R.I.P. JOHNNY PESKY (1919-2012) … MAYOR CHIDES BB ON SPECTRUM MISQUOTE, CORRECTS THE RECORD IN A PLANET EXCLUSIVE! … plus … WE HEAR FROM SCOTT PIGNATELLI, CANDIDATE FOR REGISTER OF DEEDS AS BATTLED LINES OF CAMPAIGN ARE DRAWN
By DAN VALENTI
Planet Valenti News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, AUG. 17, 2012) — Player, coach, manager, broadcaster, special instructor, ticket salesman, and goodwill ambassador. What did he not do? He has a piece of Fenway Park named after him. He had the perfect name for a leadoff batter.
They don’t make them like Johnny Pesky any longer (Sept. 27, 1919-Aug. 13, 2012). The great Johnny Pesky, more than anyone else bearer of the title Mr. Red Sox, died at the age of 92 this week, and the world is a little less bright, a little drearier.
The Kindest Man We Ever Met in Baseball
THE PLANET met Johnny Pesky in Winter Haven, Fla., 1980, during our 10-year stint as a MLB writer and broadcaster. Our relationship continued long after. For the next three decades, we came to appreciate this gentle, kind man, of whom it can be said: “He was a mensch.” That’s one of the highest compliments one can give. Pesky never turned down an interview request, and he never passed up an opportunity to bring someone a little joy, whether it be giving them a signed baseball or visiting cancer patients at Dana Farber.
”I feel like part of the Red Sox tradition just died because when I think of Johnny I think of him hitting fungos at spring training. We will all miss him so much,” ex-pitcher Pedro Martinez said in comments provided by the Red Sox. ”He was such a representative of everything that happened in Boston. It’s hard to think of the success, defeat, and all we went through without Johnny. You couldn’t do anything without Johnny Pesky.”
Former Red Sox first baseman and outfielder Kevin Millar was one of them.
”Johnny is the greatest man I have ever met in this wonderful game,” he said.
There’s not much more to be said, except that if there were a few more Johnny Peskys and a few less bellyachers like Dustin Pedroia, major league baseball and the world in general would be a better place.
MAYOR BIANCHI COMES TO THE PLANET TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT AFTER BB BLOWS STORY
On Tuesday, the Boring Broadsheet, in a story bylined by Dick Lindsay, had this quote from Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi on the confidentiality agreement signed by his predecessor, Jimmy Ruberto, and Spectrum Health Services: “I will never again agree to a confidentiality agreement that prevents me from speaking frankly with the people of this city.”
THE PLANET and other following our lead jumped on this quote, for it appeared to say that Bianchi had agreed to the terms of secrecy after having a choice to do so or not. On Wednesday, Bianchi contacted THE PLANET wanting to set the record straight. The mayor said the BB misquoted him. At issue was the word, “again.”
Bianchi was incredulous not only that the BB blew the quote, but they had done so going off a written statement provide to them by the mayor’s office. So it seems that even when it practices Rip ‘n’ read journalism, the paper can’t get it right. Reporters will err. You don’t want it to happen, but it happens. That’s why newspapers employ or used to in the case of the BB a series of editors (the copy desk, assistant city desk, and the city editor) to prevent this type of error. It’s a hatchet error because it cuts down the meaning of the original.
“I never said ‘again,’, Bianchi told THE PLANET. That little two-syllable word, of course, changes the meaning of the statement. Bianchi said he had to agree to the confidentiality oath imposed upon him by Ruberto, but that he, Bianchi, would never agree to such a thing as mayor. “What I said [in his statement to the BB] was that I would have never agreed to confidentiality in the first place.” It’s a huge distinction, and it puts to rest what had been a puzzling situation since Tuesday’s edition of the BB.
We asked the mayor if he had any discretion in the matter. In other words, what would have happened if he revealed the confidential terms. “There’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have sued us if we violated that,” he said.
Of the settlement that will take $100,000 out of taxpayer wallets, Bianchi said, “We hit a home run. I’ve got a stack of research from the Internet. Spectrum is a litigious company, and this is the best agreement that we’ve seen. South Covington, N.J., for example [fought Spectrum coming into that city] and had to pay $150,000. Another city sued, Spectrum, and it wound up costing $650,000. Bangor, Maine, sued to keep Spectrum out, and it settled for $320,000.”
Bianchi used the experience of Framingham, Mass., in May 2006. It sued to prevent Spectrum from locating there. They sued the company, but the courts ruled, as they have consistently done, that Spectrum could not be prevented from locating there because to do so would be discriminatory against drug addicts, who are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as handicapped.
In that case, Spectrum sought $800,000 in lost revenue from Framingham, Bianchi said, $320,000 in rental payments, and $230,000 in attorney’s fees. The city and the company settled out of court. Bianchi said he did not know the cost of that settlement.
In Pittsfield’s case, Mayor Ruberto sued the company after it announced its plans to locate on Summer Street, in the Yon Building. Despite a lot of advice against suing the company because of the court’s track record of siding with Spectrum on the basis of the ADA, Ruberto ordered that Spectrum be denied a building permit. Since Spectrum was zoned properly, Ruberto tried to keep them out by denying the permit. That move ended up costing taxpayers $100,000. On Nov. 15, 2011 in U.S. District Court, the company sued. Bianchi said the city got off cheaply, only because he reached out to Spectrum to establish a better working relationship.
Bianchi criticized Ruberto to suing the company and for his subsequent actions, which, Bianchi said, hamstrung Pittsfield and forced the settlement.
“We did a lot of work and study into the situation,” Bianchi said. “We worked hard to build up a rapport with Spectrum. I told them that [with the new mayor] things were different. It’s always important to reasonable people to let each other know your reasonable. I’ve always believed in being honest with people. Be firm, but let them know that we wanted to be helpful, that we understand that [a methadone clinic] is something we need as a city and as a community. I don’t think Jim [Ruberto] took the time to research this. He had a bull-in-a-China shop approach. I told our public health officer and our police chief to research Spectrum. We found the company had no problems in the communities where it is already operating. They have a solid 40-year track record.”
Bianchi said that about six weeks ago, as a breakfast for the state’s mayors, the mayor of one community told him: “Sure, you can keep fighting this, only to have a judge tell you in the end that you can’t keep them out.”
The mayor lauded the work of Dave Phelps of Berkshire Health Systems.
“I called Dave early on,” Bianchi said. “Dave asked, ‘Is there anything we can do to help? Dan,’ he said, ‘we will help out in any way we can in whatever way you think is appropriate. We discussed locations [for the clinic]. Dave said we need to think down the road. As a community, it’s important to recognize: We needed to have this facility sooner rather than later. He told me that we’re fortunate that if we have to have a facility like this, that it’s with a a company as good as Spectrum.”
Bianchi said he expects the methadone clinic to be “up and running sometime between now and the end of the year.”
BATTLE LINES DRAWN FOR REGISTER: IT’S HARRIS VERSUS PIGNATELLI, WITH PHILLIPS A DISTANT THIRD ONE IN.
In the race for Register of Deeds, the battle lines have pretty much formed. Assistant register Patsy Harris says she’s the best candidate by virtue of having worked in the office for 11 years. This gives her first-hand intimate knowledge of every aspect of the job, she says. One of her opponents, Scott Pignatelli, claims that the job of register is a management position. It requires not so much the detailed knowledge of the office’s minutiae but rather how to manage the staff.
The third one in this race is Jody Phillips, who hasn’t had much to say at all in this race, except that she once served as city clerk in Pittsfield. Phillips conveniently leaves out that she quit that job after receiving tenure, costing the city $25,000 in a special election. She’s also been mum — total silence — on why she wants to quit General Dynamics after a few short years. Voters don’t like quitters, and, regrettably, that’s how many of them see Phillips.
Phillips also doesn’t advertise that she’s the long-time live-in girlfriend of acting Pittsfield fire chief Bob Czerwinski. THE PLANET believes this information is relevant, since, should Phillips win the register’s race, it will give the household two mugs feeding lucratively at the public trough. That rubs lots of taxpayers — many of whom are struggling to get by on service-job salaries — with the wrong side of the sandpaper. The register’s job pays $90,000 plus benefits.
Only Harris and Pignatelli come off with the necessary gravitas to warrant serious consideration for the job. On many levels, including her sophomoric Facebook page, the Phillips campaign comes off like The Amateur Hour. Harris has produced a sophisticated website and ancillary materials. Pignatelli has issued a video on you Tube outlining his philosophy of the job. Harris and Pignatelli also offer an intriguing contrast in image and style. She is, self-admittedly, no politician. This works in Harris’ favor, since it enables her connect with regular people.
Pignatelli has the money and the organization of the Pignatelli Machine behind him. This includes the braintrust of the family patriarch, the legendary John “Big Jawn” Pignatelli, and, of course, his brother, Smitty, long time sate representative in the Southern Berkshire District. Smitty is a man well known, widely respected, and with a strong pocket of ardent supporters. Phillips has Pummelin’ Pam Malumphy and Peter Marchetti backing her campaign. Combined, PM & PM have lost their last five consecutive elections. We fail to see how that helps Phillips.
Image-wise, Harris cuts a kind of Doris Day wholesomeness. This trim, corn-fed, “girl next door” quality will win her votes. Pignatelli is photogenic. The camera likes him. He’s good looking, and he conveys an image that combines relative youth with managerial experience. Phillips, truth be told, has put on a lot of pounds since she was last seen in her job at city hall, and she doesn’t look the part. Harris and Pignatelli look hungry. Phillips looks like she hasn’t missed too many meals of late. We bring this up only to acknowledge that in the minds of at least some voters, this will make a difference. Let THE PLANET be clear, we wish that it wouldn’t mean any difference, but it does, and as always, we deal in facts.
After out piece endorsing Harris for the job, Pignatelli contacted THE PLANET. Here is some of what he told us:
“I honestly think that the voters are very lucky to have three great choices for the position of Register of Deeds. It has been my goal during this campaign to show the voters that out of the three, I am the most well-rounded to manage this office efficiently.
“There is a difference between working in the Register of Deeds office and being the Register. I have seen it many times first hand in my own business, that great work ethic and understanding of the position do not always translate into having great leadership skills. I have never denied that Patsy understands the office. She should, since she has been there for 11 years. I am not convinced, however, that she has the leadership skills necessary to make the changes needed to that office.
“I would like the contributors to and the readers of your blog to get to know me better and research my position on this important office more carefully before they make a judgment of me. I will tell you point blank that I have NO political ambitions. I am running for this job because I am tired of the politics that have come out of this office.”
We thank our good friend for this statement. He makes a compelling argument, and we would hope that our readers look at the race, and the candidates, more closely before making a decision.
The Democratic primary runoff among Harris, Pignatelli, and Phillips will be on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
YOU MAY WANDER THROUGH THE WRECKS OF DAYS DEPARTED, FAR BY DESOLATION’S SHORE, BUT EVEN OVER THAT SEA, IF YOU ARE OPEN, YOU WILL SEE THE ISLANDS OF JOY, DARTED.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.