!!PLANET IN FIRST!! BIANCHI REVERSES 3rd THURSDAY DECISION … REMEMBERING A ‘LILAC’ DAY … ON STURGEON, WBRK PARTING; STURGEON SAYS RADIO STATION DID NOT ACT IN GOOD FAITH … MR. MITT TIES OBAMA IN KEY STATES OF OHIO AND FLA. … BEEPERS MEET, or, HOW DRY I AM
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
ADD #1 (5-7-12)
MAYOR BIANCHI REVERSES DECISION ON 3rd THURSDAY … IT’S BACK ON!
We the People spoke, and Mayor Dan Bianchi listened. Bianchi ate crow and reversed a hugely unpopular decision to cancel 3rd Thursday after a deluge of protest. Here is a statement just released by city hall:
PITTSFIELD – Third Thursday will launch this season on May 17 after an outpouring of support for the event, combined with assurances that North Street will be safe for the anticipated thousands who usually attend the seasonal downtown street festival.
“I know that the downtown merchants have suffered during the streetscape project, and I am committed to getting this project done by July 4th so that they can count on a summer season that will be very welcoming and accessible to their customers, and profitable for them,” said Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi. “I know that many of them depend on their summer business. I wanted to make sure that the contractors had every opportunity to complete this project as soon as possible.”
In addition, the mayor said he was concerned that the milled street, with exposed and raised manhole covers, could pose potential dangers to the public.
“But after a meeting this morning, I’m confident that we can work around the streetscape project, not lose any momentum on construction, and ensure that people who attend the event will be safe,” the mayor continued. “Wear sturdy shoes and have a wonderful time! I’m just thankful that the men’s high-heeled walk won’t be taking place in May.”
The mayor’s office received dozens of phone calls on Monday morning from residents expressing disappointment that the launch of Third Thursday had been postponed to June. “If that many people could take the time to call me, then it was my duty to take another look at this decision. One of our responsibilities at City Hall is to listen to the public and make adjustments when it seems reasonable and the right thing to do. This was one of those times.
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We like the idea of changing course, but it does leave a large question on the table: After backing down so quickly, strong opposition or no, how could the mayor be so out of touch to cancel the event in the first place? To THE PLANET, it seems that if you make a decision you know will be as unpopular as this, you don’t cave in on it lightly, yet that’s the impression Bianchi leaves. Either way, it’s his first big goof.
Bianchi dove into the deep end after thinking about it, then hurriedly changed his mind when the judges didn’t like his form. What could anyone have said in the meeting this morning that would have given Bianchi new information? No matter how cutely the mayor tries to backstroke around it, be blew this one. And does this mean that if a dozen or so people rail on other issues, he will agree to their demands?
His first decision, to cancel, came off as wildly unpopular but S-T-R-O-N-G. His backing down so quickly smacks of pandering and politics.
‘AND GIVE YOU HONOR DUE … ‘
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, MAY 7, 2012) — Today, May 7, brings to mind one of the island easements of our youth. On this day, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Pittsfield celebrated Rosa Venerini Day. She was them “Blessed” Rosa. Today, she is “St.” Rosa.
Rosa Venerini founded an order of teaching nuns, and in Pittsfield’s post-war hay day, more than a dozen served OLMC parish, pastored by the one, the only, Fr. Camillo Santini and his fellow Stigmatine priests. It seems like a distant universe, long ago and far away, with the up and down Masses packed to overflowing each Sunday, the vibrant life redolent with the scent of Northern Italian cuisine, and the kids — lots of kids, in grades K through eight. Today, Mt. Carmel Church is shuttered, having expired because of demographics and given way to a substance abuse clinic.
People have left the Church in droves, and parishes across the country have one by one bitten of the community hemlock known as closure. One may believe in God or not. A believer might be a Christian or not. A Christian might be a Catholic or not. Regardless, there’s no denying the communal or societal function that a thriving, vibrant parish serves in a community such as Pittsfield.
THE PLANET associates Rosa Venerini Day with the smell of lilacs, now in bloom and free to sniff, asking nothing in return for the gift of divine perfume. On May 7, each class at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School would individually sing a song in honor of Rosa Venerini:
“O, Rosa Venerini, sublime teacher of our youth./ We come to sing your praises, and give you honor due. / … O, blessed foundress Rosa, our school we dedicate to you.”
Religion Vanishing is City’s Loss
The Venerini Sisters are long gone as are the Stigmatines. While it remains one of the overlooked causes of Pittsfield’s municipal decay, the shuttering of churches such as Mt. Carmel and the others that closed did much to cast the dwindling local faithful to the wind. The subsequent void has been filled by an unhealthy assortment of the needy, the seedy, and the greedy, by dopers, mopers, and lost-hopers.
True believers don’t need buildings, of course, which was our point all along as we disagreed with the stubborn occupation of St. Stanislaus’ Church in Adams. Cities, though, need true believers. As you may have noticed, the drug pushers and users, the criminals, the bank robbers, the gang members, the mooches and leeches, and all the rest of the city’s numerous scroungy and sponged population don’t go to church. They sleep until noon then hang out at Columbus Avenue and North Street the rest of the day.
On a blue, cloudless, sun-shiney day like today, our thoughts go elsewhere. They go back in time, to a reality that once was, though those who weren’t there assume you are being ironic and mocking when you describe its wholesomeness.
Goodness and decency, however, are never ironic.
STURGEON, WBRK’s PARTING OF THE WAYS
We were saddened though not surprised to see that Bill Sturgeon and WBRK have parted ways. The writing has lingered in the pauses and silences of the WBRK air for some months, but when the move became official, it signaled another change for the radio station that for 14 years was radio home to “The Dan Valenti Show.”
THE PLANET hasn’t spoken to any of the parties, and so we will withhold substantial comment for now. We can only say that in losing a strong local voice, the station finds itself pressured to bring in a new host with the same teeth, only more of a bite.
Opportunity Calls for WBRK, If It Has the Sense to Answer
That represents the opportunity for WBRK. If it finds a new local host who isn’t afraid to tackle issues, and if the station will back that host, the station will reap a much-needed ratings bonanza. If, however, it brings in a “rah-rah” type — you know, the kind that is afraid to say it’s raining even as City Hall floats toward the Housy, it will continue its move to the doldrums.
Donna Todd Rivers, who hosts what has become a pastel-and-pansy “women’s hour,” won’t cut it. Rivers has been a huge disappointment on the air. She first came in with lots of promises to produce relevant talk radio. She talked big, until the mic came on. Then, you could barely hear her squeak. The self-proclaimed Diva has become content with merely trying to please everybody, a sign of insecurity and lack of core beliefs.
Rivers’ show only works, to the extent that it does, as relief from air time that actually addresses some hard issues. “Hard issues” does not describe “Midday Live” in the same way it did “The Dan Valenti Show,” but Bill Sturgeon had to walk a far more inboard line that we did.
Local, Live, Call-in Talk: Not a Gig for the Feint of Heart
Sturgeon described doing a local call-in show of this type as walking a mine field blindfolded and with ear muffs. We found it to be rather like walking a tightrope over a pit of roiling lava while juggling five plates with people shaking the wire from both ends. For countless thousands of shows, though, it was our morning cup of Joe.
THE PLANET had an “at will” contract with WBRK. The station paid us a flat fee each week to deliver a morning hour of live radio, and we deliberately did not seek or want any compensation in the form of a percentage of ads sold. In return, we were given total control over the content of the show, and eventually, we self-produced to avoid any watering down. We held to our terms, and to WBRK’s credit, they let us fly. By not having anything to do with sales, we remained free of sponsor influence. Whenever we stirred the broth too much, one look at the ratings bought lots of forgiveness and understanding from management.
Sturgeon was compensated, as best we know, totally through ads. That added to his muzzle. He also followed Sherman Baldwin, whose lack of honesty about his past burned WBRK but good. Baldwin’s two-faced claims poisoned the well, so to speak, and the station reacted with over-reaction. That was the uneasy atmosphere in which Sturgeon operated.
Sturgeon’s Statement: ‘Events Caught of Completely Off Guard’
Here is a statement Sturgeon released on May 4:
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Friends and sponsors:
I have enjoyed being with you on the Mid-Day Live Show. Negotiations broke down this morning. I thought, however, that I would be able to finish out the month and fulfill my obligations to my guests and listeners, as any honorable person would do. I was informed by email this afternoon that the Chairman of the Board ended my relationship with the station through his attorneys, effective immediately. Before going any further, the station’s attorneys (Martin, Olivera, and Hamel) were totally professional in their negotiations with me and with my producer (my wife Rose Ann, the Polish Princess). John Martin, Jr. is a “Man of Honor”!
To be honest, the events of today caught us completely off guard, because we thought we had reached a workable agreement at a luncheon meeting held last Wednesday. We do have other options that, honestly, we have been putting on the back burner. I guess what bothers me the most is that I will miss all my listeners (especially the Seniors, Veterans, Shut-ins, the Underprivileged, and Handicapped). I am not foolish enough to not know that there are many people who are jumping with joy- some in the City Hall and at the Radio Station. To those who have wished me ill, I share this saying from an old first sergeant: ”The devil you know is far better than the devil you don’t know!”
It was naive of me not to bring my own attorney to the negotiations. I thought we were negotiating in good faith and I thought they were as well. I was wrong. The real decision maker wasn’t even in the picture; he was in the shadows, i guess, where he always has been – calling the shots.
I know we will be seeing many of you around town. It was a great run and I hope that in some small way I have helped to promote Pittsfield, its organizations and businesses.
Keep looking and listening. Who knows where we might appear. I will be posting things on my web site: sturgeononline.com.
The motto of my old unit – the 101st Airborne Division- will continue to inspire me onward. Today I will “Rendezvous with Destiny “!
Lastly, i have always looked at life as a book, comprised of chapters. Some of the chapters are happy, some are sad, some are full of excitement and new things, while others are just the same old boring things. For me, another chapter in the life of Bill Sturgeon closed today. I am a better person for what I have learned from the experience.
Bill “The Fat Man and Rose Ann “The Polish Princess
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Reading between the lines, you can tell Sturgeon thinks he was sand-bagged: “I thought we were negotiating in good faith and I thought they were as well. I was wrong.”
Like Bill or not, few had better local contacts. Sturgeon knew this community, and he brought a wide range of experiences into the talk gig. He wasn’t the polished host with the performer’s “radio voice” (think Baldwin), but he was a conversationalist. Perhaps his greatest strength was that he didn’t HAVE to be on the air. Not needing the gig adds an incalculable espirit to a show and tends to give the host “conviction” well beyond his or her opinions.
Putting Some Rumors to Rest
THE PLANET enjoyed our many guest appearances on Bill’s show, knowing there would be no script and nothing worked out in advance. That’s the way we ran our show, and it made for spontaneous radio. True, the warts and all sometimes showed, but more often than not, the listener got his or her money’s worth and then some.
And no, we have not been contacted by the station with an offer nor have we been in touch with WBRK, to put to rest some imaginative rumors. The grind of doing daily AM talk does not appeal, especially for a medium that — like newspapers only not as rapidly — is seeing its audience age out, with few replacements coming up in and through the ranks. Our policy with business has never been to say “never,” but if THE PLANET does get back to daily broadcasting, it will almost certainly be of a webcast or podcast type.
We wish Bill Sturgeon the best.
ROMNEY TIES PRESIDENT OBAMA IN FLORIDA AND OHIO
On a presidential note, we see that Mitt Romney has tied President Obama in two key battleground states, Ohio and Florida. New polls show a virtual tie in two states that are musts for either man come November.
In Ohio, a Quinnipiac University survey calls it 44 to 42%, Obama, within the polls 3% margin of error. In Florida, Romney leads 44 to 43%. Last month in the same poll, Obama led in both states.
What does this mean? It’s early May. It means “little.” That being said, it means more to Romney than Obama. With the GOP primary now ended and Romney not having to worry about his daily bashing at the hands of people like Gingrich and Santorum, Romney has been able to take his case against Obama directly to the people. One also has to factor the dissatisfaction with the President that many people have. Voter discontent over the economy follows the President’s every step, and Romney has been hammering at his economic message in every campaign stop.
There will be only one issue in this election. It won’t be abortion. It won’t be foreign policy. It will be the economy. Dig Mr. Mitt’s new slogan: “We’re not stupid. It’s still the economy.” This is a shrewd tagline (we might have written it ourselves!), because it recalls Bill Clinton’s great campaign of 1992. Clinton, you recall, ran as a centrist, and that’s where Romney comes down in Campaign ’12.
JEEPERS CREEPERS, WHERE’D YOU GET THOSE BEEPERS
It’s funny how the Berkshire Young Professionals, an offshoot of the local Chamber of Commerce, tend to socialize around watering holes. Their past “networking social” took place at Wandering Star Brewery on April 4 and Hot Harry’s in Pittsfield on May 2. Of the May 2 “social,” the Berkshire Business News, a C of C publication, tells us that “This event is FRER [sic] for BYP membership cardholders …” Guess the proofer had some high-proof refreshments while gandering over this page.
True to form, there are five photos from the April event, and — lo and behold — not a beverage of any kind to be seen. This is known among BEEPERS as “The Meredith Rule,” in honor of you know who.
We gave upon the lovely countenances of Ashley Alter, Thomas O’Brien, Jen Glockner, Scott Kirchner, Bonnie Kirchner, Ron Marcella, Melissa Guyer, Mary Bazanchuk, Colin Gold, Michael Mose, Michael Benoit, Rachel Lipton, Christine Schrade, Scott Clements, Lyn Clements, Laura Wolf, and Lesley Herzberg. The closest we get to beverages are the plates of chow that Bazanchuk and Gold apparently couldn’t put down, even for a second. The photos remind us those petrified high school photos showing the Latin Club and the Pep Club.
Our future: yours and ours. Well, yours anyway.
On May 22, the BEEPERS conduct a Power Hour at Spice Dragon on North Street. THE PLANET will not be the guest speaker.
GO TODAY, AND MAKE YOURSELF TASSLES ON THE FOUR CORNERS OF YOUR CLOAK WITH WHICH YOU COVER YOURSELF. DO NOT WEAR MINGLED STUFF, THOUGH, WOOL AND LINEN TOGETHER.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.