PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, FEB. 11, 2013) — Guess what? It snowed. In New England. In February. True, Long Island Sound and the coast up to Boston got hit, but here in the Berkshires, what, a foot, foot and a half, maybe? We’ve had a million storms worse than this one.

The snow didn’t fully get going until 4 or 5 p.m., depending on where you live. That didn’t stop them from closing the schools in Pittsfield and elsewhere. Though Pittsfield could have easily gotten in a full day, it’s all about The Children, you see, and the fear of lawsuits from the idiots of the kind who sue because coffee is hot. The day after Snowmageddon, we shoveled out and did some errands. It included a trip to Carr Hardware to get a magnetic latch to close a spice cabinet (oh, the things into which we writers get).

After that, THE PLANET went to Barnes and Noble at Berkshire Crossing to sample the mocha java with a friend. The store was all plowed out, but it was closed, another defenseless victim of Snowmageddon. We did notice that B&N’s next-door neighbor, Pier 1, somehow got through the disaster to open for biz as usual. What courage!

Undaunted, we drove to the nearby Starbucks. Things looked good. Its next-door neighbor, Verizon (the former Taco Bell), had the neon lit and customers inside. Nonetheless, when we got to Starbucks, the room was dark, as they say in Vegas. Starbucks, too, fell to Snowmageddon, which is to say we have turned into weather wimps, a sorry state inflicted upon the gullible and the easily spooked by Weather Channel and the fear of litigation.

Law and Order, By Golly

Don’t believe it? Look at the cool thing to do now for some municipalities: When snow falls, shut down the streets and threaten drivers with SIberian exile if caught on the road, as Mayor Dan Bianchi did in Pittsfield. Oh, the humanity!

Bianchi’s Ban came with the threat of tickets, fines, and jail time. Somewhere in another dimension, Pittsfield Snow Ghosts of Yesterday are shaking their heads at this embarrassing overreaction.

Before you jump all over your humble narrator, think this through.

Yes, yes, we understand the reasons the mayor acted as he did: An attempt to keep the idiots off the road to help the plow jockeys. You know who the imbeciles are: They drive too fast for the conditions, think too slow to move the IQ needle more than a hair, and possess the common sense of the 12-year-old we saw yesterday outside in T-shirt and shorts. The idiots comprise 2.3785% of the population (remember that 78.54% o all statistics are made up). The remaining just-under 98% of We The People would not and did not drive last night, but, once again, they are the ones who get penalized because of the dopes. The sad part is how officials and bureaucrats cater to the dum-dums and piss on the rest, the Mary Jane and Joe Kapanskis. On this basis alone, we would give Bianchi a failing grade for his handling of Snowmageddon.

We wonder, is this criminal crackdown of snow drivers part of the mayor Master Plan for dealing with crime? It’s escalating, or didn’t you catch acting police chief Mike Wynn‘s comments in a recent Pittsfield Gazette: “It’s more than you could possible imagine.”

In any event, we’re sure that the small businesses that otherwise would have remained opened for another hour or so did not appreciate the mayor’s ham-handed decision.

D+/C- for Bianchi the Snowman

On the basis of streets being cleared of the white stuff, we’ll give him a gentleman’s C. The main roads were reasonably clear the day after, with the side streets much less so. Today, those who venture downtown will need to hire sherpa guides to climb over the snow banks that line North Street. Overall, we shall issue a D+/C- for Bianchi’s grade. PROFESSOR PLANET being the realistic grader that he is, Bianchi should be thankful for our generosity.

As for us, THE PLANET enjoyed our 150 minutes of shoveling out the driveway. What was not to enjoy? We got a great cardiovascular workout for free, breathing in the clean, frosty air and digging the sunshine, which made the snow jewel-like and gem-tastic. We missed having this type of snow last winter, and when we saw the foot or so on the ground, we couldn’t wait to get out and play.

One thought occurred to us in the fun: Canyon Ranch could offer this type of CV workout for $1,000, and it would find plenty of rich suckers to cough up the cutter. We can see it now in the Ranch catalog for Winter 2014, the snow shoveling seminar (only it won’t be called snow shoveling):

CRYSTALLINE TRANSFERENCE THERAPY — Luxuriate in the thrill of guided movement of unique, frozen crystals of water, the most vital ingredient to human life. Our expert staff will direct you through the conveyance of alabaster crystals via specifically built handled, flat platforms, especially designed for this harmonic exercise. Three days, $1,000 (meals and lodging not included).

Weather Panic is an Easy Target

The weather panic gets funnier and more easily mock-able with each passing storm, a mix of the Last Days, Armageddon, and A-Rod on steroids again. In other words, how (un)surprising.

Forgive THE PLANET for our mordant commentary on Snowmageddon, officially known as Storm Nemo, but it’s just that we grew up in the 1950s and 60s, when schools and businesses stayed open, roads weren’t salted more than Civil War salt pork, and people were expected to go about their business, albeit at a slower, safer pace. Neither “meteorologists,” moguls, magicians, or madmen thought to name winter storms. Today, we wring our fingers with consternation when three snowflakes turn up on Doppler radar over Lake Onondaga and seem to be heading east. Get your dried good and canned goods! Gas up the tank!! Think of “The Children!!!”

Yes, Nemo (what, is there a Jules Verne fan at The Weather Channel?) did a number in certain areas, but the Northeast has gotten through worse with less and managed to bounce back with at most a slight blip on the screen.  We won’t do it this time. That snow horse left the barn long ago.

Your Chance: Grade the Mayor

Finally for this topic, we come to Snowmageddon: Rating the Mayor. How did Mayor Bianchi do with Nemo? Please give Bianchi a letter grade: a, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, F. Feel free to expound on why you assigned this grade.

And remember, somehow, if we all keep our heads, we will get through these blowing drifts together. We are made of stern stuff, what?



THE PLANET has engendered this discussion many times over, about the impracticalities of Pittsfield building the local economy almost solely on the basis of what is loosely (and sometimes misleadingly) called “The Arts.” Our phrase for this is the Recreation & Resort (R&R) Economy. R&R is fine, but in the end, it creates service jobs that typically offer little more than minimum wage and no benefits. One cannot hope to build a stable, vibrant city on the basis of such an economy.

It’s not great scoop to say the city needs good pay, good benefits jobs. Bianchi himself said so during the campaign, as has every sod buster to run for the office in the last generation. It has been one year +, and THE PLANET has seen precious little from Mayor Bianchi on the jobs front. We shall leave our observation at that for the moment, but this topic shall we resurrected plenty of times during this campaign year.

With that as a preface, you may (or may not) know that if developers have their way, the former Women’s Club at 42 Wendell Avenue will seek to reinvent itself as yet-another Arts Center. It has become a Pittsfield banality at this point. The Special permits are being sought to exempt the project from certain zoning requirements (parking, for example).

Lisa Whitney, the developer, forsees a space for performances, galleries, art studios, and office. With a glut of such space in the city now, one wonders how this project will work on its own terms. That is for her to figure out, and THE PLANET wishes her well. We will even offer to read there if she wants. Moreover, we like that the building is being put to some use, however hackneyed.

We also have one important question: Does Whitney plan to sink serious private money into this noble project, or will she, like every other R&R deal, come look for tax dollars?

From The Ponderosa on Allen Street Comes Hoss

Bianchi’s city planner, C.J. Hoss, is selling the project with the tired, old, “economic engine” fib, a myth  that should have been long killed by such failures as Workshop Live! and other recipients of milk from the public tit. Such enterprises love to take public money but offer little to nothing in return.

Hoss tells The Pittsfield Gazette, “The city encourages development … efforts that will bring more residents and businesses into the downtown area. …” See? That’s the “economic engine” fib. For that kind of fiscal cliche, we would get better from Hoss Cartwright. Ponderosa that for a while.


“In book that are as altars, we kneel / to consecrate the flicker, not the flame.” — E. A. Robinson




  1. tito
    February 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    city employees and the contracted snow plows did fine,,Bianchi gets a B as the storm itself was overblown.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Both were overblown. Thanks, T

  2. Giacometti
    February 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    Because the Governor closed all roads statewide to traffic last Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m due to the upcoming 2 foot snow storm does that mean the next time 2 feet of snow is predicted in the Berkshires and 2 inches in Boston all roads will be closed again ? It’s a good thing Duval Patrick is not seeking re-election.

  3. FPR
    February 11, 2013 at 5:23 am #

    Hey Dan,

    Very good writing there. Yes, wow, Marshal Law for a snowstorm? Up to one year in jail and or a $1,000 fine. Sounds about right. Maybe next time they will put the army on the streets and people will be shot on sight.

    Snowmageddon, Frankenstorm, Nemo. I still remember living in Pittsfield many years ago when they called it “the storm of the century”. That also turned out to be a dud.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

      Pittsfield specializes in duds.

  4. Twist
    February 11, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Snowmageddon… I like that. After plowing since the early morning hours on Saturday, I stopped by McDonalds on West St. for cup o’ joe that is always a dollar. It was 9:45. Closed? Another example of snow-panic… We live in New England for crying out loud.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Well said. Snow panic. In New England. In February!

  5. Twist
    February 11, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Can you give me some insight into the “Aunt Millie” sign-off?

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      It’s a secret. I can say no more!

  6. Ron Kitterman
    February 11, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    “A significant snowstorm is forecasted to impact Massachusetts beginning on Friday February 8th, lasting into Saturday February 9th. Snowfall across much of Massachusetts is expected to be approximately 1-2 feet. In addition to snowfall, strong damaging hurricane force wind gusts are expected which could lead to widespread power outages. Travel may become nearly impossible with blowing/drifting snow and near zero visibility during the height of the storm. Motorists are asked to stay off the roads during the storm (Noon Friday until 8 AM Sunday morning) to allow snow plows to clear the roads. “ That’s a post from the town of Marblehead, Ma, where they actually got the 2 feet of snow, Meanwhile back here in the Berkshires, I was tempted to spend a little time in Pudgie’s crowbar hotel to sharpen up my education, but softened my threat to other matters…
    I’ll give Dan (Bianchi that is) a B- and Dan A- on this piece…

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      Thanks, RON

  7. Bull Durham
    February 11, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    With some poetic license to the NRA… if you outlaw driving in snowstorms, only the outlaws will have Jeeps.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

      Bravo. Glad to have your rapier wit sliding over our sharpening stone.

  8. Magic
    February 11, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Sad we have become a society that “Dosen’t know enough to come in out of the rain”

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Well put, MAGIC

  9. outfox
    February 11, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    And then TFB stepped up and called the governor the day after the “storm” to say we in the Berkshires needed the driving ban lifted…Also, been wondering if the driving ban was somehow a violation of the commerce clause, and therefore un-Constitutional?

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      I would be willing to bet that the driving ban and ordering stores to close was unconstitutional.

  10. spagirl
    February 11, 2013 at 9:36 am #


    I will submit the same complaint as I did a few weeks back. Mayor Bianchi’s robo-call Code Red Alert went out to all homeowners on Friday, personalized by his honor, including the reminder to shovel your walks within 24 hours of the storm, or you could be fined $50.00….however, we went to the Beacon Theatre Sunday night, parked in front of Hot Harry’s and had to walk in the road on North Street up, and past the theatre to gain access to the sidewalk. ( Just not consumer friendly )…over and over.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      THE PLANET drove down North Street today. The snowbanks preventing pedestrians from getting from the street to the sidewalk were ponderous. It’s not just consumer unfriendly. It’s consumer hostile. But then again, what do you expect from Pittsfield government?

  11. GMHeller
    February 11, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    A good example of the contempt with which Boston media holds Berkshire County is this:
    When the Boston Globe published online its figures for just how much snow accumulated in each of the Commonwealth’s various municipalities, cities, and counties, guess what?
    Berkshire County WAS NOT EVEN LISTED!
    Not a single reference was made to a single Berkshire city, town, or hamlet .
    Turns out Berkshire County is not included in NOAA’s Boston numbers.
    Rather, BC is lumped in with numbers for NOAA’s Albany, New York region.
    D’ya think the Boston Globe could have cut and pasted any of those Albany numbers to show what snow Berkshire County received in order to make The Globe’s state report complete?

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      Most telling. Thanks for this nugget.

  12. Nomad
    February 11, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    I understand that businesses on North St. and elsewhere in the city were told by the police department to close early Friday because of the governor’s order that all non-emergency vehicles be off the road by 4 p.m. Apparently, the order didn’t apply to all businesses in the city. A reliable source with an acceptable reason to be out, and about, said that (political hotbeds) Delgallo’s, and the East Side Cafe were still open at 8:00 p.m.

    I don’t fault Mayor Bianchi for supporting the governor’s order…and give him, as well as the clean up crews, a B+ for their efforts.

    • Williams
      February 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      I do fault Bianchi, local conditions make a statewide blanket edict of marshal law stupid. The mayor could have easily overridden Deval stupidity. We got a foot of snow. Why the panic? Good piece, DV

      • danvalenti
        February 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

        I agree that the guv’s order was the height of folly and panic. The seacoast? Maybe he had a point. But inland, conditions were far calmer in a relative sense. The Berkshires received a foot of snow with slight wind. The mayor should have challenged the order, citing local condition and precedent. The governor’s edict illustrates the extent to which The Berkshires are an afterthought in Boston.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      Having government using the police to order your business shut or throw you in prison for driving (when conditions were not all that bad, considering it’s winter) is the arrival of a police state.

  13. Jonathan Melle
    February 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I cannot fathom why Pittsfield is spending millions of dollars on North Street! That is Pittsfield’s economic development plan. What about jobs, a sustainable tax rate, and a productive community?

  14. Ed Shepardson
    February 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    The disease seems to be spreading.
    “BENNINGTON — The arts as an engine for economic development was the subtitle of Sunday’s Bennington Cultural Summit at Mount Anthony Country Club. The afternoon summit attracted artists and entertainers, community leaders and business owners, and was the initial step toward a strategic arts and culture plan for the town according to John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corp”. The Bennington Banner

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      Nice one! You have to remember that the Bennington rag is owned by the same holding company that owns the Boring Broadsheet after Media News Group went belly up. The “economic engine” crap should be stuffed right back up their tailpipes. Whenever we hear ANYTHING except high-pay, high-benefit jobs as an “economic engine,” you know they’re coming after our money. They think it’s THEIR money.

  15. Scott
    February 11, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Yeah just what we need the gov’t to tell us when it is safe to go out on the roads and good thing we have TFB speaking on our behalf in Boston to get the driving ban lifted early. It’s always nice to see a politician working during these major storms I wonder if all their sleeves were rolled up???
    I do understand there is that idiot out there who get’s stuck in the middle of it when the storm is at it’s peak and not only wastes precious rescue team time and effort but endangers everyone’s safety because their to stupid to not go anywhere until the plow trucks are out. Those people should be made to pay out of pocket for the expense. I was actually asked if I stocked up on supplies and if I was worried. I replied no, I have my hunting rifle and a snowmobile I’m good!

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      As far as the idiot out there who gets stuck, let him thumb home. Yes, they should be made to pay. I’m thinking here of the geniuses who drive their trucks onto the ice, fall through, and we have to pick up the rescue tab.

      • Scott
        February 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

        You get fined a lot if you fall through my wife’s father had a special lift just for that. You have to pay the wrecker company and a fee for polluting the environment due to gas and other fluids from the car that isn’t a tax payer burden. You pay for that mistake yourself. I wouldn’t even go on the ice today with my sled I just don’t like the idea. I do go ice fishing though.

  16. Joe Blow
    February 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I think the driving ban was a test run for thing to come. This is the government the founders warned us about.

    • Scott
      February 12, 2013 at 5:28 am #

      Start running drills and training in bad weather. No matter what they do they’ll never be able to beat us and they know it. It’s one thing to be liberal or conservative no matter what side you lean towards one thing is for sure you cannot trust big gov’t those people that do are f’n nuts!

      • danvalenti
        February 12, 2013 at 8:52 am #

        Great idea, S. Drills, like they do aboard ship. We can have winter weather drills in summer. Pretend there’s a whole foot of snow on the ground. Mayor Bianchi’s Snow Survival School.

  17. tito
    February 11, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    Arts and police state…wonderful.

    • danvalenti
      February 12, 2013 at 8:53 am #

      What a combination: The Arts, The Police State, and Economic Engines. Welcome to Pittsfield.