COMPROMISE RESOLUTION SIGNED BY SHERMAN, MAZZEO ONLY MAKE A BAD SITUATION WORSE … plus …THE PLANET DISHES UP A SLEW’S STEW OF QUESTIONS … ANSWERS, ANYONE?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, NOV. 16, 2012) — Unbelievable as it would have appeared on Oct. 10, the city council took the spoiled lemons from Oct. 9’s no-confidence debacle and found a way to make it worse. The council didn’t make lemonade. It took the fruit and tried to substitute it for a spoonful of “Rodney King Why Can’t We All Just get Along Sugar.” Needless to say, it didn’t work, as one could gather from the puckered faces on the dais.
On the 9th, after nearly three hours of rancorous argument, councilor Chris Yon pulled her petition calling for a no-confidence vote in city attorney Kathy Degnan off the table. She did it, she said, at the last minute in the hope that the rancid mess would get up and go away. That, of course, had no way of happening, as was apparent to anyone watching the deliberations that night. Nonetheless, the next best thing was within the council’s grasp, which was to say, OK, let’s show we mean what we say and let this thing settle into oblivion.
Let It Be … But No
The best chance this iteration of the Pittsfield City Council had to achieve Yon’s end was to take that unsatisfactory situation from Oct. 9 and, as the Beatles might sing it, “Let It Be.” But no. For some reason, at-large councilor Melissa Mazzeo decided to upend the vat once more, sending the bottom’s sedimentary dregs rushing throughout the vintage. She couldn’t leave well enough alone and instead lit an exploding cigar that blew up in 11 faces.
Mazzeo accused Yon, John Krol, Kevin Sherman, Barry Clairmont, and Jonathan Lothrop of a violation of the state’s open meeting law. Fine. THE PLANET encourages anyone who has evidence of this to come forward to report it. The problem, though, is this: Based on what the public record shows and the information introduced by Mazzeo at Tuesday’s council meeting, there has been no hard evidence to support her theory. She herself mentioned at the meetings that she “believes” her colleagues broke the law.
It’s not enough to “believe” or “feel” to make cotton candy into granite. At one time, people “believed” the world was flat. We’re not entirely sure, but THE PLANET believes they were proven wrong. An accusation of law-breaking requires hard evidence. Such evidence was nowhere to be seen on Tuesday night or any time before or since.
Denials are Not a River in Egypt
The five accused councilors have each strongly denied breaking the law. The other five councilors excluding Mazzeo weren’t exactly doing handstands in support of her allegation. Sherman, therefore, should have read that, accepted that, and on that basis called Mazzeo’s bluff, if indeed she is (or was) bluffing. Only she knows for sure. He should have respectfully instructed her to send the complaint to Boston. That’s how a more seasoned statesman would have handled it. Instead, Sherman agreed to the worst possible thing: A compromise when one wasn’t necessary.
This half-measure (the resolution agreement) stirred up the hornet’s nest again and likely destroys any chance for the unity expressed by this mealy document. In accepting the unnecessary compromise and putting his signature on it, Sherman came off as weak, indecisive, and ineffectual, desperate to maintain the illusion of council harmony when clearly there’s a rift as wide as the sky and deep as the Great Gulch.
You can’t make everyone happy in politics, Kev.
QUESTIONS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANSWERS
Now, with the weekend upon us (our first one free of politics and campaigning since we can’t remember when), let us share some thoughts while tending to our bees and pondering our next move on the chess board. We put them in the form of questions, which is to say, jeopardized, Art Fleming-style, as things always are around them thar parts:
* What ever happened to the U.S. economy? Debt, pure and simple. By 202o, China will have surpassed the United States as the world’s #1 economy. They deserve it, because they earned it.
* If you are of a certain age, don’t you feel as if you’ve been stranded on a different PLANET? You grew up in the 1950s and 60s. The middle class burgeoned. Your dad worked eight hours a day at General Electric and made enough to support his growing family. Your mom stayed home with the kids and took care of the cooking, cleaning, food, shopping, and loved it. You watched “Leave It to Beaver” and “Dr. Kildare.” Your dad had top-drawer health care coverage and a pension. He had four or five weeks off every year. All the adults you knew were responsible people, solid in values and decent in their personal lives. The people you knew stood on their own two feet. To accept a handout was a stigma, and the welfare recipients worked hard to get back in the game of being contributors rather than takers. Families stayed together. Neighbors knew each other. Churches were packed and the military respected.
* Aren’t you convinced that the window of opportunity that was once America’s to pull itself out of a death spiral will close by the end of this decade? The military gobbles up far too much of the GDP. The debt, $16 trillion and growing, will eat up any measure to solvency. The U.S. fomented unnecessary war to feed the bottom line of companies that depend on the military-industrial complex. The growing debt burden stands as the #1 national security issue facing America.
* Why does America spend more on potato chips each year than on corporate R&D?
* Why could more people (especially under 30) identify “Honey Boo Boo” than name the two presidential candidates?
* Why did we ever go to war against “terrorism,” an idea? You can’t fight an idea, as the disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have proven.
* Why does the United States sill maintain military bases in Germany, South Korea, the UK, and elsewhere across the globe?
* Why does the Republican Party distort the record of Ronald Reagan, making him out to be a Tea Bagger? Reagan granted tax amnesty for immigrants. He got rid of a bunch of tax loopholes, especially for the wealthy. He used federal funds to support and protect this country’s computer-chip industry. These are “liberal” positions.
* Will the Republican Party finally repudiate the fundamentalists, zealots, and other pinheads from the evangelical Christian Right, which, sadly, has captured a growing and vocal branch of Catholicism? To ask that question is to ask: Does the GOP want to remain relevant, or is it content ceding government to Democrats for at least the next generation? Will the GOP finally throw Karl Rove out on his fat ass? Will it stick a pin in the falsies of its Sara Palins and Mary Matalins?
* Where the hell is accountability in local government? Forget about national and state rulers. You expect to get hosed there, but if you live in Pittsfield, shouldn’t you be able to count on a mayor, a city council, a school committee, and boards to act in the interests of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, The Little Guys? If you were at the city council meeting on Tuesday night of this week, you walked out of there more convinced that local government had lost its collective mind.
* What happened to this country of makers? When did the “takers” move in. Between since 2000 and 2010, America lost a full one third of its manufacturing jobs, down from 15 million to 10 million. That pace has accelerated. By 2020, there will be far less than 10 million of those jobs less, perhaps going as low as five million. It’s the eighth inning. You missed last call.
* Did you know that for the first time since record keeping, most American households were poorer at the completion of a business cycle than it was at the start (2002 to 2007)? That has never happened before. As author Edward Luce writes in Time to Start Thinking, “Since then, things have gotten worse.”
* Will America’s middle class ever come back? That is virtually impossible, as guaranteed by the national debt. A $16 trillion debt leaves this country with only three options: (1) keep deferring, (2) pay it down, or (3) go bankrupt. The first option is the one the country, the state, and the city of Pittsfield (more than $300,000,000 in unfunded liabilities) has been employing for decades. It only makes the problem worse. Option 2 will tax the middle class to extinction. Option 3 will wipe the middle class off the face of the lower 48, but at least it will clean the slates (see San Bernardino, Calif.). The United states’ best option right now is to declare bankruptcy. Pittsfield will soon be facing that as its “most prudent choice,” as Mayor Dan Bianchi might put it. Default on the obligations is has no intention of paying. Be honest, then hold your breath for the Worldwide Depression that follows.
* Why was Pam Malumphy on the radio debating, if we can call it that, Barry Clairmont on the applications and misapplications of the open meeting law? Clairmont is a sitting at-large councilor. Pummelin Pam has no standing. Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, she sat for two years in Clairmont’s seat. Since then, she has lost five consecutive elections. Why is Pummelin’ debating anything more important that, “Would you like paper or plastic, Franz?”
* What is worse than losing your job? Facing a medical emergency, which can eat up all of your savings.
* Who is the largest employer in the United States? Wal-Mart has 1.1 million employees. Most of the workers are women, seniors, or kids. The average wage is $17,500 a year. Most of those jobs do not come with a pension or health care. Keep that in mind when you hear the United Educators of Pittsfield, the teachers union, bitch about how bad they have it for making nearly $60,000 a year on average, for receiving Cadillac benefits, and for having to work less than half a year.
* Why is it that in the United States, employer-based health insurance adds $2.38 an hour to the cost of a full-time employee, while in the “remainder of the rich world it costs just 98 cents? (Luce).
* From Luce: America used to produce half the shoes in the world in the 1950s and 60s. Today, there are only two U.S.-based shoe manufacturers: Allen Edmonds in Wisconsin and Red Wing in Minnesota. What happened?
* Why is it that the U.S. adopted the utterly bizarre concept that employers are responsible for workers’ health care? Why is that not a right, given to every American, by the government, the way the rest of the first world handles it?
* Why were more than half the jobs created between 1990 and 2008 (27.3 million) in health care or government? What does that mean to the future of American global competitiveness?
* Why were more than 70% of the Ph.D.s in science and technology earned by students in and from the Pacific RIm countries?
* Why do almost 30% of all American high school students drop out before graduating? How long can that number, which is rising, be sustained? How much lower can standards get in U.S. schools (think Pittsfield Public Schools) before one says, “Why bother?”
* Why do we keep rewarding public school employees with fat pay raises year after year for NOT doing the job, which is to provide first-rate education for pupils? Why, Alf Barbalunga? Why, Jim Conant, Dan Elias, Kathy Amuso, Dan Bianchi, and Kathy Yon? Perhaps you should ask Terry Kinnas.
* Why does every kid win a trophy, get a medal and have the schools and parents tell him (her) that he’s exceptional, a budding genius, and the greatest thing since meat loaf?
Food for thought, ladies and gentlemen, for the questions never end and usually contain the germ of the answer.
WHAT DELIGHTFUL PRAISE WE HAVE RECEIVED! LIKE A SUMMER ROSE THAT BRIGHTER IN THE DEW-DROPS GLOWS.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.