PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012) — Pittsfield is a “gateway” city. Sounds great, doesn’t it? That’s the term the Patrick Administration uses to describe cities long in the tooth.

Gateway? Yes, but to Where?

In a recent letter to Mayor Dan Bianchi, Community Development Czarina Deanna Ruffer tells the mayor what she will never directly tell the people. A “gateway” community is one with:

— A population greater than 35,000.

— A median household income less than the state average (such income in Pittsfield is $35,655).

— A per capita income below the state’s average (Pittsfield’s is $20,549).

— Educational attainment rates below the state’s average (only 20.5% of Pittsfield residents have at least a BA college degree).

The Howard Building at Fenn and First streets. (Berkshire Chamber of Commerce)

Now, do you want your city to be a “gateway” city? Ruffer does, and so does Allegrone Construction Co., which, the last time THE PLANET checked, was a private business and not a public entity. Nonetheless, Ruffer’s shilling for the company so that it can get lucrative tax breaks from the state for redeveloping two of Allegrone’s downtown holdings: The Howard Building at 124-132 Fenn St. and the Onota Building at 64-74 North St.

Czarina Admits: Private Investors Cannot Get Commercial Loans, so Let’s Hit Taxpayers

Our favorite part of Ruffer’s tedious prose is when she tells the mayor that Allegrone should get taxpayer money to redo the buildings because both buildings “are currently under-utilized and in need of significant upgrading. Yet the current economic conditions … make it difficult for private investors to secure commercial financing required for development.”

Read that last part again: Yet the current economic conditions … make it difficult for private investors to secure commercial financing required for development.” 

In other words, Ruffer admits in black and white: Private lenders won’t dare touch Allegrone’s project. Her solution: Play the taxpayers for suckers and have them be Allegrone’s venture capitalists.

Bullspit, THE PLANET says. Allegrone owns two buildings that it bought on spec. Fine. We admire entrepreneurship. If Allegrone thinks developing the buildings will make it money, go for it, using its own dough. Leave Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski out of it, though. Capitalism works fine. If the market calls for it, Allegrone will do well on its investment. If the market doesn’t, it has no right to ask taxpayers to pony up.

The city council should have rejected this out of the chute. But this is Pittsfield. We love to use public money to support losers of the EV Worldwide and Workshop Live type.



http in the city means "Heck no To Transparency, Pittsfield."

Want to e-mail a department head in the city of Pittsfield? You can’t do it, easily, that is, because the city’s official website still does not list individual e-mail addresses for city managers. In Pittsfield, cyberspace is still in the year 1994. You will find phone numbers and postal addresses but no electronic mail addresses. Only the city councilors post their addresses. One gets the impression that the city doesn’t want We the People to bother its managers, who are only the hired help.

THE PLANET brought this issue up in 2009, during a televised mayoral primary debate. The eventual winning candidate, Jimmy Ruberto, said he would address the issue and “look into it.” He never did. Here’s a ripe opportunity for Mayor Dan Bianchi to do something to make good on his pledge of transparency: Begin work immediately to install e-mail addresses for every city manager.

An Abusive Website That’s User UNfriendly

Pittsfield, of course, has a slow, poorly designed, and user-abusive website. For example, try to find the meeting calendar for boards and commissions. Good luck. It took a lot of trial and error to figure this out, to say nothing of a saint’s patience and a bulldog’s perseverance. We are tough that way.

For example, let’s say we are looking for the agenda of the next PEDA meeting. What do you do?

* You do to the PEDA site, right? It’s not there. That would be too logical, and this is Pittsfield, remember? Okay, the next logical place would be the city’s official website. There, you will find it, but it’s so hidden, a convention of mine sweepers couldn’t locate it. Since THE PLANET apparently cares more about transparency than PEDA, the mayor, or any other city official, we will show you how to get “there” from “here.”

* Go to

* On the left side of the home page, you will see a blue field. In that field, there’s a green box labeled “City Serv.” Hold your mouse over  that. From the submenu, choose “Calendar of Events.”

* On that page, locate the search engine in the upper right of the calendar. It’s a white, rectangular box labeled “Show.” It will be at the default position, “Show all categories.” Move your move to the light blue up-down arrows on the right of this box. Click there.

* From that submenu, select “Boards and Commissions Meetings.” Click on that.

* Finally, you get the monthly calendar. We find, for instance, that PEDA met on Wednesday May 9 and Monday May 21. Bet you knew that from all the coverage given to it by the Boring Broadsheet, local radio news, and from PEDA’s own transparency. Hah!

* To get the May 9 agenda, for example, click on the heading in the May 9 calendar box.

* That brings you to an events page.

* On the events page, selected the middle option, with the hot link “AGENDA” in blue. Click on that.

* Voila! The agenda!!

It’s like cracking the DaVinci Code. While we’re on May 9, let’s take a peek.

Secret Agendas, Secret Subcommittees

We see that the accounting firm Adelson Moynihan Kowalczyk gave a presentation the the PEDA board of their audit report. What? Your local daily and radio news didn’t cover that? THE PLANET didn’t either, but that’s not our job. We would bet the villa, though, that accountants Vincent Viscuso and David Irwin confirmed that PEDA’s books are in great, pushing up roses and leaving Tinkerbell sparklies in its wake.

One odd thing on this agenda: In Item V, board chairman Gary Grunin announced the next meeting as June 13, 2012. When we look at the May calendar, though, we see PEDA had a meeting on May 21. Go to that agenda, and you see the reason Grunin skipped May 21.It was not a meeting of the full executive board but one of PEDA’s Finance Committee.

Now how many of you out there knew that PEDA even HAD a finance committee? THE PLANET didn’t. We asked several office holders (councilors, school committee members, department heads) and no one knew.

Transparency, Shmansparency.



You wonder how Jonathan Levine does it? How does this one-man operation keep producing a feisty weekly, The Pittsfield Gazette, that, like this website, provides a fulcrum through which Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski can move the entire GOB mountain of granite, tilting is just so to produce a more level (though still way out of kilter) playing field? No one in town covers more municipal meetings than Levine. He has a budget running on fumes, yet each week, he produces another minor miracle.

Levine, an eccentric who has the tenacity of a savant, misses on some stories, and in truth he has toned things down a bit. He has done this to stay aboard the tightrope stretched between fearless coverage and touchy advertisers, which, to explain again, is one reason we do not take advertising. Even in its current “tame” state, though, the Gazette delivers quality on a consistent basis.

In the current issue (expires today), Levine had three interesting items:

* Greylock Loses $3.76 Million — He reported that Greylock (“Tell”) Federal (“Them”) Credit (“Angelo”) Union (“Sent You”) lost $3.76 million last year. Obviously, with that many bad loans, the bank has trouble managing risk. Or perhaps child brutalization (now having been out in the open for two years) is not quite returning the interest it used to, when it was hidden for almost six years. Right, Angelo? Right, John Bissell? Right, Cliff Nilan?We’re sure the BB ran a big story on Greylock’s losses, right? Not on your life, or GCFU would threaten to pull its advertising, the way they did to “The Dan Valenti Show” when we parked at WBRK. We told them to “Go **** yourself,” though much more professionally and politely after learning that Angelo had already done so. And you know what? They didn’t pull an ad! We looked them in the eye, and they blinked.

* Why Did the Chicken Even Go Near the Road? — The city of Pittsfield wants to charge people and families who wish to raise residential chickens $200 for the proper permit. As if that’s not bad enough, the city requires chicken raisers to take our a legal ad costing $111. The chicken fanciers have to run that ad in The Boring Broadsheet. That’s like asking a person on the firing squad to tip the shooters before they squeeze the triggers.

* Alf is ‘Delusional,’ Writes Levine — Finally, in an editorial on Pittsfield’s embarrassing search for a new school superintendent, Levine has a choice word for School Committee chairman Alf Barbalunga‘s claim that the search has been transparent. Levine calls that claim “delusional.”

Those interested in subscribing to the Gazette can call 413-443-2010 or e-mail






  1. taxmano
    May 24, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    Alfie does seem delusional. And power crazed. And, less than bright.
    Oh, another funny thing last night happened when Jake III, in response to crticism that the school meeting minutes weren’t getting up on time, basically said they’ll be up when they’re up. Then he declared: “We’re not running a secret society here…” And smiled (or grimaced).

  2. Ed
    May 24, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    Why is PEDA’s next monthly meeting scheduled for August ? Is the staff and board so overworked that they need 3 months vacation ? Aren’t they involved in anything urgent requiring development, attention or WORK ?

  3. Andrew
    May 24, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    Some of your numbers are off.

    The median household income for Pittsfield is not $35,655 but is instead $41,297. SImilarly, Pittsfield’s per capita income is $25,764 as opposed to the $20,549 you pulled from somewhere.

    As for the percentage of Pittsfield citizens with a bachelor’s degree or higher? It’s 25.5% and NOT the 20.5% you stated.

    Source: The US Census Bureau

    • danvalenti
      May 24, 2012 at 8:37 am #

      Thank you. I took my numbers directly from Deanna Ruffers letter to Mayor Bianchi. These are the numbers the city itself is using. So either Ruffer’s numbers are off, the Census numbers are off, the city is deliberately underplaying the income and education rates, or the Census data was generated using a differing set of barometers. Since the city’s numbers are the ones now in play before the council and the state, we shall use those, allowing for the possibilities just mentioned. Appreciate your input.

      • Still wondering
        May 24, 2012 at 8:44 am #

        Are you surprised that Deanna messed up? Just her latest screw-up. Oh and add the Berkshire Carosel going to the Mall.

      • Scott
        May 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

        I guess I’m doing good for not going to college and all.

    May 24, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Who was the cop that totaled Second Street?

    • danvalenti
      May 24, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      Great question. Why haven’t they released it? What are they hiding?

      • Still wondering
        May 24, 2012 at 8:46 am #

        I don’t expect any honesty from the PPD. A friend of mine was killed by a speeding cruiser on South Street back in the 90’s. Nothing happened to the cop. Nothing.

        • danvalenti
          May 24, 2012 at 11:21 am #

          We have a call into the chief’s office. We shall be posting on this incident tomorrow.

          • AMBROSE
            May 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

            hes a she

      • Jimmy Glesin
        May 24, 2012 at 11:45 am #

        I have always just read your blog and never posted, but this time I had to. I know they have not announced the officers name, but I’m curious if this is the same officer who had a seizure about 4-5 years ago and parked a cruiser on top of the large boulders at Clapp Park? Safety and health of a person (officer) is always paramount, but PPD seems to be walking that really thin line lately: drug detectives buying steriods via USPS, patrol officers hanging out in seedy bars looking to purchase cocaine, detetcives have sex with victims of crimes. Talk about transparency? I feel as if I’m looking at one of those crazy mirrors at the carnival.

        • danvalenti
          May 24, 2012 at 11:57 am #

          Your analogy at the end provides the perfect metaphor for life in Pittsfield today. Thanks for your contribution.

        • Jim Gleason
          May 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

          What is this, Topix? Someone using a similar name to mine because he/she doesn’t have the balls to use their own. Gutless coward!!!

          • Chet Murphy
            May 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

            Jim. Your response is exactly why this blog is becoming Topix why can’t we have a good chat instead of everyone saying such nasty things. I have never read one of you replys when it did not have a stupid reply. Can’t you keep the discussion going with out you childish remarks? How old are you? Five?

          • Jimmy Glesin
            May 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

            Whoa, calm down there. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or did a wheel come loose on your tax-payer funded Pittsfield Cadillac? My last name is pronounced Glesin-as in lesson (plan). Couldn’t imagine your reaction if your last name was Smith or Johnson. Time to up the meds and push away from the computer.

          • danvalenti
            May 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

            NOTE FROM THE PLANET: This correspondent is NOT to be confused with Jim Gleason, a regular PLANET contributor. We have contacted “Glesin” about the similar sounding name.

          • danvalenti
            May 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

            We have contacted the person, who has been so warned.

  5. Shakes His Head
    May 24, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    After PEDA moved jobs (well compensated jobs) out of downtown, who is going to live in these units and get in their cars and drive to work? Banks won’t finance soft market business plans. Allegrone has quite the portfolio of real estate holdings, but surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be a single real name on the website, just a bunch of faceless, unidentifiable boilerplate.

  6. Concern
    May 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Negative, negative, negative. Isn’t there anything out there but negative comments from this blog and its bloggers?????

    • danvalenti
      May 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      Be my guest.
      If you want all the “good news,” read the Chamber of Commerce newspaper, read the BB, and listen to happy talk radio.

      • Chet Murphy
        May 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

        Dan We can read Topix if we want stupid stuff. I thought this site was for intelligent discussion, not bash Pittsfield

        • danvalenti
          May 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

          Please be specific. Which item is “bashing Pittsfield.” We do not engage in “bashing.” We present information and commentary. That is all. So kindly point to specific examples of your allegation, and we can take it from there, educating you along the way.

          • Scott
            May 25, 2012 at 4:11 am #

            You did bash Pittsfield and it’s youth yesterday.

          • danvalenti
            May 25, 2012 at 7:30 am #

            I disagree. I didn’t “bash” anyone. Please, point out the exact words, so I can see where you think I did this. Then I can respond. Thanks.

        May 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

        no thanks, but come on you and others must have some good news stories. Once in awhile cheer us up Dan

        • danvalenti
          May 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

          How about our Pittsfield Suns story this week? Or our band review by Andy Poncherello? Or our poetry Mondays? The list is longer than you realize!

          • Scott
            May 25, 2012 at 4:09 am #

            I enjoy the poetry and all the dirty little secrets.

    • Chet Murphy
      May 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

      Concern I agree with you and it seems like its getting worse every day.

      • Scott
        May 25, 2012 at 4:10 am #

        He has the freedom to write as he wishes and you have the freedom to not read it.

  7. Genifer
    May 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Pittsfield does indeed seem to have many dirty secrets. I will just say this: I believed in our new Mayor and I voted because I thought he would bring real change. Maybe just maybe my one vote helped him win in a tight mayoral race that I usually would not waste my time going to vote. To say I am VERY disappointed in his lack of actions so far is the nicest thing I can say. Mayor Dan I expect you to keep your campaign promises or at the very least help fix the wrongs that have been perpetrated on the good people of Pittsfield. Get a real Chief of Police and surround yourself with the best . You have a few there such as Ms Mazzeo. You know who is helping and who is hurting Pittsfield. Take a damm stand and be a leader.

    • Joe Blow
      May 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm #


      • Genifer
        May 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

        Really Joe! What happened to people having a backbone and taking a damm stand? When will enough be enough? Corruption at ever level especially the PPD. People are sick of it. It is getting harder and harder to get convictions here because the people who are supposed to protect us are the worst

        • Kim
          June 7, 2012 at 2:52 am #

          Well, I agree with you 100%!! I was choked by one of those “protect and serve”. I had restraining orders, and “promises” by all at the PPD that I would be safe, and my children would be also. Except, I reported it, and nothing! This was 2010, and I even asked our own Dan Valenti to help me go public, and it was then that he stepped away from all the “good” information, and went bananas over baseball. I say, who cares about baseball when my daughter is so scared that she won’t sleep, and checks the locks over and over…..
          Not to mention, this moron actually chased me and my daughter, in his mother’s mini van, lol, don’t know if that much mass shoul move too fast, and this after I am promised that he wouldn’t do anything to risk his job. Truth is, anyone on the PPD can do whatever they want, because this city is being run by monkeys. Bet they go bananas over baseball too. Pittsfield needsto clean up. forget North St. It needs to start within. UGH. And, I have chckens, no permit, and they are better taken care of than most of the kids on the street. Pittsfield, please find better ways to use your time.

          • danvalenti
            June 7, 2012 at 8:47 am #

            Sorry if you feel we let you down, but there are only so many hours in the day, so many stories we can cover, and so many wrongs we can fight in the name of Truth, Justice, and The American Way. This is a public forum. Many reader it and many more discuss it throughout the city and county. If you have charges to make, you can do so here. Begin by naming the person that your allege choked you. Send me copies of all the documents you have. Give me names and dates. Who said what to you? When? Is it documented? Do this, and maybe, if it appears you have a case, we can take it further.

    • levitan
      May 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm #


      I voted for Bianchi for possibly the same reasons as you. But, I think he is doing about as well as can be hoped for given the hostile city council (and narrow win.)

      He cannot succeed in changing the city in just two years – to survive he cannot afford to burn every bridge and take on every battle. To date, I see him making strategic decisions geared towards lending him a voice where he can insert it. (PEDA, school board, and others.)

      You will not see a revolution here, just gradual changes carried over many terms and many mayors.

      • levitan
        May 24, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        Look at what happened to Hathaway – a very competent and qualified leader – she got sucked into the politics of the city and was driven out. Our loss, but happened because she was poorly directed.

  8. spectator
    May 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Re: Allegrone. WHY ON EARTH should the community support that GOB family, while LOUIS ALLEGRONE is the boyfriend of MEREDITH NILAN, and allegedly helped to cover up her and her fathers heinous crime?

  9. Dee
    May 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I’ll reserve my comments on Allegrone, PEDA, the school board, etc. and just focus on something I’m very familiar with: chickens! At last count I had over 70 chickens, both layers and breeders (no meat birds).

    Requiring a $200 permit and legal notice for a City is quite reasonable. Everyone wants a chicken in their backyard until they realize a few harsh realities. Chickens poo. And, this isn’t nice poo that sweeps up with a broom, but wet, stinky, nasty poo. Poo has to be disposed of and if it isn’t it smells quite rancid on a warm day. Also, with chickens come predators. Raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks, opossums, hawks, rats, stray dogs and ferral cats. Everything loves to feast on chickens.

    By requiring people to permit and post it hopefully will eliminate just anyone from keeping chickens. The are great pets who happen to give eggs but they require a bit of work to keep them clean and healthy.

    • danvalenti
      May 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Good points from a chicken fancier.

      • levitan
        May 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

        Except, I know many who keep chickens, keep them clean, keep away predators, and could not afford $200. It’s ridiculous, really.

        • Scott
          May 25, 2012 at 4:07 am #

          It’s amazing what a little hard work, common sense and a riffle will get you.

          • Jim Gleason
            May 25, 2012 at 11:14 am #

            What’s a riffle?

  10. spectator
    May 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm #


    • Andrew
      May 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

      How so?

      • spectator
        May 25, 2012 at 6:00 am #

        Read up on the facts

  11. Scott
    May 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    It’s the same think with the wind energy projects it isn’t the renewable energy that’s a “sWINDle” it’s the tax payers funding private companies so they can sell it back to us at twice the rate of what we’re already using.

    I’m putting a biodome in my yard I was wondering if the city would come have me tare it down if I didn’t get a permit more people should have chickens and be producing their own food it only makes sens what really bothers me is the technology is here for us all to have a better quality of life we’re just not using it.

    I usually defer my mortgage payment one month during the winter when I’m slow Greylock after doing this the past two or three years would not help me this year. I almost fell three months behind but sense have caught up and I’ll be paying June’s tomorrow.

    • Andrew
      May 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      The taxpayers help subsidize the oil industry, the coal and natural gas industries as well as the corn industry in far greater amounts than wind or solar.

      • Scott
        May 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

        Yeah I agree it’s all a scam.

  12. Jeff
    May 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    What’s with all the chicken shit???

    • levitan
      May 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Indeed, Jeff. I’d take chicken shit in my backyard over the lab’s business in the front.

      I find it really unusual for a chicken owner to trumpet a serious tax for keeping the animals (small scale.) I may just pick one up and dare the town to tell me it’s a chicken. How would they know? Or just get a peacock instead.

      It’s weird. How did they even think of it? Did a chicken owner piss off someone with a friend in City gov?

  13. rick
    May 25, 2012 at 3:35 am #

    why dont we just go to allegrones office and give them a donation, reminds me of the 50k house that was rehabed for 300k and sold for 115k, okayed by ruffer and the council… dan , for what ever reason u started this site, these little tid bits that get by the common folk dont get by you… and brought to our attention…transperancy was bianchis theme ,i think he should have ran with an iron curtain theme. it dosent matter who we elect, they do what they want and answer to no one… perfect example peda. seems the arm of the gobs is longer than we thought.

  14. Still wondering
    May 25, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    I’m told by a former city councillor that the Mayor will be releasing his budget soon and has told people he will hold the line on taxes. If he can do this, then we’ll know that Dan means what he said. Change will come to this city.

    • danvalenti
      May 25, 2012 at 7:23 am #

      Bianchi’s first budget will tell us much.

  15. joetaxpayer
    May 26, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    Allegrone is a expert at getting tax brakes.Not only are they getting tax breaks for there new office in Lenox, I believe they also received stimulus money.Really cant blame them if the people are dumb enough to give it to them.