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C’MON DOWN, FRANK COTE! C’MON DOWN, LYNNE WHITNEY! WELCOME TO “THE PRICE IS RIGHT,” PLANET STYLE … FLOWER SHOP REPRIEVE ONLY A ONE-SHOT DEAL? … plus … A STAR IS BORN: MUSIC REVIEW OF LAKECIA BENJAMIN AT CHAMELEONS

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, OCT. 1, 2012) — Once again, THE PLANET caught “Them” with “Their” hand in the cookie jar. We can call it our reason for being or an occupational hazard. Take your pick.

C’mon down, Frank Cote, assistant superintendent of schools, Pittsfield School Department!

C’mon down, Lynn Whitney, secretary to Frank Cote, assistant superintendent of schools, Pittsfield School Department!

Welcome to, “The Price is Right,” PLANET style. The price certainly was right for Whitney, when, with the assistance of Cote, she “won” the “bid” for free slave labor provided by Taconic High School carpentry students to build her highness a house — until Terry Kinnas stepped in, then the city solicitor, then the city council.

More Revelations to Come

The case of the Great Inside Job (GIB) nearly pulled off to perfection by a secretary to an assistant superintendent in the Pittsfield School Department is far from over.

Taconic High School: Why should carpentry students there provide free slave labor to build a home for the secretary of the vocational superintendent?

Readers can refer to Friday’s posting, Sept. 28, 2012, for the details of this outrageous scam (we don’t know what else to call it), foisted off with all due “proper” “legalities” by Frank Cote, the assistant super; Lynn Whitney, his secretary and the erstwhile recipient of free slave labor from Taconic High School carpentry students; and five of the seven members of the Pittsfield School Committee, all except Terry Kinnas, the hero of this story, and Mayor Dan Bianchi, who was not present when the vote was taken.

THE PLANET‘s investigation continues, and tomorrow, we shall have the second fruits of an abhorrent case of apparent insider trading. For purposes of administration, the case bounced back into the reluctant hands of our Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield city council.

You won’t believe what we’ve uncovered. Hint: Does the Fats Waller tune, “I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” ring a bell? Find out more tomorrow, but meanwhile …

The school committee cannot proceed further because of the conflict of interest: The winner of the contract to receive free home construction — Whitney — is technically the committee’s employee. That’s great, eh? She can bid on the job that her own boss puts out to bid, and she can “win” the bid, and that’s no conflict of interest, but the school committee, her collective Boss, cannot touch her because of “conflict.” As one of our good friends used to say, “What kind of shit-shakin’ operation are they running over there?”

Folks interested in learning more squeamish details should be sure to check this website tomorrow. For now, though, THE PLANET has one important point to make: Don’t put any of this on the new acting superintendent, Gordon Noseworthy (doesn’t the name sound like it should be played by the late, great comedian Louis Nye?).  Whitney’s letter applying for the free slave labor came on April 25, when Jake Eberwein The Third controlled the den of girl scouts and thieves that has become the school department administration.

Ask yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, if it’s mere coincidence that —

(a) Whitney sent her letter into Cote when Jake was boss.

(b) “They” — the school committee — waited until Jake had left, all the way to Aug. 22, before voting on it.

(c) The school committee, at its Aug. 22 meeting, approved awarding the free labor to Whitney by a 5-1 vote, with Terry Kinnas the lone dissenting vote (Mayor Bianchi wasn’t in the room when the vote was taken). This comes at a time when supt. Dr. Noseworthy, is still cramming on the 5,001 details of the new job. “They” have to figure he won’t have any clue as to what’s going on.

(d) Moreover, Noseworthy has Jake’s glowing report on how well everything is functioning in the most dysfunctional city department of all, one that eats up 70% of a $132,000,000 budget. This is to put Noseworthy at ease and not look into things that, if left unattended, will blacken an otherwise distinguished academic record before his term as acting superintendent ends.

Noseworthy or Council: Please Take the Appropriate Action and Nip This in the Bud, as Barney Fife Would Advise Andy

THE PLANET realizes, though, that from this moment on, Noseworthy becomes involved. He’s the boss now, and he will win instant fame and a statue in Park Square if he steps in, asserts his authority, takes the city council off the hook, and unilaterally disqualifies Lynn Whitney — or ANY school department employee — from receiving free carpentry works from students … or free auto repair, or free anything that vocational students can do.

There are several agents who can kill this phony deal:

1. Noseworthy.

2. The mayor.

3. The city solicitor.

4. The city council.

5. The school commitee.

The question THE PLANET has on behalf of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski is this: Which one (or more) among them will step forward and declare this a travesty and put it to a well-deserved death?

Since THE PLANET published our story on Friday, we have received numerous reports from honest employees of the school department, who are fed up with certain individuals abusing their positions to get vocational students to work for them, for free. We will stay on this story for them, as well.

DOCTOR NOSEWORTHY: THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!

Tune in tomorrow, boys and girls, for the next thrill-packed adventure in “The Great Inside Job.”

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 FLOWER SHOP GETS REPRIEVE … RIGHT? 

The former Quarry snack bar, now a flower shop, on Route 7, near Dan Fox Drive (Ron Kitterman photo)

The Berkshire Flower Shop at 910 South St., Pittsfield, where the Quarry snack bar used to be, hears the clock ticking. Is this justified, or are officials taking a foolishthat will be regretted later?

Last year, on May 11, the flower shop got an 18-month reprieve. That brings it to November 2012. What’s the update? What then? Does the business close and the building come down after that, likely as part of South Street road work, or is there a last-minute reprieve for a business that has every right to be where it is.

When midnight comes, the flower shop is required to give up the ghost for conservation purposes.

Who Will Step Up to the Plate?

The May vote marked the second time the city council voted (8 to 3) to extend the residency of the Berkshire Flower Shop. Following the lead of the conservation commission, the council in 2010 had awarded a one-year extension. Who will step forward, stop this nonsense, and convey common sense by letting the flower shop stay where it is?

The action to close the shop comes as a result of an agreement the city reached with the late developer, Gordon Rose, on what is now Dan Fox Drive. Remember? That area was supposed to be Pittsfield Hi-Tech Park, the city’s own Silicon Valley and Route 128 Tech Corridor. The road was developed under that premise, but as all too often happens in Palookaville, Pittsfield botched the opportunity. For reasons still not entirely clear, the city abandoned the pursuit of high-tech, clean- and bio-manufacturing. It gave up on going after the jobs that Albany and other regional areas won, settling instead for a losing substitute, the Recreation and Resort ecomony. Instead, it put in retail shopping and arts and, in 2003, conveyed the land on the corner of the Drive and South Street to Patriot Suites. D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.

This isn’t Monday Morning Quarterbacking on our part. THE PLANET recalls predicting the ultimate fate of the “Resort Hotel.” It became a hot-button topic on The Dan Valenti Show at the time of the foolish vote of the city council, then headed by Rick Scapin. We questioned the investment plan, the decision by the council to allow a monstrosity of that size foul the area, and we wondered — with the glut of hotel rooms — how the hotel could stay open. It couldn’t.

It didn’t. The Resort flopped big time. Now it stands on the cliff on the corner, an empty shell, echoing from its abandoned corridors the sonorous banshee cry of another Pittsfield failure.

‘Undeveloped.’ How’s that for a Joke?

As we said, Patriot Suites took over the covenant  in 2003. In exchange for development rights and access for the Rose business park and the hotels,  the developers pledged to vacate the South Street property as part of a greenway meant to ensure that a section of South Street remains undeveloped.

How’s that for a joke? Undeveloped? Heading just a moment south from that location, a driver runs into the ugliest type of strip mall this side of Ohio. An adult book and magazine store assaults you on the left, and after you cross the Pittsfield-Lenox line, the wave includes motels, gas stations, barrooms, shopping, car dealers, and more “stuff” that the senses were meant to bear.

As businesses go, you can’t get more green than a flower company. How is a bit of landscaping that we know won’t be kept up compare (especially after it has been allowed to get overgrown) to a functioning, perhaps thriving flower business? You tell us.

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PLANET MUSIC REVIEW
We now present this music review. Not long ago, THE PLANET reviewed the Legends of the Lighthouse concert, a smash hit that brought much discussion of the local live music scene in the Berkshires then and now. While it’s true that today’s musicians do not have the number of local venues that musicians did years ago, there are still strongholds where the notes comes local, fast, and live.

Lakecia Benjamin is Destined to Be A Star, Here’s Why

By Andy Poncherello

Special to PLANET VALENTI Arts

I had the  special pleasure of catching up and coming jazz phenom Lakecia Benjamin and her band Soulsquad here in Pittsfield at a warm-up gig for her performance on a national morning program the following morning.  Ms. Benjamin’s instrument of choice is a saxophone, and she leads Soulsquad with incredible stage presence and conviction even at a mid-week club appearance in the middle of nowhere.

The band followed her lead and nailed what was referred to as their “warm-up number” and kept a steady yet frantic pace to their short but sweet forty-minute set. Most of this evening’s set was taken from her critically acclaimed debut “Retox,” and just because she’s touring in support of a debut is not to say Lakecia is a new kid on the block.  In fact, she’s been performing with a virtual who’s who in the jazz, R & B ,and hip hop scene for a number of years.  She even performed at President Obama’s inaugural ball — and there she was right here in Pittsfield.

Her band, Soulsquad — consisting of keyboards, drums, bass, vocals, and trumpet along with Lakecia’s saxophone — was incredibly tight.  Improvisation was kept to a minimum as Benjamin kept things cool, calm, and intense.  Some of the songs had lyrics while others were left up to her top-notch vocalist to use her voice as instrument.  The band had a great time, and it showed in their performance to the small but extremely appreciative crowd.

It was a treat to catch someone such as Lakecia Benjamin and Soulsquad in such an intimate setting.  She packs clubs in New York City, and it’s easy to understand why she’s working with some of the biggest names in music today.

Following this powerful kickoff to a great evening of music was Noumenon in one of their final performances of 2012. This former duo is now boasting a top-notch drummer, and they fill the room now more than ever with vocals, guitars, and drums.   While they were an experience without the drums, this sound has brought a whole new element to their angst-filled indie rock.  Look for new things from them in 2013!

Tempest hadn’t played a show in Pittsfield in approximately two years, and it was a treat to have them run through a set comprised of new material as well as old favorites on this dreary Wednesday.  While their older material was simple pop, their new songs have more of an aggressive edge.  It’s still pop, but it would fit nicely on college radio circa 1995 in-between Yo La Tango and They Might Be Giants.   Tonight Tempest was comprised of Jon on drums and Simon on guitar/vocals. They debut a new bassist soon, hopefully in time for their next local performance.

NOTE: THE PLANET COULD NOT DOWNLOAD PHOTOS FROM THIS CONCERT DUE TO A TECHNICAL GLITCH. SO SOLLY.

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AND NOW, DEAR CHILDREN, LET US GIVE THANKS. WITH GRATITUDE, LET US BREATHE DEEPLY, SMILE, AND LOVE THE FEEL OF THE BEDROOM FLOOR IN THE MORNING.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

18 Responses to “C’MON DOWN, FRANK COTE! C’MON DOWN, LYNNE WHITNEY! WELCOME TO “THE PRICE IS RIGHT,” PLANET STYLE … FLOWER SHOP REPRIEVE ONLY A ONE-SHOT DEAL? … plus … A STAR IS BORN: MUSIC REVIEW OF LAKECIA BENJAMIN AT CHAMELEONS”

  1. FPR
    September 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    Here is the way it should work…..

    The City of Pittsfield funds one new house build per year.

    Pays for all the supplies. Labor provided by Taconic High School Carpentry students.

    House to be then sold on the open market by a realtor who donates his time and skills.

    Profit to go to the City of Pittsfield to be used to benefit only the residents of the city of Pittsfield if nothing else reduce taxes. One new home put on the City tax base per year also a benefit.

    Now that its been thrust into the hands of the City Council, they can discuss it.

    Just my opinion.

    • Debbie
      October 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

      Well here’s the deal people…………….Lynn and her husband are planning on living in the new ” free slave labor home”! She sold her home on Brickhouse Mt. Road next door to this site. This lot that she is building on is considerd wet land! Who did the perc test? Really, it was one of the dryest summer’s ever. Maybe we should pull all the permits that have been SIGNED off and see who else is involved with this scam. This site should be shut down as we speak! Lynn and Cote should be removed from thier positions NOW! and the State needs to investigate this BS.

      • Terry Kinnas
        October 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

        Debbie, do you know if this is recorded at the Central Berkshire Registry of Deeds office?

  2. Deb S
    October 1, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    So what you are saying that Ms. Whitney is donating the land? I know in the pass that was how Taconic use to do it…most of the houses on Valentine Road where build by the students and sold. But the way I am reading this, it sounds like it will be Ms. Whitney’s new home.

    Just my opinion.

    • FPR
      October 1, 2012 at 4:14 am #

      Dan never said Ms. Whitney was donating land.

      The City of Pittsfield has lots of vacant lots and land that can be built on. Why would they need Ms. Whitney’s land?

      Ms. Whitney was trying to get free labor to build a house for herself and all this was done very unethically. You misunderstand the whole problem.

      • Deb S
        October 1, 2012 at 4:22 am #

        No I understood what DV wrote…I was questioning you. I should of replied to your comment.

        • FPR
          October 1, 2012 at 5:45 am #

          wait what? I never said Ms. Whitney should donate any land. I’m not a fan of her or her unethical behavior.

          You should have replied to my comment? You lost me.

          My whole point was that the City should fund the program and benefit from it. It was put in their hands by the school committee. Just an opinion.

          Are you trying to skew the whole point and make it null and void? Trying to make me look stupid?

  3. Still wondering
    October 1, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    This is another example of positive change brought by this humble blog. Thanks Dan!

    • danvalenti
      October 1, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      Many thanks, SW.

  4. layla Lady Lay
    October 1, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    This whole story is an example of something that may be “legal” technically but it doesn’t pass the ethical test. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

  5. tito
    October 1, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    what’s the ‘ethical’ test, your in Palookaville, what do you expect?

    • danvalenti
      October 2, 2012 at 6:49 am #

      “Palookaville.” That was the designation assigned to the city by the late, great Aging Greek God, Peter Arlos.

  6. taxmano
    October 1, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Dan makes a very important point–this started under King Jake III’s regime.
    He is now at MCLA in North Adams heading up a third-rate “grad” program for wanna be school administrators.Not too far to be called in for questioning. I wonder what else will surface?

  7. GMHeller
    October 1, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    Your expose of the Pittsfield School Dept. shenanigans of the ethically-challenged Asst. Superintendent Cote and his wily secretary Lynn Whitney begs the question.
    Did these two city employees (who already make a fine living off the public teat) really expect not to get caught?
    Is the PSD so ineptly managed that these two co-conspirators actually figured they could get away with their $150,000 scam (the actual cost of local labor were Ms, Whitney actually to have to pay to build the type of house she described in her bid proposal) and that no one would notice?
    Were the school committee members (other than Mr. Kinnas) cognizant that they were being asked to vote to facilitate a scam?
    Mr. Valenti, you have reported that Hizzoner Mayor Bianchi was not at the school committee meeting that day to vote.
    Why not?
    And was Hizzoner’s absence intentional and related to the Whitney vote (surely, Ms. Whitney’s proposal was on the school committee’s official agenda that day, and isn’t the agenda emailed out in advance to committee members prior to meetings)?
    Mr. Valenti, perhaps you can also fill us in as to the respective salaries, perks, and benefits already paid to Mr. Cote and Ms. Whitney by city taxpayers.

    • danvalenti
      October 1, 2012 at 11:47 am #

      * Did they “expect to get caught?” No one can say except Cody and Whitney. “Getting caught” implies illegality. The evidence thusfar suggest a serious ethical conflict but not necessarily an illegality.
      * “Is PSD … ineptly managed?” What do you think?
      * We reported Bianchi didn’t vote. We didn’t say he wasn’t at that meeting. My understanding is that he wasn’t in the room at the time of the vote.
      * Was this absence intentional? There’s nothing to suggest that.
      * Salaries: Don’t have off the top. You’re good at research. Perhaps you could find out and let us know.

  8. Ron Kitterman
    October 1, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Dan Love the analogy you made to “ The Price is Right” wasn’t that a Mark Goodson – Bill Todman production, with Bob Barker ? The real difference between the two productions in the TV show version after winning luxury items like cars, boats, and cash they were asked to pay a pretty hefty luxury tax to the tune of 50%. In this case of the city ( Lynn Whitney ) instead of come on down, I’m just guessing she had to jump through some hoops before she got to the top to collect her prize money, but the tax advantages would be different. No wonder reality TV is so popular.

    • danvalenti
      October 1, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      Indeed, Ron, a Goodson-Todman production. The version of the show that come to my mind is the one hosted by the crew-cut-coifed Bill Cullen.

  9. Mitt Romney
    October 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Dan…

    You are aware that Patriot Resorts owns the property where the flower shop is located…Yes?

    That makes her a tennant….Yes?

    Can you explain then, how a tennant can, or has the right to negotiate on something that isn’t even her property?

    Its like if you rent a store front from a landlord and his property is sold to a new owner, who then wants to demolish the building. As the tennant you don’t get to negotiate any part of the deal.

    Same thing applies here. The flower shop is a tennant and the agreement is between the city and Patriot resorts. Ms Brown should be talking with the hotel chain, not the city council.