SALARY, TERMS FOR DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF PPS CONTINUES TO DRAW COMMENT … KINNAS JUSTIFIES CHOICE … 1954 & THE GE-PITTSFIELD HALLOWEEN PARADE: DID THOSE DAYS REALLY HAPPEN? … CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS AND OBAMACARE: WHERE’S THE BEEF? … plus VIVA! CUBA! CASTRO SPEECH OPENS THE DOOR FOR SANITY ON US POLICY
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2012) — We start off the weekend an item that ran yesterday on THE PLANET. We included it as the last piece of several, and the amount of interest in this subject prompts its reposting today, to keep this alive for the weekend. Several readers commented on the contract the school committee signed to hire Deputy Supt. of School N. Tracey Crowe.
THE PLANET had fun with the pretentious J. Alfred Prufrock format of her name, but the exceptional contract she signed is no joke. We don’t blame Crowe, who recognized a soft touch in the Pittsfield School Department Administration and, more particularly, the school board. We do question the board members — Chairman Alf Barbalunga, Terry Kinnas, James Conant, Chris Yon, Dan Bianchi, and Kathy Amuso — for agreeing to this deal. You notice THE PLANET does not include Dan Elias. Elias alone called this back breaking for the Little Guy, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.
The committee discussed this pact in executive session, neatly keeping We The People from the details. No wonder, given what we were told at budget time was a time to eliminate unnecessary spending. THE PLANET credits Jonathan Levine of The Pittsfield Gazette for discovering the details of Crowe’s deal. We present what Levine uncovered yesterday, and the redux we hope will keep a robust discussion of this issue alive.
FROM YESTERDAY’S PLANET:
Finally, we present these important observations of Jonathan Levine in the Pittsfield Gazette on N. Tracey Crowe, the new deputy superintendent of the Pittsfield Public School System and winner of THE PLANET’s first annual J. Alfred Prufrock Award (known by insiders as “The Alf”).
Levine points out:
* Crowe has “no applicable district-wide experience,” yet she will pull down an $18,283 raise in the budgeted salary for the position.
* Crowe receives a city-paid (i.e., “taxpayer paid”) life insurance policy with an annual premium up to $1,500.
* Crowe will get a relocation bonus of up to $3,000.
* Crowe will receive a “technology package” for a personal iPad and a smart phone, again, with taxpayers picking up the bill.
* Crowe will get more paid vacation time this year than any other city Pittsfield employee. Keep in mind she has yet to complete one day on the job.
* Crowe will receive a 10 percent annual pay bonus, 20 paid sick days, and the ability to convert unused sick days and vacation time into C$A$S$H.
This is a ruinous contract for taxpayers, and it will open the floodgates when new administrators are hired. The only school committee member to vote against this awful contract was Dan Elias.
We wonder if school committee Chairman Alf Barbalunga might himself qualify for an “Alf” for masterminding this dumb deal. THE PLANET also wonders: Is there a “casting couch” in the city of Pittsfield for new hires such as N. Tracey?
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Kinnas: ‘We got the best person for the money’
Dan, I am writing in response to the article on The Planet about the Deputy Superintendent contract for the Pittsfield Public Schools. My rationale for voting for the contract was based on need, job market as it related to cost, and real effect on payroll, which includes all benefits that are not included in the school budget. From my perspective, the Pittsfield School Dept. needed some change and both the Interim Superintendent [Gordon L. Noseworthy] and Deputy Superintendent [Crowe] provided for that opportunity; sometimes you get what you pay for. The School Committee was provided with 18 pages of wage/benefits reports of comparable positions throughout Massachusetts. We are at the low end of the scale. Additionally, a point of clarification: the Deputy Superintendent did not take the city’s health insurance. This was the deal sealer for me as it did not cost the city’s taxpayers $21,268.53. Also, the Deputy Superintendent did not get a 10% bonus deal, to the best of my knowledge. Some additional observations: both the Interim Superintendent and the Deputy Superintendent spent about a week here on their own dime, before the former two people in those positions left. My editorial note: I have met with both people for about two hours each. I am comfortable with the Deputy Superintendent’s operational perspectives. The Interim Superintendent has a good grasp of some of his challenges, me being one of them. — Terry Kinnas
THE HALLOWEEN PARADE FROM THE 1950s: DID THOSE DAYS REALLY HAPPEN?
THE PLANET continues with some light fun, conjuring the dim and distant past that eternally remains alive in memory, a region that exists beyond the confines of space and the ravages of time.
Check the attached photograph, one of our serendipitous discoveries while fishing through the well-stocked waters of a website devoted to the history of GE Power Transformers in Pittsfield — at one time, believe of not boys and girls, the greatest, most advanced PT facility in the world.
Many of our readers may have worked there, had family members that once worked there, and certainly friends in the employ of Father GE. It was a time, in the hay day, when a kid could graduate from high school, march down to the personnel office on Woodlawn Avenue, and get a job offer the same day. Next thing that kid knew, he or she was making a good salary with great benefits. It made the middle and lower-middle class in Pittsfield, and the beneficent results spilled over into every aspect of civic life.
It could be seen in the way people dressed, the cleanliness of the streets and public ways, the personal care that went into personal property, the quality and caliber of people who ran for public office, the decency you literally met with everyday of your venturing out.
Once Upon a Time …
GE was a good corporate citizen. Sure, the pollution it left in the air, ground, and water doesn’t bear that statement without a lot of wobbling, but we cannot judge history from the ethics and values of the present. History is a story that, when written situationally and absolutely, necessarily produces distortions. The proper historian detaches him- or herself from the values and mores of his or her present society and enters the past “clean,” as best as can humanly be done, as a member of that past and not his or her own present. To accurately report history, the writer must learn so much about the epoch in question that he or she can answer questions as a virtual member of a time long gone. For this reason, we have much shabby history, particularly when revised to fit the political correctness of the present.
Fortunately, in personal memory, we need not be confined with the limitations of history. Personal memory does not fall into the “trap of the historical,” which is to say that our personal pasts remain much alive and continue that way as long as we are taking breaths in and out on God’s great earth.
William Blake‘s observation has proven accurate time and time again: The child is the father of the man.
With that, we present this photograph, taken of one of the exhibits of the 1954 Halloween Parade made possible largely through the GE’s contributions and the toil of its employees. GE assigned its best draftsmen, engineers, and production workers to conceive, design, and build the most elaborate floats. Young people cannot imagine the city hosting such an elaborate, sophisticated, and spirit-raising event as the Halloween Parades, circa the 1950s.
This picture depicts a silvery flying saucer, a big topic back in 1954. The many UFO stories and scares, most pertaining to alien invasion, masked as a mythic substitute for the irrational fear the government tried to instill in citizens during the Cold War.
In the picture, we see a well-articulated mechanical man rising out of his spaceship, aiming a ray gun. The robot bobbed up and down out of the hatch. The gun emitted a strong light, and the barrel of the weapon glowed in various colored lights. It could have come out of one of them classic Poverty Row serials we used to enjoy on those riotous Friday nights at the Boy’s Club. Radar Men From the Moon comes immediately to mind.
Thought, Care, Craftsmanship
If you examine this photo, you can see the thought, care, and craftsmanship that went into this fabulous creation. It’s hard to judge the massive scale of the ship, but the baffled sound room in the background, particularly the door in the lower center portion of the picture, gives you some idea. Keep in mind, also, that in the typical Halloween Parade from the 1950s, such an exhibit would be just one of a series of similar floats and displays.
The PLANET’s dad, our first and still our best hero in life, captured the glory of the parade in 8mm color film that several years ago we had digitized. Perhaps they might make a nice show here. We shall see.
The point of this thought exercise? We have lost appreciation for the more wholesome chapters of the city’s past. We see this phenomenon not only in the sad state of the downtown, particularly the creepy crawly critters who looked they’ve just stepped from a zombie movie, but also the way the memories bring up accusations of “wallowing in nostalgia.” Appreciation of the past is not to be confused with maudlin sentimentality on THE PLANET.
The accusers engage in one of two heresies:
(1) Those days are over. They can never come again. Don’t even try, for example, to build a genuine, functioning economy. Don’t go after manufacturing. It’s impossible. The Arts: Let’s build on that.
(2) It’s not 1954. The Renaissance has happened. Bring out the dancing girls! We can rest, now. Everything is great! Then you get the litany: The Colonial, the Beacon, the restaurants, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
THE PLANET rejects both these heresies. A genuine, functioning economy is possible, with hard work, smart management, and political will, all three of which have been missing for 25 years. The Renaissance has not happened downtown. The city has created a vacant, urban moonscape when, for two months of the year, tourists might pay for theater and dining tickets ordinary citizens can’t afford. The rest of the time, the Celanites (the creepy crawlies mentioned earlier) dominate the scene.
Not good enough, by a long shot.
IF CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS CAN OPT OUT OF CONTRACEPTIVE SERVICES, THEN WHERE’S THE BEEF WITH OBAMACARE COMPROMISE?
OK, here’s what we don’t get about the Catholic Bishops deafening protest against Obamacare. The Bishops are claiming the federal government is violating the Church’s First Amendment rights by forcing Catholic institutions to pay for family planning, contraceptives, and abortions. It makes a compelling issue.
When you look at a case in point, however, the Bishops’ position doesn’t add up.
THE PLANET obtained this memo from a Catholic healthcare organization that provides health insurance for its employees. The HR department sent this to employees:
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Recent Federal Health Care Reform concerning Contraceptive Services and Religious EMployers has resulted in an amendment allowing certain non-profit religious employers offering health coverage the option to exclude contraceptive services which [sic] are not consistent with their beliefs.
The NAME OF ORGANIZATION … chooses this exclusion.
This exclusion is an amendment to our INSURANCE COMPANY’S NAME HERE coverage (effective July 1, 2012) and removes coverage for the following services: Family Planning, Contraceptives, Abortions.
To verify any insurance benefit under our Group Health Plan please call (800) 000-0000.
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If Catholic organization have the freedom to bail out of offensive coverage, where’s the beef? Do the Bishops want it both ways, or do they have a point? Something doesn’t add up.
Finally, the opportunity for sanity with the U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba. We share this opening to a wire service story on the island nation 90 miles off Florida.
HAVANA (AP) — Cuban President Raul Castro said Thursday that his government is willing to mend fences with bitter Cold War foe the United States and sit down to discuss anything, as long as it is a conversation between equals.
At the end of a Revolution Day ceremony marking the 59th anniversary of a failed uprising against a military barracks, Castro grabbed the microphone for apparently impromptu remarks. He echoed previous statements that no topic is off-limits, including U.S. concerns about democracy, freedom of the press and human rights on the island, as long as it is a conversation between equals.
“Any day they want, the table is set. This has already been said through diplomatic channels,” Castro said. “If they want to talk, we will talk.”
Washington would have to be prepared to hear Cuba’s own complaints about the treatment of those issues in the United States and its European allies, he added.
“We are nobody’s colony, nobody’s puppet,” Castro said.
The Obama Administration, which has dropped the ball on Afghanistan and Syria, can get this one right by drop the stupid embargo, that goes back to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and restoring full diplomatic relations with our neighbor to the south.
THE PLANET will not entertain false hopes. We like the view of writer Arturo Lopez-Levy, who notes: “When U.S. President Barack Obama announced his decision this month to ease restrictions on Americans traveling and sending money to Cuba, he did it late on a Friday afternoon before a long holiday weekend — a old trick from the White House playbook, used by presidents hoping to make controversial policy changes with as little uproar as possible from the U.S. Congress and the media. But Obama shouldn’t have been so quiet about the move — it is the best Cuba policy decision the United States has made in years.”
HEFT, HARRUMPHS, and HAPPINESS HAVE SWAY, FOR IT IS THE CUSP OF THE WEEKEND. ALL WILL BE WELL IN YOUR WORLD IF YOU REALIZE YOUR POWER TO MAKE IT WELL.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.