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.

An otherwise anatomical impossibility … but this is Pittsfield Public Schools.

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.



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.



“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




  1. Pittsfield Pete
    March 12, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    The choice between the Anti-bulling meeting a nd the school comm’ meeting is easy. Let’s stop the bullying at the top of the PPS first and then worry about the bullying in the classrooms. After all the PPS dept has been bullying the tax payers of this City for too long now. It’s just the play ground for this bully is much bigger than the sand box and the money far in excess of some kids lunch money. Just my opinion, but the biggest bully in town is obvious.

    • danvalenti
      March 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Cogently put … and true.

  2. tito
    March 12, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Note to Mrs. Banke: Just tell them that a million dollars was left over, however, we need to transfer these monies to pay other finances such as transportation, safety, or an item or two that had been neglected, and we were fortunate enough to have come up with these monies to do this.

  3. Downtown Dweller
    March 12, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Well, Barstool, it’s also legal to drink in America but I’m willing to bet that crackin’ open a cold one on campus would also be considered taboo.

    • Wilson
      March 12, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Conformity is not virtue. Control-freaks should get a life, because smokers or not they are worm food.

      • Scott
        March 13, 2013 at 4:31 am #

        I agree and I like doing risky things like jumping off large cliffs into water (hey we have to die of something right?) Does that give me the right to push someone off who doesn’t want to jump??? You’re missing the point you can smoke just not around people who don’t want you smoking around them. My buddies mom had a sign growing up it said “If you must smoke, please don’t exhale!”

        • danvalenti
          March 13, 2013 at 7:10 am #

          The analogy is apt, Scott.

  4. Jonathan Melle
    March 12, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Pittsfield spends millions of dollars on its public schools not because of the education of its youth, but rather, for the money. Pittsfield receives millions of dollars in state aid for its public schools. Pittsfield spends the money to help itself. It is all about the money. Pittsfield’s schools are Pittsfield’s cash cow.

  5. FPR
    March 12, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    I remember when I went to BCC. Mr. Dwyer lit up a cigarette while teaching class. I remember it sort of freaked me out because you never saw such a thing in high school.

    Never the less, I thought it was cool. I don’t recall even one student objecting to it at that time. My how times have changed.

    I do not condone smoking but if other people want to do it, I don’t think they should be demonized for doing it.

    • Scott
      March 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      I’m glad that Dan made the point that smoking does in fact effect those not doing it in the smokers direct vicinity. I agree if you want to smoke go ahead but do it over there. When I throw birthday parties and bar b q’s all my friends and family know to go out front away from everyone else and dispose of the butts properly. I have no problem letting a smoker know second hand smoke bothers me. I have even asked customers not to smoke where I’m working in their own house! (most of my customers don’t smoke now that I think about very few times I have run into smokers.)

      • danvalenti
        March 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

        If someone next to me decides to smoke, I’m smoking, too, against my will. If that same person has a drink, he doesn’t make me drink. Second-hand smoke if a known killer. If a person wants to smoke, they must do it in such a way that it doesn’t affect others.

        • Scott
          March 13, 2013 at 4:28 am #

          I agree! I never smoked around my children (when I smoked a long time ago.) and I don’t let people smoke around them now. I’m nice when it comes to myself but a little more aggressive when it comes to the kids I have no problem telling someone to go away in that event.

    March 12, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Those students will be scared s—less if they walk by Prof. Valenti with a cig in their mouths. I hope they don’t ask dumb questions like, “Is that the same Valenti who proudly posted his picture taken in front of city hall with a cigar in his mouth?”

    • In the know
      March 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      Good point Ambrose! Cigar or cigarette what’s the difference ?

      • Scott
        March 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

        I guess the difference would be maybe Dan chooses to do it on his own time however the photo does show Dan smoking illegally on city/state property. I see all the smokers from BMC have to walk all the way down to where the friendship bar is and smoke.

      • danvalenti
        March 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

        The difference is that I have never lit up a Churchill on campus. I do enjoy an occasional cigar, but only in private and only OUTSIDE, as Mrs. Planet can attest.

  7. FPR
    March 12, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    If Dan were to teach a class with a stogie in his mouth…. well, how cool is that?

    • danvalenti
      March 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

      Hmmmm, now THAT’s an idea.

  8. tito
    March 12, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Yeah, cigar smokers, whose your favorite? I use to like Red Auerbach light up after a Boston Celctic victory, a classic!

    • danvalenti
      March 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

      Nothing better, TITO, than Arnold lighting up after another Boston win!

    March 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    “McCandless will become the highest paid city employee.” I think you’ll find when Jonathan publishes the city payroll that there will be a couple of cops making more than 150 k.

    • danvalenti
      March 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      We’re talking simple city compensation. The cops that get up over $100,000 are doing it while racking up outside details.

      • ambrose
        March 12, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

        How about BCC. They’re on MJ & Joe’s dime too. President gets 150 k and she’s got five Vice Presidents all, save one making over $100,000. Then there are the bunch in the 80 to 99,000 range. The job of running a small community college is far less taxing then is the job of a public school superintendent. FYI, I also taught at BCC in my day.

  10. Scott
    March 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Dan I like the painting of PHS that is from the Appleton ave side pointing north right??? That section of the building used to be a green house correct? DO they still do horticulture and small engine mechanics??

  11. Joe Blow
    March 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Dan, You have a picture of yourself with a fat cigar above…..they are just as gross as cigs.

  12. Joe Blow
    March 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Dan, You have a picture of yourself with a fat cigar above…..they are just as gross as cigs.

  13. Ron Kitterman
    March 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I use to do a Grocho impression, ( now it’s time to play you bet your life, say the secret word and win yourself a $100 ) the younger set doesn’t know who he was, but Red’s statue is a must stop at Bean Town as well as Mayor Michael Curley’s.

  14. tito
    March 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Councilor Clairmont seems to be having a little hurdle implementing the seniors and tax incentive for volunteer work. One of the questions was what volunteer work could they do? no answers, here’s one…Crossing Guards! Good Luck Barry!

  15. dusty
    March 13, 2013 at 1:19 am #

    Alf Barbablunga says that if this new superintnedant works out it will be one good thing that this school committee accomplished. I am glad that he sees the committee as generally failing the public that they serve. It is a first step towards making things better.

    I see them as possibly the biggest embarrassment the city has and as their leader he stands out like a sore thumb. It might not further his career as much as he would have liked.