ADD 2: KRATKA RESPONDS, DETAILS TO COME … ADD1: LARRY KRATKA: TIME TO COME CLEAN ON THE WTBR MESS … WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE: DO NOT SUPPORT THE DICTATORSHIP OF ALANIA, CHARTOCKIA … SCHOOL COMMITTEE HEARING ON LAME JAKE’s BUDGET REQUEST SHEDS LIGHT ON THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME … HEARING SHOWS THAT THIS ISN’T YOUR DADDY’S SCHOOL DEPARTMENT BUDGET HEARING … BIANCHI GIVES JAKE A $1 MILLION WOOD SHAMPOO … plus … PLANET COVERAGE PREVIEW
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
ADD #2, FRIDAY JUNE 1, 2012 — We have received a lengthy response from Larry Kratka on the situation at WTBR, with the on-off of Bill Sturgeon‘s radio show at that venue.
We have some additional investigation and followup, in fairness to all parties, and on Monday we present as much as we have learned about WTBR: What Really Happened with Bill Sturgeon. It’s not a pretty story from what we know now.
ADD #1 FRIDAY JUNE 1, 2012 — We make quick comment on the WTBR “scandal” involving the approval then the pulling of the pre-empted show planned by ex-WBRK talkmeister Bill Sturgeon, who was to follow John Krol‘s “Good Morning, Pittsfield” beginning Tuesday, May 29.
WTBR station manager and nominal student adviser Larry Kratka sent a press release heralding the new show. All seemed well, until we learned that on the appointed day, the show had been mysteriously pulled. Kratka gave no explanation, leaving Sturgeon, Krol, and the community scratching their heads. According to iBerkshire‘s Joe Durwin, Kratka would not provide much beyond “no comment” to that website’s inquiries. THE PLANET has our own request in to Kratka for comment.
Kratka Pulled the Plug, But Krol, Sturgeon, and the Community Still Don’t Know Why
Sturgeon and Krol have said via Facebook that Kratka basically pulled the rug out from under them without proper notice or legitimate cause. Is this related to THE PLANET’s discussion of the proper use of WTBR in terms of student-run versus adult programming, which is a separate discussion entirely? We think not. Not once, in any way, shape, or form, did THE PLANET advocate either publicly or privately for Sturgeon’s show to be pulled. Sturgeon has said he has reason to believe there’s a whole lot more to the story than Kratka’s letting on. We should point out that Kratka is Snooze Director at WBEC, which provides a tantalizing clue to what’s going on with this mess.
Since WTBR falls under the control of the School Committee, it’s time Chairman Alf Barbalunga and the members to invite Kratka to appear in open session for questioning.
THE PLANET will only wait so long for Kratka to respond before we begin our own investigation. We only a tiny amount of snooping, we have piled up a few more clues. The question boils down to this: What is Larry Kratka hiding and why?
WHO WOULD WANT TO GIVE THEIR HARD-EARNED MONEY TO THE BONFIRE?
Our question is not rhetorical. We honestly wonder, as Alania, captial city of the dictatorship of Chartockia, begins on Monday another of its plaintive attempts at blackmail, also know as the WAMC fund drive.
The quick answer to the sobbing, throbbing, bobbing, and hob-nobbing request of Herr Doktor and his brow-beaten sycophants to their begging for your hard earned money is: “No thanks, I’ve already given.” You see, anyone who pays a penny in federal taxes is already a member of NPR, of which WAMC is a member. That little bit of the federal income tax that goes to keep public radio on the air is your contribution, not that you have a choice.
The Piling of Fortune Via the Stifling of Reason
That’s exactly what a liberal loon such as Herr Doktor wants: a dictatorship not of the proletariat but of a person who is one of the worst writers ever to poison the pages of the Boring Broadsheet, one of the worst broadcasters ever to spit into a mic, and one of the most pretentious “scholars” ever to browbeat a student or suck-up to an Important Politician. Incidentally, the loons on the rabid right also enjoy such stifling of reason.
Workers of the World Unite: Do Not Send a Penny to the WAMC Fun Drive. Do not be fools. The station has already taken your coin via your federal taxes!
WAMC and NPR: Birds of Separate Feather
One last point: To talk of WAMC, you must separate the National Public Radio aspect. NPR provides some good programming. National programming at NPR probably accounts for 95% of its listenership. It’s awful “local” programming that WAMC subjects it listeners to that we, as an act of conscience and as the humane thing to do, wish to see either suspended or greatly improved.
What started out on a good broadcasting track has been derailed by Herr Doktor’s totalitarian mismanagement of an asset that could, with fresh blood and a huge turnover in staff, become a legitimate player in local news and commentary. The best remedy for that ailing station is to get rid of the nepotistic employment patterns in the dictatorship of Alania, Chartockia and the preference for mediocrity that Herr Doktor prefers to make his “light” seem brighter, and then you may have a radio station worthy of your money.
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2012) — Welcome to June!
On Wednesday night, the Pittsfield School Department presented its initial budget figures for FY13 to the School Committee. In attempting to understand the financial pas de deux that will take place in the days and weeks ahead, understand these basic facts:
The Budget Process Primer
* The Mayor is CEO AND CFO is the city. He proposes the municipal budget, including the overall expense for public education.
* The City Council receives the budget from the mayor and acts on it. It can approve, amend through budget cuts, or send the budget back to the corner office for resubmission. Council has final say over approval.
* As a department, the school superintendent receives the mayor’s spending goals and begins to implement a plan to meet his department needs.
* The superintendent, unlike other department heads, submits its operating budget proposal (again, based on direction from the mayor) to a board of overseers, the School Committee.
* The School Committee performs a line-by-line review (that will take place on Wednesday, June 6).
* The reconciled school committee budget (worked out at the mayor’s direction by the school administration and the school committee) goes to the city council, which votes it up or down.
But It’s Like Making Sausage
That is the process. On the surface, it appears clean, straightforward, streamlined, and simple. In actuality, it’s like making sausage. In Pittsfield, you also have an added unique factor: an outgoing Superintendent, leaving under a cloud of suspicion, lame ducking a bloated department whose enablers are beginning to realize that perhaps — and we only say perhaps — their financial ruse has been discovered and a jig is up.
Taxpayers are beginning to pay more attention because, for the first time, they are getting access to information that previously had not been readily available. Taxpayers have been at the mercy of a School Department “wink-wink, nod-nod” deal between and among a bloated and largely incompetent Administration, a greedy and inflexible teacher’s union, and the “roll over and play dead” compliance of an acquiescent School Committee.
There are, however, a couple-three members of the school committee asking good questions, led by Mayor Dan Bianchi and Terry Kinnas. There is THE PLANET, sharing information and trying to bring previously secret and closed processes out into the open. Finally, there is the ensuing discussion that’s beginning to spill into the mainstream. Let us hope our Right Honorable Good Friends on the City Council are paying close attention to these proceedings. Taxpayers have had enough. Time to start reeling in an out of control school budget and start demanding performance.
School Committee Hears Jake’s Figures
The budget review that took place Wednesday was the committee’s first look. The line-by-line review takes place Wednesday, June 6. The preliminary session, though tentative, produces some interesting moments. Allow a few observations:
* 5-to-1 Student-Staff Radio: PPS at Its Top-Heavy Best — Superintendent Howard “Jake” Eberwein III shared two numbers: There are 6,000 students in the system (rounded off) and 1,200 employees (again, in the round) in the School Department. Committee member Terry Kinnas, a former high school math teacher, crunched the numbers for Jake: That equals five students for every staff member, an astounding number that puts into perspective the huge overhead supported by taxpayers for what the data show are mediocre results.
* Bianchi Steps up for Mary Jane and Joe K — Jake and Mayor Dan Bianchi had an interesting exchange that, despite its brevity, has $1 million riding in the balance. Such are the stakes in this high-roller form of gambling known as the School Department budget, where the taxpayers usually come to the table knowing the game is rigged against them. This time, Bianchi spoke up for Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.
* Jake’s Pitch to Pad It by $1 Million — When Eberwein presented his budget request, Bianchi spoke up with words to the effect of: “That’s not the number I gave you.” (Again, not the actual words but the gist). Bianchi referred to the pre-budget negotiations, when he presented Eberwein with amount of money the city was prepared to pay the schools for the operational slice of the budget. Bianchi said it was $15,575,078. Jake, trying to slip a fastball by taxpayers, threw his number on the screen: $16,575,078, to the penny, one million more than Bianchi had, in principle, agreed to. Plugged into the total operation costs, Bianchi expected Jake to present $53,506,071 instead of $54,506,071.
* Jake-Dan II — “That’s not the number,” Bianchi said. Jake replied: “I’m presenting what my department needs.” When Bianchi called Jake on the carpet for his million “fast one,” Eberwein looked surprised, even stunned. Superintendent’s aren’t used to being challenged by the School Committee when it comes to budget proposals. They are used to getting what they want. Bianchi looked upset when he saw Eberwein’s inflated figure. Bianchi concluded by laying it on the line, telling Eberwein: “You’re asking for $1 million more than the city will give you. The city isn’t going to give you the extra million. Period.” A small win for taxpayers, a giant win in the symbolism of the school department budget. It was probably Bianchi’s finest moment yet in his tenure as mayor. He did the taxpayers good.
* Truth-in-Advertising, Sort Of — In another tiny victory, Eberwein admitted to the overall school department cost to taxpayers: $82 million. For this, THE PLANET will modestly take credit, since we have been pounding away at truth-in-advertising. For years, the School Department excluded costs for running busses, health and unemployment insurance, and maintenance fees, which get buried in the city-side ledgers. Even at that, though, the $82 million sells the budget short. That figures doesn’t include at least $7 million in federal tax money, plus the $2.5 million net loss to the district for school choice. Thus, the true actual budget number is at least $91.5 million.
* School Choice: Figures Lie — In another bit of budgetary mumbo-jumbo, and a classic example of how the School Department and the Administration basically lies about the budget, comes with its presentation of the School Choice figures. In the latest FY for which figures are available, Pittsfield brought in about $500,000 and lost roughly $3 million in through School Choice (the program through which parents can move their children out of one district and into another). In presented School Choice numbers, though, the Administration includes only the half million taken in, with no mention of the $3 million out (the net-out loss of $2.5 million). This type of subterfuge and fiscal dishonesty cease. THE PLANET credits Kinnas for championing this issue, and his work is having some effect. People in Berkshire County are starting to realize the realities of what’s happening in Pittsfield Schools.
* Status Quo Ain’t What It Used to Be — That leads to the final observation: The apologists for the Status Quo in Pittsfield of course are angry at THE PLANET for sharing this information. We are “rumor mongers.” We are “entertainers ruthlessly exploiting the masses for readership and ratings.” We are “opportunists, cynics, and the blame for everything that is not happening in Pittsfield and hasn’t happened for 25 years.” We graciously accept these backhanded compliments, of course, because they suggest are work is having the desired effect. We have one simple goal, actually: To bring people into the Light.
For decades, “They” got along by controlling the information, leaking out the favorable and suppressing the unfavorable. With cyber-journalism, anyone with access to e-mail is a potential whistle blower, source, and informant. They have lost control of the communication. Viva free speech! Viva sunshine! Viva Truth!
PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME
That’s it for the moment. On Monday, we shall have THE PLANET’s review of Cassandra Speaks, starring Todd Randolph as journalist Dorothy Thompson, as Shakespeare & Co. opens its 35th season, some discussion of recent developments in Lenox, and who knows? Maybe more on the WTBR scandal and the latest lamentations in the land of Lenoxology.
BYE FOR NOW. AND THE LORD SAID THE MOSES: “WHO HAS MADE MAN’S MOUTH? WHO MAKES HIM DUMB, OR DEAF, OR SEEING, OR BLIND? IS IT NOT I, THE LORD? NOW THEREFORE GO, AND I WILL BE WITH YOUR MOUTH AND TEACH YOU WHAT TO SPEAK” (EXODUS 4:11).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE”
LOVE TO ALL.