ONE MILLION BUCKS ON THE TABLE AS COUNCIL FINANCE SUBCOMMITTEE, SCHOOL COMMITTEE, AND PPS ADMINISTRATION PLAY HIGH-STAKES GAMES OF TEXAS FOLD-’EM … CAN’T MISS MEETING 6 P.M. WEDNESDAY AT PHS … BCC GOING SMOKELESS ON AUG. 1, THE ABSOLUTE RIGHT CALL … NEW McSUPERINTENDENT TO PULL DOWN ‘VICINITY’ OF $150K+ … NOT A BAD VICINITY
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2013) — If it’s a choice between the anti-bullying propaganda hour sponsored by the PPS and Berkshire County DA David Capeless‘ office and the school committee meeting, both coming up this Wednesday, the latter must win out.
Beginning at 6 p.m. in the library at Pittsfield High School, the school committee meets for its regular session. The highlight of the meeting will come with agenda item III-D: “Recommended Actions — Routine Matters, Budget Review with City Council Finance Subcommittee.” THE PLANET would hardly call this joint review “routine.” Perhaps this is the committee’s attempt at back-door humor: “Why did the council finance subcommittee cross East Street? To get the other side.”
Review of School Department Budget Puts a Million Clams in the Steamer
The review of the school department’s finances could have come during the finance subcommittee’s review of the city-side FY13 budget, which took place on Feb. 27, but no. Interim school superintendent Gordon Noseworthy nixed the “one-stop shopping approach” initiated by our Right Honorable Good Friend, councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont. Noseworthy had no good reason to do that other than “we are the school committee. We don’t answer to the Little Guy” — even though Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski cough up more than $90 million a year to keep the shell game going.
We would remind our Right Honorable Good Friends on school side that the city council not only has the right but also the responsibility to check into the money. As we learned in Watergate, “follow the money” is usually good advice.
The finance subcommittee took the snub like professionals and graciously accepted Noseworthy’s invitation via the school committee to meet them at their budget review. These petty games aside, at least the council will be able to inquire about what appears to be at least $1 million surplus in school funds.
You may recall an exchange on THE PLANET between two of our valued and valuable correspondents, Tito and Gene.
Tito, Gene Bring the Issue into Focus
Gene had praised the manner in which THE PLANET and Clairmont have been able to put aside preconceptions and prejudices, see each other with new eyes, and forge a good working relationship. Tito replied with a cynical “pulleeeeese.” Gene responded that one million bucks may be on the line. He’s right. It was Clairmont’s financial detective work that uncovered the surplus (and more) and THE PLANET’s reportage on the story that put the million clams on the front steamer. Our coverage had such an impact that a day or two after, the Boring Broadsheet had no choice but to do a piece, pretending independence and, of course, not crediting THE PLANET as a source.
There’s no predicting where this joint budget review will go, but if our instincts are correct, it could lead to some interesting moments. Things might get so interesting that the school committee chair, our Right Honorable Good Friend Alf Barbalunga, might wish he had kept agenda item I-B in tact a wee bit longer. I-B is the “Moment of Silence,” not to be confused with the Cone of Silence.
If you can at all make this meeting, you should. With a million bucks on the table, it could prove to be, what, diverting at worst and utterly engrossing at best.
SMOKING BAN AT BCC THE (PUFF) RIGHT CALL
THE PLANET is proud of the call made by Berkshire Community College, which we call home as a member of the English Department faculty. Those who are fuming and coughing about this interdiction of “rights” have the issue sorely wrong, and they are just blowing smoke. BCC, by the way, will begin its ban on Aug. 1, one month after the University of Massachusetts institutes its own smoking prohibition.
Here’s why the smoking ban makes sense:
1. There is no inherent right to smoke cigarettes on campus. The campus runs by rules. This ban, which takes places after months of study, discussion, debate, and deliberation, is now part of the school’s self-govening process. It is perfectly within the school’s rights of self-governance.
2. State law has been routinely ignored. As a state facility, there is a policy requiring smokers to stand at least 20 feet away from buildings when lighting up. Students have routinely ignored this law (except when they happen to be smoking in or on the quad when Prof. Valenti strolls past. We remind the smoker of the law and then require one of two things: Either get out of my face, now!, and head to the smoking hut, or put out that butt, also now! We don’t mess around, and the students know it).
3. The school has graciously made smoking huts available. Actually, from our observations, most smokers make use of the huts, but, as always with these things, it’s the handful of deadbeats who continue to smoke near buildings — who are too damned lazy to get their fat and skinny butts down to the hut —that have wrecked the privilege for the others.
4. Second hand smoke is a killer. When someone in your proximity makes the decision to smoke, guess what? They are also deciding that you, too, will smoke. Second hand smoke is just as deadly as first hand.
5. Leeway. Under the new policy, smokers can imbibe in their personal vehicles in the parking lots. Just keep the stinking windows shut.
6. The policy fits well with BCC’s wellness initiative. The college has ramped up programs to help people get well and prevent illness. These include programs on nutrition, upgrades at the gym, and information tables on a variety of health issues. For smokers, there will be help with quitting.
Enforcement is All
The policy includes consequences, and THE PLANET shall be part of the team that makes sure the consequences are enforced. Visitors who violate the smoking policy may be banned from campus. Students and staff who violate the provisions will face disciplinary measures “for repeat infractions.”
THE PLANET remains unconvinced by the feeble arguments of those students who have attempted to turn this into a debate over “rights,” such as this screed by “Barstool Sports”: “S—t this continues to baffle and boggle the mind. What f—–g right do college administrators have to tell people they can’t smoke outside or buy cigarettes at the store? You can go to war and vote but you can’t smoke. Like if it’s legal to do it in America how can you make it illegal on campus? Nobobody gave them the right to change the laws of this country.”
Barstool, my boy, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you think you are going to convince adults with arguments that include such language, you are sadly mistaken. Grow up, lad. Learn. Listen. You will then, perhaps, discover that no one is “changing the laws of this country.” When, by the way, is the last time you went to war, much less voted?
We shall all breathe easier come Aug. 1.
NEW McSUPERINTENDENT TO COST TAXPAYERS PLENTY; HE’D BETTER BE WORTH IT
“I am enthusiastically endorsing his candidacy,” said Mayor Dan Bianchi on his vote in favor of Jason McCandless as the next superintendent of schools in Pittsfield.
Kathy Yon used cliches like “commitment and investment” to describe her vote for McSuperintendent. Kathy Amuso referred to the community’s overwhelming support for McSuper. Naturally, she did not share the process of how she could make a blanket judgment for an entire community. She must be gifted in that regard.
“Today is going to be a day years from now people will say this school committee did at least one thing right,” said school committee chair Alf Barbalunga. Alf’s abacus has added up the plusses and minuses as well as anyone’s, apparently.
McCandless will become the highest paid city employee. The school committee has yet to offer a contract, so it is not known how much the new “jake” will be making. It is expected to be in the vicinity of $150,000 a year plus benefits. Nice vicinity.
THE PLANET will judge not by dollars but by actions. McCandless is walking into a political, economic, moral, and ethical quagmire known as the Pittsfield Public Schools. He’s got one of two ways to go: Help rebuild a community or continue with business (and morass) as usual. For now, THE PLANET gives him the entire benefit of the doubt.
“The name of an iron man goes all over the world. / It takes a long time to forget an iron man.” — Carl Sandburg
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.