PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2012) — Through sources, we heard that one fireman, one police officer, and three guards at the Berkshire County House of Corrections were involved in an incident at Herman Alexander‘s on Lyman Street in Pittsfield, an establishment that gives insult to the word dive. Calls returned gave us information, off the record and not for attribution. Only acting fire chief Bob Czerwinski did not respond to our request for comment.

Members of the county drug task force showed up at Alexander’s recently expecting to find “the goods.” They found, instead, a bunch of altar boys playing tiddly winks and drinking milk. Now that couldn’t be because, despite what we heard were “unusually high precautions” by  law enforcement authorities to keep their planned raid secret, a dispatcher relayed advance word to the innocent at the Lyman Street hole, could it?

No, that could never happen. This is Pittsfield. The game doesn’t work that way here. A dispatcher did not call ahead to the bar. A dispatcher would never call ahead to a bar. Swine were also seen flying in the sky over the Lakewood area.

The Many Always Get Silenced by the Few

There are a lot of good cops, firemen, and jail guards. That can be said of most public servants. They do a good job, take their work seriously, and see themselves as guardians of public good. They occupy a position of trust, and the shame of it is that they have to keep their mouths shut about the one-too-many bad eggs in their midst who are dealing, doping, slacking, cheating, stealing, and engaging in malfeasance. The majority, the good ones, have to keep their mouth shut because of fear. In clubs, circles, and most any order of rank and rile where a handful are getting away with stuff, a climate of fear is created. Snitch, and you’ll be sorry.

The police, fire, and school departments — The Big Three — operate under these conditions. A vast number of good public servants, who know what’s going on, must fund, run, and operate these departments with a non-nod, wink-wink. Corruption is not ferreted out, and the ordinary citizen — the Mary Jane and Joe Kapanskis of Berkshire County — knows it. The condition of consciousness and awareness on the part of thoughtful, conscientious citizens today typically brings one to apathy. It’s not the apathy of “I don’t care,” which does happen, but the apathy of “I care too much.” Because they do, and because they realize that in supporting The System is to support corruption, most of us leave the skunks alone and let them play with, and waste, our money.

What a long and sad distance from Madison, Jefferson, and the grand experiment envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Is there a Serpico in the school department, in the fire department, in the police department?

The Code of Silence: It Takes Courage to Stand Up to It 

We can understand the fear. They have families and careers. They won’t dare break the Code of Silence. We understand, while adding this: Every man or woman who knows of official corruption and who does nothing about it stands guilty as a silent accomplice. THE PLANET asks, among those who will talk off the record and in the shadows of darkened parking garages and those who won’t: Will one man or woman among them come forward with what they know, put their name to it, and become a hero to a city in such desperate need of one?

Their bosses, too, know what’s going on, but they have a vested interest in portraying a tranquil picture where all is well. That picture, in official Pittsfield, is a lie.

So who will step forward, on the record?



When Mayor Dan Bianchi installed himself on the PEDA executive board, he did so as part of his campaign pledge of transparency. Bianchi knew that he was stepping into a closed PEDA culture that circled the wagons and sent out smoke screens to hide the simple fact that this board has been an utter failure in its mission to drive economic development at the site. The mayor didn’t know, though, how dead set the PEDA board, led by Corydon Thurston, is against letting the public in on their secret members-only club.

Our right honorable good friend, at-large  councilor Melissa Mazzeo, has been consistent in her opposition to the fossilized, leather-chaired, and mahogany-paneled atmosphere of PEDA. Unlike most of her council colleagues, she has taken a clear stand against Hill 78, against the capping (as opposed to the cleaning) of Silver Lake, and for reopening the GE Consent Agreement to force the company back to the bargaining table in order to obtain more equitable terms for the citizens of Pittsfield, who daily have to deal with the toxicity GE left behind in their air, soil, and water.

PEDA Board: No, Councilor, We Won’t Appear

Mazzeo recently queried the PEDA board, wanting to arrange for another information meeting of the board with the city council. Bottom line: The board refuses to talk.

“Cory Thurston called me in April to let me know that he did encourage the board members to respond to the request from the council,” Mazzeo said. “He said her would be willing to come speak and that he understands why I was asking for ‘long term’ members to come before the council.”

Sounds good so far, but wait. There’s more.

Mazzeo then sent an e-mail to Gary Grunin. Grunin responded that he, Bill Hines, and/or Mick Callahan “were the logical one to have speak” at the May 22 council meeting. Since then, Grunin and Mazzeo have sent each other several e-mails, and the situation has degenerated. Seems that Grunin and the board wanted to see in advance what questions the council would want answered.


Whenever THE PLANET had a guest on my radio show who wanted to know in advance what we would ask, we would invite them to show up in the studio, and at 9 a.m., and when the show began and the mics became live, he or she would find out. Invariably, a guest who wants to know the questions in advance is either petrified from stage fright, not confident in themselves or what they have to say, or they are outright trying to hide something.

Ultimately, Mazzeo says, Grunin opted out of the invitation.

“Gary felt there was NO need [her emphasis] for the board to come and speak at the council meeting.”


Why? Why would Grunin or any long-term member of that board fear questions from representatives of We The People? What are they hiding?

“I still strongly believe that the board should come and give us, the council and the public, a run down of events from start to finish,” Mazzeo said. “I plan on speaking to Mayor Bianchi today [Thursday] and get his take on why the PEDA board feels they don’t need to come. And I will continue to try to reach out to Bill and Mick to hear what they have to say, since Gary didn’t say that he spoke with them and that the decision not to appear before the council was a group decision. I am disappointed in their unwillingness to address the public and answer some questions.”

THE PLANET agree with councilor Mazzeo. The board needs to appear in open session and answer questions about what’s going on at PEDA, and, for example, why the promised update on the Waterstone Big Box project in April never happened.

Silence, taciturnity, and uncommunicativeness: RED FLAG #3.



School committee members Terry Kinnas and Dan Bianchi wanted to hire Reza Namin as Pittsfield’s new school superintendent. The remainder of the committee didn’t. That right there tells you all you need to know about Namin, that he was a super candidate with a track record of accomplishment. Moreover, he showed an independent streak and indicated a willingness to look into the cubbyholes and behind the curtains.

The majority got rattled by signs that Namin would be an independent voice bringing an outside view. This wouldn’t do well for the deadbeats, layabouts, and slackers employed by the dismal system, who hold 6,000+ children enrolled in the Pittsfield public schools human hostage to their cushy deals and dysfunctional policies.

Wanted: In-House Coat-Holder Who Won’t Rock the Boat

There are half the students of 25 years ago, double the staff, and triple the budget, and the schools are an under-performing mess. No wonder the school committee majority, feelings pressure from the teachers union and other school officers, will appoint an interim, in-house coat-holder who won’t rock the boat.

Memo to Mr. Namin, not getting the Pittsfield job was the biggest break of your career.

THE STOOLEY Files a Most Interesting Report

Meanwhile, our operatives from the field, which we publish under the collective name of THE STOOLEY, filed this report with some questions, assertions, and answers on various items.

— Don’t tell anybody, because it’s supposed to be a BIG, TOP, EYES-ONLY SECRET: Soon-to-be ex-Supt. Howard “Jake” Eberwin III is expected to be named new “Director of Education” at Hillcrest school. Salary: The better or worse side of 100 grand territory.  What a small world, after all! An ad that ran for ages on the Hillcrest website has disappeared, signaling an end to the nationwide search. That’s clue #1 of Jake’s purported new gig. Clue #2: In March, Jake, THE STOOLEY reports, was named “Person of the Year” by Hillcrest.

— When unruly lads and lassies in the Pittsfield school system get too out of control, they get sent to, you got it, Hillcrest school on Rt. 20 in Pittsfield. THE STOOLEY reports: “The unruly darlings only cost the city a cool 50 to 80 grand at the least, sometimes much more, depending on how troubled these kids are. That’s a nice price tag that Mr. Jerry Burke of Hillcrest loves for his little paws as he sits on his throne during the search for a new superintendent.” Burke sits on the search committee charged with delivering candidates for the job to the school committee. Again, it’s a small, small world.

— THE STOOLEY raises this thought-provoking question: “Where did [the director] of the Parent Teen Program go? Some say Oz came and whisked her away in cuffs. Underlings are now lining up for her job since she disappeared in April with three men in suits, who came to her work office and escorted her away. She has not been seen or heard from since. This position gets funding from the Pittsfield School System and also a lot of money via fund raising, United Way, etc. Money makes for temptation. The Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow took her on a wee trip, possibly to answer to The Wizard. Wherever they went, we know for sure she ain’t in Kansas no more.”







  1. Genifer
    May 11, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Good for you Dan! I knew you would come through.

    • danvalenti
      May 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

      Thank you, Gen.

  2. Hilly Billy in Ward 4
    May 11, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    I thought the Candidate for School Super had WAY to many recent stops on his job resume in a very short period of time and it was troubling that he seemed to be a bit transient in his living arragments but yet all of a sudden he was gonna plant his flag in Pittsfield? Cmon man! SOunds like BS to me…

    • danvalenti
      May 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

      That was the one qualifier in our evaluation, as well, but we have since learned, from the horse’s mouth as it were, more on what happened with the applicant’s withdrawal. It’s getting good. We should have enough for the Monday edition.

  3. Ed
    May 11, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    An Ode to PEDA;
    ” The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round” til we all run out of money !”
    Well at least some people have been cash flowed, even if they don’t reside in Pittsfield and personally don’t support Pittsfield’s economy. Oh, I apologize, please forgive my naivety; Isn’t that the case for many of Pittsfield’s public servants. We the tax payers from Pittsfield have offered all surrounding communities, even NY state, a wide open feeding trough. Ain’t we benevolent ?
    Ever wonder when the last time was that a full time, paid, PEDA representative gave the board a sales report of their monthly pro-active contacts with manufacturers, distribution companies, or other primary prospects rather than reporting on red tape, contracts, governmental bureaucracies, and inquiries from brokers, consultants, developers and the like ?

    • danvalenti
      May 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Funny use of a great Billy Preston song! Yeah, the audacity and unmitigated gall that Councilor Mazzeo should ask on behalf of We The People the fakers at PEDA to give us a progress report on NOTHING.

  4. taxmano
    May 11, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Wow. The rumor mill had Jake at far more illustrious places, like a cushy education job for the state. Hillcrest is a hell hole.

    • danvalenti
      May 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      Yeah, rumors have him here and there, and we’ve heard them all, but this information seems to be more than just rumor based on sources and many other clues, some of which we included. That being said, it may or may not happen.

  5. Bull Durham
    May 11, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Danny, do your homework please… Hillcrest Educational Centers is NOT a part of Berkshire Health Systems. Hillcrest Campus of BMC, which was the old Hillcrest Hospital, is, but not Hillcrest Ed. They are not connected at all.

    • danvalenti
      May 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Thanks. Honest mistake. We have fixed it.

      • Bull Durham
        May 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

        Easy mistake to make, thanks for the correction Dan.

  6. Jonathan Melle
    May 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Is not it obvious what PEDA does? Pittsfield, Massachusetts used millions of GE dollars to remake its downtown into a would be cultural destination that still is a post-industrial dump. There are NO Fortune 500 corporations in Pittsfield. In the first decade of the 21st Century, Pittsfield has lost thousands of jobs. GE left town, KB Toys went bankrupt, 2 recessions came and went. In 2003, Rinaldo Del Gallo III ran for local office in Pittsfield and predicted Pittsfield’s errors that took place over the last 9 years. PEDA is a front for local cultural events, while the local economy in Pittsfield spirals down where no one knows where it will hit bottom. That’s the legacy of Jimmy Ruberto. I hope it is not the legacy of Dan Bianchi, too.

  7. Joe Blow
    May 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    There were more bars involved……just another cover-up in Pittsfield. Nothing to see here…move along.

  8. joetaxpayer
    May 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I am not happy about PEDA decision not to report to the City Council.But really cannot blame them with the way Barry (lawaccountant) Clairmount, grandstanded with his assinian line of questions.Maybe they should submit questions before hand and let them address them in there presentation.Kinda funny how Waterstone already has the Pittsfield project on there web-site,looking for tenants.

  9. dusty
    May 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Not surprised that Grunin would not talk. He was one of the big pushers for the Civic Authority in which power to run the city would be given over to the shadowy power brokers behind the GOB. Never could trust him and his weaselly eyes. Good friend of Gerry Lee and Gerry Doyle not surprisingly. Keeps a low profile but somehow manages to keep himself on the public dole.

    • Sam
      May 12, 2012 at 4:36 am #

      Dusty, what gets me is that Grunin was at the current mayors functions when he was running in Nov. He was a supporter of the current mayor but was very silent. I do remember how he was pushing the Civic Authority and you are very right who his buddies are. But what I don’t understand is when did he became a supporter of Mayor Bianchi? And WHY?

      • dusty
        May 13, 2012 at 2:19 am #

        A curious thing indeed because Dan and the Grunin were polar opposites on the council back then. Dan was for the people and Grunin was for himself and his buddies. Dan is smart enough to know any association with high level GOB players will drag on his mayorship. And the other guy probably just plays both sides of the table hoping to pick up any crumbs that may fall to the floor.

        • danvalenti
          May 13, 2012 at 9:34 am #

          DUSTY et. al.
          Can’t speak for Grunin, specifically, but it’s been obviously these first five months that there are obstructionists who have been commissioned to derail the mayor and stop his initiatives. Name names? OK. I’ll name one — at-large councilor Barry Clairmont. Why do you think Clairmont created a fake controversy after his electon but before he took office so he could “stop speaking with THE PLANET?” He didn’t want any part of my questioning. His behavior at meetings speaks for itself. He, and others who are schilling for the GOB, have one mission: To see that the mayor is a one-termer. They take heart in the closeness of the election. It will be interested to see as it plays out over the next year and a half.

  10. Scott
    May 12, 2012 at 4:28 am #

    Why no mention of the cops busted in today’s Eagle article? Seems like they plastered everyone else’s name in there. Dan I hope your source was good and one of them speaks up as you encouraged them to do. But just like them getting steroids through the mail I’m sure this will be covered up and dealt with in house you know being a cop is a tough job they deserve a little coke and a drink at the bucket of blood once in while.

    • Genifer
      May 13, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      J.G.,B.R.,S.C.,MM and E.S. So far

      • Teecha Teecha
        May 14, 2012 at 10:07 am #

        m.m. wouldn’t happen to be a … mazzeo would they? Just curious.

  11. Giacometti
    May 13, 2012 at 3:53 am #


    Hillcrest Hospital
    Hillcrest Ed

    All run by same family

  12. rick
    May 13, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    what other city in the u.s. would have 10 mill. dropped in their lap, set up a do nothing committee and do nothing…. how much money do these fools make?????… if you put a bunch of good old fools together and they dont have to answer to anyone what do you think is going to happen???? only in the pitts can some thing like peda evolve…. peda should be dissolved .. all stationary with its heading burned and a new entity formed that has to answer to someone… where the hell is bianchi on this…the guy sits on the board… ask him the questions and get the answers from him… any one ever wonder why stupid things happen around here and why our kids with a half a pea in their head get the hell out of the pitts a soon as possible. if we keep electing fools, foolish thing will happen.

    • danvalenti
      May 13, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      A strong and passionate message. Well done, and from the heart. You speak for the vast majority, who see the joke that is PEDA and know the score. PEDA is fooling no one but them(it)selves.

      • Shout out
        May 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

        Ditto Dan on your shout out to Rick!

        Well said indeed Rick!

  13. rick
    May 13, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    dan, a perfect example is j.p.morgan… after the crazy way wall street and the banks brought the economy to its knees they turn around when no ones looking and lose 2billion in bad gambles… i know thats the big leagues and peda is single A but if people who dont answer to anyone these things will happen.. what gets me is that people sat down, dreamed up the peda name , and gave a bunch of knuckleheads carte blanch to do what ever the hell they wanted to do without any explaining to the people. i guess they figured its over our heads.. as for bianchi i would get him in front of the council and ask him whats going on with pedas status. ive said it before, secrecy to me is a red flag warning that it might be time to have the peda boys investigated.

    • danvalenti
      May 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Good suggestion. If Grunin, Corydon, et al will not appear, the mayor should, as a member of that useless board.

  14. Y'all !
    May 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Speaking of PEDA, anyone remember the $ 250,000 that the city of Pittsfield gave Hancock Shaker Village. It was handed over for Hancock shaker Village to provide professional development to teachers in the school system. Terry Kinnas clearly makes mention of it being handed over during the Jan 10th 2012 sch’ comm’ meeting.

    I know the younger kids from our schools go to see the baby animals every year, but come on $250, 000 is a huge chunk of change. Anyone know of its whereabouts, what it is/was spent on?

    Did it perhaps buy a holiday ranch some where out west for the cowboys leading our city to use and to spend time at when they need to vacate posts to spend more time with their family ?
    Just askin y’all

  15. Terry Kinnas
    May 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Just a few points of clairification on the vote for the superintendent of schools. It was not a vote to hire; it was a vote to investigate his references and to visit the school districts to get a better sense of his accomplishments. I personally wanted to see how he cut $100,000 in administrative costs and $179,000 in special ed expenses, and turned the school choice into a money-making opportunity for another school district. He also combined the purchasing and personnel departments of the town and school system. He did make some good suggestions as to using public transport combined with school routes to cut costs. The school districts that he worked at are much smaller than Pittsfield, about 1500 to Pittsfield’s 6000.

    • bobbyd
      May 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      If you want to visit a district that has made significant administrative costs and reducing school choice, head up the hill to Mount Greylock. You will find Dr. Ellis accommodating and engaging.

  16. Shout out
    May 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    We know Terry, the yes vote was just a chance to find out more. It would have been nice to have had a chance to vet Dr. Namin out more. Not be so however.

    In the meantime Terry, we thank you for keeping up the good fight and asking the tough questions. You have a secret fan club on the ground.

    And for the record, we have noticed the level of disrespect so freely available from some comm’ members. ( also mentioned by Dr. Narmn and also reported by Dan. Guess the truth is difficult and questions annoying for some to hear when so much is covered up.

    • djusty
      May 14, 2012 at 1:33 am #

      Count me as a big Terry Kinnas fan. It takes a lot of courage to work with some of these school committee phonies. The parents of the children in Pittsfield should be turning over tables and chairs but they are not backing Terry up. They need to get to those meetings and scream for honest and open administration of their children’s education.

  17. Jim Gleason
    May 14, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Terry Kinnas is by far the best thing to happen to thre Pittsfield Schools and school committee in a very long time. From incapable chairs to mousey non-speaking members the makeup of this version, and others in the past, leaves much to be desired.Thank You Terry for being our voice and not being intimidated by the GOB bullies. Keep up the great work on our behalf!

  18. Kim
    May 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Courage? Dan, some people have the courage, but when they can’t depend on a hand in being heard, what good is courage?

    • danvalenti
      May 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

      In the hypothetical you mention, courage would be a matter of personal integrity, along the lines of the definition of “prayer” as being what you do when you are alone.