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SCHOOL COMMITTEE BLOWS IT ON KRATKA-STURGEON CASE (‘IT’S THE PLANET’S FAULT’ LARRY-THE-K BLEATS) … CRANE SOURCE SAYS JOB LOSS A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME … THE PLANET TAKES A FURTHER LOOK AT REGISTER’S RACE … plus … CHAMBER BOSS SENDS OUT AN ODD POLITICAL MEMO

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, AUG. 23, 2012) — He put his trust in the officials. They let him down. Thus, Bill Sturgeon is twice betrayed.

THE PLANET, which as you know has been closely following the Larry Kratka-Bill Sturgeon Disappearing Act, has heard from our good friend Bill. The School Committee took up the matter last night, and it failed big time. The gutless School Committee, under the ineffectual leadership of Alf Barbalunga, failed We The People, Bill Sturgeon, the School Department, taxpayers, and everyone who believes in honest government and accountability.

Sturgeon issued the following statement following the meeting last night:

My appearance before the Pittsfield School Committee turned out to be a tremendous disappointment, Sturgeon says. “I have waited over two months to have the school committee solicit the name or names of the politicians who called Larry Kratka and told him to cancel my show. As I said in my 3-minute presentation, (carefully timed by the chairperson) this is not about me. It’s about Freedom of Speech, political interference, and truth.
I want to thank all the veterans, members of the community, and UNICO members who came tonight to show support for me. As one of the veterans said, “The school committee permitted Mr. Kratka to filibuster the evening and not answer the question.” Mrs. Yon did get Mr. Kratka to admit that he was influenced by some blogs. That was the closest they got to the truth.
I had been asked to pursue this issue using more “official” channels. However, I decided to put my trust in the School Committee to get the truth, and they didn’t! So, I am done! I will let someone else fight the fight; I tried. 
I would never do anything to hurt the Taconic Radio Club, because of the benefits gained by the students. As many of you know, I have been involved with the development of programming and rehabilitation programs for Youthful Offenders and Juveniles for many years. Anything that keeps a child in school is worthwhile, I believe. 
What I hope is that the school committee and the new administration heard and saw that the radio station is lacking policies, procedures, guidelines, protocols, and in my opinion, academic goals and objectives.
We thank our good friend for his statement.
“Mrs. Yon did get Mr. Kratka to admit that he was influenced by some blogs. That was the closest they got to the truth.”
Now it comes out. Kratka is blaming THE PLANET for his betrayal of Bill Sturgeon, which is all well and good, since, if you hear many in official Pittsfield tell it, we cause the sun to set each night, turn the cumulus into rain clouds, and are, alone, responsible for the deplorable state of a fast-sinking city.
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SOURCE: CRANE’S REPORTED JOB LOSSES MIGHT JUST BE THE BEGINNING

Sometimes a “real” story lurks beneath the surface of the “reported” story. THE PLANET can’t say for sure that this is happening here, but the signs are there. The recent announcement by Crane and Company that it would consolidate its stationary division from four locations to one, axing 55 jobs, had other clues surrounding it.

There have been rumors and whisperings about this move for a couple months, and it proved true.  Those aren’t the only whispers surrounding Crane these days. Read on.

On the heels of The Boring Broadsheet terminating eight positions in its graphic department (those jobs will be shipped to India), the news from venerable Crane & Co. last week was just as bleak. In a major shakeup of its stationary division, Crane will ax 55 jobs by year’s end. The news comes amid whispers and rumblings that the venerable company, Dalton’s largest employer, may be experiencing cash-flow problems. That’s ironic given Crane’s role for more than 130 years of supplying the paper used to print U.S. currency.

Good Pay, Good-Benefits jobs are Irreplaceable in the Moribund Local Economy, Which Sold Its Soul to the Tourist Dollar

The 55 positions are high-pay, good benefits job that simply will be irreplaceable in the moribund local economy. The elimination of these jobs will allow Crane to close the two stationary offices in Pittsfield and the one in Dalton and consolidate the operations to one office in North Adams. Those jobs won’t be coming back.

This may be the first in a series of similar moves in the months and years ahead. A company official, who works in the 268-employee division of Crane Stationary, spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The company right now is experiencing some financial issues,” the source said. “For one thing, people don’t use stationary the way they used to. They text, they send e-mail, and all that electronic traffic has put a dent in the operation. That is expected to continue. This [the 55 lost jobs] may just be the beginning, unless things somehow turn around.” The source said that he or she “wouldn’t be surprised” if the remaining 200 plus jobs are cut within the “next couple or three years.” A recent company meeting addressed that topic, the source said.

The source also says that major changes in U.S. currency management and procurement will be occurring eventually, although that will be longer term. One of the changes will be less need for paper money. Again, the source said, electronic transactions, credit cards, and other forms of debit payments are reducing the need for physical cash. There is also a heightened need to security devices to be built into money, and there is a concern that it will be a level of sophistication with which Crane and Company cannot contend. These developments, the source said, are forcing the company to take a long-term look at its financial picture. “We’re trying to make moves now that will help us better cope with the changes that appear to be heading our way down the line.”

Asked to assess the long-term health of Crane, the source said, “Good. but not great. We’re buckling our seat belts for what may be a rough ride. I think we’ll do OK, but it won’t be the Crane people remember [from its prime].”

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MORE ON THE THREE-HEADED REGISTER’S RACE

In a typical campaign, the race for register of deeds barely gets notice. This time it’s different. First, it’s the only contested race with any drama attached to it. Whatever chance Andy Nuciforo has of upsetting Richie Neal for Congress disappeared when the third candidate for that seat, Bill Shein, discovered that most of Nuciforo’s website had been lifted flat out from other politicians. Plagiarism, inadvertent or not, is lethal. Second, the register’s race pits three legitimate candidates, each of whom can make a case for the job, with varying degrees of relevance.

JODY PHILLIPS: Dial “Q” for “Quitter”

Jody Phillips, Scott Pignatelli, and Patsy Harris each have a set of strengths and weaknesses. The most damaged of the three, Phillips, has a red “Q” emblazoned on her breast pocket. That “Q” stands for “quitter.” Phillips, former city clerk in Pittsfield, quit that job in mid-term to jump ship at what she thought was a greener grass at General Dynamics (translate: It paid more money). Now, one a few short years later, she is willing to quit on GD, prompted by the $90,000-a-year-plus benefits carrot being waved in front of her by the register’s job. A public servant like this cannot be trusted to handle any of the people’s business. Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski show justifiable concern at such blatant opportunism. THE PLANET also hears that Phillips’ bosses at GD are less than thrilled that she’s so willing to pull the plug there.

Phillips Lacks an Conversent Understanding of the Register’s Job

THE PLANET also cannot accept her statements about being happy at General Dynamics. We don’t know, but we wonder: Could it be that she discovered that the Dreaded Private Sector actually expects a worker to sing for her supper, unlike public “service,” where there is little to no accountability. This is not even to mention Phillips lack of understanding about the register’s job. Whenever Phillips has been asked specific questions about the register’s office, she recites banal generalities and cue-card bromides. If she wins this race, expect a $90,000 “mail it in” job from Phillips. The work ethic is simply not there.

Scott Pignatelli pledges that if he wins, he will be on the job full time.

 SCOTT PIGNATELLI: Pledges to restore “accountability” in the register’s office.

“Believe me,” Pignatelli says, “if I am lucky enough to win this race, I will serve this position well. I am too proud of my family name to do an injustice to it. I said at my kick-off that this is an office within government that can be managed like a business —a place where everyone who works there will be held accountable and offer the public service that should be expected. There are many other things which could be offered through this office using current staff without increasing budgets.”

Pignatelli, clearly the preferable option over Phillips, continues to speak of the job as a management position, with a set of skills that are more than transferrable from managing the staff of an electrical company to that of a deeds office. Perhaps he is right, but if he is, we wonder, then: Why does that office need a manager at all? If the skill set is so translatable, can it be that demanding? In other words, would the advantage he claims in the management department make that much of a difference in the functioning of the office?

So What, Exactly, Does a Register Do?”

Part of the intrigue of this race lies in the nature of the register’s job itself. Is it an anachronism, as some claim, or does the job have a purpose. What does a register do? Even there, it’s hard to find consensus. If the job is strictly a management position, Pignatelli has the most experience in running a staff. If the job is more, however, and if it requires first and foremost “a knowledge of the documents that we’re recording at the registry of deed,” as Harris says, then she is the person for the position.

Harris: No Substitute for First Hand Knowledge of the Documents

In an interview with THE PLANET, Harris stressed the importance of knowing the nature of the documents that come in for recording. This isn’t a job like mayor or city councilor, whose duties are not proscribed and can be what an individual wants them to be. The register’s office has narrowly proscribed duties, with many of its action fraught with legal implications. It is not an office that will forgive much in the way of mistakes. That’s why the position of register has largely turned into a hands-off, make work job. With so much to screw up, the best option might be not to show up.

WIth Harris, the electorate will have no such fear. Patsy Harris presently works full-time in the registry’s office, as she has done for the past 11 years. She, too, says that if she wins, she will “earn her pay” by being a “full-time register.” For Harris, that will represent nothing different than what she’s doing now. Attorneys we’ve talked too can’t say enough of her work ethic, her integrity, and her ability.

Harris says she will be “there with my staff, working alongside them, and providing direction from a practical standpoint.” She says her two opponents offer only generalities and abstract management talk when discussing the job. “I will be able to answer the questions that come into the office from day one.” That will not be true of her two opponents, she says, who will need “at least” a year or more of a learning curve.

Harris makes an important point in response to the criticism that has been leveled at her by her two opponents — that she has no managerial experience.

Harris is Already on the Job, in a Management Position

 PATSY HARRIS: She says she’s already doing the job, and that includes management.

“That is not true,” Harris counters. “I have been assistant register for going on six years. It’s a management position.” Harris says she has had active input on the hiring of more than half the staff. Currently, seven people work in the office. The position is a management position, Harris says, but not ion the way Phillips and Pignatelli, “in their inexperience,” suggest. “Yes, you manage, but mostly it’s managing documents.” She says the vast majority of questions that the register has to rule on relate to specific questions of specific types of documents.

Only Harris has proposed specific changes when asked what she would do in the office should she win. Phillips and Pignatelli have not answered that question. They’ve done a Mexican hat dance around it. On the other hand, Harris proposes merging the three county register offices into one. THE PLANET has long been arguing for that vey move. Only last week, we pointed out how Suffolk County, with six times the population of Berkshire County, gets by with one office. The move will have to be phased in slowly, but Harris is committed to consolidation as a main strategic initiative. She also intends to begin digitizing”all of the books and microfilm under the register of deeds jurisdiction, particularly the historical books.”

Harris says it would be “a shame” to hand these records over to “a politician.”

Voters get their say for Middle Berkshire register of Deeds on election day, Thursday, Sept. 6. THE PLANET has endorsed Harris.

Voters have a chance to talk to the candidates tomorrow (Thursday, 8/23) at the Dalton Senior Center, 40 Field St. Extension. The “meet the candidates” lunch will begin at noon. For more information, call the Dalton senior center at 413-684-2000.

On Monday, Aug. 27, Jonathan Levine and The Pittsfield Gazette will host a debate among the three candidates for register. The debate will be at BCC.

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CHAMBER’S SUPRANOWICZ SENDS OUT A HEAD-’EM-OFF-AT-THE-PASS MEMO
In another campaign note, Berkshire Chamber of Commerce CEO Mike Supranowicz sent out this reminder to his mailing list. See below.
It’s interesting that he should feel the need to warn the electorate about the use of the “chamber” name and the mimicking of its mailings. THE PLANET hasn’t seen any such piece of campaign literature, and we would be interested in having in our possession any offending piece.
If such a piece is not there and does not exist, it may mean what THE STOOLEY tells us. As you know, THE PLANET uses the name “THE STOOLEY” as a generic name to cover a number of sources in various offices and positions who are privy to information and who would not want their identities known. And yes, spare us the lecture about unnamed sources. No one is more eager than us to see people steeping forward into the light with their own identities, but you don’t last long in this city, in politics or in business, if you do too much of that. Fear, they call it. Plain, simple fear.
Anyway, THE STOOLEY says the chamber board (yes, not “bored,” though that too!) wanted to cut off criticism at the pass for its often obvious favoritism in local politics. Campaigns, he reminds us “are just a small part of the political process. The power of office is where most politics happen. That memo Mike sent was just to cover his rear.”
It must have been a rather large piece of paper. Wait, we’ll let you judge for yourself. Here is the text:

Legislative Alert

Election season is upon us, and in the coming months, a wide range of campaign collateral will likely come across your desk and collect in your inbox as political action committees (PACs) develop in an effort to influence the federal election. Some of this material will be distributed using language and identities with “chamber” in the name, and some may even display a similar image to familiar chamber communications, but please rest assured that this material is not being distributed by or in affiliation with your Berkshire Chamber.The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce is a non-partisan organization, and while we work on behalf of our members to advocate for issues that affect the business community, we do not support or endorse political candidates for office.  Your membership dues are dedicated strictly to delivering the programs and benefits that you enjoy as a valued member of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. We appreciate your investment.
Mike Supranowicz
President and CEO
Berkshire Chamber of Commerce
msupranowicz@berkshirechamber.com
We are shocked — shocked! — to hear of Big Mike’s concern that PAC money might actually attempt to “influence the federal election.” The tea-leaf readers interpret that phrase as a slam against congressional candidate Andy Nuciforo. If you don’t know why, then you haven’t been paying attention.
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FALL MOUNTAINS. JUST DON’T FALL ON ME — JIMI HENDRIX
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.

30 Responses to “SCHOOL COMMITTEE BLOWS IT ON KRATKA-STURGEON CASE (‘IT’S THE PLANET’S FAULT’ LARRY-THE-K BLEATS) … CRANE SOURCE SAYS JOB LOSS A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME … THE PLANET TAKES A FURTHER LOOK AT REGISTER’S RACE … plus … CHAMBER BOSS SENDS OUT AN ODD POLITICAL MEMO”

  1. Jim Gleason
    August 23, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Sturge should go away and shut up. Do your show for 10 listeners on W Rip Roarin’ Sturgeon. Nobody wants you at TBR.

    • joetaxpayer
      August 25, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      Jim why be so rude and nasty to Mr Sturgeon?He has always treated you with respect when ever you called into his show.I understand you are not a fan of his show,but why make it personal.

  2. taxmano
    August 23, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Terry K is turning out to be a bit of a disappointment. He seems to be a bit a obstructionist and to enjoy being contrary for its own sake.Plus, without King Jake III to watch getting annoyed, its no fun anymore.
    I think the whole committee needs to go, especially that annoying Yon and Amuso. I agree that Alfie is extremely ineffectual, too. (Side note: Alfie changes his appearance every time you see him. Mutton chops, goatee, than clean shaven, them just a mustache, then shaved head, then longer hair, etc. etc. Tells me he is not comfortable in his own skin.)

    • Andy
      August 23, 2012 at 7:04 am #

      Kinnas really needs a hobby. He’s completely clueless and living in an alternate reality.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      Terry can seem that way, sure, but at least he questions. “Question everything” is a wise motto to have while in public service or covering public servants.

      • Joe blow
        August 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

        We need more people like Terry! Everyone else on the committee seems satisfied with the status quo. Yon was acting like a child mumbling under her breath everytime Terry spoke.

        • danvalenti
          August 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

          Once upon a Yon, there were mumblings in the chamber space.
          As Alf dithered and Conant withered, Amuso coughed to save face.
          Bianchi nodded, Elias finessed, and left the work to Terry Kinnas.

  3. Andy
    August 23, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    In regards to Sturgeon’s comments during the public commentary period of last night’s meeting. On what planet is he currently residing that anyone under the age of 55 wants to hear talk radio all day in the Berkshires? Sure, from time to time, it’s fine, but generally it’s boring after the same guest appears on the same programs month in month out. There really isn’t that much going on around here to begin with. Syndicated shows are easy and less of a headache than having to deal with locally produced programs that are so milquetoast that there’s no reason to even listen to them. The “rah rah” cheerleading is completely biased and again, boring. Sturgeon had a show, got fired, almost had a show, it didn’t happen, got a solid alternative and there’s still sour grapes. Regardless of what happened and why, it’s time to move on.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      ANDY
      I agree with some of what you say. The Berkshires is too small a market and the hosts too unimaginative and tame for all-day talk. How many times do we need to hear from the same city officials, spouting their propaganda unchallenged? How many times do we have to have the theaters on plugging their shows? The “rah rah” that we get on Vox and WBRK is, as you said, “biased and boring.” The solution, of course, is someone who’s not afraid of the beast that is talk radio, has the talent and pipes to do it, and the intelligence not to bore the audience or condescend to them.

      • Andy
        August 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

        This may be true, but is there enough of that going against the grain sort of talk to fill 2 hours per day/10 hours per week? It has to be interesting. Too many times ANY of the shows that have been on/are on the air, can’t even get the facts straight or the details correct. It takes a good producer and a host who can think on his or her feet at the drop of a hat to carry a show that you could actually expect to be a true alternative. Less prepared questions and more conversations with some talking points is a start. And if shows get canceled on WBRK because of controversy (true or imagined), I would expect the same scrutiny (or even more actually) to be placed on a show that could have possibly ended up on WTBR no matter how good the intentions were at the time. WBRK and WBEC canceled shows because of a lack of backbone and pandering to the local big wigs correct? (In the case of WBEC the cancelation of Limbaugh was because of something national rather than local). They don’t like it, they call the GM or in this case the owner and then the show is gone. There needs to be a line a drawn that if you don’t like the programming on a local commercial station, then too bad. Suck it up and deal with it or listen to something else.

        • Demitrius T. Gladiator
          August 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

          WBRK and WBEC management are gutless. The only radio star who’se been ableto keep up interest day after day and year afte ryear is Valenti.

  4. skier1
    August 23, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    If Ms. Harris says the other two running against her are politicians why under her picture on her facebook page does it say politician?

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      SKIER1
      Easy. By definition, she is a “politician.” That’s what you are when you run for elective office. It doesn’t make you a Politician, if you get the drift.

  5. Joe T
    August 23, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Patsy Harris seems the best qualified. I like that it would be a “promotion from the ranks.”

    But does anyone have a take on Marchetti’s letter to the editor calling out Patsy for wearing her campaign T-Shirt during the 4th of July parade? Marchetti claims he warned her several times that it was against the rules. Not sure how that weighs in for me.

    Jody is clearly a joke – didn’t she botch an election ballot that had to be redone?

    • dusty
      August 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      If you learned that Marchetti was working for the Pignatelli campaign would you still let that T-shirt bother you? With all the sleazy things going on in Pittsfield politics T-shirts don’t really rattle me. I am more into substance than desperate political attacks. but for some candidates that is all they have.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      She is — the best qualified. By far. We shall will Patsy Harris to victory.

  6. danvalenti
    August 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Remember, Marchetti is working for Jody. What does that tell you. It’s interesting how Peter selectively complains about that “rule.” And isn’t it the height of hypocrisy and idiocy for him to have a “rule” against politicking in the parade and yet allowing politicians who march and carry their banners, waving their hands live androids and wearing the psoriasitic smile of the insincere?

  7. Jonathan Melle
    August 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Smitty Pignatelli is Scott Pignatelli’s brother. Smitty Pignatelli is a corrupt and insider Good Old Boy politician. Smitty Pignatelli is going to hurt his brother’s Scott’s chances of winning the primary election for Registry of Deeds.

  8. taxmano
    August 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I asked my plumber (he’s the boss of the operation, too) whether his experiences have prepared him for the register of deeds position. When he stopped laughing, he said its not relevant experience.

    Scott is always saying he will be a full-time register.Can we hold him “accountable” to that promise? Can we expect the lucrative Pignatelli Electric to close if he wins? Or will he do his business on the side from the register’s office? (Or maybe do his register’s work on the side.)

    BTW, Scott’s dudley-do -right rhetoric sounds just like Smitty’s (and just as duplicitous).

    • Larry
      August 23, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

      Of course Pignatelli Electric won’t close…. It will just benefit from the extra 90k, health insurance and a kick ass retirement package for the boss!

      I have to laugh at his competitor Comalli’s letter to the BB…. He will not have to see Pignatelli bidding on as much work because Pignatelli will have to show his face at the deeds office once in a blue moon!

      Pignatelli & Phillips currently have good paying jobs….. Their only interest an easy no show job with great $ and benny’s. For the experienced one it’s a promotion! Why anyone would not vote for Harris is beyond me…. And no…. I do not know her or work for her campaign. Just an outsiders perception.

      • joetaxpayer
        August 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

        Larry, Comalli is not a competitor of Pignatelli.Comalli does 10 times the volume of work and bid on much larger projects.

        • Larry
          August 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

          Sorry. Didn’t realize they were in the exact same trade…. My fault

  9. Elizabeth
    August 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Stop dissing smitty..he’s a good guy who does a lot of good for the people.

    • danvalenti
      August 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

      Everyone’s a “good guy.” That’s not the issue. The issue is who is best qualified to step into this job.

    • Jonathan Melle
      August 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      Smitty Pignatelli would not sign my nomination papers when I was running for Berkshire State Senator in early-2004. Smitty doesn’t believe in democracy!

      • Joe blow
        August 24, 2012 at 4:45 am #

        Im not a fan of his but he has no obligation to sign your nomination papers.

        • danvalenti
          August 24, 2012 at 6:01 am #

          JOE is correct, Jonathan.

          • Beacon Hill Mob
            August 26, 2012 at 10:16 am #

            So what would Smitty have to fear???

            He was NOT the brightest light (pun intended), when he was at LMHS.

  10. tito
    August 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Planet, speaking of Mission Implausible, did you see Mr. Phelps stare down his assistant, odd job, and her contrite nod, right on cue. Do these pigeons go to nodding school? Is it a requirement, not only to nod, but on cue?

  11. Elizabeth
    August 24, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    I’m talking about the other smitty, not Scott.