PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, FEB. 25, 2013) — In the 2011 municipal campaign, THE PLANET ran a series of articles connected to the GE Consent Agreement, hammered out during a one-sided wrestling match between two buildings of GE lawyers — some of the highest priced legal talent money could buy intent on saving the company billions in clean-up costs — and the city of Pittsfield legal team consisting of a lawyer, Mayor Gerry Doyle, and council president Tom Hickey, who was on hand essentially to chaperon the mayor in the big city of Boston.

A mismatch? Think 1936, Texans vs. Mexicans; think the United States invasion of Grenada in 1983. Think Little Sisters of the Poor vs. the Boston Bruins.

After all These Years, Transcripts Still Haven’t Been Released

What happened during those lengthy talks, discussions that were to Pittsfield what the Yalta Conference in 1945 became to Eastern Europe? We don’t know. There has never been an honest, open accounting of the negotiations and discussions that resulted in the Consent Agreement (CA). To this day, amazingly, transcripts of the meetings have never been made public. It leads one naturally to wonder: What are they hiding? What don’t they want us to know about the negotiations that sealed Pittsfield’s fates as GE got off for pennies on the pollution.

If this was such a great deal for the city, why wouldn’t its leaders, and GE for that matter, want to release the transcripts? Release of this material was and still is the only way for the public to make an informed judgment about what actually occurred around the negotiating table those 15 long years ago.

Perhaps instead of pushing to reopen the Consent Agreement, a more realistic first step should be to push for the unedited, raw transcripts. Why wouldn’t Pittsfield, through the mayor’s office, want to do that?

Other parties in the talks included  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Department of Justice; the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Office of the Attorney General and Executive Office of Environmental Affairs; the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and Office of the Attorney General; the U.S. Department of Interior; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the City of Pittsfield; the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority; and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority. Nonetheless, the warring parties were GE and the city. Every one of these “other” agencies wanted to get this “thing” off their desks as soon as possible. They didn’t have a dog in the fight. In fact, only one party in this long list of players actually wanted a complete, all-embracing clean-up: the city of Pittsfield, or, more specifically, its citizens.

From the get-go, the negotiators tried to make it look as if there was effective citizen oversight during the entire process. We know now that was a mirage, an illusion deliberately created so that a more comprehensive cleanup of Pittsfield by GE  would never be aggressively pushed. THE PLANET doubts that, in their hearts of hearts, that a total cleanup (or an appropriate amount of GE cash) was ever a realistic possibility in the hearts of the negotiators.

Look, for example, at this language contained in the EPA’s “Summary of Agreement” dated Oct. 7, 1999:

—– 00 —–

Enhanced Public Participation

Objective: to implement this agreement in a manner that considers and utilizes the ideas of the citizens of Berkshire County.

A. A Citizen’s Coordinating Council has been established to serve as a focal point for community participation in the cleanup. The Council includes leaders from Berkshire County’s political, environmental, community, and business sectors. The Council has provided and will continue to provide an important mechanism to ensure that all of the settling parties fully honor their commitment to listen to, learn from, and incorporate the ideas and concerns of the community to the greatest extent possible. The governments intend to submit drafts of major technical documents to the Citizens Coordinating Council for review and discussion.

B. EPA will provide additional outreach to property owners affected by this agreement, including participating in and hosting public meetings, small neighborhood meetings and individual meetings.

—– 00 —–

“Small neighborhood meetings and individual meetings”: — The phrase has an avuncular, soothing sound, like June water moving through a moonlit cave … until you realize that almost all of the meaningful so-called “public participation” came after the fact.

Mazzeo Made a Campaign Promise


In our writings during the 2011 campaign, THE PLANET made the point that the Consent Agreement not only could be re-opened but it actually had been opened on at least 10 occasions. We asked: Why not an 11th time, to get GE to bear more responsibility for in effect killing the city of Pittsfield?

Sensing an opportunity during the long campaign season, councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo promised that if elected, she would pursue a re-opener.

As we know, nothing along those lines has happened.

So did Mazzeo live up to her campaign promises? The possible answers are:

(   ) Yes

(   ) No

(   ) Yes and No

(   ) Kinda Sorta

(   ) All of the Above.

Times up. Which one did you select?

Tune in tomorrow as THE PLANET presents the answer based on Mazzeo’s response to the following request that we sent her onFeb. 19, 2013:

>> During the 2011 campaign, you promised that if re-elected you would push hard for a reopening of the GE consent decree.
>> Have you done anything to fulfill that promise? If so, what actions, and when, specifically? If not, do you intend action soon?
>> I recently wrote a PEDA column on THE PLANET and I included your promise. Judging from the response, there are a lot of people who want follow up on this.
>> Please send me a statement for the record.
>> Thanks,
>> DAN

Two Years Later, Another Campaign Upon Us

Two years later, and we have another campaign about to open its somnambulant. The issue, of course, has not gone away. Here we are two years later, and the there is still no understanding or accounting of how much toxicity GE left behind in Pittsfield air, land, and water. Last week, for instance, we revealed the previously unpublished report of toxicity issued  after more poisons were found on the former GE site when workers were constructing a water basin there. Moreover, there has never been an inventory issued of what toxins remain and where they are located. Outside of anecdotal stories about hot spots from GE old timers, the city has no way of knowing how bad it has been poisoned.

THE PLANET believes this is the true reason why, since GE pulled out nearly a quarter century ago, the only economic “progress” in the city has been in the reverse direction. The city has lost countless jobs, has a shrinking tax base, and a plummeting population. It can all be traced back to the pernicious legacy GE left for the city of Pittsfield.





Finally, this quick observation upon the yesterday’s running of the fabled Daytona 500.

True, there’s much we don’t get about auto racing. We don’t understand the excitement out of seeing a bunch of souped up billboards taking an endless series of left turns. Perhaps the racing community appreciates the counter-clockwise motion in some kind of mysterious sense of the kind that subatomic physicists have when looking at a supposedly solid object. Maybe it’s all about the partying. Another possibility is that fans watch hoping for a spectacular crash. These are minor mysteries, however, compared to the odd write-up of yesterday’s finish.


What we can’t fathom whatsoever is why a driver wins all the headlines at Daytona for finishing 8th! A driver named Jimmie Johnson was the winner. There were some stories that buried Johnson deep to tout Patrick’s performance.

After  Johnson, another six drivers finished ahead of the 8th place finisher. And yet, one would have thought Danica Patrick had pulled off victory.

That sort of treatment doesn’t pay women any compliment. Making a big deal over an 8th place finish is essentially to admit that women have no place on the race tracks, competing with the big, strong, men.

The true reason for all the fuss about Patrick, of course, is that she is cute. She looks good in and out of her racing suit. If she looked like Janet Reno or Maxine Waters, for example, do you think there would be all this noise about little to nothing?


 “Out of the lost orchard is life that needs the orchard no more / The fence has broken places, and the gates / Swing to the passing wind. But butterflies soar / Over the tree tops to predestined mates.Edgar Lee Masters





  1. Scott
    February 25, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    You say she is cute yet you post the most provocative tasteless picture you can find.. Having a daughter recently has turned me into a prude…

  2. FPR
    February 25, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    I read somewhere online at one time that if a radioactive dirty bomb where ever to be set off in a major city, it would be in the best interest of the people NOT to tell them.

    The radioactive cesium 90 would permeate the brick & mortar buildings and everything in the city.

    If people knew about it, they would leave that city in droves, turning it into a ghost town overnight.

    In like manner, could it be the same reasoning behind keeping it under wraps just how toxic the city of Pittsfield has been left in the wake of GE’s reign as top employer?

    If a toxicology report were ever done on the bodies lying in Pittsfield’s cemeteries, would it reveal a deep dirty secret of PCB’s absorbed over time by the city’s residents? Could this have played a major role in their premature deaths?

    Could you ever calculate the cost of doctor’s visits, tests and treatment of Pittsfield’s cancer victims, Parkinson’s disease and other maladies.

    Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the strategy in play here.

    If people really knew just how toxic the city of Pittsfield continues to be what would they opt to do? Close their eyes to it like it doesn’t exist? Clean it up? Move away in droves?

    If Melissa’s answer is to keep this consent agreement under wraps then my guess is she was warned/ordered to stand down.

    It will be interesting to read her answer tomorrow.

    • GMHeller
      February 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

      Mr. Valenti and FPR,
      One could argue that GE has caused no less than $100 Billion Dollars worth of real and punitive damages.
      Therefore, why isn’t the City of Pittsfield filing legal action in the name of its poisoned citizenry?
      What’s a poisoned city and its Cancer-inflicted populace worth?

  3. Joe Blow
    February 25, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    There are stories of briefcases full of cash used to buy off certain people in power back then. Also what does a former Mayor, Sprinfield Crime family and E.V. Worldwide have in common?

  4. dc
    February 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Perfect example FPR “Love Canal”.

    • Scott
      February 25, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      Some say Pittsfield has Love canal beat the only difference is the sludge isn’t oozing out of the ground for all to see. Think in a few hundred years when they build a neighborhood on top of hill 78…

  5. Current Pittsfield Resident
    February 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    I know I asked you before Dan, but you and Tom Hickey are friends, why don’t you interview him and get us some real answers. I bet he would open up to you. Its worth a try my guess is he took good notes after all he was an engineer.

    • danvalenti
      February 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Good idea. I may just do that.

  6. FPR
    February 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Yes, Love Canal is a good example. My only concern with comparing Pittsfield’s problems with it is you have to explain what happened at Love Canal and once you do, I think people have a disconnect from it thinking “well that’s not here”.

    A younger generation of house buyers and city dwellers will go on living in and buying and selling houses in Pittsfield always overlooking the unique problems of what GE left behind. Who in their right mind would buy a house on Newell St. or East St. or Lymann St., 4th St. or anywhere near Silver Lake if they knew the truth of how toxic it is to live there.

    If the Berkshire Eagle were truly a free press and reported the truth on the front page in a series of even a few days, I think property values would drop like a rock and people would be in a rage. However, the GE would just buy up the paper and put in a puppet crew to report fluff.

    So people will keep living, breathing and drinking in the toxins — getting sick and dying and the city will never reveal the truth.

    Just my opinion.

    • dusty
      February 26, 2013 at 2:36 am #

      If the GE did not buy up the Eagle it appears that someone else did because it does have a puppet crew and management and they do report only fluff. The wholesale lack of effort by that paper as a community partner is a large part of why Pittsfield has failed its citizens for so long.

      • danvalenti
        February 26, 2013 at 7:46 am #

        Media News Group bought the BB in 1995 from the Miller family at a fire-sale price. Media went bankrupt in 2010. Since then, the company, including the BB, is owned by a holding company.

  7. rivetor
    February 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    DV great piece of advocacy journalism. Looking forward to tomorrow’s post. btw, loved the interview with you in Berkshire magazine. Photo makes you look like a ceo and ‘a family’ boss!

    • danvalenti
      February 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Many thanks. I resemble that remark.

  8. Larry
    February 25, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    Hey Dan, Whats the low down on Halpins Slob and Grog? Did the creditors close it down or was it the multitude of tax liens that finally caught up?

    A quick review of seems to show State and Federal Liens well into the six figures!

    • danvalenti
      February 26, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      I don’t know the answer to this one.

  9. The Professor and Mary Ann
    February 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Generous Jack Welch and his “genius ” at modern management invited in the Machiavellian concept of maximum capitalisation…profit without consequence.The Consent Decree was a sorry mismatch between legal giants and pliable local hodads that would have probably gotten more for the city if they stayed home.Grounds can be made that the City of Pittsfield ,in effect,had no legal representation and as such the decree can be nullified in its entirety.

    • Scott
      February 26, 2013 at 5:41 am #

      Come on one more time for emphasis!

    • danvalenti
      February 26, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      “Profit without consequence” is a succinct way to put the Welch philosophy.