HARRIS COMES UP BIG AT BCC DEBATE, PHILLIPS FLOPS, PIGNATELLI RISES TO THE CHALLENGE … “TAKE MY CONCERT, PLEASE”: IT WAS 29 YEARS AGO TODAY; BAND LINEUP SET FOR LEGENDS OF THE LIGHTHOUSE REUNION … plus … MORE ON THE KROL-J-LO-CLAIRMONT-BIANCHI RIFT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 2012) — They came. They debated. Harris won. Harris-Phillips-Pignatelli: win-place-and-so what?
HARRIS SHOWS WHY SHE’S THE BEST CHOICE FOR REGISTER
Last night at BCC, in a debate sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette, voters saw why Patsy Harris is the only logical choice for the post of register of deeds in Middle Berkshire County. Harris repeatedly displayed her intimate knowledge of the register’s office, including the management of that office. She solely addressed the specifics of the job. The others, Phillips especially, spoke in platitudes. The nuts and bolts of the register’s job: That is, when you boil it all down, the sole issue in this race.
Pignatelli came off as the most poised and polished, Harris the most knowledgable and telegenic, and Phillips as the most tentative and defensive. One major problem is that she had her microphone back too far on the dais, and she came across (at least to the live audience) with half the volume. Harris handled the microphone the best of the three, speaking into it, not away from it. It almost looked as if she had received professional coaching! Pignatelli showed he is comfortable in front of a live mic. Moderator Bill Sturgeon popped the most “Ps”.
Clock Management Was a Dud in This Debate
To these initial observations, THE PLANET must add this footnote: The debate came off as rather an anticlimax, in part because it was inexplicably cut short. Scheduled to run from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sturgeon brought it to a close 20 minutes early. We’ve moderated countless of these affairs on TV and radio. We have been to countless others. This is the first time we have ever seen this done.
In an e-mail exchange after the debate, Sturgeon said excessive heat was the deciding factor to bail out early. He said that none of the candidates complained. THE PLANET responded that they wouldn’t complain, it being the diplomatic thing to do. We guarantee, though, that there are three campaigns feeling short-changed this morning.
Those 20 minutes robbed potential voters of valuable face time with and exposure to the candidates. Campaigns are conducted largely in mass ignorance as it is, and taking 1/3 of the debate away comes off as a poor choice in the extreme.
Yes, it was warm in K-111, the small theater. So what. Yes, Sturgeon referred to the fact that it was warm far too many times. That makes it feel warmer. The temperature, though, was not reason to pull the plug. Again, the decision was not explained.
Of the 40 minutes of live debate time, Sturgeon ate up almost five minutes at the top with a superfluous editorializing opening statement that led into his first “question:” A confusing invitation for the candidates to state their name. We repeat: This wasn’t presented to candidates to make an opening statement, merely, to introduce themselves … after he introduced them.
That got it down to 35 debate minutes. Half of those, though, were spent on soft, inconsequential queries of the type you see on the Miss America Pageant. These questions, again, wasted too much valuable time. These included questions like: “Tell us, those here in the audience and those looking in at home, ‘Who is Jody Phillips.'” It didn’t help that Sturgeon mispronounced Phillips’ name throughout the broadcast as “Phelps.”
We were afraid of all this, and that’s why we stood in the back, against the wall, so our squirming would not be a distraction. The “What makes Scott tick” type inquiry invites nebulous, self-serving answers that are of little help to potential voters and do little for the candidates. That left about 17 minutes in which the three candidates actually discussed the specific of the register’s job. That’s where Harris triumphed, although Pignatelli more than held his own.
Each time a question required relevance from the candidates pursuant to the office they are seeking, Harris and Harris alone showed a command of verse and chapter. Pignatelli was the best dancer, expertly cha-cha-ing and dipsy-doing. Phillips, staring into the camera with a deer in the headlights look, appeared uncomfortable and unconvincing.
Each had strong moments and weak.
Strong: Harris discussing the legal implications of deeds recorded wrongly. Pignatelli talking about how in his family, public service wasn’t forced on the kids, but they knew it was expected of them through the example of his dad, the legendary Big Jawn. Phillips mentioning her stint as city clerk.
Weak: Harris losing her train of thought and asking Sturgeon to repeat the question. Pignatelli going into a “There are three qualities that are crucial: Honesty, integrity and …” He couldn’t remember the third one and had to go to his cheat sheet. Phillips: The microphone thing and her failure to articulate just why she was running.
The debate was aired by PCTV, and we refer readers to the PCTV website for rerun times.
Why the Race for Register Matters
The point has been raised that the race for register of deeds will hardly be an earth-shaking event and outcome, and we agree … were it not for three key points:
(1) The election will serve as a litmus test for who’s in charge at the moment: Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski or the GOB. Granted, the test won’t be definitive, but it will provide evidence that may help set a tone for the 2013 municipal campaign.
(2) The race features three candidates. Only one of them is “best qualified” for office. In any election with multiple candidates, by definition there is always one who is the “best” for the job. The tie breakers for that distinction are longer than those in the NFL for determining playoffs among teams with identical marks. The best often doesn’t win, of course, as we shall see in this year’s presidential election. Often, it’s hard for candidates to distinguish themselves from their opponents and achieve what the branders and marketeers call “product differentiation.” No so in this case. Harris, by far and alone, possesses the uniquely qualified “skill set” (a phrase Scott Pignatelli and Jody Phillips are fond of using, Phillips stealing it from him) for the office.
(3) The proper registration of deeds is vital to the functioning of a society such as ours, where private ownership of property rests as the cornerstone of every other political, economic, and social system. The odds are much better than the proper registering of land deeds will be higher if Harris gets in as opposed to one of her opponents.
Specifics Demonstrate Expertise
In one of the evening’s highlights, Harris took up the “this is a management position” mantra that Pignatelli has been chanting from the beginning and Phillips has copy-catted of late. She returned the serve with an ace. Harris said that, yes, Scott and Jody are right. This is a management job. It’s a job that requires document management first and staff management a close second. It’s a job that requires years of knowledge and training, since deeds have huge legal implications for what is usually the greatest single-most-valuable asset a person owns. It’s the job I have been doing for years.
Harris has those years of training — formal and on-the-job. Pignatelli and Phillips have zero of that training. The coup de grace came when Harris pointed out that as assistant register, she has been working in a management function in that very office. Pignatelli made the most of his case that his skills of managing the family’s electrical business can translate well into the register’s office. He also made an excellent point when he pledged to use the time between the day after the election and taking office in January to visit the office, once a week, and get up to speed.
Repeatedly, Harris was able to provide specifics on document flow, types of filings, the scope of work, document tacks, improvements that will lead to greater productivity and efficiency, and the like. Pignatelli, and especially Phillips, were left drifting in the bobbing generalities that dot an ocean of vagueness, from which voter’s could not see the shore.
ADVANTAGE: HARRIS. HONORABLE MENTION: PIGNATELLI. STICK TO THE DAY JOB: PHILLIPS.
IT WAS 29 YEARS AGO TODAY, PLANET PROMOTER BROUGHT THE COMIC TO PLAY
Twenty-nine years ago, THE PLANET, in our alter-ego and secret identity of Dan Valenti, produced a show and concert at the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club, in the same space where on Sept. 9, the Legends of the Lighthouse concert will be conducted.
In 1983, we produced a triple bill, with “King of the One Liners,” there Henny Youngman, headlining. Second on the bill was the rock-pop band called Rude (“billed as Crown Records recording artists”), and opening the show, a short set by the local Sweet Adelines. There was a matinee and an evening performance. Both shows bombed at the box office but were critical hits.
Glad We Did It
We produced the concert because it was something we had never done before, and we feared doing it. THE PLANET has long held the philosophy of “do what you do not want to do; do not do what you want to do,” applying that, as we have done with many ventures and enterprises, to get the experience. Given that we lost money, we weren’t glad at the time doing it, but we are, from the perspective of time, glad to have done it.
Youngman, of course, was one of the legendary names of show business. We first met him in 1977, in Syracuse, N.Y., and over the course of the next several years, stayed in touch. Best of all were the stories, countless stories, of show business and its personalities.
We wrote some material for him (his favorite among the jokes we wrote: “I walked by a bookstore yesterday. In the window was a book titled, ‘The World’s Greatest Optical Illusions.’ I went into look at it. When the clerk reached for it, it wasn’t there”), and we thought that the Berkshires would love to see this man who have appeared everywhere and with everybody.
Alas, we did a poor job of promoting. To properly promote, you have to be a barker, a huckster, a shill, with a bit of bon vivant to keep from going “carney.” That was not me back them. I had taken on a bit more than I could masticate. My reach exceeded my grasp. Those are among my most memorable such moments in what has been a wonderful life.
Looking back through the gauze of time, we remember the comic and that event fondly. Both made us stronger, better people.
Set List for Lighthouse: The Hits Keep a Comin’
The concert will feature many of the acts and bands that performed at the Lighthouse in the 1960s and 70s, when it was one of the top venues for playing live. THE PLANET’s brother, Mick, for example, regularly returned to Pittsfield to play at the Lighthouse, though he was performing mostly regionally throughout the Northeast. To this day, Mick is still making music, and the Lighthouse remains one of his favorite venues. It was always special to return home to play there with his bands.
Promoters Dave Healey and Ric Fetridge have released the set list for the Sept. 9 event:
LEGENDS OF THE LIGHTHOUSE PROGRAM LINEUP
each group will perform 15minute sets- 5minute breakdown-set-up between groups
12:50 – 1:05 The Continentals
1:05 – 1:25 Potter Mountain Road ~ Band Eastre Rebellyon
1:30 – 1:45 The Berkshire Beatles
2:10 – 2:25 The Haze
2:50 – 3:05 Antarctica
3:10 – 3:25 Sunny Day People
3:30 – 3:45 The Corvairs
3:50 – 4:05 Bobby Dick of the Sundowners
4:10 – 4:25 The Zarvis Allen Band
4:30 – 4:45 The Chasers/Wheatstone Bridge Band
4:50 – 5:10 Cornucopia
5:15 – 5:30 The Marksmen
5:35 – 6:00 Dave Grover-Puggy Demary-Mike Sacco-Andy Hagadorn
We encourage everyone to attend, for a day of great music and fun.
The doors will open at noon.
PLANET BEGINS DUE DILIGENCE ON COUNCIL-MAYOR BATTLE OVER SPECTRUM — THERE APPEAR TO BE SOME STRANGE OBJECTS NEARBY … COULD THEY BE BOMBSHELLS?
As we said we would, THE PLANET has begun our investigation into the recent tropical storm that has been making waves in the offices of the city of Pittsfield. This refers to the recent claims made by a
trio of councilors — at large Barry Clairmont, Jonathan Lothrop of Ward 5, and John Krol of Ward 6 — that Mayor Dan Bianchi lied about the nature of the $100,000 in the city budget that went as partial settlement in the case Spectrum Health Systems has against Pittsfield.
We are still in the early phases of a story that promises — though these things often fizzle out —at least one and maybe more startling revelations.
Talking to various sources with intimate knowledge of the case as well as perusing the court documents, there is at least one bombshell that appears to be loaded … and ticking.
THE PLANET hesitates to say more about this, except that it appears — on the surface of it — to vindicate former Mayor Jimmy Ruberto, validate some of what my three Right Honorable Good Friends having publicly stated, and put more of the onus on Mayor Bianchi and city solicitor Kathy Degnan than has thus far been fitted for them. Again, we hesitate to say anything definitively, pending much more legwork.
Here are some questions we ask as a way of giving you an idea of where the investigation is leading us:
* Did the actual settlement amount add up to considerably more than $100,000?
* Was the infamous “confidentiality agreement” ever signed?
* What is contained in the confidentiality agreement?
* What really happened regarding the pulled building permit for Spectrum’s occupancy of office at the Yon Building on Summer Street?
* Why did the city and the company get off to such a bad start?
Several lines of inquiry have been productive while a few have turned out to be dead ends. We will say this: There appears to be much more intrigue, cloak-and-dagger, and trenchcoat attached to this case than one would expect.
From a legal perspective, it’s an interesting case. The city prevailed in federal court but ultimately had no recourse to keep Spectrum out. From a political perspective, because it’s these three councilors, the impression is that their charges are politically motivated. They bear no love for the current mayor. Perhaps their charges have merit, first and foremost. Perhaps the political consequences are only ancillary to their case.
Our minds are open. Stay tuned.