HERE’S THE PLATFORM AND PERSONA FOR THE DREAM CANDIDATE FOR PITTSFIELD MAYOR, 2013 (COULD IT POSSIBLY BE ‘YOU KNOW WHO’?)… GOVERNMENT WASTE ON MANY LEVELS, EVEN MENUS FOR MARS … plus … QUICK HITS AND HOT LICKS TAKES ON A SLEW OF TOPICS (PARKING, CROWNE VICS, & MORE)
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, OCT. 19, 2012) — The next mayor of Pittsfield can and should run on the following platform and should possess the following qualities:
(1) Taxes: The tax rate in the city shall be lowered — not raised, not frozen — for both households and businesses. It can be done. It is not only doable but also easily doable. Tax relief is one of the best way to stimulate a local economy. Giving people and companies back more of their hard-earned money brings that money into better circulation. Moreover, a tax decrease will do wonders for the morale of a town that finds itself ever-more forsaken by its so-called “leadership.” The mayor should insist on departmental budgets with 5%-10%-15%-20% less funding. Spreadsheets allow for this. Department heads would then list where they would make cuts. The mayor would have the ultimate call. Why shouldn’t the government tighten its belt when ordinary people have to do it, year after year?
(2) Public Schools: Big changes. The mayor controls the bottom line of a bloated department that draws big money, produces poor results, and burns 70% of the city budget. The mayor is a member of the school department. He thus is poised for action in this sacred-cow department. There are many details to school reform, but the first and most important is one of the most inexpensive, practical, dramatic, and most influential in giving back to the adults control of the classroom: Uniforms. It is beyond debate: Public school systems that have implemented schools uniforms as the dress code show undeniable academic gains. The gains spill over into behavior and have a gratuitous affect on pupil behavior. The mayor would also order a top-to-bottom review of all school department cost centers with the purpose of driving down costs, raising academic performance, and increasing productivity. The mayor would also make PHS a closed campus during lunch time.
(3) The Economy: Creation of high-pay, high-benefit high-tech manufacturing jobs. Each year, tired, suit-and-tie-bound, unimaginative, ho-hum candidates conceived out of the same inbred and over-farmed gene pool spout nonsense about “jobs.” Not one of them does a thing about it. This mayor would be a visionary. He would have run a successful business in the Dreaded Private Sector for 20-30 years. He would be a maverick and an artist. He would not be afraid to pursue the hidden and less obvious. He would refashion the Office of Community Development and make it the lead jobs agency in city government. He would then send the OCD director on the road, hitting up every major and minor trade show that draws leading companies in growing industries. The OCD director would make appointments in the hospitality suites of these companies. Contacts would be made, business pursued. Waiting to be “discovered” on a stool at the soda fountain of Schwabb’s Drug Store doesn’t work any more. You have to get out there and hustle. The mayor would have so much confidence in this process that he would guarantee its success.
(4) Insurance: He would drive health insurance reform through home rule. The result of this process would be a movement from the 85-15 split between public employees and taxpayers to a more equitable rate between 75-25 and 60-40. Result: A savings of millions.
(5) Non-Profits: This dream candidate would require an audit of every non-profit agency and business now escaping the burden of taxes. Every business that cannot justify its non-profit status will either have to change that or negotiate equitable “payment-in-lieu-of-taxes” fees that would approach what the commercial tax rate would otherwise have harvested for the city budget. The end of the Non-Profit Scam would be one of the goals of this administration. Result: More millions for the budget.
(6) Parks: There would be greater investment in the parks, including the rehabilitation of the most neglected, under-used gem in the city: Springside Park.
(7) Pension Reform: In the mid-80s, the Pittsfield mayor and council did a stupid thing, great for the GOBs, public employees, and politicians. It uncapped pensions. Instead of maxing out at $30,000, the city asked for and received home rule. It now determines pensions on an average of the three highest years of pay. The unfunded liabilities, which are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, must be addressed. Pensions will be capped again. Gain to taxpayers: Millions.
(8) Consolidation: There is no reason why city and school side should duplicate maintenance, procurement, and a host of other jobs, except to create more unneeded workers at taxpayer expense. Duplication out, productivity in. City services would be audited for performance. Do we need all the fire department substations? Why should school committee members not receive pay while councilors do? Should all be volunteers or should all be paid?
(9) Communication: The mayor would conduct a weekly press conference, at a set time. He would be available to all the media, even the outlets that bash him or her.
(10) The Unexpected: This mayor would not govern like a politician but like a human being. He might never wear a suit and tie, except at funerals. He might take the door off his office. He might say “yes” to the most unlikely supplicants and “no” to the usual suspects. He would be self-deprecating, laugh a lot, and have fun. He would be a great speaker and a dynamic presence. He would have been born in Pittsfield but lives in other towns. He would have a vast and eclectic background socially and culturally. He would work not for the Special Interests but for Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. He would not be afraid of Big Ideas. He would not have the mentality of a timid bean counter or the recklessness of a dumb buffoon. He would get GE back to the bargaining table and re-open the Consent Decree. He would clean up Silver Lake. He would have many college degrees. He would be independently funded, with his own money. $20,000 ought to be enough. He would be a lover and a fighter. He would be a people person. He would do things differently. He would be a great speaker and formidable in debate. He would decorate his office with his own art work. He would pay visits to ordinary citizens, in their homes. He would, in short, oppose any grossness, and powerfully display his support for goodness and light. He would stand for truth, justice, and The American Way.
11.) Most important of all, he would pledge to run for just one term. That would free him from the cesspool of politics. This freedom would provide him the ability not to spend the second year of his term on re-election.
Love would be the first merit he’d befriend. Their praise would be lost, who stays, until all commend.
Sounds like we just announced our intention to run in 2013, doesn’t it? And yes, for what it’s worth, we have the residency problem licked!
GOT WASTE: ROBOT SQUIRRELS, MARS MENUS, AND MORE
Speaking of government waste, check this out, taken from Yahoo! News.
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Think Congress does not have much to show for itself this year? Think again. A new report from Senator Tom Coburn‘s office highlights dozens of examples of government waste in 2012. Included for the first time on this list: Congress. The very people looking into government waste find they themselves are wasteful. Coburn‘s report estimates $132 million of taxpayers’ money was wasted on “the most unproductive and unpopular Congress in modern history.”
“The waste is unbelievable,” says Coburn. “We’re bankrupt, this country is bankrupt, and people just don’t want to admit it.”
Loopholes are part of the problem. The National Football League, for example, pulled in more than $9 billion last year, yet is technically a “non-profit” organization, costing the federal government tens of millions of dollars every year in lost revenue.
“We have some of the biggest corporations in America paying no taxes whatsoever, you know something is wrong with the code,” says the Republican senator.
Millions of dollars have also been spent on questionable items, like $325,000 on a squirrel robot, realistic enough to fool a rattlesnake, and developed with a National Science Foundation grant; $40,000 to produce a video game where players can virtually enjoy a pond in Massachusetts; and $516,000 to create a video game called “Prom Week,” which simulates the interaction of teenagers surrounding the biggest social night in high school.
The spending approaches intergalactic proportions — sort of. NASA has no plans for a manned mission to Mars, but is spending nearly a $1 million a year researching what kind of food astronauts could eat if they ever get there.
“What was once a great country has been mortgaged and bankrupted by the egos and ethics of career politicians,” says Coburn, who adds the only way to change the system is to vote out all the incumbents.
“If you want to change the trajectory of our country, if you want to get rid of the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste every year, you have to change who is there.”
For more examples of government waste, including another highly-subsidized, yet rarely-used airport, check out this week’s Spinners and Winners.
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Waste is afoot.
QUICK HITS AND HOT LICKS
— Parking: The Eternal Downtown Problem, this. When the city of Pittsfield installed “Streetscape” in downtown North Street, it lost a bunch of parking spaces. This came despite Deanna Ruffer‘s bald-faced assurance that the wider sidewalks and awkward, space-eating curbs would somehow actually increase parking availability — an Orwellian “War is Peace” approach. Proof of lost spaces is now in: To make up for the lack of parking, someone in the city ordered the handicapped spaces removed. When asked why the handicapped spots vanished, public works commissioner Bruce Collingwood has this informative answer: “I don’t know why. It wasn’t shown [in the plans].” Who was responsible? Is the action legal? Will the city find itself in court soon?
— Car Talk: Taxpayers, you just got hit for $109,773. The sum pays for four new police cruisers. Crowne Vics, of course. Not that THE PLANET is saying cops are rough on cars. Are the cars needed? Minor detail, true, but only our Right Honorable Good Friend Barry Clairmont dared ask that question: “We actually need these vehicles, correct?” Clairmont asked acting police chief Mike Wynn. “Absolutely,” Wynn answered. Based on that detailed response, the council unanimously OKd the expense.
— Emergency: The city of Pittsfield now belongs to CodeRED. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? CodeRED is a web-based firm that has a system that can contact thousands of people within minutes, in the event of an emergency. CodeRED would only be used in extreme cases, for example, if Sherpa guides are spotted in a base camp on Hill 78 or if Gary Grunin is spotted in a tanning booth. Cost to taxpayers: Unknown. Remember, though, that Workshop Live was a web-based company. Cost to taxpayers for that boondoggle has yet to be calculated.
— ‘The Children’: Before the state will send Pittsfield beaucoup bucks ($$) to build a new high school, it must develop a set of goals for the vocational program. Amazing. The school building needs commission has a million members, has been in operation since Peter Arlos was knee-high to Zeus, and it still has not defined its vision for vocational schools. A recent state audit found the vocational department at Taconic High School deficient. That department is run by assistant superintendent Frank “Contractgate” Cote. The audit revealed glaring weaknesses in the vocational program. Even acting superintendent Gordon Noseworthy admitted that. Rather than get all Harry Truman on us, Cote blamed the faults on the lack of staffing on advisory boards: “We need to beef up our advisory boards. People need to reach out and help and we need to open our doors to make that happen.” Oh, really? Which means exactly what? Gibberish. Don’t look for “The Buck” in Cote’s office, because it didn’t (and doesn’t) stop there. Looks like we got another Profiles in Courage on our hands, taxpayers.
— Private-Public Quasimodo: Allegrone Construction Co., a privately held,
for-profit business, has a plan to renovate the Howard Building on the corner of First and Fenn streets in Pittsfield. Great, eh? However, this is Pittsfield. Instead of putting up all of its own money, the way capitalism should work, Allegrone is being subsidized by Pittsfield taxpayers through generous tax credits. That was not enough public welfare for Allegrone, however. A few days ago, the community development board tore up the old building permit and gave Allegrone one that waives the zoning requirement for parking. “The city is acting [as our] partner,” chirped songbird Ian Rasch, Allegrone‘s development director, speaking the words of doom. Assume the position, taxpayers. You’ve got another quasi-private-public monster on your hands.
— Feel-Good: A new state report tells us that 39% of the state’s third graders do not read up to grave level. That may be an optimistic assessment. Naturally, instead of examining why public schools aren’t working, despite countless billions poured into it, government’s response is to create another program and throw more more into the sinkhole. The state wants to create an Literacy Expert Panel to study the problem. Great. They’ve called in the “experts.” Pittsfield has also created a feel-good program aimed to enable the failure of public schools in third grade reading. Ah, it’s only money.
There is so much more happening in the city, the county, the state, and the country, but we only have time for these.
Be of good cheer, possess a strong heart, and go your own way as your own person!
WHAT UNDILUTION IS SO ABSOLUTE, THAT SOME IMPURITY DOTH NOT POLLUTE? HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYBODY!
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.