BRAWL, ‘ELEMENT X,’ SHOW IT’S TIME TO PULL PLUG ON NOW-DANGEROUS THIRD THURSDAY … WTBR LANDS A STURGEON, BUT ISN’T HIGH SCHOOL RADIO MEANT FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS, NOT ADULTS? … PITTSFIELD SUNS GEAR UP FOR OPENING NIGHT AT BWP … QUICKIES INCLUDE PONTERRIL SOLAR (YUCK) APATHY AND ‘LEFTOVER’ FUNDS (YUCK YUCK), AND CHAMPIONSHIP SPELLERS (SORT OF)
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2012) — Should Third Thursday continue? No, THE PLANET says.
The riot on May 17 provided a tipping point, adding now a tangible element of risk to TT that wipes out its benefits that, though considerable, have diminshed in proportion to the unsavory element that has been noticed, now, at these communal gatherings. Once again, good, honest, decent citizens must pay for the crimes of the deadbeat few … except they aren’t so few, any longer.
Pittsfield Can No Longer Ignore the Rapid and Growing Social Decay
The influx of what once could be ignored — a frightening influx of an array of human repugnance who on a daily basis make North Street look like a Tim Burton film and on TT pile on the effect even more — must now be the dominant factor in deciding the fate of TT.
This increasing mass of human scum, bred in ignorance and proliferating in stupidity (and on the young side to boot), has taken over the downtown, keeping decent, respectable people away. One pattern noticed in recent TTs going back to last year is how, beginning around 7 p.m.-ish, the unsavory begin to stalk and gather in large numbers.
Face it: TT has become a draw for the degenerate generation. It is no longer a safe event.
Maybe you’ve seen them: tattoo covering flesh like paisley wall-to-wall carpeting, pants below ass-cracks, cleavage enough to provide spawning ground for a nest of bats, skinheads and rainbow hair, the single moms pushing babies from different deadbeat dads, the druggies and alkies, and the Dreaded Others — a catch-all category of everyone and everything that is unpleasant, undesirable, disagreeable, nasty, mean, rough, immoral, dishonorable, dishonest, unprincipled, low, shady, and crooked.
That, increasingly, is the face of downtown Pittsfield, one the entire Northeast came to know about courtesy of the headlines, stories, and film of the ridiculous riot on May 17. Ask yourself: If you had the opportunity to move to Pittsfield or locate a business here, would you, given the choice of many other communities doing so much better with civic life and at cheaper cost (communities like Syracuse, N.Y. and Newburyport, Mass., for example)?
The melee involving more than 100 crazed youths and young adults — 18 and 19-year-olds have, unfortunately for them, graduated chronologically into the “adult” realm — gave not only the event a black eye, but it generated negative publicity throughout the Northeast. Pittsfield? Oh yeah, that’s the PCB-infested Pitt where gang violence is out-of-control and where honest citizens can no longer venture downtown without fear of their safety.
On a Cost-Benefit Basis, What is the Cost of TT to Taxpayers?
Financially, does the event provide value for the expense taxpayers must deliver? Even before the May 17 impromptu playing of the Jets-Sharks rumble from West Side Story that flopped at the corner of Melville and North, many citizens and merchants had complained that the event was turning into a money sucker, replete with tacky food, amateur entertainment, and a growing carnival-sideshow feel.
With the added and real threat of violence, we need to seriously question whether the city, which in the upcoming budget sessions will claim to be in tough economic times, can afford to provide this monthly diversion meant to titillate those in the cheap seats. Store owners complain that TT is now drawing a freakish, side-show type of crowd. We all know what that means. People with discretionary income are staying away from TT, and the creeps, who take rather than give or spend, are infesting the event in growing numbers.
In some respect, it’s “no one’s” fault … and “everyone’s.” TT might reflect the inevitable decay now being seen in society as a whole, but the worst thing the city could do is to continue the pretense of the downtown “Renaissance.” Rather than stand by helplessly in the face of the oncoming Mongolian horde, Pittsfield can take assertive action by canceling TT.
One of our correspondents asked: What would we propose in its place? Our answer: Why does anything have to be proposed in its place? Are people so unimaginative and not curious to be able to fill a Thursday summer’s evening?
Getting back to the money, Pittsfield Cultural Affairs Director Meghan Whilden should provide Mayor Dan Bianchi and my right honorable good friends on the City Council with the Third Thursday books. What do they show? How much do the direct and indirect costs amount to? Those books should then be independently examined. Do the findings — that is, the hard data — make the economic cost-vs.-benefit case FOR or AGAINST Third Thursday?
Pittsfield Doesn’t Operate in the Abstract
In the abstract, TT sounds harmless and even beneficial. For most of its history, TT has provided a good measure of fun and enjoyment. In the city of Pittsfield, however, events do not unfold in the abstract. They unfold in gritty reality. The city is reeling from nearly a generation of GOB destruction that have run the public schools into the ground, destroyed the economy, driven out respectability, left in tact one of the largest caches of industrial pollution in the world, and installed a cancerous political structure based on nepotism, favoritism, and corruption.
The corrosion now coming to flower is a generation of “newcomers” to town who are drug dependent, drug dealing, with criminal backgrounds, on welfare, mentally retarded, high maintenance, sponging off the public good, and sucking civic life away with their own irresponsibility.
As one of our correspondents asked, where were the parents of the 100+ Little Darlings who turned North Street in a battle zone? They are missing in action, too addled with crack, drinking their welfare checks, too selfish about their own fun, to be responsible parents. And that’s Element X in this discussion.
Element X: Changing Everything
We are seeing the first wave of a breakdown in society, one that is working its way through the Pittsfield Public School system and finding its unemployed, uneducated, ignorant young self on the streets with nothing to do and nowhere to go. There it litters, it loiters, and it sponges off taxpayers. That’s part of Element X.
Another aspect of Element X is the insane pace of life in 2012. Ask an honest teacher or educational adminstrator if smart phones are helping or hurting education. Are kids in the middle school more or less disciplined than they were even six years ago? Are they more or less respectful of rules and authority figures?
Cheap and sophisticated technology , which has the capacity for great good, has added an unrelentless, instant pace to life that wasn’t there even a scant few years ago. It has put capabilities into the hands of the young far beyond their ability to use intelligently (unless you think that pornography, video-game violence, desensitization to sex, etc. are good things).
Consequently, what no one else has addressed — which THE PLANET does here — finally must be confronted. Sure, it’s not 1958, when the city had nearly 60,000 people and 20,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs. But you know what? It’s not even 2006, six years ago, when Third Thursday could be conducted in safety.
In those six years, the seven and eight year old turned 13 and 14 years old. Add the lethal combination of bad parenting, easy access to drugs and weapons, too much technology, and not enough social guidance or direction, and guess what? Third Thursday is too dangerous to allow to continue.
Sure, we can make the June TT “safe” by installing metal detectors all over the place, frisking people, and putting every cop in Berkshire County on North Street, but that will just prove our point. TT cannot be held safely without heroic efforts and enormous expense to taxpayers.
Mayor Dan Bianchi: Pull the plug on TT, or risk one of two certainties: Either you (that is, taxpayers) have to pay through the nose for added security, or there will be continued trouble, perhaps with one or more people dying. Please, don’t force THE PLANET to be eerily prophetic once again. Pull TT, or there will be loss and mourning.
It’s not 1958, but Element X tells us that we no longer even have “the good old days” of 2006. We are a city, and a society, out of control.
STURGEON LANDS ON WTBR, TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL RADIO
Our good friend Bill Sturgeon announced that beginning Tuesday, he will be hosting a radio show on WTBR 89.7 FM. The as-yet unnamed show will air from 8:30 to 10 a.m. immediately following “Good Morning Pittsfield” hosted by our right honorable good friend, John Krol.
Sturgeon says the show will feature “straight interviews” with guests “but will NOT be taking phone calls.” The emphasis is Sturgeon’s, a sly reference and dig to his troubles at WBRK AM 1340.
While it’s good to see more local talk, we have concerns about WTBR. The radio station was founded for the students of Taconic High School. It has gradually morphed, however, into a a sort of “last chance saloon” for adults who want to be on the air but, for whatever reason, are not on commercial AM radio or public broadcasting.
High School Radio Should be Run by High Schoolers, Not Adults
Either the adult programming is robbing students of the chance to do their own shows, or there is not enough student interest in WTBR to fill out the programming day. It has to be one or the other. There is no third possibility. If it’s the first, shame on station manager and student advisor Larry Kratka. If it’s the second, shame on taxpayers for funding a club students don’t care about. The $6,000 or so might be put to better use, say, as scholarships to BCC or restoring one of the city’s fading civic murals.
High school radio should be by, about, and for high schoolers. With all due respect to my good friends, WTBR should not be a landing place for adults who are frustrated air jockeys. If the kids don’t care enough to keep WBTR going, especially with an adviser as technically capable as Kratka, then it’s time for the station to sign off.
SUNS LOOKING FOR TALENT, HOST FAMILIES, AS NEW SEASON NEARS
Pittsfield newest baseball team, the Pittsfield Suns, open the season at Beloved Wahconah Park (BWP) on June 7. The Suns are part of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. They are managed by Jamie Keefe, who last season managed the Pittsfield Colonials at BWP. Keefe was named Can-Am manager of the year in 2011. He will also serve as Suns GM.
With the roster more-or-less in place (see team website, below) THE PLANET shares these announcements:
* Tickets for Opening Night and all home games go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Suns office at BWP.
* The team is still looking for host homes for many of its players. Host families will received an honorarium of $300 and season’s tickets to all Suns home game.
* The Suns also need entertainers for the season.“Whether you are an established band or act, or a newbie looking for exposure for you and your group, we want to hear from you,”said Kevin McGuire, Suns assistant general manager and talent coordinator. “Clowns, jugglers, fire eaters, stilt walkers, bands, and dance troupes should get in touch with us right away—we want the Suns and Wahconah Park to be your launching pad to fame.” Interested parties may email Kevin McGuire at email@example.com.
* The Suns announced that tickets can be purchaded in person at the ballpark, by phone at 413-445-7867, or online at pittsfieldsuns.com.
* THE PLANET is looking for a baseball writer to cover Suns home games. Interested parties should send their qualifications to Europolis Management, PO Box 1268, Stockbridge, MA 01262.
It’s great to be welcoming another season of baseball to Wahconah Park. The Futures League will feature some of the nation’s top collegiate talent, some of whom will go on to be drafted by major league teams and graduate from the minors to the big leagues.
QUICKIES MOUNT UP
Here Comes the Sun — Speaking of Sun, does anyone other than the developer, CTC Electric, think a solar panel farm is the best possible use for the once-Edenic Ponterril recreation facility? Right, the Community Development Board thinks so. The board has approved the sun farm. THE PLANET thinks it’s another example of Pittsfield “settling” for the first thing that comes along. In this case, it’s the second. The huge condo development planned for the site never came to pass, even though it received the proper permits.
What ‘Leftover’ Funds? —With the federal wet kiss known as community block grant funds being reduced by Uncle Sam by about one-third compared to two years ago, the city will be in for “only” $1.1 million. Community Development Czarina Deanna Ruffer says the fund will be supplemented by $550,000 in “leftover funds.” Leftover from what? She didn’t say. Think anyone cares? Not one member of the public showed up for the hearing required by the feds. Even my Right Honorable Good Friends on the economic and community development subcommittee didn’t care. Two were missing, and one recused himself. That means that the five-member subcommittee had a grand total of two voting members present (Christine Yon and Kevin Morandi). They couldn’t even get a quorum. So exactly, Czarina, how important is this program? Not very, apparently. Apathy, apathy, apathy. And where in the heck did the Czarina gets more than a half a mill in “leftover” funds. We love that. She must have taken them home in a doggie bag from one of the downtown restaurants.
* Spelling “C-A-T” Easy for our Young Middle School Geniuses — In the city school spelling bee, won by Herberg, incidentally, young scholars had to spell “cow, pig, red, and black” in the practice round. We kid you not. The toughies were words like “neon, thirtieth, and pheasant.” It reminds of the Florida Department of Education, dismayed that only 27% of its fourth graders passed its version of MCAS. The Florida DOE decided to lower the passing grade by a third. With no added ability in reading, writing, or math, the students magically got “smarter.” Under the lower standards, 81% passed. Good Lord, what have we dun … er … done?
HE THAT LOVES A ROSY CHEEK OR CORAL LIPS ADMIRE CAN REST EASY IN HIS HEART AND BASK COMFY IN ITS FIRE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.