PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, JAN. 24, 2013) — As speeches go, Barack Obama gave a good one as he took the helm for another four years. Good, not great: Certainly not as bad  as critics painted and not as great as supporters pined.

Beyonce, a one-trick diva, lip-synced the National Anthem, proving she has no voice save that which computers and technology provide. Think about it: We’ve gone from Robert Frost reciting his classic “The Gift Outright” at JFK’s inauguration in 1961 — from memory — to something called Beyonce reminding us how nothing in politics can be accepted on face value. At least James Taylor actually sang and played, as groupie Clarence Fanto was sure to remind us in another hard-hitting masterpiece in the Boring Broadsheet.

Newt Gingrich, who ran for president last year, thought the speech was “very, very good. I didn’t think it was very liberal. There were one or two sentences obviously conservatives would object to, but 95 percent of the speech I thought was classically American, emphasizing hard work, emphasizing self-reliance, emphasizing doing things together.”

Fantasy: 2013 … or 1953?

Hard work, self-reliance, doing things together: Sounds more like 1953 rather than 2013.

True, Obama did not address the deficit but did address climate change, immigration, and gay rights. As we said, Beyonce lip-synced her speech, too.



True story. On Jan. 8, many Amherst residents saw a large, silent, slow-moving flying object in the skies. No. It wasn’t Chris Christie. He’s not silent. No. It wasn’t Peter Marchetti. It wasn’t unsure.

What was it?

Initially, the Federal Aviation Administration said it had no clue. Local authorities, alarmed at calls by residents of the object, asked if the Air Force had any planes in the air over the region at the time. No, the FAA said. The military reported nothing like that.

Watch the Skies

After rumors started flying, however, the FAA “revised the record.” Oops, the FAA said, the Air Force did have a C5 cargo plane practicing approaches and landings at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee.

Hmmm. Right. And it was Judge Crater at the wheel.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, witnesses described the object as either “triangular” or “diamond” shaped, the size of two to three cars, and made no noise.

Here’s what a C5 looks like:

This is a C5 cargo plane. It is neither triangular nor diamond shaped and is vastly larger than three cars.

Note that the C5 is not triangular. Note that it is not diamond shaped. The cargo area alone is 121-feet long, 13.5 feet high, and 19 feet high, a tad larger than two cars. The length of the cargo area alone is longer than the entire flight of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.

Moreover, note that a C5, practicing approached and landings at Westover, would be extremely low in the sky over Amherst, eminently visible. It would also make a heckuva lot of noise. Yet witnesses say the UFO was silent. it would also look nothing like triangular or diamond shaped. The C5 is painted a Navy gray, nothing metallic about it.

So what happened?

THE PLANET wonders if anyone in Pittsfield saw a UFO on or about that date. There have  been Jimmy Ruberto sightings during this election year, and while they have been unidentified, they have not been flying. That will come later, if it does.



The municipal budget is an exercise in befuddlement during its proposal, during its approval, and trying to understand the numbers after the fact. For example, the school department lists its budget at about $53.5 million, though the actual cost to taxpayers is close to $90 million when the separate costs hidden in the city-side budget are included, as they should be. Another instance is the bottom line figure of $132,923,131 for FY13. That’s the total cost of city government to Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, right? Wrong. Add approximately another $10 million for capital expenditures.

The city council approved Mayor Dan Bianchi‘s request for $9,793,000 in new borrowing. That makes the total $142,716,131. Actually, it’s more than that, since the borrowing will come at interest. Despite this, you’ll never hear the mayor, the council, the school department or other city officials talk about a $143 million-+ budget.

Transparency, schmanceparency. If Bianchi decides to run again, he’s going to be mighty vulnerable for the way he beat the “transparency” drum in 2011 and so woefully failed to deliver.

Mining for Budgetary Nuggets

The FY13 budget document is loaded with all sorts of nuggets, hidden underneath the hard pan of a blurring array of numbers, numerals, and digits. From time to time, THE PLANET shall be presenting some of these nuggets for the taxpayers.

First, let’s provide a link to the budget itself, so the rest of you — those who are interested, anyway  — can stake your own claims and file your own finds with the PLANET’s assessor. You can access the budget here:

The nugget we wish to share today comes from a page titled “Estimated Local Receipts.” You find a line for “Payment in Lieu of Taxes.” This line includes the grand total of  PILOT funds presented to the city as voluntary payment from all of the many non-profit businesses and organizations that do business, tax-free, within the city’s borders. The non-profits include the daddy of them all, Berkshire Health Systems, the city’s largest employer. It owns, operates, and occupies many prepossessing buildings, offices, garages, and other facilities totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

You would figure that morally honest PILOT payments from BHS alone would amount to a substantial total. Add in the many other non-profits, probably 100 or so, and one would expect a large portion of income for Mary Jane and Joe, who are, remember, the true owners of government. You would expect, what, at least a million dollars.

But no. This is Pittsfield.

The grand total of PILOT funds, including the contribution of BHS, is a miniscule $49,000.

That’s it: Far less than the average cost of one public school teacher.

Is that enough? Hardly. There are peaches in that tree.

Get the Non-Profits to Pay a Fair Share

The solution: Nothing less than (a) an inventory of all the non-profits in the city and (b) visits to all of them, essentially to put pressure on the ones with the ability to pay to chip in a whole lot more than they are doing now. Again, these companies have the privilege of operating tax-free. In a sense, Mary Jane and Joe have to carry these companies on their aching backs.

The mayor and council have proposed a half-baked initiative regarding the non-profits, one that THE PLANET supports. We support it on the assumption that something is better than nothing and that at least it might lead to some dialogue. We do not hold out realistic hope, however, that the initiative will improve in any substantial way on the paltry $49,000 that the city expects to see from these freeloaders. Who know, the amount may be less. The $49,000 is an estimate, but, as these payments are voluntary, the figure could be lower.

Mary Jane and Joe: Screwed again.







  1. Kevin
    January 24, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    This story makes me wonder if Not for Profit status is ever recertified or taken away for noncompliance? Let’s look at BHS, it looks like in the past NFP status was rightly given but NOW??? It’s a multi-Million dollar business how do they get away with being not for profit???

  2. Bull Durham
    January 24, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    This is the equivalent of spitting into the blogosphere wind, but here goes. Yes, Kevin, BHS and every other hospital in the state does have to justify its non-profit status every year through a review by the state Attorney General’s office of its community benefit programs and status.

    I would ask… did GE, one of the largest FOR profit companies on the globe without a charitable bone in its body, suddenly start paying taxes? I seem to recall they paid… um… ZERO last year, while making tens of BILLIONS in profit. To compensate the US for this tax windfall, they moved even more good paying jobs overseas so they can pay the Chinese worker 10-cents a week to build their products.

    Did the state law change again and did Walmart, another gigantic for profit whose idea of charity is helping the Koreans to earn a ‘living’ through such perks as paying them 12-cents a day, suddenly start paying true value in taxes? I recall they paid about 21-thousand last year to the city of Pittsfield, even though the local store made tens of millions in pure profit.

    GE lays off thousands of American workers every year, but pays no taxes. Walmart pays minimum wage or slightly more, gives no benefits to any employee unless full-time, which is the vast minority of their workforce, uses Chinese and Korean labor to supply their cheap products, and pays very little in taxes because of ridiculous state law that allows them to pay less in taxes than local businesses do.

    BHS employs nearly 5,000 local residents, pays them good wages and very good benefits, and oh no!!!!!! They also show a profit, which is then used to expand services and employment and does not go to some nameless and faceless ‘stockholder’ group, like for-profits. They also provide FREE care to a lot of people who can’t afford it. Try getting GE to give you anything for free. I’ll take the BHS equation anytime over the alternative.

    I know what your answer to this is before you even say it – GE and Walmart ‘legally’ don’t pay taxes or pay little. Well, guess what? BHS is legally a non profit. As usual, Pittsfield’s mentality, as shown with comments like Kevin’s is: let’s demand that the largest employer pay us really well and give us great benefits, but then also demand that they use any and all profit to help lower my taxes, because my own employer isn’t as generous. And I bet ‘your’ employer is a for profit that pays nothing in taxes.

    • joetaxpayer
      January 25, 2013 at 4:16 am #

      Walmart did not make 10’s of millions @ the Pittsfield store. It pays around 20 grand in prop. tax per store, which I believe is a few.

  3. Rivetor
    January 24, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Nice try Bull but the GE and Walmart analogies don’t apply. Whats that about protesting too loudly? You sound like an apologist for BHs. You work there or what? Fact is, $49,ooo is the total of the 100 nonprofits, care to tell us how much BHS “voluntarily “gives? Nah didn’t think so.

  4. Pat
    January 24, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    The last I read in the newspaper, BMC continues to lay off people and is not hiring except for high level positions. The people who work there earn way too much especially those in higher positions which is why many of the lower paid workers had to be let go.

    Not sure what BMC gives to charities in the area, but I do know that the philosophy among the workers in the hospital is that they are a business and they try to make lots of profits just like any other business.

  5. Kevin
    January 24, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    “Yes, Kevin, BHS and every other hospital in the state does have to justify its non-profit status every year through a review by the state Attorney General’s office of its community benefit programs and status.” Thank you Bull Condescending much? It was an honest question, clearly unlike yourself I do not know the Ins and Outs of NFP No demanding just I asked a question.

  6. Bull Durham
    January 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Not sure what papers Pat is reading, since there has been no report of a layoff at BMC since 2009.

    Kevin, if you read the way you yourself worded your post… you call ME condescending? ‘Just asking an honest question” apparently to you means wording it as… “Let’s look at BHS, it looks like in the past NFP status was rightly given but NOW??? It’s a multi-Million dollar business how do they get away with being not for profit???”

    And Rivetor… I’d much rather be an apologist for a local company that provides thousands of good paying jobs than to be an apologist for a multi-national company that does nothing but remove jobs from this country while paying… wait for it… NO TAXES WHATSOEVER.

    • Kevin
      January 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

      Ok got ya, only one ? if I’m asking a question. Oh yeah and when was the term Multi-National Company coined? Was it after the signing of NAFTA? Who was it that signed that trade agreement?

      • Rivetor
        January 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

        When will BD answer my question about if he’s an employee of BHs. Are you, Bull?

  7. Scott
    January 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    “At least James Taylor actually sang and played, as groupie Clarence Fanto was sure to remind us in another hard-hitting masterpiece in the Boring Broadsheet.”

    You are a force to be reckoned with!

  8. Scott
    January 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    We can only hope a higher intelligence is coming to save us from ourselves. (At least I do! )

  9. Joe Blow
    January 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Obama’s speech seemed like a shout-out to ever far left special interest group he could think of. He’s been giving the same speech for 4 years. Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you! If you listened closely you could hear Nero’s fiddle as Obama spoke.

    • Scott
      January 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      what about Cuomos state of the state address? Jesus I finally found someones voice more annoying than Chartocks. He’s an enemy combatant in my mind.

      • danvalenti
        January 25, 2013 at 7:35 am #

        NO ONE’s voice is more annoying than Herr Doktor, but Andy Cuomo’s isn’t exactly Mel Torme, a.k.a., The Velvet Fog.

  10. outfox
    January 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Since city government won’t pursue the Pilot donations, it’s time for the citizens to start making a big noise about this.

    The Beyonce story is about making news out of nuthin’. I was surprised to see it here ! Anyway, the national anthem is a notoriously difficult song to sing, D.C. weather can be brutal in January, and you do NOT want to screw up our national anthem, (as I’m sure Roseann Barr can attest to, if anyone recalls that debacle), especially at a Presidential inauguration. Beyonce made the right call; it was more professional for her to deliver, even if by using a recording of her voice, than it would have been had she blown it completely.

    • Scott
      January 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Refer to Steven Tyler’s rendition at the last Superbowl for an example of what screwing up the national anthem sounds like.

  11. Twist
    January 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    “I do not think it means what you think it means…” Inigo Mantoya

    There is a big difference between “non-profit” and “not-for-profit.” These two should not be used interchangeably.


  12. B. Clairmont
    January 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm #


    If you are going to add capital expenditures to the $133 million budget to arrive at a new $142 million number, then you should subtract any debt payments in the #133 million number because under your theory you would have counted that number in the year borrowed and not the year being paid back.

    To not make the subtraction would be double counting the debt. You shouldn’t count it twice.


  13. Dave
    January 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Sort of off topic, but am I nuts or is the Gov’s “vision” for the coming years another knife in the back of the eroding middle class. Increase the state income tax while lowering the sales tax. So people who work 50+ hours a week to get by will be getting more money forcibly taken from their paychecks, while people on the Govt. gravy train are not affected by this increase. But we all get a break on the taxes when we buy items that are affected by the sales tax. I would much rather have the choice to buy something and pay the tax if I so choose, and be on an equal tax level as people my taxes already support, than be forced to fork over more of money I EARNED.

  14. chuck garivaltis
    January 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Another excellent story by Brian Sullivan. My answer to his headline question, PHS-St. Joe grid rivalry in jeopardy,
    Is: don’t let it happen. Nearly 100 years is invested here and memories that never fade are part of our football lore.

    I saw the 1944 game held at Deming Park that is still considered a classic in Pittsfield. Brian wrote it well. In the closing minutes Frankie Koldys intercepted a pass and ran it back for a 102 yard touchdown run. Yes, indeed, Jack Quinn, Sr. and Al Bianchi, Sr.were rivals and great players. Jimmy Gallagher was an end and a star basketball player. Francis Ferris kicked the extra point for St. Joe’s for a 7 – 6 victory.

    Here’s a question I never got an answer for. PHS was ahead
    6 – 0 with a minute left in the game and were 7 yards from another touchdown. Why in the world did the PHS QB throw a pass when the game was in the bag ? But he did and Koldys picked it off and ran for glory.

    . The game was just part of the excitement. Friday night rallies were held at both schools. PHS students, by the hundreds, would then form a snake dance and head up East St., turn right on North St., and dance their way down North St. to Mapleview and down to St. Joe’s High. This was okay. Police and citizens approved and understood the excitement. Though the Saturday afternoon football game was the apex of the weekend some of the biggest battles took place on the steps and lawn of St. Joe High when students protected their turf frorm the PHS invaders.

    Now to return to Brian’s story. Gary Bianchi is stepping down as St. Joe’s coach. Jack Quinn will take his place. This is good news – good news. Gary is a great coach who is turning the reigns over to an assistant who was a great football player. Notice the DNA here from grandfathers to fathers to children to grandchildren. The Bianchi’s, Quinn’s, and addition of Barbarotta’s with Bianchi’s makes for historical family bloodlines that is part of Pittsfield’s athletic legacy.

    There has been a little cross fertilization here. Jack Quinn, Sr. was fiercely proud of his children and grandchildren who became outstanding football players. But we have to give PHS a little credit here. Jack was smart enough to marry a PHS graduate who was a blond blue eyed beauty who became the mother of great players who usually buried PHS.

    Yes, indeed, there is a history and tradition of wonderful memories associated with the PHS – St. Joe football games. I hope we don’t lose it.

    • raider50
      January 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      Football here in Western Mass is a joke. Not even on the intramural level that is seen in most parts of the country. Next to Notre Dame, St. Joe has the highest percentage of non church going “catholic” minority athletes in the country. Good thing they don’t recruit, it must be all of the advance placement courses they offer.

  15. Taylor
    January 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    chuck you left off the last part where Sullivan defended the THS coaching staff plying kids with booze. He deliberately distorted the information, there wasn’t “one beer” purchased. There were three 30 packs consumed, I imagine the brewski just appeared out of the blue and that no member of the coaching staff least of all Vinny knew a thing about it. The embarrassing ending ruined an otherwise good piece

    • danvalenti
      January 25, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      Have to agree with you there.

  16. joetaxpayer
    January 24, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Don’t understand what the problem is unless St.Joe is trying to duck PHS. According to the MIAA site, all MA. schools have thanksgiving as a open date, to play whoever they want.

  17. joetaxpayer
    January 24, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Don’t understand what the problem is unless St.Joe is trying to duck PHS. According to the MIAA site, all MA. schools have thanksgiving as a open date, to play whoever they want.

    • Rick
      January 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      St Joe is going broke……..

      • joetaxpayer
        January 26, 2013 at 7:53 am #

        PHS vs St.Joe thanksgiving morning would draw a huge gate. The schools could split the profit.

  18. outfox
    January 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    IBerkshires is reporting that Cheshire is asking the state for more Pilot monies, and is also reporting that the Pittsfield school committee has named the three finalists for superintendent.

  19. Rick
    January 24, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Do the non profits pay sewer and water user fees?

    • B. Clairmont
      January 25, 2013 at 4:09 am #


  20. Ron Kitterman
    January 25, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    Not that I watched it anyway, but Beyonce lip syncing or James Taylor I know what my eyes are drifting.