3rd THURSDAY: IT’S ON, IT’S OFF, AND THEN IT’S ON AGAIN — MAYOR SHOWS WEAKNESS BY BACKING DOWN … THE DOLLARS FOR McKAY STREET GARAGE INCLUDE UNJUSTIFIED TAXPAYER CONTINGENCY … APRIL’S GONE, CORYDON, SO WHERE’s THE WATERSTONE ‘BIG BOX’ UPDATE ON PEDA??? … ROMNEY SLUGGING IT OUT WITH SLOGANS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2012) — Whither, 3rd Thursday? It was on, then it was off, and now it’s on again. So much for political expediency and standing your ground.
When Mayor Dan Bianchi decided to cancel the May 3rd Thursday, here were the possibilities:
(1) Acting on a genuine concern over public safety because of the dug-up condition of North Street and only after due diligence and mature deliberation, he made the sober but unpopular decision for the common good.
(2) He was acting from some hidden political agenda.
(3) He acted hastily without good information.
The Swiftness of the Reversal Shows Weakness, Lack of Executive Conviction
We can’t see a fourth possibility. Possibility (1) is the one we think best describes his action to cancel, because once you eliminate (2) and (3), there is no other reasonable explanation. Bianchi is a politician like all others, but he doesn’t practice the kind of slash-and-burn politics (2) that have characterized many of his predecessors. If he does, it’s a change of pattern. He also tends to act only after accumulating a good set of data (3).
So if we assume the mayor acted strongly but unpopularly in canceling the event for the public good, it means he acted in weakness when he reversed himself. Now his best prayer is that something bad or worse doesn’t happen on May 17, for then he will have remorse to add to his current feelings of embarrassment. Bottom line is this: An executive either believes in his himself and his actions or he doesn’t. THE PLANET doesn’t see what could have possibly changed in terms of the data and information between the time he announced the cancelation and the time he reversed it.
What is Mayor Bianchi’s ‘Tipping Point’ on Reversing His Positions?
His reversal is essentially an admission that he acted capriciously and without thought in axing 3rd Thursday. That’s all not well and good, but we have no reason to believe Dan Bianchi acts this way on a serious public issue, especially when safety is involved. Thus, we are left with this question: What is the tipping point? That is, just how many calls, e-mails, texts, and smoke signals does Dan Bianchi have to receive before he caves in to public pressure. Six? A dozen?
How many actual complaints did city hall receive? These people were acting on feelings. Bianchi, when making his initial decision to cancel, acted on information and data. In the end, feelings won — a lousy way to handle public policy, especially when it involves safety.
When we first heard of Mayor Bianchi’s decision to cancel 2012’s first incarnation of this popular event, we puzzled over the move. Not being privy to the information that he has as mayor, however, we ignored the howling yawps of those who disagreed. Here’s what we initially wrote:
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WRITTEN BEFORE BIANCHI CHANGED HIS MIND
Agree with the decision or not, Mayor Dan Bianchi isn’t afraid to do what he thinks is the right thing, even if it’s unpopular as an itch at a scratch convention ( and we’re not talking Itch McMahon). Citing public safety concerns associated with the ongoing (and eternal) construction of North Street, the mayor said “no” to the planned and much anticipated 3rd Thursday set for May 17.
Good for him.
The move has been largely panned by merchants, vested groups and organizations, and constituents. The first 3rd Thursday is always the most eagerly awaited of this popular downtown promotion owning to the long months lapsed between the final one the year before. This first-of-the-year event in a way unofficially signals the true end of winter and its counterfeits (those cold, dreary, windy April and early May gloomers), announcing the approach of summer and all that goes with it.
We have a message into the mayor’s office for a comment, so we can hear more of his rationale. THE PLANET has also heard from a wide number of people, most though not all opposed to the move. We do not fault the mayor for taking executive action, and we understand the disappointment of many to learn of the decision to cancel. There will be no way to assess the wisdom of this decision, for we will never know what accident and what municipal liabilities the mayor’s actions may have prevented.
We do like the way Bianchi didn’t back off the decision. This one took guts. [OUR UNDERLINES, FOR EMPHASIS THE DAY AFTER]. He’s taking a beating. Obviously, he did not let that influence his decision. Bianchi acted in this case as his own man. This is not to support the action, but this is to say that decisiveness in the face of unpopularity comes off as a character strength.
We don’t know the politics of the decision. Our spies tell us that Megan Whilden, opposed the mayor’s decision, and that may have had something to do with keeping 3rd Thursday alive in May. We also hear, without confirmation, that the mayor and Office of Community Development director Deanna Ruffer had a bit of a tussle. As you can see, the mayor won.
Men will keep on laughing and children will love their shouts, and there will be joy in Pittsfield even after the first 3rd Thursday strikes out.
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Now that Bianchi’s has backed off, all can cheer the upcoming fun and festivities. Politically, though, this was cringe-worthy
— First, the mayor made a mistake closing the May event.
— Second, though, having made what had to be a carefully thought out position, he compounded the mistake by backing down at the first sign of public pressure.
— Third, we now know he can fold if the heat gets to be too much.
— Fourth, he either saw a public safety issue or he didn’t. Bianchi should have stood his ground. In the long run, long after May is history, he would have done well by this action.
Folding faster than Myron Floren’s accordian doesn’t wear well with the CEO. Somewhere, the Ruberto crowd as well as the Marchetti for Mayor mavens are enjoying the piss out of this one.
MAYOR’S OFFICE SHARES INFO ON McKAY STREET GARAGE RENOVATION; ALL WELL AND GOOD, BUT WHY SUCH A LARGE CONTINGENCY $$?
Taking care of infrastructure is one of the least sexiest expenditures a city can make. Taking more than $6 million to revamp a parking garage can frost a taxpayer faster than a Dilly Bar brain freeze. Yet that’s what the Bianchi Administration wants to do with the 25-year-old facility.
Do or don’t? We had posted previously our concerns about the rising cost of the repair estimates. Donna Mattoon, the mayor’s public affairs director, responded with the following information, which we share verbatim:
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The following information about the McKay Street Parking Garage may be helpful to your readers:Downtown parking is a very critical infrastructure need. Making sure we repair and maintain what we have is a priority. • This is a 25 year old garage that needs a major overhaul. • The project is a partnership between the City’s Maintenance Department (which is responsible for the garage), Department of Community Development (which is administering the state grants received for the project), and the Purchasing Department. All three departments have a role in overseeing construction. Construction will also be overseen by the design engineer.• In 2009 the City contracted with Desman Associates to prepare plans for the comprehensive rehab of the garage, the estimated cost at that time was $6.6M. The FY12 budget included $2M in capital funds and, in the fall of 2011, we secured $3.6M in state grants for the garage (total of $5.6M)• At the time, the city acknowledged that it would need additional funds to complete the project or would have to do the project in phases.• The lowest qualified bid for the complete reconstruction was $6.4M (or $5.6M to repair the roof and 3rd fl – which would leave the 2nd fl and a small amount of work on the 1st fl to be done at a later date). • When bids were received the City’s Purchasing Agent did not feel the lowest qualified bidder had provided sufficient funds for a contingency and recommended that an additional 10% be set aside for contingencies.• The City’s Purchasing Agent, Department of Community Development Director and Maintenance Department staff – supported by the project engineer – asked for and received the Mayor’s support to seek the funding needed to complete the entire renovation as one project. The benefits of doing so include: Reduced disruption to users
Avoided cost increases due to time and mobilization• The City Council approved the funding requested to allow the project to be done in one contract, including setting aside $671,250 as contingency.
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— First, we would hope that in the future, Mattoon would include names and not just titles. Her assumption that THE PLANET knows the names of all these people is an incorrect one.
— Second, when the city’s purchasing agent — Colleen Hunter-Mullet — “did not feel” the low bidder had enough in contingency funds, who vetted this person? What does it mean that H-M “did not feel” the low bidder had enough in the contingency pot? How much objective and quantifiable evidence did she bring to bear on the problem? How much did the construction company have in its bid?
— Third, Hunter-Mullet recommended a contingency fund of 10% or $671,250, pegging the project at $6.71 million. Why does this money have to be put up by taxpayers? Why not go back to the builder and negotiate the 10% at the company’s outlay. Think of the purpose of a contingency fund. It’s meant to deal with surprises. A larger contingency fund indicates that the project planners — Maintenance, Community Development, and Purchasing — do not have a clear enough understanding of the project variables. This armchair engineer suggests that the large contingency indicates a fudge factor for city departments that haven’t done their proper due diligence.
Fourth — Oh, what the heck, though. That’s why cities have taxpayers.
CLOUDY TRANSPARENCY: PEDA BOARD, CEO FAILED TO KEEP THEIR WORD ABOUT APRIL ‘BIG BOX’ UPDATE
When word first broke in the dying days of the Ruberto Administration about the “big box” retail project planned by Waterstone Development for PEDA Acres, a.k.a., the William Stanley Business Park, the reaction came swifter than a swift boat or Jane Swift in a helicopter: Lousy choice for these prime industrial acres. The view of We The People decried the city’s “settling” for this lowest common developmental denominator.
“Keep your powder dry,” Ruberto and his lackeys reassured us. They said Waterstone would present a detailed plan in April to The People via our right honorable good friends on the city council. April has come and gone. There has been no public word, not a peep, from anyone at PEDA.
PEDA executive director Corydon Thurston, who promised greater transparency after Mayor Bianchi took his seat on the PEDA board, has been as transparent as a black brick hidden inside a lead-lined box.
Where Does Such Arrogance Come From in this So-Called ‘Democracy’?
What is the source of this arrogance? And what has happened to Bianchi’s campaign pledge for a more open, honest approach to government? How long will We The People allow our elected officials to do as they please, ignoring promise after promise? It’s funny: The mayor cancels the sainted (and overrated) Third Thursday, and knickers knot, but when the politicians and bureaucrats lie to Us, no one says a peep. Let democracy go to the dogs. There will be cotton candy one day a month for the next several!
Do “They” simply feel they can play We The People for suckers? Do they even care what We think? You can draw your own conclusions, ladies and gentlemen. THE PLANET does call on Thurston for an update. What gives? Are you going to let Us in on what’s going on, or do you expect Us to keep paying the bills and shut our lousy traps? Will any of my right honorable good friends on the Pittsfield City Council put these question out there in open session, for the record?
STOP THE PRESSES! SUPRANOWICZ SAYS LOCAL ECONOMY IS ‘LOOKING UP’
What is rarer than a mouse eating cheese? How about Mike Supranowicz, Cheese Whiz of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, saying this about the local economy: ” … when I see that the Berkshires are adding or maintaining jobs, to me that’s a huge win. To me, this survey says we’re looking up right now” (Boring Broadsheet, April 29, A4).
“Looking up” is one way of saying “We’re down.” There are jobs, but what kind of jobs? The low-wage, low(no)-benefit jobs of the local service economy will not provide a life, much less a lifestyle, of any kind of root-bound way. We will see drifters who move in then move on.
“A huge win?” That’s easy to say for someone taking on a large salary with great benefits for a nothing job like Mike’s.
SLOW GOING FOR SLOGANS? YOU BE THE JUDGE
One of our loyal commentators, Levitan, said no professional marketeer would go for the political slogan: “I’m not stupid. It’s still the economy.”
Here’s a photo from the Romney for President campaign that shows you that not only would a sophisticated PR pitchperson go for it but that she has gone for it.
Romney’s campaign makes decisions quickly and decisively, a vestige, no doubt, of their boss’ respect for the Dreaded Private Sector.
When a hired gun writer submitted a list of ancillary slogans that would look good on stickers, a small committee of three selected this one. Mr. Mitt himself signed off.
The Romney campaign has ordered a huge run of these bumper stickers. They are a variation of several different designs (not all of them with the slogan). For those keeping score, the official slogan for Romney, in the way “Forward” is the President’s, is “Believe in America.”
If we do say so ourselves, THE PLANET rather likes the slogan: Two simple, declarative sentences, with contractions at the beginning indicating informality and thematic echoes recalling Bill Clinton’s textbook campaign (“It’s the economy, stupid”). Gosh, it’s almost as if we wrote this one ourselves.
Did Romney for President pay more for this than Lenox did for “Lenoxology”? Only our bartender knows for sure.
KNOWING THAT WAY LEADS TO WAY, THOUGH WE THINK WE CAN GET BACK TO WHERE WE WERE BEFORE TAKING ONE OF THE BA FORK IN THE ROAD
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.