PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, SEPT. 7, 2012) — Congratulations are in order for the campaigns of Patsy Harris and Richard Neal. Respectively, they won the Democratic primary races for register of deeds in middle Berkshire County and 1st District U.S. representative to Congress. Barring an act of God, Honey Boo Boo, or some other unforeseen occurrence, those two shall go on to office in their respective seats, since there is no opposition, GOP or otherwise.

Caught in the Act of Being Herself: The Voters Liked It

Both wins were expected by THE PLANET. Harris ran a solid campaign, and she scored by not being a politician. She projected, retained, and maintained a “regular person” persona, and — as we advised her — she only had to be herself and not someone else. She did that. She did not do what a new-bee often does, to be like “them,” perceiving slickness and polish for the sophistication required for office.

Harris, well coachable and eager for advice, wasn’t afraid to ask for help, and she showed how smart she was in picking up expertise from others along the way, this address included. A candidate’s job is one of communication. To communicate well and effectively, a candidate must first fashion a coherent and credible message. Harris did that. She honed in on her experience — not in running for office but in running that office by virtue of having worked as assistant register for more than a decade.

Pignatelli could rely on his last name looking good, but not good enough, on a lawn sign. The best he could do after that was look the part, which he did, and attempt to translate his experience with the family electrical business to the office of register of deeds. It was an ill fit from the start, and the more voters got to know about the nature of the job, from the one candidate who knew the job, the more they could see that one does not necessarily assume the other. Phillips ran a poorly run, poorly expressed campaign. She did not have a message, and a candidate without anything to say is a blusterer, little more and a lot less, especially when that candidate had a record as a quitter in public office.

Harris did not have to do anything more than be herself, explain what she knew about the position, and not worry about her lack of campaign experience.

Do all that, Harris allowed voters to see her command of the facts. Her long time experience in the office of register allowed her to give the best answers to questions specific to the job. That made a difference. She wasn’t as “polished” as her opponents in the debates, but, again, with the proper coaching, she played her demureness into a strength. We will let Harris provide details to the extent that she wishes about our coaching sessions. We can only say we feel the kind of pride a track coach must feel when he sees his ward win the gold medal.

Harris definitely hit a chord with what we might call “normal” people — the Mary Jane and Joe Kapanskis out there, who are tired of politics and its retreads.

A Campaign of ‘What Ifs’ for Nuciforo

Neal for Congress. This was never really a race to begin with. Andy Nuciforo lost whatever momentum he built up when the plagiarism issue hit the news. Even with that, Nuciforo ran well and we have to believe that without it, he would have run. Bill Shein gave it a go and ran a credible shoestring campaign. All he needed was a pair of shoes to go with the string. Neal had the shoes, the suits, the “Look,” the talk, and mainly, the money and organization to waltz to victory. Sure, he ducked debates, but can you blame him, with nothing to gain and everything to lose?

The pity, of course, is that both these candidates walk into office by virtue of no November opposition. For register, that hardly matters. For Congress, with Neal’s less than convincing win, it does. A strong GOP challenger or a third party bid would have been interesting, especially if it was more than of the token variety.

Onto November, which will have a race for governor’s council and state rep, especially Laugenour versus Pignatelli. THE PLANET shall be covering those race in due time.



A couple of days ago, we gave the Town of Lenox what Larry Mondello and Beaver Cleaver used to call “the business.” Judging from the reaction, our comments hit the mark.

Since our report, we have learned about some of the chaos on Democratic Party committee in that town. Ken Fowler, who is chairman of the town select board, also chairs the Lenox Democratic Committee. That’s kind of like owning Baltic Avenue and Mediterranean Avenue in Monopoly. At one time, it was like owning Boardwalk and Park Place. My, how the real estate has changed. “There goes the neighborhood,” one might say.

Three Resignations in Six Months: Something’s Amiss in Millionaire Land

Since the town elections in March, there have been three resignations, THE PLANET has learned: Joe Kellog, secretary; Linda Messana, who later rejoined; and Sonya Bykofsky.

Three resignations in six months — while not on a pace of the evacuation from Dunkirk, it does not advertise well the state of the committee under chairman Fowler.

THE PLANET here publishes the resignation letters, which you might find of interest for the way they allow a glimpse “behind the curtain.”

—– 00 —–

AUGUST 28, 2012

Fellow Committee Members:

I have been busy with my seasonal business and am just catching up on e-mail messages in my personal account, so please forgive the long time in responding to Chairman Fowler’s last group message.  

I have been a member of the Democratic Party all my life.  My background is from a middle class family that participated in grass-roots democratic activism.  I joined this Committee searching for like-minded Democrats working to make a positive impact in our community, and support Democratic candidates, and values. I had the expectation that this Committee would be a place of transparency and democracy.  However…

From the time we were elected on to this committee in March 2012, new members were prevented from their right to vote immediately on committee matters (violating state law). We were told we had to first attend 3 meetings. Why? (It was only at the last meeting on 8/2/12 – after I brought this up – that suddenly this was allowed.) 
Town Democratic committees are dissolved, and re-organized every 4 years along with their by-laws. Newly elected Committee members should be given the opportunity to vote – again, immediately – to adopt, amend, or approve by-laws when the new Committee re-organizes – prior by-laws do not apply. (These prior by-laws were not even revealed to newly elected members for several months.)  Why?

Ken’s’ message [Fowler] stated to contact him if you have issues, and “we will then have an agenda item included for the next meeting and we can discuss this as a committee”.  I requested the by-laws be listed on our last meeting agenda again – Ken refused,  saying it was up to him what went on, and that we could address the matter under old (or new?) business at the next meeting.  Again, avoiding any input from new members re: the by-laws.  Why?

Apparently, there is some selectivity by the Chairperson as which laws are to be enforced, to whom they apply, and whose requests will be permitted.  Why?

Tribalism and parochialism has undermined this Committee’s ability to have transparency, respect for procedures, law, and diversity of opinions.  We’re supposed to be supporting Democratic candidates. (There’s a national election around the corner, folks.)

It is for these reasons that I am resigning this committee.  (Feel free to “play this out” in the press…that’s part of transparency.) 

—– 00 —–

Tribalism and parochialism: This provides a strong clue about what’s going on in Lenox. THE PLANET had heard the same charges with respect to Fowler’s stint as chairman of the select board. This might be entertaining soap opera at one level, but at another, more fundamental level, it means the good people of the Town of Lenox continue to be misrepresented by the petty politics of pettier, and not prettier, politicians.

—– 00 —–

Here is the resignation letter of Linda Messana:

Dear Lenox Democrats,

I have had enough of a choice few and you know who you are.  Life to too short to be bothered by your nonsense.  I have officially resigned both my position and my membership, in what was a GREAT organization.  I expect you will drive this into the ground as you have so many other things in our wonderful town.

Life is too precious to waste it on these few.  I will really the miss the rest who tried to be civil. I would rather expend my energy helping organizations and people who care and appreciate my attention.

Please look carefully at the forward e-mailing you have been presented.  There are people on the list that are NOT members of the Democratic Committee.

What happened to our elder generation of loyal Democrats.  I suspect they are as tired of this as I am.

Linda Procopio Messana

—– 00 —–

We shant attempt much commentary here. Messana’s message speaks for itself.

Finally, here is Joe Kellogg’s resignation:

—– 00 —–

From: Joseph Kellogg 
Sent: Wed, May 2, 2012 9:50 pm
Subject: Resignation

Dear Lenox Dems: 

I am writing to advise that I will be resigning from the Town Committee effective immediately or at least until a smooth transition can be made to someone willing to take over the Secretary duties.  I am available for help with a new person and will offer advice if requested.  
Although I have prepared the motion for the Charter Review article for tomorrow night’s meeting, I don’t think its appropriate for me to offer it so would ask that someone step up and volunteer to present it.  The motion is attached for anyone wanting to jump in.  
Its been a lot of fun, but my frustration with the direction of the town is just getting too much and I see no light for any significant change in the near future.  
Will likely also be resigning from Planning Board and Assessors but need to give that a little more thought as to timing.  
Thanks for everything.  
Joe K. 
—– 00 —–

There you have it: an inside look at the frustration, irritation, dissatisfaction, discontent, and vexation that has paralyzed the Democratic Town Committee and, to much of the same extent, the Lenox Board of Selectmen. One wonders: How much longer will the Mary Jane and Joe Kapanskis of Lenox put up with these clowns and their buffoonery?






  1. Pat
    September 7, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    The situation in Lenox, and Massachusetts for that matter, is what happens when one party is in power for too long. You get all of the vices that these people mentioned; lack of transparency, no respect for diversity, and playing fast and loose with the laws. So nothing gets done and the people willing to keep serving under such circumstances become more and more extreme in their views and we end up with the frustration and anger that is the current condition of the Lenox Town Committee.

    It’s the same in the state politics of Massachusetts, as we keep having so much corruption on Beacon Hill and the players involved become bolder in going around the law to suit themselves (Our last 3 Speakers of the House have been involved in corruption) not to mention the political scandals that keep coming up such as the Probation scandal which has never been fully resolved. Nepotism and other favoritism hiring continues to occur locally and in the Boston area with no end in sight.

    • Levitan
      September 7, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      The issue regarding probation has not even been touched. So long as all those positions that were created at the behest of donors continue to remain on the ledgers, it remains business as usual.

      • Kevin
        September 8, 2012 at 3:02 am #

        What a white wash the the State did with that one, they think we are stupid and we do not remember.

        • danvalenti
          September 8, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

          They do think We The People are stupid. Isn’t it a pity?

  2. Bull Durham
    September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Not that I believe the voter turnout would have been greatly improved, but I think it’s highly suspicious that the primary was scheduled for a Thursday. Many people I spoke to had no clue it was primary day. My hometown had a voter turnout rate below 10%, which is shameful, no matter how ‘dull’ a race may be.

    I also think Nuciforo’s biggest mistake was his two or three-year advance announcement of his candidacy. It locked him in before he even knew what the redistricting plan was going to be, which had a huge impact on the outcome of this race. There was no way, even if he hadn’t committed plagiarism, that he would have beaten Neal. If redistricting had gone another way, through expanding Olver’s district instead of incorporating it into Neal’s (and eliminating one of the eastern districts, which was considered), Nuciforo would have had a much easier race.

    • Tim
      September 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

      Voters who don’t know the dates of primaries simply aren’t saying attention at all. Even if you dont subscribe to the Eagle, you probably see it online or at work or at a friends house. How do you plan on being an informed voter if you dont pay even that little bit of attention. Even if you dont read the paper elsewhere, you see a lawn sign and look up the date, or ask around. Everyone has the right to vote, but if you arent at least that informed, i am glad that you arent voting because you would be voting based on name recognition or whose sign you see the most. At least if you are voting for a friend or acquaintence you have some clue and more legit reasons for your choice.

      • danvalenti
        September 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

        You are correct. No excuses for the un- and mis-informed.

  3. Scott Laugenour
    September 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Many a door I have knocked on in the last couple of months has turned out to be a door also knocked on by Patsy Harris. Voters were very impressed with her. She worked hard and campaigned hard. The ‘pros’ should take note and see a fine example in how she communicated with voters. I am delighted for her victory.

    As I expressed when I endorsed Patsy in June, voters didn’t have a choice when it came to some of the nefarious insider political appointments made in the probate and clerk magistrate offices, but they did have a choice with the Register of Deeds. Boy, how they chose well yesterday!

    • Levitan
      September 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      No Scott, I disagree. Your words are touching, but the race for Reg. of Deeds left a bad taste in just about everyone on the street with whom I talked about it.

      No one I spoke with believes that the Register of Deeds actually works a $90K job. With that in mind, how can Harris start this new job and genuinely feel she does an honest day’s work?

      • dusty
        September 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

        I guess the honorable thing for Harris to do would have been to not run and just let Pignatelli have the job. What was she thinking?

        But last time I checked she did not create the position or the salary. It was jacked up as a political plum to reward some well behaved political hack. The fact that they could not wedge one of them in there is not her fault. Every once in a while a regular person slides in somehow.

        • danvalenti
          September 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

          Yes. The unmitigated gall, that Patsy Harris wanted to compete for a job for which she alone was qualified. Patsy, from all accounts, is a hard worker. She puts in her hours, and she will be no different as register. She said in the campaign she would be there on the floor, working alongside her team. The job had turned into a patronage plum, and Patsy will right size the job again.

          • Dave
            September 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

            And her reasoning for looking for a promotion mind you, not a start at the top gig, if I remember correctly was that she has kids starting college now?- not sure if this is totally accurate- but if it is shame on her!!!

          • ambrose
            September 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

            most unfortunate of this whole election was that there was not a credible candidate to run against falrley. with the mood of the voters who went for patsy she would have been slaughtered. she won last year with two pluralities – her backers this time around would never have thought to put a third person in – ie peter white

          • danvalenti
            September 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

            Last time around, White was thrown in by the GOB, who knew all TFB had to do was beat Pummelin’ Pam, not too difficult, since PP came into the rep’s race riding a four-campaign losing streak. This time, there may have been credible candidates, but they were all too smart to get involved. That TFB skates in unopposed, having done nothing, is regrettable. Still time, someone, to mount a sticker campaign. Question for all: Could a credible candidate beat TFB with a sticker campaign?

        • levitan
          September 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

          Every once in a while a regular person slides in somehow.

          And continue your thought, this time a regular ‘slipped in’ into job which required no qualifications because we know that there are none. The job does not exist. Nuciforo held the position for 6 years and also maintained his job as a lawyer. On top of which, he ran a congressional campaign.

          Why celebrate an election which would be better named, “Mid Berkshire Lottery?”

          • Evian
            September 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

            Disagree, leviatn. There’s a job there. Andy didn’t do it, for sure, but that means Patsy and the rest of the staff did. Thats what Patsy means when she says she’s done the job. She just didn’t want to embarrass Andrea, who has been beaten enough.

    • Levitan
      September 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm #


      If you want to represent reform in Mass. politics, how about you start talking about the enormous waste within our government, starting with these superfluous jobs?

      • Scott Laugenour
        September 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

        That is a very fair issue. Along with the number of Register of Deeds positions that our tax dollars support, there is also no reason for the Commonwealth to have 85 clerk magistrate positions. As part of a new political opposition that is not vested in business-as-usual I will gladly lead efforts and cast votes to eliminate waste and I will be very open to taxpayer feedback on this.

        Thank you.

        • levitan
          September 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

          Thank you for your response. Yes, clerk magisrate’s is The taxpayer money that will now pour into Ms Harris’ household represents to me the gross inequity that offends many.

          Pittsfield alone has a large teenage pregnancy rate, hunger, failing students, and the $500,000 that will be Harris’ reward could be better directed towards them. Imagine if we put that sort of money into after school enrichment programs, tutoring, could do so much.

          • dusty
            September 8, 2012 at 2:47 am #

            The fact that you keep mentioning Ms Harris name in conjunction with your argument that the job does not need to exist, suggest to me that you might not have been so upset if someone else won. Get over it.

            I imagine there are hundreds of unnecessary jobs in the local and state govt so why all of a sudden after the election are you so upset with this? Are you Marchetti?

          • AMBROSE
            September 9, 2012 at 6:42 am #

            Ms Harris had to lay her qualifications out to the people to get a promotion to the job she was highly qualified for Had the electorate chose differntly she still would have been there to show the new guy how to do it only for $42,500. Fortunately, us the people were paying a lot more attention than the powers that be ever gave us credit for.

        • danvalenti
          September 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

          Excellent response, Scott. We look forward to catching up with you between now and November, many times. We intend to follow your campaign against Smitty closely.

        • levitan
          September 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

          “Yes, clerk magisrates are an even worse example of abusing the taxpayer.”

          (My editing ran off the tracks.)

  4. tito
    September 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Congratulations Patsy!

    • ambrose
      September 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      Congrats Patsy Bullshit! Congrats to the Planet. she wouldn’t have got 30% ON HER OWN – THE PLANET IS THE KING MAKER

    September 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    To all the candidates in all races, winners and losers. I believe you all ran a clean and honorable races Thank You all

  6. JerryPosner
    September 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I think Bill Shein stirred things up a bit and represented himself and his views honorably and eloquently. I respect him and what he advocates.

    • danvalenti
      September 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

      Shein ran smart. Smarts won’t win a race like this, but anytime someone steps forward and offers a challenge, he or she does We The People a great service.

  7. tito
    September 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Attention Barry Clairmont…..Alert! Congratulations, you are this weeks winner of the King of the Swamp’ award that goes to a person very week for dialogue and inciteful performance in the news. This weeks award is for debating the Mayor and Harpo Degnan, and making it clear that there was doubt and questions to be answered regarding the Spectrum payout and litigation..Congrats Councilor!

  8. Blind Justice
    September 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    The Monkeys are turning on the Apes running the Lenoxology Circus.

    The Apes won’t give , nor respect the law, why is that???

    • danvalenti
      September 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

      Because the Apes know that as the town is situated right now, there is little to no accountability, just a lot of griping and apathy. “Hold theys feets to da fire,” is what Redbone advises.

  9. Jonathan Melle
    September 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    I was very pleased to see my political enemy #1 named Nuciforo lose to Richie Neal.

    • levitan
      September 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      He lost the race, but he didn’t really lose very much. If he were really your enemy, you should want him all bottled up in D.C.

  10. Tim
    September 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    Must agree that his loss has much more to do with redistricting. Nuciforo campaigned harder outside of the Berkshires than in it to make up for redistricting. He had to. But maybe that hurt him at home? Plagarism probably doesn’t account for losing by 40 percentage points. Then again, neither does losing the Berkshires. But it all adds up I guess.
    By all accounts, Shein is his own man but calling out the plagarism didnt help him, only hurt Nuciforo. Almost makes you wonder if he was throwing in the towel and essentally giving his support to Neal. Almost… like I said, seems to be his own man.

  11. Scott
    September 8, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Am I reading this wrong why does the board have to vote and tailor everything to the Democrat side of politics I’m confused why political parties have anything to do with the way the board votes in the interest of the town. Also why was I forced to choose when I went to vote on Thursday then I go back to independent???

    • danvalenti
      September 8, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

      It’s because of the incestuous crossover between and among boards, provincial politics at its small town worst.

      • Scott
        September 9, 2012 at 8:40 am #

        So how come when I went to vote for register of deeds I had to pick a political party as opposed to being independent? Are the ballots different for democrat vs republican?

        • danvalenti
          September 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

          This was a party primary, Scott.

          • Scott
            September 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

            Oh silly me excuse my ignorance but I am still clueless I’ll do my own research and reading from here.

          • danvalenti
            September 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

            No problem. That’s how we learn. Questions are beautiful things.

          • Scott
            September 10, 2012 at 6:33 am #

            I don’t think we can narrow the field much more here in the Berkshires…

  12. Larry
    September 8, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    So you think Dan Has the kind of power that put Patsy over the top? That she wouldn’t have won if not for The Planet?

    The best thing about this site Valenti created is the fact that virtually anyone can weigh in on hot button issues that effect our community. While Dan Valenti moderates and adds valuable input to this sites content, he has consistently allowed opposing views of all issues I’ve seen to date. DV didn’t cram Patsy down everyone’s throats… He was one of many including myself that weighed in on a very exciting deeds race and felt Harris was the clear choice here.

    I believe we all owe Mr Valenti a debt of gratitude for creating this invaluable public forum that allows the Average Joe to put his/her two cents in on issues he never was able to in the past! Like it or not, this forum is slowly making our local daily newspaper irrelevant in today’s society.

    Thanks Dan…. This website is a virtual Grand Slam!

    • danvalenti
      September 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      Thank you. We try to provide that channel. PV serves as a conveyor of news, an issuer of opinion, and the public marketplace of ideas, where ALL are welcome, providing they stick to simple rules, which can be boiled down to one: Keep advancing the discussion.

  13. tito
    September 8, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I think the Register’s race was a perfect storm’for the winner. Jody had issues while at City Hall and subsequent opting out of the City Clerk election, while Pignatelli was the proverbial good ol boy’, all Ms. Harris had to do is run on experience and take the politics out of it. With that being said, we can agree to disagree that this particular job is an overpaid, political hack job,and has been for quite some time. The only thing that changes is a non politician gets a commanding raise.

    • dusty
      September 8, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      And I think the voters deserve a pat on the back as well. I was concerned that the deck was stacked away from Harris but the people got off their asses and voted. Hopefully this shows people that their vote does count for something and they need to make a habit of getting to the polls a couple of times every few years. Not really so much to ask unless you just don’t care who makes the rules for you.

  14. Evian
    September 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Let me say that Lenox politics are a mess. I agree with DV on that. Also agree with Larry about this site. Valenti allows everyone a say, whether you agree or not. Theres nowhere else in the internet or in print that allows this kind of freedom and presents such a clear view of issues the BB leaves alone out of fear. Thanks to DV.

    • danvalenti
      September 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      Many thanks.

  15. ambrose
    September 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    if the registers job was an appointive position patsy would be going to work monday morning helping some connected dumbell how to do the job – above the magistrates were discussed – raise your hand if you would have voted for spuranzo

    • danvalenti
      September 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

      Yes, agree with you on this one, AMBY.

    • Larry
      September 9, 2012 at 5:36 am #

      Good point Ambrose…. Smitty and Ben Downing would have done their darndess to get Scott Pignatelli in there, because he “clearly had the most managerial experience”!

      Can you imagine Ben Downing coming out with an endorsement like that? It goes to show just how these GOB political bed buddies will go to any length to get their fellow nut scratchers in. Just when is that clown Downing’s term up…. If he doesn’t need his clock reset I don’t know who does!

  16. tito
    September 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Good one Ambrose.