PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28, 2012) — At the council meeting last night, our Right Honorable Good Friends set the new tax rates, nearly six months after approving the budget. Are you sitting down for this:

For both residential property owners and the commercial-industrial-business sector, taxes are going up again, 3.6% for homeowners and 5% for businesses.

We know. THE PLANET was there, on the scene of the accident.

The Triple Whammy

The tax classification hearing, an annual song-and-dance, was especially funny this year. The council got into an anguished debate on how to split the tax rates between homeowners and businesses, but in the end, homeowners got screwed and, despite “the break” given to business, the commercial rate stands at an astronomical level, high enough to continue to deter growth, development, and investment. The council brought the rock to the table, and Mayor Dan Bianchi furnished the hard place.

In the end, residential taxpayers will have to cough up $16.70 for every $1,000 of value (up from the current rate of $16.11), with the commercial rate tabbed at $34.48. Though councilors dubbed the new commercial rate at benign (“business friendly,” as Ward 6 councilor John Krol put it), it means the current rate of $32.85 will increase by $1.63 per thousand. See, that’s what tax happy politicians mean by giving out “tax breaks.” They mean your rate will still increase, but not as much as we first wanted it to do.

The vote was 10-1 on the new split (Ward 2’s Kevin Morandi siding with Bianchi, wanting to put more of the extra burden on the business side).

What No One Tells You … but THE PLANET

What no one tells you, of course, is that each time taxes go up — this year marks the 40th consecutive increase for Pittsfield, in what has to be an unofficial state, and perhaps even national, record — taxpayers experience The Triple Whammy. They get hit three times:

* First, taxpayers get hit with the increase itself.

* Second, year after year, with raises on top of raises, the rate of increase compounds, the way interest does in the bank.

* Third, the increase is made even steeper when assessments go up, as they have recently for many Pittsfield property owners.

Seeing is Believing What Should Not be Tolerated But Is

THE PLANET saw it with our own four eyes, or we wouldn’t have believed it (not). At each tax classification hearing, we hear a number of truisms, the least true of which is:

* No one likes to raise taxes.

No one likes to do it, but they do it anyway. After the usual hand-wringing over how to divide the split between residential and commercial (the council opting to dump more of the burden on homeowners this year), after the speechifying, the vote gets cast, and Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, as well as small- to medium-sized business owner Sir Tiberius Fruitjuice will have to dig deeper to fund an increase in spending, mainly for the school department (or didn’t you hear of the 10%-16% pay raise the teachers just won over three years?).

There are several topics that should be part of the discussion but aren’t. They include:

* Non profits — Why does Pittsfield have so many, and why are they allowed to retain that status? You mean to say that each and every so-called “non-profit,” especially the one that dish out six-figure salaries, deserves to be ranked with The Little Sisters of the Poor?

* Free cash — More on this later, but with $5 million in “free cash,” what is going on budgetwise?  THE PLANET refutes the “conventional wisdom” that having such an amount is a sign of financial stability and secures the city’s bond rating. This “accepted wisdom” needs to be challenged, no matter who gets ruffled by it.

* Unfunded liability — This is a nearly $400,000,000 bill that will come due in the next 20 years.

The winner of the next mayoral election will be that person who will have the gonads to stand up to this mindless string of tax hikes that are strangling homeowners and destroying the economic competitiveness of the city.



There are some provisions that our Right Honorable Good Friends put before us that will not simply slip quietly into the good night. One such is the recent open meeting hubbub involving the Pittsfield city council.

After Melissa Mazzeo threatened to go to the Attorney General with a complaint that colleagues Kevin Sherman, John Krol, Barry Clairmont, Christine Yon, and Jonathan Lothrop violated the state’s open meeting laws, Sherman signed a resolution letter with Mazzeo, basically saying an amazing thing: That city councilors did not possess First Amendment rights of free speech.

The council voted 9-2 (Krol and Churchill Cotton objecting) to accept this embarrassing restriction, even though Clairmont and Lothrop said it would not affect how and what they discuss prior to council meetings, particularly concerning agenda items. Most neutral observers (if there are any) and disinterested Radar Men from the Moon read Mazzeo’s actions as revenge for the Oct. 9 Noconfidencegate, when Yon and Sherman cosigned a request calling for a no-confidence vote in city solicitor Kathy Degnan.

‘Censorship is No Antidote’

Clairmont has said he would ignore the agreement not to discuss agenda items in the media … or any other topic. Krol and Yon said as much as well, Krol putting it well when he said to our good friend, the Eagle’s Dick Linsday, “Censorship is no antidote for our ills.” At least he’s admitting to “ills.”

Yon thought it would “be the end of it” when she withdrew her petition on Oct. 9. Mazzeo and Sherman hope the compromise letter would “be the end of it” several weeks later. Though it may not be readily apparent, the “end” has not come and will not come until the municipal elections next year. That “end” shall only be the “beginning of the end.”



When House Republicans announced their list of recommendations yesterday for committee chairmanships in the upcoming new Congress, they put forth an all-male list. The list included returning Paul Ryan to head the budget panel and Ed Royce of California to replace long-time Foreign Affairs chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

Asked about the lack of women, Michael Steel, mouthpiece for House Speaker John Boehner, said three women have been selected for party leadership for 2013. Boehner didn’t have it in him to explain the real reason (borrowing from Al Campanis): “Women are pretty and cute to look at and all that, but they lack the ‘necessities’ to handle the duties of chair.” This item prompts two questions: Gee, do you think UN Ambassador Rice (she’s a “she”) will face a grilling by Republicans if President Obama nominates her as Secretary of State? And do you wonder why Obama outscored Mitt Romney among women voters?






  1. Richard
    November 28, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    This is my opinion on the council vote on the tax rate. I don’t believe that you should be raising or lowering the tax rate. Just as if the Mayor purpose a rate that was too high you would suggests that he go back and sharpen his pencil you should have done the same thing when you though it was too low. I don’t believe the council should be the one to set a tax rate your job is only to approve or reject the tax rate. Also you should remember that Pittsfield population is getting older and we are on fixed income. I believe because of your action your reelection is in question. .

    • Scott
      November 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      I don’t see how public employees make up for a vast majority of people who actually vote.

      • danvalenti
        November 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

        You need to take the number of public employees in a given district and multiply by a factor of about five to six. For each employee, there is usually a spouse, plus three to five other family members and or friends who want to keep the gravy train going. That’s how they rig elections.

  2. Still wondering
    November 28, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Bad quote association by you, bad committee head selection by the GOP. There’s plenty of gender inequality by both parties in D.C…. just sayin’.

  3. Kevin
    November 28, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    I have lived in the PITTS for 2 years, both years my taxes have gone up, makes sense since it’s the 40th time in a row(WOW) A question Dan where are you getting the 400,000,000 figure? Pensions and the like? People need to wake up! They talk about the children but my 1 and 3 yr. old did not hand out these monies unfunded but they sure as hell and going to have to pay for it.

    Albany County had 90 million in “Free cash” in 2006, it’s all gone now.

    Also how’s this sit with everybody, in 2013 we will have a new non-profit open in Berkshire County, it’s called the Medical Marijuana Dispensary, by design they have to be non-profit.

    • danvalenti
      November 28, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      The figure comes from the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation. In 2011, the MTF study put the unfunded liability of Pittsfield at $330,725,000, which is 80% of the total bill of $396,217,500. That works out to $8,268.12 for every man, woman, and child in the city, or $33,072.50 for a household of four.

      • Kevin
        November 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

        Unless of course you are carrying say……..47% of the rest of the population? Then that burden doubles……

  4. Joe Blow
    November 28, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    I’m sick of hearing its for the kids! I made a choice not to have any children because I love to travel and don’t like to be tied down. I’m not saying I don’t like kids but I don’t want to be paying for yours. I’m sick of paying for all of the freeloading breeders. I know people will say its for the greater good….blah…blah …blah I see parents without a pot to piss in having multiple kids maybe if the Government clamped down on the entitlements they would think twice about getting knocked up. I was scared to death of getting a girl pregnant and always used protection.I couldn’t imagine choosing to have a child and expecting someone else to pay for it.

    • danvalenti
      November 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      There is much pragmatic wisdom in your words, Joe.

    • Italia
      November 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

      I agree with Joe Blow 100 per cent.

  5. smh
    November 28, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    “Yon thought it would “be the end of it” when she withdrew her petition on Oct. 9.”

    Sure, easy to walk away from the actual vote, once you had what you were really after.

    • danvalenti
      November 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      Perhaps, but I don’t think it was “easy” for her to “walk away,” as you suggest.

  6. Jonathan Melle
    November 28, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Pittsfield under Mayor Jimmy Ruberto raised taxes every year and then went onto spend millions of dollars on revitalizing North Street. Why? North Street is still a place to avoid, especially at nighttime.

    • Joe Blow
      November 28, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Because he’s a liberal Democrat…tax and spend.

        November 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

        Boy Joe are you right!!!!! But the people keep els citing them

    • outfox
      November 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

      North night haters, just stop. It is not dangerous at all, as there is NOBODY THERE. It is uninviting, but the Beacon does draw crowds every night, as does the sandwich joint next door to it. When the Colonial has a show, I see happy, excited groups of people, but afterwards, there is nothing to draw them further downtown. Obviously to re-vitalize North St. as a shopping and entertainment district two distinct behaviors need to occur: The city will need to invest city dollars, with input from any and all citizens on how those dollars are best spent, and those of us who remember upstreet as it was “back in the day” need to get over it and help our city center be once again appealing. Curse the darkness, or light the candle? Your choice.

    November 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    electing them

  8. dusty
    November 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Any idea how much money the city owes to the banks for loans? How much does Pittsfield pay in interest on its loans and to whom? Can anyone guess which banks are the winners?

    • danvalenti
      November 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

      Answer: “Too much.”

  9. Joe Blow
    November 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    I found this article today about employees of Buffalo public schools. I wonder if things like this are going on here..time to read up on how to file freedom of information requests.

    • Scott
      November 28, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

      This is where we’re headed if we’re not already there. I bet if you filed a FOIA you wouldn’t get answers in Pittsfield.

      • Joe Blow
        November 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

        We’ll soon find out.

      • danvalenti
        November 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

        They had better start fudging the books and shredding papers now in the school department, because in the not too distant future … well, the less said the better.

    • danvalenti
      November 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

      This is a must read. I may run this tomorrow and give it feature play. Thank you for this excellent piece.

      • Bain hater
        November 29, 2012 at 5:12 am #

        Dan. Do you really believe they have it in their contract to pay for plastic surgery? This the Tea Party propaganda at its best!

        • danvalenti
          November 29, 2012 at 6:42 am #

          Hate to burst your bubble, but it’s true. They DO have it in their contract for plastic surgery. The provision was put in the contract back in the 1970s, before the cosmetic plastic surgery gold rush, to cover cases like severe burns or scars from accidents, that sort of thing. The little use provision was kept in the teachers’ contract, and now, with the mad rush on bigger boobs, tummy sucks, nose jobs and the like, taxpayers in Buffalo are out millions … while the district’s school department runs itself into the ground. You can read about it today.

  10. Ron Kitterman
    November 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Dan, I’d have to take issue with your assesment that GOP women lack necessities statement. ” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was forced to leave the position because of a Republican rule that limits members from serving more than six years as chairman or ranking member.” I’m sure even the Republican’s would have loved to keep her, after looking at the election results.

    • danvalenti
      November 28, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

      Answer me, then, why the GOP made an exception for Paul Ryan, whose six years is up this year. Nonetheless, he gets another two as chair. Guess he had the “necessities” that I R-L didn’t have.

  11. Mr. X
    November 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Like the great band CCR once said…” I heard it thru the grapvine ” that the house in Pittsfield on Elaine Dr. recently raided by the feds is the humble abode of Ole Buffy, the artist still known as the Lee Chief of Police.

  12. The Kraken
    November 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    With this tax rate hike debacle I will now vote for Mayor Dan Bianchi for the Turkey of the Year Award. Whereas other nominees have done worse things, their actions were predictable. I vote for the Mayor because I expected so much more out of him. He has sorely disappointed me (and probably alot of folks) and has turned out to be just another tax and spend, union suck up Liberal. This latest tax hike just disgusts me. And if anyone says ‘it’s for the children’ they are full of sh!t.

    • Kevin
      November 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

      The pecan chicken ceaser salad is really good at On a Roll ……well said!

  13. Dave
    November 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    On a “brighter note”-pun totally intended- the tree lighting ceremony for Pittsfield is Friday 11/30. Funny thing is I rode by today and all the lights were on!

    • danvalenti
      November 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

      When taxpayers are funding it, the lights are ALWAYS on, and the heat is turned up to a cozy 72 degrees while the rest of the hoi polloi shiver in below-zero temps.

  14. Blind Justice
    November 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Well, it just happened to AMERICA folks.

    Tax and spend Barry, Dingy Harry and Co. won’t face the facts.


    Cannot spend your way out of debt.

    Taxing what solvent people are left will make everyone worthless.

    Buy gold/silver while you still can. Before you can wipe your arse with Ben Franklin

  15. dusty
    November 29, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    And I hope people remember that it was Councilor Krol who pushed to raise the taxes higher for the home owner. He made no effort to lower them, just to shift more to the home owner. He knows the campaign money comes from the business side of the community and wants to look like he is their good friend. What a player.

    Vote no for Krol next election!

    • Richard
      November 29, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      Good for you

  16. Ron Kitterman
    November 29, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    @ Dan You’re spot dead on right. The rules don’t apply to me …

    • danvalenti
      November 29, 2012 at 6:43 am #

      That’s what initially caught my attention. They dump her from her chair because her six years is up, citing “rules are rules,” then turn around and give Ryan a flyer.

  17. Ben
    December 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    As for taxes in the pitts always being raised, this is just a microcosym of what’s happening at the federal level. Keep feeding the beast, never put it on a diet. We shall all be consumed, one way or the other.