COUNCIL PREZ KEVIN SHERMAN ADDRESSES ‘THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE’ IN WAKE OF THE COUNCIL-MAYORAL TIFF OVER SPECTRUM … 4th of JULY PARADE COMMITTEE ATTACK AGAINST HARRIS WILL BACKFIRE (DIRTY POLITICS FROM THE PHILLIPS CAMPAIGN?)
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, SEPT. 6, 2012) — THE PLANET put several questions to city council president, our Right Honorable Good Friend Kevin Sherman, regarding the rift between and among three councilors members (who may be speaking for others) and Mayor Dan Bianchi over Spectrum Health Services.
We asked Sherman a number of questions, mainly about how he intends to prevent the situation from devolving into political stalemate. He answered this way:
Thanks for the Facebook messages and questions. We’ll touch base further when you have time.
In response, yes, I’ve reached out and talked to most councilors since the story broke as well as the Mayor to stress the fact that while this issue is important on several levels we have other issues that need addressing as a team going forward. We have management positions to fill, streets to fix, the Rest of the River to work on, schools to fund, infrastructure to update, crime to address, and the overriding responsibility to put the City in the best position to attract and retain business and good people. The only side I’m on is that of the residents of Pittsfield who can’t afford a stalemate or posturing for the next year. To your point, yes, this will be a test of leadership and I intend to do so by example and encouragement maintaining productive communication with all Councilors, the Mayor, and most importantly the public.
My message to the trio was that I would have preferred another avenue of addressing their concerns such as meeting with the Mayor and solicitor to clear up any misunderstandings. I think some of the disagreement is subject to interpretation and semantics regarding the funding of the settlement dollars. Based on where we were at in the case, a decision was made in what was perceived to be in the best interest of City.
However, what has me very concerned in reading the court documents is the city’s level of representation and how that framed the above mentioned perception. While it could be argued that the settlement may have been the best outcome available, it’s the means to that end which is troubling. I’ll be following up on that in the coming weeks.
I’m also concerned about the level of personal vitriol in print and media which does not serve to educate the public or bring conflict to resolution. I’m a firm believer that if one looks bad – meaning elected officials – we all look bad and that is detrimental to the confidence of our residents. Expressing public insults does not project the strong, competent leadership that our people expect and deserve. Additionally, we have good people doing good things for the city and I don’t want this issue to discourage the good employees of City Hall or the residents.
In addition to my customary duties as Councilor at Large, I see one of my roles as President as mediator. So far, I’ve worked hard to remain objective and therefore not taking “sides.” Sometimes that means coming to compromise for the sake of progress and sometimes that means standing firm on hard truths and having difficult conversations. I’ve been having many of these conversations lately and I anticipate more. At the end of the day, leadership is finding solutions to our differences in the best interest of the City. It’s not always easy, pretty, or clean but as Jimmy Dugan said in “A League of Their Own”: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy everyone would do it. It’s the ‘hard’ that makes it great.”
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Strong answer from our Right Honorable Good Friend. We would make the following quick observations:
* The issues Sherman refers to “going forward” will be what in part define Campaign 2011, municipal style. That’s where we will learn more about the motivations from everyone involved. If the Council Trio (John Krol, Jonathan Lothrop, and Barry Clairmont) were motivated by a desire for truth, we would not expect more than the usual degree of political interference. The same holds true on Bianchi’s side. If he’s willing to admit that his team could have better played the situation inherited from Mayor Jimmy Ruberto, there should be no change in his ability to put forward and pass an agenda that is good for the citizens of Pittsfield.
* Sherman preferred the Council Trio to select “another avenue of addressing their concerns.” He has a point. When THE PLANET asked Clairmont why the councilors didn’t go directly to Bianchi to talk this out first, he replied, “Because we knew how he would react.” Weak answer. The three members should have met one-on-one with Bianchi first. Perhaps the mayor and council president could have set up a summit to address the concerns prior to taking them first to the Boring Broadsheet.
* Concerns “about the level of personal vitriol” is a fair one. Unfortunately, that sort of slam-bamming defines the format for what passes as political “debate.” We don’t see that changing. The 24/7 newscycle will see to that.
THE PLANET is glad to see that Sherman understands that this is a leadership test for him. Admitting as much is an indication of political maturity, a recognition of the challenge that awaits to be met rather than the denial that its looming hulk is there. It remains to be seen over the next several months how this plays out, but THE PLANET thinks Sherman is off to a good start.
ELECTION DAY DAWNS, ON A THURSDAY, YET
THE PLANET wonders: what effect will “Thursday” have on turnout? It’s hard to imagine turnout getting any worse or apathy finding a new lower register than what we’ve been used to in the recent past. If anything, being an unusual day may incite more voters to visit the polls. We hope so. We are tired of seeing turnouts well under 50%, the minimum threshold for what we would call a legitimate set of electoral results.
If more than half of eligible voters choose not to vote, doesn’t that make the “winners” on election day … nobody? We would like to see new voting laws, invalidating every election with less than 50% turnout.
Today, a couple of key races in the Democratic primary: register and Congress. For register of voters, Patsy Harris, Scott Pignatelli, and Jody Phillips fight for the seat. Harris has the endorsements of THE PLANET and many others who have experience in and with the courts, particularly as it pertains to land records.
A commenter on THE PLANET says he won’t vote for Harris because she was impolitic to a member of the Fourth of July Parade staff and because she campaigned during wake services of Bousquet’s lat owner, George Jervas. These two charges must be addressed as baseless and, likely, politically motivated.
(1) The Fourth of July Parade. Harris marched in that parade, as do any number of politicians, wanna bes, and would-bes. No crime there. As for the alleged impoliteness of the parade’s volunteer staff, is it not the other way around? It’s no secret that the volunteer parade staff — as vitriolic and political a group that one can find in local politics — are flat out for Phillips. Parade head Peter Marchetti is campaigning for Jody, and where Peter goes, his fawning followers tag along. THE PLANET has been on the receiving end of a lot of bashing from this frustrated volunteer staff, a fact we know by testimony from former volunteers who just couldn’t stand the level of ignorance found there. It’s no stretch for us to see Patsy Harris an unfair target of this group’s bitterness, a group that helped Marchetti the mayoral election and all. It’s also clear that the parade volunteers, likely working under the direction of the Phillips campaign, spread this story about Harris to damage her chances, but it will backfire in a Harris victory tonight. CHARGE DISMISSED. PARADE VOLUNTEER STAFF FOUND GUILTY OF HARASSMENT.
(2) The Jervas wake. We asked Harris about the Jervas wake. Here’s what she says:
“Sherry Roberts, George Jervas’ significant other, offered to place lawn signs on Bousquet’s property. We did not get right out there, and when George passed away, I decided that we were not going to place lawn signs on that property.”I went to the service at Bousquet because I have personally known George and Sherry for many years. I have skied there and once I had children, they also learned how to ski at Bousquet. My family has spent many years enjoying Bousquet.”Someone stated on your site that I was campaigning at this service. There is absolutely no truth to this statement. I was there as an attendee just like I would have been even if I was not running for the office of Registry of Deeds. In fact, if I was not running, I would have been there all day and had a few drinks as well. I have vowed to not respond to this type of bs on any site and have asked my people to ignore these statements as well. However, you may feel free to stand up for me once again, as you have done so well in the past.”
THE PLANET passes this along to straighten out the record. VERDICT: NOT GUILTY OF THE CHARGE.
THE PLANET has thus removed these two objections to the Harris campaign.
Voting is today. If this job is about the most qualified person for office, Patsy Harris wins, hands down.
As for the Congressional battle, it’s hard to foresee Andy Nuciforo or Bill Shein overcoming the organization and money of the Richie Neal Machine. We credit both challengers for at least drawing Neal out for a fight, even though he skipped a number of debates.
HEADING OFF FOR CALM PASTURES IN THE LOWER 40, WE BID YOU A FOND AND FAIR ELECTION DAY.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.