PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, JULY 5, 2012) — THE PLANET received several posts and letters on the Pittsfield Fourth of July parade. One came from someone who was attending, wrote that “it sux,” and said he was leaving. A couple others expressed disappointment as well, with the quality. Several picked up on the trash element. One of these included a new reader, who recently landed on THE PLANET:

Hey dan, I’m new to this blog, thanks to the eagle (which I despise, but read for practical things like weather and obits!) Anyway, reading your comments about all the garbage strewn about the streets and sidewalks after the parade, I was thinking…there’s as much “human debris” these days at these “festivities” as candy wrappers. I hate what Pittsfield is becoming. Sad is not even the word. Thanks for a cool site! 

Creepy Crawlies Trumping Decency

Elizabeth, you’re not alone in noting the “human debris” that crawls in “at these ‘festivities'” More than any other problem with downtown Pittsfield, actual or perceptual, the “human debris” has in effect erected a “Decent People — Keep Out” sign from Park Square to Carr Hardware. And what, or who, are “Decent People?” You know them: They get up in the morning and go to work. They pay their bills, send in remittance for the onerous taxes local, state, and federal governments pile upon them, rarely complain, they obey the law, they keep their noses clean, and they attend religious services. They keep up their yards as best they can, keep their homes and cars in good repair, dress decently, donate when the post office does the food drive, and sacrifice for their kids.

As for the “human debris,” one look and you know it’s them — a teen-aged girl walking three kids she’s had by three different men, a young man in there somewhere underneath the clothes that are ten sizes too big, the tattoo festooned, the ones with eyes as flat as the surface of an ice rink and as empty as a pitcher of cold lemonade on a hot day. The walking dead. You get the picture.

Elizabeth’s phrase, “these festivities,” used to be limited to two-bit carnivals and the type of circus that plays the backroads. There, you’d get the occasional drunk, the carny riff-raff, and a few juvenile delinquents. Today, “these festivities” include once-prooud municipal and civic events such as Third Thursday and the Fourth of July Parade.

On the first Third Thursday of the year, a full-scale riot broke out involving hundreds of teens. Just after the Fourth of July parade, attendees were treated to the knife fight scene from “West Side Story” — only it wasn’t Bernardo vs. Riff, and it was for real. George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn were nowhere in sight.

Cool Work by Pittsfield Police Saved a Tragedy

A couple of men got into “the knife thang” for real. A crowd of about 50 gathered. Police showed up, and one of the officers had to draw his service handgun after ordering one of the non-compliant West Siders to drop the blade. For a moment, it got tense, and you could see the Tragedy Express barreling onto the scene. Fortunately, after a long pause, the man dropped his knife, and though cooler heads did not prevail, good work by the Pittsfield Police brought the situation under control.

Here’s the point: If you’re a senior citizen, stay out of downtown, especially past Maplewood Avenue and North Street, going north. If you’re an unescorted woman, stay off the sidewalks. If you’re a law-abiding, respectable person who doesn’t want to risk a knife attack, a mugging, a robbery, or worse, don’t go near those streets: They’re mean.

They’re not meant for you anymore, Joe and Mary Jane Kapanski. You can’t take your little ones to Liggett’s for a cold lime rickey. You can’t shop at a world-class department store such as England Brothers. You won’t see people dress up for their appearance “upstreet.” Those days are long gone, but there’s no lamentation there. We can’t expect Shangril-La to remain after the city loses 14,000 good-paying, great-benefits manufacturing jobs. Is it too much, however, to ask for a safe, clean downtown, where citizens can venture with peace of mind and without feeling they are risking their lives? Is it too much to ask that more foot patrols be instituted in the downtown?

The answer, apparently, is “yes.” The street are meant for the riff-raff, the ones who take but do not give, the low lives, the scum, the bottom of the barrel, most of whom have decided that’s where they want to be for the rest of their mooching lives.

Candy Wrapping Configurations

Speaking of the other kind of trash, parade organizers did a good job of keeping trash off the streets from Park Square to Maplewood, certainly better than last year. As soon at you hit the upper part of North Street heading to Wahconah Street, though, the parade route turned into the bombed-out city of Beirut. Sidewalks and road festooned with cups, lids, straws, fast-food wrappers, candy wrappers, plastic bags, and you name it (though we won’t). What is it about the area North of Maplewood? Why does the force field that keeps the rest of downtown relatively safe and respectable dissolve as one heads north? Who wrote the rules for the line of demarcation that exists?

“The answer,” said one county planner, “is the configuration of the West Side. When you get to Linden and North and continue north, downtown is actually nothing more than the border of an entire area that’s bubbling right now with some bad brew. It’s like the walls of a fort meant to keep the Indians out, only it’s not keeping them out.”

Our source was referring to the vast Wes Side neighborhood that continues up the Linden Street hill, to and past Onota Street, and continuing east and west, but mostly westerly. The “bad brew,” he said, referred to a mix of welfare recipients, single moms, high school drop outs, drug dealers and users, gang members, alcoholics, the homeless, and other “deficient” populations. He also mentioned the concentration of too many social-service agencies (the juvenile court, Ad-Lib, etc.) in the heart of downtown.

THE PLANET had friends and family that lived on Onota Street, and we spent a lot of time there, on picnics, holidays, and visits. We have memories in the early to mid 60s of a clean, well-kept area of middle and lower-middle class residences. There were lots of kids, and you could always get a ballgame. Today, long-time residents of the area say they’ve never seen it this bad.

Stay safe, everyone.



In light of this discussion, it’s worth nothing the comments of Pam Tobin, executive director of taxpayer-funded Downtown Pittsfield Inc., on the state of “upstreet.”

“Downtown Pittsfield is alive with restaurant, shops, arts, and culture,” Tobin writes in the July 4 edition of Berkshire Business News, published by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. She then cites “First Friday’s Artswalk” as evidence: “Every First Friday of the month, each participating venue hosts a reception and the art stays on display all month long. What a great way to experience downtown!” Yes, exclamation point!!.

Art is Fine, But Where are the Jobs? The Arts Won’t, and Can’t Do it Alone

THE PLANET agrees. We love art, and we won’t mean Art Ditmar and Art Carney (though we love them, too!). We love art for art’s sake, though, more than art used as a loss leader. It’s all well and good to have art at different downtown venues. It’s fine for the artists, and it adds interest and color to interior walls. The big “however” in this, however, must be — This is not what downtown Pittsfield needs.

It doesn’t need a $2 million sprucing (it just got one). What downtown needs, in fact, isn’t about downtown at all. It’s about jobs, quality jobs that pay a living salary and offer decent benefits. More than any imprinted crosswalks, new street pavement, handicapped ramps, and fencing, downtown needs a local — L-O-C-A-L — clientele that can afford the theater, restaurants, and art featured there. It will only get that with good jobs, the kind of jobs that, apparently, in which the economic developers in the city don’t believe.

Though they don’t come out and say it, Downtown Inc. and the other official downtown boosters are still placing everything they have in the salvation they think is offered by tourists: the leftovers from South and North counties plus those who might want to come in to see something at the Colonial or Barrington Stage. They come, see, and go. These people won’t save downtown. They don’t stay downtown. These people at best provide a second-rate recreation and resort economy, dooming the locals to low-pay, poor-or-no benefit jobs to put butter on the popcorn of the weathy and wait on then in a restaurant.

Tobin then mentions the upcoming Pittsfield Ethnic Fair, Sunday Aug. 5 from noon to 6 p.m. Third Thursday has been marred by a riot. The Fourth of July parade was marred by a knife fight and trash. What will the Ethnic Fair bring?

“Do you want to be part of downtown’s resurgence and all that is happening?” Tobin gushes. Right now, too many decent people are answering, “Uh, no.”








  1. tito
    July 5, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    Well what did you expect, the parade theme was the ‘movies’ a reenactment of West Side Story.

    • Gene
      July 5, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      Funny, tito! Good one. But its sad, too. DV makes great point about the deterioration of North St. I left the parade early. I didn’t like the poeople who were near us. We were at North and Orchard.

  2. Deb S
    July 5, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    I work downtown and during the day you see these sub humans walking the street like they own it….we need foot patrol more than ever…when I was a kid growing up in Pittsfield we all knew the names of the police that walked the beat. It’s time for the people of Pittsfield to re clam their city and demand more from the people we put into office. Just my thoughts….

    • dusty
      July 6, 2012 at 2:01 am #

      I would like to hear the reason, from the mayor or Chief Wynn, as to why there are not more foot patrols. Is there really a logical reason? If it worked before why can’t it work now? They seem to be available when there is OT involved.

      • Spectator
        July 6, 2012 at 6:04 am #

        why should he have to pay officers to enforce the laws when they all know that the real crooks at the courthouse are gonna let the perps the cops risked their safety to bust off the hook with a slap on the wrist?

        • Molly
          July 6, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

          Very true – sad but true.

  3. Ed
    July 5, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Somewhat off topic, however it’s applicable to the root cause of the demise of North St. and our fair city; the loss of the solid jobs. In the Eagle there was a item about that intrepid economic developer. PEDA. There are valid reasons not to demolish the Woodlawn Avenue bridge right now and that is another story. The crux of today’s story is trust of Boston government. Our dynamo, Corey Thurston assured the present voting members of the PEDA board ( all four of them) that he has verbal, not written assurances that state money is forthcomming. He also on this verbal pipe dream assumed responsibility for the new bridge design or was it the design to demolish same? At whose expense ?
    What is actually going on at PEDA ? Only four voting members at a critical meeting ? And one was the mayor. I thought the PEDA board was expanding, not shrinking.

  4. Scott
    July 5, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    We need less gun laws and a stand your ground law in Mass sure it’ll be bloody for a little bit but then these guys will learn a little respect when it becomes more common for Marry-Jane and Joe to be potentially packing their own heat. They’ll think twice then.

    Also what do you expect from that side of town which has long been a housing area of the working poor and with the recent surge of developers getting tax breaks for building “affordable housing” it’s only going to get worse.

    I skipped the parade for the first time in years as I live off South St. we traditionally walk up but we had other business and plans. On our way home we drove down North St. and it looked as if all the garbage had been cleaned up.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

      DV- easy on the tats man. I’ve a lot and my wife a couple small ones. We are not scum, and make a very good living.
      Just messing with yeah, I always have to say something about your dislike of ink…

      Scott- we have a stand your ground law in Mass. And justly so, you better be damned righteous in your use of deadly force.
      One problem we have is many local PDs, comply with the law by issuing LTCs but put restrictions on them. I can understand they do not want all kinds of idiots carrying concealed, but the criminals don’t give a shit. Mostly the criminals attack each other, but I don’t think I’m safe around Pittsfield, no one is. All kinds of scum around.
      I don’t leave the house without pepper spray/mace. And yes, I can legally possess it and carry it.
      Life Member NRA
      Goal Member
      SAF Member

      • danvalenti
        July 5, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

        Yes, the ink is cool on some, and tasteful, too. I think people leaving the house while protected in some way is going to get more popular.

      • Scott
        July 6, 2012 at 5:08 am #

        They restricted my wife’s the first time she got it (which is illegal.) She never even had a speeding ticket a friend of mine just got his no restrictions with a prior minor in possession of alcohol and possession of marijuana granted this was years ago and I believe he’s fit to carry but it just shows if you know someone in the police department it helps. That’s how this whole city works on all levels. I like the pepper spray and they should make all less lethal defense products obtainable to citizens. I’d love some bean bag rounds for the shot gun. (yes I know those can be deadly too at close range.- I just wanted to point that out before I got lectured again.)

      July 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

      Scott- reread your post. Saying [things] like ‘it will be bloody for awhile’ is some ignorant [stuff]. That’s why the PDs feel the need to restrict carry. That type of statement reflects very poorly on those of us who own firearms and use them with the utmost care and respect.
      If you truly value your RIGHT to keep and carry arms, don’t say stupid crap that gives the police more incentive to restrict legal possession of arms.
      Ever seen what a modern cartridge does when it impacts a person? Or even an animal? It aint pretty. If you think its a game, your a poster child for gun restriction. Grow up and stop posting BS that makes gun owners look like crazy vigilantes.
      Sorry dude, but putting those kinds of statements on a public forum are doing NOTHING to further your cause.

      • Scott
        July 6, 2012 at 5:01 am #

        Well you can walk around scared and potentially get prosecuted if you ever have to defend yourself or your family. Notice that I said it need to be done with in the parameters of law. The police can’t be there to protect every one all the time. Personally I don’t carry a gun I don’t have a need for it as no one ever bothers me. I do think more woman and the elderly should be packing at all times. I’m talking about scumbags who will kill you for a $20 bag of dope you need to wake up. I wrote Deval and let him know I am for stand your ground laws and against his opposition of them. So as of now just turn and run.

        • JUST SAYING
          July 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

          I’m not scared. I’m prepared. I agree that restrictions are illegal. However, you carry and get caught, bye bye legal guns.
          I have friends in the middle of the state, live in a certain large city. Four of em have received their LTC A in recent months, all with NO restrictions. I get it, restrictions are in fact not a part of any law.
          Mass is in fact a stand your ground state. A simple web search will show this.
          Bean bag rounds? If a person enters my home illegally, their getting 00 Buck.
          For every day defense, spray is not a great choice, but its better than nothing. Look up Commonwealth vs. Jefferson. 461 Mass. 821.
          I really don’t see where you said anything about legality. Perhaps I missed it. If so, I retract what I said about your previous post.

          • Scott
            July 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

            You’ll never clean that mess up plus if the sound of the 12 gauge receiving a round doesn’t work they deserve what they get in my opinion.

  5. acheshirecat
    July 5, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    I remember going “upstreet” with my mother as a kid. We always dressed up. Not sundays best, but never holes in pants, no shirt or messy hair. It was a destination where we would shop, pay bills and grab burger at Friendy’s. Always sitting at the counter never a booth. Today I couldn’t give you more than 4 or 5 names of businesses that are not an eatery on North St..
    Another part missing from our home town parade is nieghborhood involvment. Back in the days when the city parks were staffed for the summer by either just graduating high school students or college students home for the summer, each park was given a flat bed trailer, some crepe papier and chicken wire to make a float for the parade. It was a great way to get parents involved and the nieghborhood to get together. Oh yeah, one of the staffers of my park was young Dan Valenti ! I am one of the kids that played whiffleball and hardball (we din’t call it baseball for some reason) all day long at good old Dewey Park! Thanks for making it a great summer!

    • Jim Gleason
      July 5, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      There are only 3 parks that are staffed in Pittsfield during the summer this year, Clapp,, Pitt and Deming, NOT ONE in the North End or East End of town.The excuse for a Community Development Dept. runs Parks now, with Frau Deanna Ruffer at the helm.It seems to me that kids in all area’s of the city would need supervised park activity during summer, not just on the West side and the Southeast. Lack of caring or lack of talent at the top? I suspect both..

      • Jim Gleason
        July 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

        I mean at the top of community development, not the mayor. He has his hands full with the mess ruberto left him.

  6. Still wondering
    July 5, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    The North Street chaos spread into Dotties today. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    • danvalenti
      July 5, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      What happened there, SW?

  7. Still wondering
    July 5, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Check Facebook.

  8. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    July 5, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Im not seeing it on my facebook page anywhere SW. Can you elaborate?

  9. Still wondering
    July 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    “Disappointed in the city of Pittsfield, who has let an aggressive and volatile man roam downtown for the past week. Today this man threatened to kill one of our most beloved customers, while drinking coffee within our cafe. How can we have a bigger police presence downtown so that local businesses can be safe and successful?”

  10. barry lobovits
    July 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I think someone owes someone an apology – not a single iota of trash on North-South street this AM , cleaned up to spiffy by the next AM . Good job !

    • danvalenti
      July 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

      Glad to see the Parade organizers listened to THE PLANET and addressed the trash problem much better this year. And no, they needn’t apologize to us. They did a good job!

    • Deb S
      July 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      well we paid for the clean up…the city workers where out yesterday afternoon…what is that double time working on a holiday??? just saying…

      • Deb S
        July 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

        sorry meant were not where….

        • danvalenti
          July 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

          We love proper mechanics in writing!

  11. Gene
    July 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    SW is this quote here from facebook? I’m not on fb, and who is the speaker of the quote. Is it someone from Dotties? thanks

  12. Jim Gleason
    July 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    One of the reasons there are the type of people you write about, Dan, is that former mayor ruberto made it very clear in both word and practice that anyone was welcome in Pittsfield during his disastrous reign of 8 years. He wanted to keep Pittsfield’s population over 40,000 to make sure we qualified for grants and programs available only to small cities over that population mark. He accepted anyone and everyone, including riff raff that mar events such as parades, TT and Live on the Lake.These people come for easy access to Section 8 and welfare benefits in Pittsfield. I have been advocating with Ben Downing for years to push for a law requiring anyone who gets any type of Social service benefit to take random drug tests. So far, no progress in Boston. If MA instituted a program of this sort it would cut the prevalence of this type in our Commonwealth and town. Just my opinion.

    • Sonny
      July 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

      Jim, you hit the nail on the head section 8. It is a thriving business in the Pitts. Run down houses being bought+brought up to minimal code by half ass carpenter types that work under the table. Landlord then charges 800 with 600 guarranted payed by the government. The rats rush in to swoop these up. I would like to see the number of section 8 apartments now as compared to the 60’s+70’s. I think it would easily show why were headed for the ghetto lifestyle in this city. Then we buy their food, pay their heating bills+ we’ll even give them a cell phone. Welfare does not work, just like the people on it.

    • danvalenti
      July 5, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Thanks for your point of view, as always, one that is informed and well expressed. The Section 8 problem is a big one, no doubt. I’ve had many people express to me their concern and nervousness about gathering at free public events that draw crowds. Too bad it’s come to that, but their prudence seems warranted.

    • Chet Hunter
      July 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      Jim. What the heck are you talking about? Jim you got to get over your disatification with Ruberto

      • Jim Gleason
        July 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

        He was a disaster and we should rue the day he was elected to office. I hear his protegee John Krol is planning a run for mayor next time. Another potential disaster.

        • dusty
          July 7, 2012 at 10:20 am #

          He does seem to have all the plastic characteristics the GOB look for in a politician. He is a fast talking Kerwoody type that likes to try to blind people with his bouncing bob and weave verbosity. They will probably need to put Ruberto type financing behind him though…but they got it so they will.

    • Deb S
      July 6, 2012 at 4:59 am #

      also it had to do with the Women’s Shelter…back in the 90’s we didn’t have enough to fill the shelter so they brought them from Boston and surrounding states.

    July 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    So what happened @ Dotties? Some of us aren’t on “I provide the inner workings of my life book”.

    • danvalenti
      July 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      That’s a funny reference to FB!

        July 5, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

        It was meant to be amusing, however it is also sadly true.
        People seem to focus their days around FB, and what their “friends” are posting.
        I don’t understand it. I believe it affects people in a negative way.
        To each his/her own.

    • Scott
      July 6, 2012 at 4:54 am #

      I deleted fb you’re right! Here’s a status for you, Today is lets keep the gory details of your mundane life to yourself day.

    July 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Who brings these people into our town, welfare, churches (oh yes they do) jail inmates (while there there families move here) the liberals, who feels sorry for them and have all laws passed to protect them. Judges who have no common sense and protect them with their rulings. Yep and it goes on and on and on. People better wake up before its to late. Oh yea start by putting Obama in the unemployment line

    July 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    I see some of my language was altered in an earlier post.
    Gotcha. Will attempt to restrict myself in the future.

  16. danvalenti
    July 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Thanks, JS. Trying to keep the level of comments to a high standard.

  17. tito
    July 6, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    Most undesirable place to be isNorth Street, period,from the Pop Corner all the way to Wahconah and North streets, walk any day of the week and you will see your so called Renaissance in full force.

    • Scott
      July 6, 2012 at 4:51 am #

      I look at those people with compassion and understanding of their ignorance the second you start seeing them as anything else other then flawed humans that’s when the fear sets in. As citizens we just need to be aware of our surroundings Pittsfield is safe for the most part. The majority of violence happens between people who are associated with each other or life styles. The evolution of weaponry and the arms race is what created a level playing field but we forget about that way too quick.

  18. Gene
    July 6, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    good message, Scott.

  19. Shakes His Head
    July 6, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    I live on the West Side, as do several of my coworkers. It is a neighborhood full of a mixture of people and housing opportunities. Parks, including the crown jewel- Burbank, are frequent, if only partially maintained. There are many people there that work hard and struggle, and just as many that work hard and succeed. I run the West Side hills many a day and see great, hospitable people.

    The knife incident at the parade was the spill over from a domestic dispute. It was not a ‘random’ event.

    • Scott
      July 6, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      The media sensationalizes violence because in all actuality it’s what people want. The same way buying sustainable products allows you to vote with your dollars in a sense what you watch, read and associate yourself with allows you to vote with your virtues.

  20. Outfox
    July 6, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Y’all are aware that there’s a suboxone clinic on North St., right? The way those clinic clients troll North St. looking for one another is what makes the street seem so rough during the day.