‘SMOKING IN THE BOYZ ROOM II’: PFD SOURCE OUTS ONE SMOKER … IS THE INFO ACCURATE, TIM B.? … THE BB DIDN’T TELL YOU ABOUT IT, BUT ANOTHER MELEE MARS THIRD THURSDAY … WHEN DOES A $783 RADIO COST $7,625? WHEN GOVERNMENT GETS INVOLVED, AS IT DID IN PITTSFIELD LAST NIGHT … plus … MORE ON WHILDEN-O’CONNELL
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, OCT. 24, 2012) — In response to several questions about the veracity of the state law that prohibits fire fighters and police officers hired in or after 1988 to smoke on or off the job, yes, that law is on the books. It’s not a rumor or myth.
First in the Nation
With the anti-smoking law, Massachusetts became the first state in the union to prohibit newly hired police officers and fire fighters from smoking on or off the job. The law is clear: personnel who violate the smoking prohibition can be fired. As to the question of the extent to which the government can dictate what people do on their own time, remember who and what the government is: The government is We The People.
The law has been found to be constitutional because it is a reasonable expectation that municipal employees, especially those in key public safety positions, should not engage in any behavior with proven health risks, including death. Cigarette smoking kills. Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski should not be expected to hire public safety officers for people with a death wish.
Even now, Pittsfield citizens pay a lot of money for disability pensions. That’s money paid out with no services rendered in return. Smoking, no doubt, would only increase those liabilities. For those interested, the anti-smoking provision can be found in M.G. L., Section 101A. It reads
Section 101A. Subsequent to January first, nineteen hundred and eighty-eight, no person who smokes any tobacco product shall be eligible for appointment as a police officer or firefighter in a city or town and no person so appointed after said date shall continue in such office or position if such person thereafter smokes any tobacco products. The personnel administrator shall promulgate regulations for the implementation of this section.
THE PLANET hopes that Chief Robert Czerwinski changes begins to enforce this law to the letter. We would also expect the city’s director of personnel to get in on the action.
THE BB DIDN’T WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT, BUT THERE WAS PUNK ‘ACTION’ AT THIRD THURSDAY
On the recent Third Thursday (Oct. 18) THE PLANET received word about a “dust-up” in front of Persip Park on the corner of Columbus Avenue and North Street, also known as the Aqualung Atrium (“Snot is running down his nose, greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes” — Jethro Tull). Here is an excerpt from the report filed by THE STOOLEY (remember, THE STOOLEY is an honorary title given to the army of spies, gumshoes, and other sources who are the eyes and ears of THE PLANET’s famous Secret Squadron:
[The fight] was quickly quelled by nearby parents. The really frightening part about that was that as the crowd began to move en masse away from the disturbance, it was really every man for himself, a la yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The potential for injury from a stampede was high; luckily that didn’t happen.
The Boring Broadsheet didn’t report on this because (a) It probably didn’t find out about it, what with its great coverage of downtown issues and (b) It would have upset some advertisers, who want the “rah-rah, ziz-boom-bah” on a 24/7 basis. Readers will recall how THE PLANET forced the BB to play catch up in May, when we broke the story of the downtown riot that occurred at the end of the first Third Thursday.
What is it about these gatherings that prompt young people to get “all stoopit like?”
WHEN GOVERNMENT GETS INVOLVED, 12 $782.84 radios end up costing $40,320.71 x 2 = $80,640
Last night, our Right Honorable Good Friends went through a white-bread agenda consisting of an appointment (Charles Kronick to the Animal Control Commission), three routine communications from the mayor), and an amendment to the zoning map. Compared to the council’s previous meeting (Noconfidencegate and Contractgate), last night was like “Bambi” following a showing of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Even in such a snooze-inducing agenda, however, there can be “stuff.” How so? Remember: “This is Pittsfield.”
Item 4: A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to accept a grant in the amount of $40,320.71 from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
On the whole, it looks like taxpayers are getting a good deal here: $40, 320.71 of free money. However, “free” is not “free” and it never is.
The money will be used to buy radios and training to use them for the Pittsfield Auxiliary Police. The PAP, according to acting chief Mike Wynn‘s statement in the project summary, “has played an important role with the City of Pittsfield as well as the Pittsfield Police Department for the past four decades.” Wynn chooses a curious way to word this, as if the city and the PPD are separate entities. The PLANET agrees, though, that the PAP (currently with 10 members under the direction of Capt. Joe Bouquard) provides good service for traffic and crown control, disaster preparedness, missing person searches, and special events (for example, when the First Lady visited Pittsfield this summer).
Taxpayers must kick-in an equal amount of money, $40,320.71, for which the PPd accounts in a creative way. On the grant-funding template Wynn filed with the state, section 5 states: “Successful applicants must provide a 100% (dollar-for-dollar cash or in-kind match.” Section 5a lists the matching amount. Section 5b requires the applicant to describe the nature of the matching funds: “type of match (cash or in kind: [cash] ____ In kind: ________”. For some reason, Wynn has left that line blank.
Later in the section, he describes that the funding will be in-kind from the following sources:
* 1,200 volunteer hours of the PAP, @$15 an hour = $18,000
* Repair and maintenance, donated by John’s Automotive, for seven vehicles = $11,429.08, or an average of $1,632.72per vehicle.
* Gasoline for the seven PAP vehicles, figured on 200 miles per week, 17.5 miles per gallow, @ $4 a gallon = $16,640
* “Additional cost of $9,359.11 (Auxiliary Space Provided by Pittsfield Police Department)” Wynn’s application reads. This seems to be what the PPD charges the PAP for rent.
* “Administrative costs for grant support” = $1,749.62
These items add up to $57,177.81 of in-kind match for the city to qualify for the $40K+ grant.
The money will be used to provide 12 Motorola VHF 5-watt hand-held HT1250 portable radios, with ancillary equipment and training. That breaks down to $5,760.10 per radio. The radios are being purchased for $782.84 from Comtronics Wireless Communications of Qunicy, Mass. That’s a discrepancy of $4,977.26 per radio!
When you add in what the city contributed in-kind — $51,177.81 — and add that to the state grant, the grand total for 12 Motorola radios for the PAP amounts to $91,498.52, or $7,624.87 or almost 10 times the amount of the radios!
How can that be? The invoice from Comtronics shows that the city paid $16,632 for the bells and whistles (palm microphone, fancy display). The actual cost of the 12 radios comes to $9,394.08. Once they got done adding all the Buck Rogers stuff, that ballooned to the full amount.
THE PLANET dissects this innocent exchange to illustrate how taxpayers continued to be bled to death by the porkers in government. We remind everyone that the money being put up by the state comes from the wallets of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. State money doesn’t magically appear on Deval’s Money Tree. This sort of innocent, innocuous rip-off is happening every, in every community in the Commonwealth.
If the ordinary citizen were buying such a radio, he or she would not have gone whole hog. The stripped down version would have sufficed. Instead of paying $7,624 and change per radio, Joe or Mary Jane would have spent less than $800.
Grant money as well as in-kind costs come out of the same bedraggled tax-paying hide. That is why for the 2013 election, there is only one issue for the good citizens of Pittsfield: Tax relief. Tax relief. Tax relief.
O’CONNELL-WHILDEN STORY DRAWS RESPONSES FROM TWO INSIDE SOURCES … DO WE FINALLY HAVE THE DEFINITIVE EXPLANATION FOR WHY THE FIRST THiRD THURSDAY WAS CANCELED?
Our reportage about the Megan Whilden-Dan O’Connell interview and non-job offer brought to light more information that purports to paint “the larger picture.” No one disputed the facts of what we posted yesterday, although we did hear from two inside sources that presented the case this way. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to these sources, Mayor Dan Bianchi told Whilden that she “had to right the wrong that [former mayor Jimmy] Ruberto did to O’Connell,” who was a big supporter of Bianchi’s in the campaign. After Whilden told Bianchi ‘No way,'” sources claim, “the mayor threatened to remove funding for the position, a move he never followed through on because word of the threat got out.”
Sources went on to say that the mayor then tried to get O’Connell a job driving a van. Sources weren’t sure with what agency, though they believed it was either RSVP or the Senior Center. “This would up his years of service and up his pension benefits. O’Connell didn’t get the job. One can’t make this stuff up.”
Another source said Whilden approached Mayor Bianchi wanting to fill the position of administrative assistant. Bianchi told Whilden he had someone in mind. “Who’s that?” Whilden asked. The mayor said it was O’Connell. The interviews then commenced, Whilden interviewing her candidate and also O’Connell.
When she got back to the mayor and said she had the person she wanted, the mayor said, “I hope it’s good news for Dan O’Connell.” Whilden said no. The mayor wasn’t happy, our source said, telling Whilden, “You’re not hiring my guy, so you won’t be hiring anybody.” A week later, the source said, “Bianchi canceled Third Thursday.” THE PLANET asked the source if there was a connection, and the source said it was likely. She didn’t hire O’Connell, so he canceled Third Thursday.
When contacted for a statement, O’Connell said:
I think rather than blaming anyone for anything, perhaps it makes more sense to simply state that it is the wish of the Lichtenstein Family that Kitty’s ashes be buried in the earth and not inside the Lichtenstein Center. The Sculpture Garden was designed as a space that has an ambiance where Kitty’s ashes can be buried in a shrine like environment befitting this great woman. But the space now needs to be repaired and sculptures by Massachusetts artists Brendan Stechini and Lyn Horton, commissioned with funds from the Massachusetts Cultural Council which once stood in the garden need to be returned so that Kitty’s ashes can be laid to rest in a garden and not just under a bush. Kitty deserves nothing less for what she gave to the citizens of this City.
However this played out,THE PLANET hopes O’Connell’s wishes on behalf of Kitty Lichenstein are carried out. Without Kitty, there would be no 28 Renne Ave. We also recognize two things:
(a) Megan Whilden has done a terrific job at cultural affairs director. She operates virtually as a one-person team, since the mayor did not fund the assistant’s job. Her salary doesn’t break the bank, in the $40s. Megan
(b) The city should employ O’Connell’s talents at minimum to repair and restore the city murals as well as to oversee the rehabilitation of the sculpture garden for Kitty Lichenstein’s final resting spot.
I COME. I GO. PREPARE YOUR ROSY BOWERS, CELESTIAL PALMS, AND EVER-BLOOMING FLOWERS.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.