IN BATTLE OF THE “BUTCHES,” BIANCHI BLITZES BARRY’S BULLYING in COUNCIL CLASH … CELEBRATION BASH AS THE PLANET TURNS 500!!
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2012) — When Alabama’s Joe Namath signed with the New York Jets for the-then astronomical sum of $400,000, he created a lot of enemies in pro football at a time when most players were making the league minimum ($6,000 a year) or a little more.
In an exhibition scrimmage against the Boston Patriots in the 1964 preseason, Namath took a snap from center, rolled right, only to meet a blitzing and unblocked Nick Buonoconti, the Patriots’ Hall of Fame linebacker. Buoniconti leveled Namath with a ferociously legal hit, looked down into the rookie’s face, and said, “Welcome to the pros, son!”
Namath, of course, went on to a stellar career, and he often joked about the value of Buoniconti’s bone-rattler. He learned from it, and it made him a better football player by showing him that nothing would come easy, 400 Gs or no. Will Mayor Dan Bianchi?
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, it looked like he had (and will).
Dan Bianchi’s Week that Was
Bianchi got his bell rung right good this week. Bianchi’s week featured:
* The 3rd Thursday fiasco: He canceled then reinstated. One of those decisions has to be correct.
* His awkward defense of spending nearly $7 million on parking garage, a sum that includes a questionable $700,000 contingency fund borne not by the contractor but by taxpayers.
* The roughing up he and the city solicitor took Tuesday night at the hands of the city council over licensing board personnel. The council attack, led by Dancing Barry Clairmont (now being called “Barry Mason” for his frustrated-lawyer tactics that have fast become excessive) centers around the removal of Albert “Butch” Pisani, a three-decade+ member of the board, which has a central role in the granting and administering of the much-coveted liquor licenses. Liquor licenses and politics mix as smoothly as gin and vermouth, olive optional. Fortunately, Bianchi came out swinging and put up a stout defense.
THE PLANET eschews the personalities involved and — for the moment at least — most of the politics in licensing lallapalooza, since they have as many undertones as undertows. We need to let the waters clear of the mud the council kicked up at Tuesday’s meeting. This will not prevent us from sharing what we’ve heard as well as an informed analysis.
Licensing Board: Two “Butches” is Two Too Many
Bianchi and the city solicitor argue that since Pisani is listed in state records as a member of the board at GEAA, an establishment that serves liquor to the public via city license, Pisani must be removed from the board as a matter of simple state law. My right honorable good friends on the council disagreed, 8-2 (Paul Capitanio correctly recusing himself due to his ownership of the East Side Cafe, Melissa Mazzeo and Kevin Morandi as the “2″).
The eight councilors argued the existence of a letter that allegedly certifies Pisani’s resignation from the GEAA office, hence removing the conflict of interest. Does the letter exist? Does it say what it is alleged to say? Has GEAA filed false records with the state in listing Pisani as a current officer?
The issue reduces to a clear broth: Does Pisani serve on the GEAA board or not? If he does, the city’s interpretation of state law justifies his removal. If he does not, eight councilors rightly opposed the mayor’s actions.
There is another consideration, however, and that is one of tenure (“tenure” let’s be clear, and not of “age”). How healthy can it be for a person to serve for more than three decades on a politicized board in a town with the official inbreeding of Pittsfield’s? About as healthy as swine flu, THE PLANET would propose.
The licensing board consists of: Carmen “Butch” Massimiano, chair; “Butch” Pisani, Bob Quattrochi, Dana Doyle, and Tom Campoli, members. To the best of THE PLANET’s knowledge, neither Quattrochi, Doyle, nor Campoli bear the nickname of “Butch,” one good thing in their favor. “Doyle” does bear a last name that conjures up the city’s recent Dark Ages, but that has no bearing here.
How many ancient, calcified Butches” are too many for one city to endure? How about “two” as the answer.
The first three names of the board roster — Butch, Butch, and Bob — have been on that board forever (the better part of a collective century), an ensconcement, we would submit, that makes them, despite their best intentions, incapable of fresh and objective judgments in administering the numerous licenses gilded by the city.
The permits regulated by the board include the king’s gold star for auctioneer, vending, bowling alleys, conveyance commodities (what normal people call trucks), restaurants, car dealers (used, new, and junk), entertainment, fortune teller (we kid you not), hawkers and peddlers, hotels and lodging, junk collectors and dealers, limousines, lodging houses, parking lots, pool halls, popcorn wagon, taxis, vendors, Christmas tree sales, and booze.
Anyone wishing to do business in these areas in Pittsfield has to crawl before these five lords, essentially agreeing to whatever terms they impose. These would include whatever , if any, secret “unofficial understandings” someone like the chair might wish to have included in the decision to grant a license (for example, cash kickbacks, free meals, free snow plowing, free booze, and worse). THE PLANET does not for a moment suggest that any member of this board, as presently constituted, would stoop so low, of course.
Open the Windows and Let Some Fresh Air Inside
As you can see, having the rights of issuance to this metric ton of licenses carries with it enormous political power, which explains why councilors squawked so loud, especially Clairmont, an accountant who practices law from the council bench.
Four months into the new council’s tenure has revealed Clairmont to be little more than a mouthpiece for the GOB. He got into power with the Establishment’s blessings and money, and he administers that power using talking points provided by his masters in the Vested Interests. No wonder he’s afraid to respond to THE PLANET’s questions, for a man who is not his own man has too much to remember to risk speaking on the record, live, and in real time.
THE PLANET heard though not officially confirmed through our network of spies, gumshoes, and sources that in doing her due diligence for the city prior to seeking Pisani’s removal, solicitor Kathy Degnan, who — unlike Dancing Barry is a lawyer — tried to obtain a copy of the alleged resignation letter of Pisani from the GEAA board. There wasn’t one. There was only a letter that claimed Pisani resigned. Such a latter letter [sorry, we couldn't resist] would be a different matter. Does the latter letter have Pisani’s signature? Is it his actual resignation, or is it a claim from someone else that he resigned. These are two entirely different matters.
One version of the story claims the city called Pisani’s bluff, and there was no satisfactory letter. Another version claims a letter but questions its provenance (a fancy word for fakery, rhymes with bakery). In this version, there’s a letter, all right, but one made recently and back dated. At the meeting, councilors backing Pisani produced the “latter letter.” The letter, they say, claims Pisani resigned from the GEAA board two years ago. As far as we know, the letter was not made available to the city or to members of the press.
Based on our preliminary investigation, it appears the city has the best case. Even if there is a legitimate letter, if it’s proven that Pisani sat in the licensing board at any time while serving as an officer at GEAA, he should be bounced from the board. Pisani has a conflict of interest, proven by the simplest understanding of human nature. He haunts the GEAA. He’s a card-carrying member of the GOB. Of course that will shade his decisions as a licensing board member. For that reason, state law is explicit about conflict of interest.
Clairmont as Sigmund: Shrill and Off-Key
The council’s operatic defense of Pisani, led by alto Barry Clairmont in the role of Sigmund, the GOB Stooge, produced shrill and off-key arias that can be roughly translated as: “Butch Pisani is one of the Boys, you follow? He’s a good guy. You follow?? He stays right where he is.” We got that translation from “Butch,” a linguist who lives in the secret underground tunnel that connects the East Side Cafe with Remo’s, a few yards North.
Pisani himself uttered lines at the council meeting that could have come right out of Goodfellas: “[Bianchi] will hafta take legal action to get me off the board. If you want to get rid of me, do it right and proper.” Even the most talented screenwriter couldn’t write dialogue so apropos.
My right honorable good friend Tony Simonelli, councilor in Ward 7, as quoted by Dick Lindsey of the Boring Broadsheet, said Pisani “has put in more than 30 years on the board, and I think we owe it to him to follow every process available.” Simonelli is right, and that’s what the city has done. As for “owing” Pisani, taxpayers don’t “owe” him anything. He chooses to serve, and he has for too long occupied a seat that has turned self-serving. He owes Us.
Degnan was smooth, professional, and straightforward in explaining why Pisani has to go: “Once a person is involved directly or indirectly in the sale of alcohol, the vacancy [on the board] is immediately created. The mayor is not removing anybody. It’s a matter of state law.”
The GOB, though, can’t be swayed by law. They wish to make this a personal attack because that is how they operate, as Clairmont so deftly proved in his absurd questioning of Degnan.
This is where Bianchi stepped up to the plate.
Bianchi Empties Both Barrels
“This is absolutely an incredible line of questioning,” the mayor thundered. “Either accept or reject the appointment [of Miriam Maduro, the mayor's choice to replace Pisani]. Bianchi then pointed at Clairmont: “Councilor, you’re way out of line.” It was Bianchi’s finest moment as mayor, and it eradicated the sting from earlier in the week. He had reclaimed his turf.
That’s the part of the movie where the audience erupts into cheers, the good guy having told the bad guy “what for.”
To sum up, Bianchi is right and the council, minus 2, are wrong: Pisani has no right to sit on the board. His presence, in fact, by all indications, is illegal.
We would remind all that, even in the fiefdom of Pittsfield, Divine Right of Kings withers in the musty basement (and abasement) of local history. No one has the “right” to serve forever. “Apriamo le finestre!” (“Open the windows”). It’s time to let fresh air into the unhealthy atmosphere of the licensing board.
500 AND COUNTING
Not to make a federal case of it, but this marks THE PLANET’s 500th posting since Sept. 29, 2010. That’s 500 columns in 590 days, or a presentation rate of 85%. With all modesty, we hold forth this literary/journalistic production rate as unparalleled in Berkshire County history by any single author, writer, editor, journalist, or scribe.
This output amounts to 701,029 words, or the equivalent of seven full-length novels. We can’t attest to the literary merit of each of these words, but we can say with honesty that we have tried to produce the best quality writing with the most reliable and necessary content that lies within our abilities to conjure up at any given time, mindful that the latter commodity always runs in short supply.
PLAENT VALENTI’s output is on top of an adjacent and precedent literary output (for paying clients, editors, and publishers) of roughly 150,000 or so words a year. These are published words. They do not take into account the words written and either not sold or deliberately withheld from sale (for example, the contents of this writer’s journals).
A Linguistic and Communications Experiment Called THE PLANET
We have engaged in this linguistic and communications experiment called THE PLANET asking nary a penny in return. We have rebuffed all attempts to allow this sacred space to be soiled by the commercialism of ads, and there have been several offers to buy space on lucrative terms. We have consistently gained in readership and circulation, a phenomenon that does not escape notice among players in the business world and brokers whose job it is to “rent” space on sites like this on behalf of clients.
THE PLANET has but one intention: to serve as a conduit of news, information, and commentary, presented at highest quality to a public that otherwise would be denied our version of the truth.
We want to be the cyber “water cooler” where the community can come to shoot the breeze and share their views. We strive to be exciting and provocative, knowing that the linguistic provocateur, alone among The State’s political, economic, social, and civic structure, has the power to bring Truth to the surface by calling falsehoods, suspected and actual alike, up from the shadowy depths. We do not use any weapons other than A through Z, the 26 characters of the alphabet. They are the most effective weapons of all in The Little Guy’s eternal fight for a fair game.
THE PLANET takes Edgar Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and H. L. Mencken are our literary fathers, seeking to carry on in this far-flung corner of Paradise their work of puncturing the fatuous hot-air balloons that the pompous, the snooty, and the scoundrels insist on launching, from which they drop their bombs of bombast and inhumanity on The Little Guy.
We shall always post under our real name. We will not hide behind the skirts of anonymous identity. We will “man up,” always ready to cash the checks our pen fills out, drawing coin of the realm from the exchequer of the public life which, to some extent, we all share.
OFF NOW TO THE REST OF THE DAY, AFTERNOON, EVENING, AND NIGHT, THANKFUL AGAIN FOR ANOTHER MOMENT OR TWO ON TERRA FIRMA.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.