Article

PITTSFIELD CHARTER COMMISSION: EARLY RETURNS MAKE US WONDER, ‘IS THAT ALL THERE IS?’ … COMMITTEE RULES OUT CITY MANAGER OPTION BY USING SCARE TACTIC UNSUPPORTED BY DATA … CAN YOU TELL THIS GROUP IS GOB-APPROVED?

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JAN. 8, 2013) — The city of Pittsfield got another bright idea: If it’s not broke, then break it, and thus was the notion hatched from the philanthropic chicken of forming a review of the current city charter.

Why now? And why these people? One must always ask such questions in the coop known as Benigno Numine. Little is by accident. Nothing is as it seems.

This Just In …

We hate to break this as big news, but whatever ails the city, and it’s plenty, isn’t the result of the charter. A charter is simply a document that spells out a specific form of government in which a city or town chooses to function. If you continue to stuff the form with mediocrity, spinelessness, and faint-heartedness, the framework doesn’t matter. Same thing would apply if you could elect and appoint Churchills, Kennedys, and Roosevelts on a regular basis. In short, every system of government has the equal capacity for achievement. As always, performance of a system depends on the humans commissioned to make the system work.

If you take the personnel of the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished the NFL season at 2-14, and give them to Bill Belichick and call them the New England Patriots, the team will still stink. It’s the singer, not the song.

Nonetheless, the Pittsfield Charter Review Study Committee has gone about it’s merry way, whistling while they work, with Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, and the rest of the crew. Snow White still sleeps, the handsome prince is wenching in the local tavern, and We The People can only wonder what this group will recommend. With that, we get at the first problem with the charter review commission: Why was it formed? For what purpose? And why now? Since the city hasn’t bothered to adequately answer this, neither shall we. The best we’ve seen in terms of rationale for this questionable step is that the present charter is “old.” Hmmm, so was Methuselah, but that alone is not a reason for change.

Early Decision of Charter Commission Less than Inspiring

Does the charter review commission inspire confidence? Let’s consider a couple of representative remarks from the committee’s most recent meeting. Last week, the commission met. The work is so important that two of the 11 members didn’t bother attending. Just pause for a moment with this thought experiment: How would your business do if you routinely had a 22% absentee rate? Back in the day, when THE PLANET owned and operated The Media Services Group, we would have limped ourselves out of several lucrative contracts if 22% of our force did not show up for work.

The remaining nine members took up the question of a city manager, an option long kicked around in the city. With dispatch, the committee voted 9-0 to reject outright this form of government for Pittsfield. To give you an idea of how the committee arrived at this vote, we simply need to review two representative comments from committee members.

Board Tosses City Manager Option by Playing Scare Card and Other Irrationality

Dianna Ferraro played the scare card, saying that some citizens “were alarmed” at the thought of a city manager.

Really? “Alarmed?” What did they do, watch “House on Haunted Hill” first? So, Ferraro, tell THE PLANET, specifically: which citizens were petrified in this fashion? Give us names, please. How many of them were there? How do you know they were a sample population sufficient for you to make your over-the-top statement on behalf of every other citizen in town? Did you think to ask Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski? True, your meeting was “open,” but be honest, the last thing you or any other committee, commission, or board wants in the city of Pittsfield is authentic citizen involvement? You know better they they do, don’t you? You sit on a committee.

In other cities, a committee would not make a ruling on a matter like this without more data than “some citizens were alarmed,”.and yet, this being Pittsfield, we’re supposed to accept that slap in the face as meaningful and sufficient. Ferraro then added this overdone chestnut: “People like voting for mayor?” Again, what gives Ferraro the prescience to make this blanket statement? No one on the panel, to our knowledge, bothered to challenge these ridiculous statements.

In the same meeting, another member of the committee, Victoria Kane, had this gem: “Pittsfield is really to small for a city manager.” Citizen Kane said people have told her that “”they “feel good about the system we have.” Where does one begin with this kind of ignorant blathering? We would simply point out to the good gentlewoman that many other communities with populations far smaller than Pittsfield have city managers, including some in Berkshire County. “Too small?” We would also point out that any community with 12,000 or more citizens qualifies for city status here in the Commonwealth.

We would follow up with this question for Citizen Kane: Which residents, specifically, “feel good about the system we have?” Names, names, names.

The point is this: How can the committee make an important decision such as this one on the basic of such flimsy statements?

Speaking in Strange Tongues

This deliberative unit of civic-minded busy-bodies has been speaking in strange tongues throughout its short life. It favors a “strong mayor” form of government, wants to reduce the number of signatures needed to run for school committee and council at large (from 300 to 150), and also wishes to create another layer of government. These jokers want to create the position of mayoral “chief of staff” (it could also be called “deputy mayor”), as if the office of mayor isn’t top heavy enough.

Recently, the office of mayor was expanded to include a director of protocol, or whatever it is they call the position created for Tricia Farley-Bouvier as a holding spot until the GOB got here in as state rep. That position is now occupied by Donna Mattoon. The office includes an executive assistant (the ever-efficient Susan Santolin). Now the charter people want to add a chief of staff? Former mayoral candidate Peter Marchetti and Mike McCarthy advocated for this added layer of bureaucracy. The vote was 6-3, with  Bill Barry, Kane, and Dave Murphy voting against it).

The good thing about the committee’s operations is that the public will have final say at the ballot box. The commission’s work will be brought forward to the mayor as recommendations only. To enact the changes, the mayor and the city council first have to approve measures that would then be put on the November ballot. The state would then have to approve.

It if ain’t broke, why break it?

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“WERE ALL STARS TO DISAPPEAR OR DIE, / I SHOULD LEARN TO LOOK AT AN EMPTY SKY / AND FEEL ITS TOTAL DARK SUBLIME, / THOUGH THIS MIGHT TAKE ME A LITTLE TIME.” — W.H. AUDEN, CLOSING STANZA, “THE MORE LOVING ONE.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

22 Responses to “PITTSFIELD CHARTER COMMISSION: EARLY RETURNS MAKE US WONDER, ‘IS THAT ALL THERE IS?’ … COMMITTEE RULES OUT CITY MANAGER OPTION BY USING SCARE TACTIC UNSUPPORTED BY DATA … CAN YOU TELL THIS GROUP IS GOB-APPROVED?”

  1. dusty
    January 8, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    It would seem that the changes they wish to make certainly would make a GOB run machine much harder to work around. If not impossible. It was hard enough before and these changes would reenforce their ownership and control.

    Ferraro says “people like voting for mayor?” As opposed to what? One being appointed?

    • danvalenti
      January 8, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      DUSTY
      The Ferraro statement about “people like voting for mayor” made our jaws drop. Nice line, D.

  2. Blind Justice
    January 8, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Dan, if there ever was an argument against a manager for municipal government, look at Lenox

    • danvalenti
      January 8, 2013 at 9:16 am #

      BJ
      Again, it’s not the system. It’s the person you have in the system. To use Lenox as an argument against Quarterbacks is like saying, “Mark Sanchez of the Jets is an argument for abolishing the position of quarterback in the NFL.” Gives the Jets Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, though, and all of a sudden the QB thing looks great.

      • Blind Justice
        January 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

        But the townspeople can’t put the manager on waivers

  3. Tim Bartini
    January 8, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Dan, Perhaps you should ask Mrs. Planet what kind of person Diane Ferraro is? Im sure Diane was teaching at Lee High when Paula was there. I had Diane as a teacher for 2 years,she was always well prepared and eager to help. I know when she retired from Lee High she was truly missed. If Diane says she has talked to the citizens of Pittsfield about their concerns then she has. Why on earth would anyone want to volunteer to be on a committee just to have you assasinate their character. Why have a charter committee when all we need is your imput? Dan quit the name calling and let them do their work, your not Howie Carr!

    • danvalenti
      January 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      TIMMY
      I will gladly serve as Unilateral Charter Czar, since I have all the answers. Well, not the answers, but at least the right questions. To summarily dismiss the “city manager” option based on the rationale offered is not good enough. Ferraro is a “good guy” I’m sure. Everyone is a “good guy.” That isn’t the issue, though. Volunteers, appointees, and elected officials are slowly getting the message: Someone is watching on behalf of The Little Guy. We think this will ultimately have a beneficent effect on government in Pittsfield. You may (and apparently do) disagree. That is good, and how it should be.

  4. joetaxpayer
    January 8, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    How dare Dan ask questions, who does he think he is! As Howie Carr would say “crazy moonbats”.

    • danvalenti
      January 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      JOE
      Over the years, i’ve been compared to everyone from Howie Carr, and Howard Stern to Rush Limbaugh and Tony Soprano. None of that matters. I am myself and always will be. if comparisons are in order, I’ll gladly take Ambrose Bierce or H.L. Mencken. But you’re right: How dare I ask questions, instead of taking the pabulum spoonfed?

  5. Scott
    January 8, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    What would a city manager even do? What does the mayor even do on a daily basis? Hopefully today he’s licking Warrens shoes. He needs to make a lasting impression some how if he doesn’t want to come out and ask for money.

  6. danvalenti
    January 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Licking Warren’s shoes? Who do you think Bianchi is? Rex Ryan?

    • Scott
      January 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      Sorry I’m out of line on that one I actually feel bad for writing it I’m just annoyed.

    • Scott
      January 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      Man Hernandez had a horrible year. He blew it just about every time they made it to the red zone. The Patriots are doing well but they have some tough games ahead of them. I doubt they’ll make it past the Branco’s if that ends up happening which it may because I doubt any other team in the AFC can beat the Branco’s at this point other than the Patriots who at least have a chance. I’m looking forward to the Baltimore Bronco’s game. Go Baltimore!

      • Scott
        January 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

        Sorry I meant Sanchez. I knew it was something Mexican.

  7. Ron Kitterman
    January 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    “ I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to. “Col. Jessep: from ‘A few good men ‘

    • Scott
      January 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      Lieutenant Kendrick, did you order Lance Corporal Dawson and Private Downey to give Willie Santiago a code red?

      I want the truth!

      You can’t handle the truth!

  8. outfox
    January 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Well, anyway, someone once said that a zebra is horse that has been designed by a committee…

  9. Dave
    January 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Thank you Dan, I have never been called a handsome prince before. If the committee is serious about any real reforms, the ballot questions better be broken down into categories if that is possible. If this is all or nothing, there will be at least one issue that will be a breaking point one way or another.

  10. Jonathan Melle
    January 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    The whole point of Dan Valenti’s writings about Pittsfield politics can be boiled down to one sentence:
    “The Good Old Boy network runs Pittsfield”.
    Dan Valenti doesn’t like it, and neither do I.
    But that is reality.
    I often wonder how Pittsfield will ever change?
    Many good people have left Pittsfield for a normal existance.

  11. Jonathan Melle
    January 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    The whole point of Dan Valenti’s writings about Pittsfield politics can be boiled down to one sentence:
    “The Good Old Boy network runs Pittsfield”.
    Dan Valenti doesn’t like it, and neither do I.
    But that is reality.
    I often wonder how Pittsfield will ever change?
    Many good people have left Pittsfield for a normal existance.
    Pittsfield doesn’t have to be this way.

  12. Quo Vadis
    January 9, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    The Planet has become a must read in our household. I see Pittsfield only becoming better for his questions and probing. Go DV.

  13. Joe
    January 10, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    If idea of paying School Committee same as City Council
    is placed on Charter Plan, It will be defeated by voters!