By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, DEC. 13, 2012) —In the Old Testament, we read the story of wise King Solomon, who had to decide the fate of a baby. Two women were both claiming to be the mother. After hearing testimony, Solomon realized he couldn’t be sure. He then came up with the most brilliant resolution of litigation since Judge Mark Moore found for the First Amendment and freed THE PLANET from the flimsy Nilan Gulag. Solomon said he couldn’t tell which woman was telling the truth and ordered the baby to be cut in half, top half to one of the women, bottom to the other. The real mother shrieked and said she would give up her claim, simply to save the life of the child.
Solomon had divided by two and come up with the correct answer. He awarded the baby to its true mother.
Last night at the Pittsfield School Committee meeting, Chairman Alf Barbalunga, cast as Solomon, had to decide on two seemingly credible version of the same event. Did committeeman Terry Kinnas act in an intimidating and disruptive manner at a meeting of the Reid Middle School Council, Community Outreach Subcommittee, or did he not.
THE PLANET has been mulling one of the more bizarre public meetings we’ve ever attended in our many years as an ink-stained and microphone-wired wretch. We’re still trying to digest the marathon. We have urgent deadlines pressing, and will leave the story there, before it has even begun. Fear not, though. We shall add to it as the day goes one.
You won’t want to miss a syllable. Hint: We shall likely divide by two.
BACK AGAIN, LATER IN THE DAY
It is now early afternoon. Fortified by a great Christmas lunch (Yes, PB, at Blantyre, with the governor, James Taylor, and our respective entourages). Allow us now to continue our story with several points.
— First, “K” for “Kafka” or “Kinnas”: We shall note that THE PLANET did not prepare for last night’s meeting by reading The Trial, an unfinished novel by Franz Kafka, although that would have been a good idea. The book tells the story of a man who’s arrested and charged with a crime by a shadowy, hidden authority (think GOB). Neither the accused, Joseph K. (“K” for “Kinnas”?), nor the readers ever learn the nature of K’s alleged crime. It leaves the reader with this odd, nebulous feeling of anxiety laced with gauze and cotton candy. That’s how THE PLANET felt last night watching the proceedings unfold and fold-up.
— Second, Open It Up: You want to know about Terry Kinnas? Consider this: He chose to have the hearing in the open. Is that the behavior of a “guilty” person? The agenda listed his hearing as an “Executive Session,” which is rules-of-order-speak for “It Ain’t None of Your Durn Business, So We’re Going to Do This Our Way, Behind Closed Doors.” Kinnas had the right to open it up, and true to his bones as a believer in transparency, he chose to let the TV lights shine on the proceedings. THE PLANET applauds that in the highest measure. To his credit, school committee chair Alf Barbalunga also commended Kinnas for opening it up to the public.
— Third, I’m Looking Through You, Where Did You Go? — Speaking of transparency, THE PLANET notes the scarcity of Mayor Dan Bianchi, who is a member of the school committee. Bianchi did not attend this important meeting. Why? Bianchi campaigned on a theme of “transparency,” and last night, he fulfilled his promise. He was so transparent that he wasn’t visible. We don’t know why the mayor skipped class, but it had better be a good one, better than the homework ate his dog. The most obvious explanation, which is usually though not always the best one and may or may not be in this case, is that Bianchi knew the meeting would be a hot one and chickened out.
— Fourth, Synchronicity: On Dec. 3, the Community Outreach Subcommittee of the Reid Middle School Council (COS Reid) filed its complaint with the school committee on Kinnas’ behavior at the subcommittee’s meeting of Nov. 14. Odd, isn’t it. As you read here (and ONLY here) yesterday, out-of-the-blue, both Barbara Malkas (ex Pittsfield asst. supt. of schools) and Glen Koocher (consulting with the school committee on the superintendent search) wrote to chairman Barbalunga. The respective dates of their letters: Dec. 4 and Nov. 30. Thus, the COS-Reid complaint of Dec. 3 fits into this timeline as snug as dictator hiding in a bunker. It’s another of those odd “coincidences” that often come up in Pittsfield at precisely the right time.
— Fifth, I’m Late I’m Late I’m Late: Why did it take the COS-R three weeks before deciding to file its complaint? If Julia Sabourin, COS-R chairwoman, was so upset, wouldn’t she have filed much sooner than that?
— Sixth, Lady Gag: After the meeting, THE PLANET caught up with Sabourin, who seemed as pleased to see us as a long-tailed cat is entering into a roomful of old people in rocking chairs. We wanted to ask Sabourin that question, “Why did you wait so long before filing?”, but she literally became tongue tied. It was if she had been gagged. Literally, so we started off with a simple question. We asked her how often her subcommittee meets. Sabourin became to elocution what Lady Gaga is to good taste. We smiled. We reassured Lady Gag it wasn’t a trick question. Finally, and mercifully, a Good Samaritan who did not give us her name came in and explained that Nov. 14 marked the first time ever that the COS-R had met.
— Seventh, A Clue!: This gave THE PLANET an important piece of relevant information, one that should have been in and on the record, since it might explain the COS-R’s misinterpretation of Kinnas’ manner, demeanor, and body language on the afternoon of Nov. 14. By the way, we never did get to ask Lady Gag why she waited so long to file. Was it a mere coincidence, or is there an alternate and more accurate reason that she didn’t want to disclose?
BACK AGAIN, LATER IN THE DAY II
— Eighth, Col. Mustard in the Library with the Rope-a-Dope: When THE PLANET learned that the Nov. 14th meeting was the first time that COS-R had ever met, we made a reasonable conjecture: It was a subcommittee of greenhorns. It was Julia Sabourin’s first-ever experience as chair. It was the members’ first ever such gathering. If any group would have cause to violate open meeting or other procedural laws, it would be this one. Perhaps Kinnas complaints were justified. In that regard, we should point out for all to know that Kinnas’ complaint is now before the Attorney General, who has yet to make a decision. In other words, the AG might come back and say, Kinnas was right. He has a right to beef.
— Ninth, “Where’s the Beef?” — Kinnas did have a right to beef, judging by the facts upon which both sides agreed. COS-R (again, the Community Outreach Subcommittee of the Reid Middle School Council) (1) Began its so-called public — PUBLIC — meeting with the doors to Reid in locked position. THE PLANET asked Kinnas if he would have been on time had the doors been open, and the answer was yes. As it was, after ringing the door buzzer several times, he was let in. (2) COS-R didn’t think to post directional signs. Reid is a sizable building. Kinnas didn’t know the location of the meeting room. He had to ask. All this caused him to be 15 minutes late for the meeting. Let THE PLANET remind everyone that Kinnas was the only school board member who made it a point to attend. Alf Barbalunga didn’t bother. Kathy Yon didn’t bother. Jim Conant didn’t bother. Dan Bianchi didn’t bother. Dan Elias didn’t bother. So let’s take stock.
* The Nov. 14 meeting of the subcommittee was literally its first ever.
* It’s being led by a rookie chairperson who did not have the presence of mind to answer THE PLANET’s simple question last night: “How often does the subcommittee meet?” She should have replied, “I can’t say, since that as our first and only meeting to date.” But no. She stammered and acted as if I were asking her for the combination to the safe that holds the crown jewels.
* The subcommittee meets with the building’s doors locked.
* The subcommittee meets without any signage directing the public (REMEMBER: PUBLIC MEETING) to the room.
* According to Kinnas’ testimony, when he finally entered the building, he encountered a man who identified himself as the dean of students. [RIDDLE: Since when does a Middle School have a “dean of students?” ANSWER: Since the Hackerama figured out they could create it and give another useless job to one of the oinkers feeding from the public trough]. Amazingly, Grace, this Dean (Chance? Martin?) told Kinnas that he, the dean, was not aware of a public meeting going on in the building. Uh, do we sense a disconnect here, among the usual gang of idiots at Reid Middle School? Wouldn’t the chairwoman notify the dean of students of the meeting? Then we learn an even more astounding fact: The chairwoman, Julia Sabourin, and the Reid dean of sudents, Ryan Sabourin, are wife and husband. Might be some communication issues at work.
— Tenth, “Feelings. Woah, woah, woah feelings“: If you boil the COS-R complain against Kinnas down to its essence, the chairwoman’s feelings were “hurt” when Kinnas entered to room and asked the logical question: Did she know what the hell she was doing?” Terry, being a gentleman and consummate professional, asked it far more politely. he asked who the chair was? Sabourin answered “I am” or words to that effect. Kinnas asked if he could have a seat. Sabourin said yes. Kinnas asked to speak. The chairwoman allowed it. For all this, and for caring enough to attend this meeting as a private citizen and not as a school committee member, Kinnas hurt Lady Gag’s feelings?
C’mon, give us a break.
Sabourin testified last night that Kinnas’ actions have taken away the subcommittee’s enthusiasm, optimism, and its “hey-gang-let’s-put-on-a-show” rah rah spirit.
The only adult answer to that is, “Honey, step down from the chair. You’re not cut out for it.”
OPPS, GOTTA GO. STAY TUNED, FOLKS. IT GETS BETTER.
IT GETS A WHOLE LOT BETTER!
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.