITTEE TO ELECT SHERIFF PAUL BABEAU TO CONGRESS COMMITTEE
THEN THERE’S THIS ONE, FROM THE “JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE HEARD IT ALL” DEPARTMENT
The utterly unorthodox and bizarre nature of Pittsfield politics can always be counted on to produce some gems, and we present the latest one here. It involved two names in the news of recent vintage: Cliffy and Meredith Nilan, with Lynn Nilan (wife and mom, respectively) thrown in to boot. No, it’s not that the Nilans have filed for Homestead protection on their Winesap Road dwelling, although they have. No, it’s not that Meredith Nilan’s criminal history prior to the criminal charges she faces after being accused in the Nilan-Moore Case.
Dig this: The Party Girl, her Enabler Dad, and the Mom are running for elected office!!!!
You heard the one about the kid who murdered both his parents and then, in court, asked for pardon because he’s an orphan? Cliffy and Meredith Nilan’s bid for election to the Democratic Committee falls into the category of Gall, Unmitigated. Yeah, you can throw the mom in there, too.
It usually warms our hearts to see father-daughter bonding, but in this case, we’ll make an exception. Mr. Welk, strike up the band: “Daddy’s Little Girl,” please. There won’t be a dry eye in the house.
Correspondent Reports that Meredith and Cliff Nilan are Asking Local Democrats to Elect Them!! (Notice the Exclamation Points!!)
Sandy, one of THE PLANET’s correspondents, broke the news over the weekend: On March 6, the Pittsfield Democratic Party’s Ward 3 Committee will hold elections (we think it’s to send delegates to the state convention, but does it even matter?). Sandy reports, “There are nine slots, and they are in two of them. And Jeff Ferrin’s nomination gets tabled. Only in Pittsfield.”
Given the precedent set in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (a.k.a. the Jeff Ferrin witch hunt), we call upon our Right Honorable Good Friend, Ward 3 Councilor Paul Capitanio, to please look into “the character” not just of Cliff and Meredith Nilan, but also the other seven candidates. One can’t be too sure. They are, you know, local Democrats, which implies a certain amount of kow-towing to — what shall we call it? — The GOB Machine, The System, Da Boyz?
Oh, wait. We also hear that Cappy and his wife are on the Ward 3 Democratic Committee ballot … as is Mr. and Mrs. Remo DelGallo, J. Tyer, and J. DiSimoni. A qualified voter can select candidates separately or vote them in as a group of nine. Cozy, isn’t it?
We ask Capitanio to launch an investigation into the suitability for public office of all of these candidates based upon “character.” This should easy for you to do, Cappy, since you have experience with this sort of business as recently as one week ago. You were one of the ones who agreed that a person’s “character” had to come into play when said person was being nominated for public office … a volunteer position on a less-than-glamourous public board, no less.
We Offer Mr. Capitanio a Line of Questioning to Pursue
We’re not making any accusations of any of the Ward Three Committee candidates, mind you, but we ask Cappy to check — deeply, we urge — into all of the Ward 3 candidates’ “characters.” Since “character” is now a vital concern in public life, we would rather err on the side of caution than to let a varmint slip through, however unlikely that may appear, given the cast of characters.
In the spirit of public citizenship, THE PLANET offers sample questions of the type Capitanio can pursue:
Probe into whether any of them have engaged in questionable behavior as a result of their employment. Ask, please, if any of them hold a seat of power in the local fiefdom known as GOBania. Ask: Has any candidate covered up for anyone accused of crime? Do any of them have eternal loyalties to Angelo “Tell ’em Angelo sent you” Stracuzzi? Or are they all Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Miss Cleans … all Knights in Shining Armor, all Twinkie Good Shoes and Rebeccas of Sunnybrook Farm, as we hope and assume they are? Remember, YOU are one of the ones, Paul Capitanio, who brought up the “character” issue.
For an important position like Ward 3 Committee Democratic Party delegate, don’t you want to make sure of a few things, such as: Is any of the candidates a known party animal? Do any of them drink like rainbow trouts? Do any of the candidates combine a love of alcohol, texting, and driving? Are any of them considered “dumb blonds”? Do any of them have multiple criminal charges in their past? Have any of the candidates been leveled with criminal charges recently? Are any of the candidates known in their respective neighborhoods to be reckless drivers, almost always going well past the speed limit? Do acquaintances describe any of the candidates as vain, self-centered, spoiled rotten, and with a “gimme” mentality? Again, we aren’t saying that anyone up for election has these issues, but shouldn’t you be sure?
Thank you, Mr. Capitanio, for your due diligence and fair application of just standards for all —and not only dished out on the basis of political friends or foes. It’s about “character,” as you demonstrated at the council meeting Tuesday night … or are we mistaken?
PLANET: ON THE AIR, WITH FILM TO PROVE OUR ALIBI
Yesterday, we were able to easily shoot down ridiculous accusations that we were in Michigan, Arizona, or both — apparently politicking — with film to prove it. THE PLANET spent all day yesterday, physically, right here in the beautiful Berkshires.
Our stay included a delightful time on “Out Front TV,” a show produced by the Berkshire County Republican Association. We taped the hour with host Jim Bronson and co-guest Bill Sturgeon, WBRK talkmeister. Dave Bubriski, Peter Giftos, Mike Case, and Zeus himself, among others, can testify to our appearance in the PCTV studios and later, at Zucco’s, where we were the guest speaker and diner. We finally got a chance to meet, in person, a man we have long admired: Judge Sacco, who told us he still carries in his wallet a tattered, yellowed newspaper clipping of one of our newspaper columns: the one we wrote on the late, great Fr. Camillo Santini of Mt. Carmel Church.
Check the PCTV schedule for the replay schedule. It was a lively show, and we thank our good friends for their hospitality.
PERFECTIONS ARE RARE IN EVERY EYE, BUT IN OUR THOUGHTS, MOST FAIR, LIKE TAPIRS ON THE ALTAR SHINE OUR EYES. OUR BREATH FOR YOU, DEAR READERS, IS THE PERFUME OF SACRIFICE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.