Article

PLANET TALKS TO DOWNTOWN MERCHANTS: THEY BACK POLICE FOOT PATROLS, BLAST DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD INC., BIANCHI … PLANET INTERVIEW, FROM BERKSHIRE MAGAZINE … plus … FEMALE KICKER FALLS FLAT IN NFL TRYOUT or SOMETIMES, BIOLOGY IS DESTINY

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2013) — Do you think the administration has crime under control? It wants you to think that way, of course, and so does the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, home of the $35 powdered-egg breakfast … but, interestingly, not everyone else who depends on downtown Pittsfield for a livelihood.

THE PLANET recently talked to several merchants who own downtown businesses — a restaurant, a clothing store, a jewelry store, and a coffee shop. Not one of those we talked to wanted to be identified by name, each citing some version of the same reason. They didn’t want to appear in a publication to be “complaining.” It would only lead to “harassment from city hall,” as one of then put it, or as another said, “The rah-rahs in DPI [Downtown Pittsfield Inc.] will see us as the nail that stands out. Not good.”

Our talks were informal, and we weren’t compiling data for an investigative piece. That plus the conversational tone and the promise of anonymity got tongues well oiled. Our talks came shortly after police nabbed a naked man who had harassed a woman in a public rest room at the bus station. We asked all four point blank how they felt about police foot patrols in the downtown, which, of course, do not exist.  Each of the store owners expressed frustration about no police foot patrols.

All of the Merchants Surveys Want Police Foot Patrols in Downtown Pittsfield 

“I don’t see why [the mayor and the police chief] can’t readjust assignments,” said one of the shop owners. “From what I hear, there are a lot of [officers] on desk duty, administrative work, or simply cruising unproductively who could be helping us out here on the street. I’m not in charge of assignments, but you mean to tell me they can’t find a way of freeing up a few officers?”

Another owner said the attack at the bus station scared her: “I work here every day. I’m here in the morning to open up, and sometimes I don’t get out until well after dark before I’m done closing up. I walk alone to the [Columbus Avenue parking] deck, and I am on high alert. I can’t get to my car fast enough. I don’t feel safe, and I know I’ve lost [female] customers because of the same reason. When you speak up, they just poo-poo it. They say it’s only a ‘perception’ that it’s not safe downtown. How stupid is that? The perception becomes the reality, doesn’t it? I am so frustrated. There’s no plan.”

We asked her if she would support downtown foot patrols. The answer came back quickly: “Absolutely. It can’t hurt. it can only help. Try it, at least. What’s [mayor Dan] Bianchi waiting for?

HQ of DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD INC.

A third store owner, who said he was a “dues paying member” of Downtown Pittsfield Inc. (DPI) blamed the taxpayer-supported organization for not advocating with city hall and the police department for downtown businesses. This entrepreneur, who has been downtown for a little more than a year, said when he was talking to the city about moving the business to North Street, DPI “made a lot of promises.” The business has been “breaking even,” but in the summer, it has been plagued by kids on skateboards and bikes. In winter, snowbanks make it hard for customers. The shop owner also worries about theft and break-ins.

Our fourth interviewee said he had a discussion with interim police chief Mike Wynn a few weeks ago. This followed a disturbance at this particular place of business in which the police were called. He asked the chief about foot patrols. He said the chief “said he wanted to do it, but his hands were tied by the mayor.”

What’s a ‘Quiet’ Day Like for Crime in the Pitts?

There it is, ladies and gentlemen, a view of those on the streets, from the streets, who have made their professional beachhead in downtown Pittsfield — a place, incidentally, where THE PLANET kept his editorial and business offices for 28 years, from 1980 to 2008, four years in Crawford Square (then the El-Glo Mall) and 24 years in the Shipton Building. We saw the shocking decline over that near-generational span, despite the veneer of improvements with the Arts, Streetscape, and such.

The “subterranean” inhabitants who have made the streets their own represent “armies of the road” marching to a more desperate song and under a more ominous and violent banner, in the downtown and environs.

Don’t think so? Maybe you missed it. Check this selection of routine items from recent Pittsfield police logs on two “quiet” days:

Wed. Feb. 27, 3:50 p.m. Police investigate a reported sex offense. No address given. The investigation is continuing. 8:04 p.m. Police investigate a report of vandalism at Luisa’s Precious Metals on First Street. 8:47 p.m. Police respond to a disturbance at Ken’s Bowl on Dalton Avenue.  11:08 p.m., Police respond to a disturbance at Casey’s Billiards on Dalton Avenue. Tues. Feb. 26, 1:33 p.m., Police investigate a break-in on Dewey Avenue. 1:40 p.m. Police respond to a disturbance on North Street. 2:11 p.m. Police investigate a disturbance at Herberg School. They arrest a 13-year-old girl on a charge of disturbing the school. 2:37 p.m. Police investigate suspicious activity [unidentified] at Summer Street parking deck.

Let us stop there. We did not include many arrests, reports of domestic violence, and other tales from the blotter. Remember, these were what police would call two “quiet” days.

———————————————————————-

HERE IS THE INTERVIEW WITH THE PLANET FROM THIS MONTH’S BERKSHIRE MAGAZINE 

We thought you’d be interested in this piece. We thank Berkshire Magazine and editor Anastasia Stanmeyer for permission to reprint.

Berkshire Magazine debuted this summer, and with each issue, it has shown steady improvement. The magazine boasts National Geographic like quality photography, with a punchy style and tone quite unlike the utterly precious and pretentious foo-foo-la-la Berkshire Living magazine.

For example, in the March issue, the publication takes on Berkshire County’s “lost generation” — young people between 20 and 30 who live in an area that has become too expensive for them. They can’t make it on the meager pay of service-type jobs. It’s the type of article that never would have made it in Living. In fact, because it ignored stories like this, Berkshire Living became Berkshire Dying then Berkshire Dead. We danced a dickey-do jig when we learned that the puff rag had been Deep Rogovoid (kind of like being Deep Sixed but with a bald spot).

Berkshire Magazine is daring to be more than that. I mean, could you imagine Berkshire Living having the audacity of running a feature on THE PLANET? No way, Jose. We wish the publication every success.

Ten Minutes With Dan Valenti

a one-man mob scene

FELIX CARROLL, PHOTO BY SCOTT BARROW
Dan Valenti

Dan Valenti  is Berkshire County’s one-man mob scene and arguably its most prolific scribe. The Pittsfield native earned his journalist chops during stints at several New York newspapers, where he was mentored by old-timers who still kept bottles of hooch in their desk drawers. After returning here for good in 1980, Valenti became a local radio host and a newspaper columnist for both The Berkshire Eagle and The Pittsfield Gazette. These days, he keeps the pot boiling through his blog, planetvalenti.com.

What’s your mission, man?  To fight the scourge of the age, civic indifference.

Has anyone ever rung your neck?  Yes. Literally. I had just signed off the air on my talk show [which ran on WBRK for 14 years until 2006]. As I stepped outside of my studio, a local politician greeted me with a haymaker.

What’s your beef with politicians?  Most politicians are people who want everyone to love them. Most possess skin as thin as a wafer and the short-sightedness of Mr. Magoo. As Khrushchev said, a politician is a person who promises to build a bridge, even if there is no river.

What has been your proudest moment as a journalist?  Helping break the story of the capture of David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam,” in 1977. Being on the team that was the first to report on the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in 1979. Exposing numerous local stories, too many to count, that the mainstream media would not touch, especially in Pittsfield.

Biggest regret? Moments of failure lead to regret only if you fail to learn from them.

Your biggest flaw?  A love of a good, handmade cigar is my only weakness.

In columns, on your radio show, and in blog posts, you refer to a fictional husband and wife of your own creation. Who are they?  Joe and Mary Jane are the typical little guy. They are “we the people.” They are lower middle-class, hard workers, solid, family people….They pay their taxes, abide by the law, expect no handouts. They are the most important constituency, yet the most ignored because they don’t have the cell-phone numbers for the people in charge. I try to adopt their concerns and be their advocate. I have the cell-phone numbers of the big shots.

How much grief do you get from moving from Pittsfield to  Stockbridge?  A considerable amount, which amuses me to no end. I had my offices in Pittsfield for 28 years. It just became too crowded. I became a public figure and the town became too small.

Who are your heroes? Literary: Edgar Poe and George Orwell. Journalistically: Ambrose Bierce and H.L. Mencken. Also, Ted Williams and Stanley Kubrick. My dad, who turned 92 on January 3rd.

What does the world need now more than anything else?  Love. I mean it. I don’t mean to be campy or facile. The world needs nothing. People, though, need a change of heart. Until we realize we’re all in this together, we shall continue with the irrationalities of war, violence, wrongdoing, corruption, greed, and the like.

Follow us on Twitter.

Follow us on Facebook.

This article appears in the March 2013 issue of Berkshire Magazine

Did you like what you read here? Subscribe to Berkshire Magazine »

—————————————————————————

LADIES, LEAVE FOOTBALL PLAYING FOR THE MEN

Finally, we bring you this tale from the hormones. The moral? Biology is sometimes destiny.

—– 00 —–

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Lauren Silberman lined up for a kick at NFL history, took a deep breath and booted the football.

It barely went anywhere, traveling 19 yards, and she grabbed at her right leg.

Still, it was good enough to make her the first woman to try out at a regional combine, even if her day lasted all of two kicks.

LAUREN SILBERMAN

With the 36 other kickers – all male – a handful of scouts and more than two dozen media watching in complete silence at the New York Jets’ practice facility, Silberman struggled for about 20 seconds to place the football on the tee before measuring her steps and then trying that second kick.

This one went only about 13 yards.

She then asked to see a trainer and left the practice field after injuring her quadriceps, and appeared to be slightly favoring her right leg.

”They certainly didn’t go as far as they were in practices,” Silberman, 28, said.

Silberman, a former club soccer player at Wisconsin and ex-graduate student at MIT, appeared frustrated she couldn’t complete her tryout.

”I’ve always been an athlete, and I’ve always been a gamer,” she said while fighting back tears. [PLANET's UNDERLINE]

While some fans on Twitter have praised her for breaking through in a male-dominated sport, others wondered if this was just a mere publicity stunt. Regardless, the NFL got plenty of publicity on a Sunday in March for one of its regional combines – something that normally is ignored by most media.

”I’m just really happy I had this amazing experience,” Silberman said. ”I might be the first woman trying out for the NFL, but I certainly hope I’m not the last.”

Silberman’s goal was to try a 60-yard field goal. That thought was squashed just minutes into her tryout.

”You know, the distance wasn’t there, but hopefully the scouts will notice my technique,” she said. ”It’s not always length.”

Silberman left the complex soon after that.

—– 00 —–

THE PLANET is all for equal opportunity, but obviously, this woman had NO chance. This isn’t ladies soccer. This is the N-F******-L. She took two kicks, which traveled a total of 32 yards, all for a cheap publicity stunt.

How clueless is this gal? She ignored the paltry distance in the two kicks and pointed to her “technique.” Distance in field goal kicking “isn’t everything,” she said.

Really? Try telling that to an NFL kicker looking at 48 yards with the game on the line.

We’re going to send this one to Stephen Gostkowski.

————————————————————————————–

“Is there no change of death in paradise? / Does ripe fruit never fall?”Wallace Stevens

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

43 Responses to “PLANET TALKS TO DOWNTOWN MERCHANTS: THEY BACK POLICE FOOT PATROLS, BLAST DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD INC., BIANCHI … PLANET INTERVIEW, FROM BERKSHIRE MAGAZINE … plus … FEMALE KICKER FALLS FLAT IN NFL TRYOUT or SOMETIMES, BIOLOGY IS DESTINY”

  1. Dave
    March 5, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    If she looked like Stephanie Gruntcowski, think she would have gotten a spot at the combine?

  2. Jonathan Melle
    March 5, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I admire Dan Valenti, even though I am more liberal and he is more conservative. He speaks out for the little guy. It takes courage to speak out for the weak. Furthermore, Dan Valenti cares about Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Most people don’t care about Pittsfield, especially Boston and GE: Jack Welch & Jeff Immelt. Dan Valenti fights the vested interests that keep Pittsfield depressed. I don’t understand Dan Valenti’s focus on North Street. Most people try to avoid downtown Pittsfield if they are able to stay away. There are so many struggling people on North Street, such as teenage mothers, people on welfare, criminals, at-risk homeless, hungry, mentally-ill. Moreover, North Street is a place to avoid at night. To me, there are 2 Pittsfield within Pittsfield. There is the Pittsfield for the well-off, and there is the Pittsfield for the rest of us, who Dan Valenti calls Mary Jane & Joe Kapanski. When I think about being in Pittsfield, I see myself as knowing my place within the system. They don’t want me to speak out against the Good Old Boys like Jimmy Ruberto, Carmen Massimiano, & Andrea Nuciforo. They don’t want me to speak out about Pittsfield large number of poor people who are dependent on the system. They don’t want me to speak out about Pittsfield’s toxic waste, cancer-causing PCBs pollution. When I lived in and around Pittsfield, they black-listed me from finding or keeping a job. Dan Valenti speaks out for all of the people in Pittsfield, or like me, who spent most of my life in Pittsfield.

    • University mom
      March 5, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      You are correct in your statement. And I believe the reason his focus is so much on North St is because it was once a booming place, a destination. The main street of a city epitomizes its governing quality. Right now it’s nothing more than pitiful. Dan cares about Pittsfield and its image.

  3. tito
    March 5, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    If the merchants are for the foot patrols, what is the problem? They do pay the majority of the taxes on North Street, don’t they?

    • Kate Dempsey
      March 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

      Why not put foot patrols in Allendale? That area sees a hell of a lot more foot traffic/shoppers in one day, than North Street does in a week. There is yellow police tape all around the North Street arae. Why? North Street is dead. If your to afraid to buy a cup of coffee on North Street, brew your own. If your to afraid to walk North Street by yourself during the day, than hire an officer on OT to be your “body guard.” It’s a waste of police officers to make them walk on North Street. Like I said earlier, if Pittsfield has walking beats, it should be in Allendale. Don’t believe me, walk through WalMart for an hour. It will make North Street look like Candyland.

      Also, where is the shurff on this matter? Shurff Bowler likes to stick his beak in all other criminal matters, what about this? Put some shurff deputies up on North Street.

      • danvalenti
        March 6, 2013 at 8:40 am #

        Interesting thought, KATE. Many thanks for your input and care.

  4. tito
    March 5, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    This isn’t rocket science?

    • Gene
      March 5, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      True its not rocket science but the merchants are ignored by Downtown Pittsfield Inc and city hall. I know. My daughter owned a business there.

      • ambrose
        March 5, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

        you are absolutly right. Downtown, Inc. does not do one thing to support its members. A merchant is better off not joining if they want to do business with DIC

        • danvalenti
          March 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

          AMBROSE
          I have heard this over and over again in talking to merchants. What’s more troubling is the fear. They don’t want their names to be used or their businesses identified when they criticize DPI, and yet they continue to pay dues. It’s like a “Sopranos” type shakedown. If you open up shop in center city Pittsfield, you’d better join DPI. If you don’t, suddenly, you start having problems.

  5. Shakes His Head
    March 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    At least we have a big power player from California to continue running the Community Development Department into the ground and stalling real change in Upstreet. The Mayor finally made a decision (again) on hiring someone with no experience in a city like Pittsfield. Of course, I’ll guess he won’t be there to see out the end of her three years.

    I’m curious as to what the accomplishments of the Bianchi re-election campaign materials are going to look like. No tax increases? Ummmmmm, not so much…… Continued revitalization of North Street? I see more vacancies…… Improved performance at Pittsfield Schools? HAAAA!!! The creation of a business development and marketing plan???? Intensified participation in ongoing efforts to combat crime???? Maybe if it involved giving a proclamation of some day or another or shaking some kids’ hand over a sixth grade science experiment…. The advancement of energy conservation, waste reduction, and other green initiatives…Well, at least the City Garage is no longer so expensive to heat!!!!! AND LASTLY, ” Establish an open, fair, and transparent government through transparency and inclusion”

    “Action is eloquence” quotes the mayor from Shakespeare fourteen months ago (the only time when his office bothered to update the departmental website.) After two years of this administration, I suspect the candidate we will hear shall remind us more of Holden Caufield than any great playwright and poet.

    • Scott
      March 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      Salinger captured true teenage angst with Holden Caulfield. I’m still trying to figure out how that book can be blamed for inspiring murder.

  6. tito
    March 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Stop complaint, his honor is the new who’s the President game show champion.

  7. Scott
    March 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Dan you’re a true poet!

  8. Jim Gleason
    March 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    This woman who kicked at the open tryout is a film maker, not a competent athlete.Her film on this experience will probably end up at some fancy, hoity toity film festival in Pittsfield and be called genius by those who are supposedly in the know.She set legit female athletes back five steps with this foolishness.

    • Jim Gleason
      March 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      BTW, her two kickoff attempts traveled 14 and 16 yards, respectively.

      • danvalenti
        March 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

        JIM
        Then I must deduct two yards from her total. FYI, just as a lark, I took a regulation sized football and a tee to the park yesterday, found some reasonably dry turf, put a “receiver” on the other end (it wasn’t Wes Welker, I assure you), and took two field-goal type kicks. I hit the first one 15 yards. The second one I “boomed” 23 yards. That’s 38 yards from a guy who hasn’t played soccer since high school. I didn’t realize that the gal who tried out is a film maker. That makes it worse. I agree with you that it sets back legit female athletes.

  9. tito
    March 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    14 yards,terrible, and the kicker was,it was wind aided.

  10. dusty
    March 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Wha What? The police chief wants to do foot patrols but the mayor won’t let him? Is that what is said here? Gee, any chance you might get the mayor on the phone real quick for an explanation I am sure we would all love to hear. Can we do this right now?

    Any mayor who did not support the merchants would be out the door quick considering the big cheeses on North st. So let us get the real story.

    • danvalenti
      March 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      DUSTY
      The impression I get is that there’s something brewing between the mayor’s office and the police department. I don’t know what the specifics are, but this report, if true, could be explained by stupid politics.

      • Edconnect
        March 6, 2013 at 7:48 am #

        Thats what you get when you have “acting” chiefs . Should be called an “asking” chief. Cause the have to ask before they act.

        • danvalenti
          March 6, 2013 at 8:34 am #

          ED-C
          This line is so good, I may ask to borrow it for a future column!

          • Edconnect
            March 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

            Borrow away my friend.

  11. tito
    March 5, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    I can remember walking the beat, was the low rung as a police officer.

    • danvalenti
      March 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      TITO
      Yes, bu that image has changed … in progressive cities, that is. In Syracuse, NY, for example, the mayor has made downtown foot patrols a respected (if not coveted) assignment, and it’s worked in helping turn around a distressed, crime-plauges area into one of the great small metro downtowns in the country (particularly the Armory Square and Clinton Square areas).

      • Scott
        March 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

        Hampton beach seems o have a good group of cops walking around they don’t take crap from anyone!

  12. tito
    March 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    I agree with you Planet, beat cops do deter crime and quite contrary to some people’s perception are more respected these days. Sean Connery played a Chicago beat Cop in the movie, the Untouchables, doesn’t get any cooler than that!

  13. in the know
    March 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Dan That picture makes you look like your a “Good Old Boy” Really A big stoogie for such a little man?

    • danvalenti
      March 5, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

      Stogie envy!!

      • in the know
        March 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

        yes!

  14. FPR
    March 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    Maybe the bloods and the crips could strike a deal with downtown merchants where the businesses pay them “protection” money. A percentage of the profits. The gang members already walk a beat, they are heavily armed and they could do things the cops could never do. North Street would be safe to walk again and business would be booming.

    It worked for awhile in Nazis Germany. The thugs even became the cops.

    Cops are too busy riding around in their new $80,000.00 state of the art squad cars. Walking a beat is way beneath them. They can always get there after the fact and pick up the bodies, just like they do now.

    • Scott
      March 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      Hey let me ask you a question if the crips and the bloods started shooting at each other over your head while you were enjoying some metro gourmet meal at say mission at one of the classy exterior tables and the the Hells angles showed up and just started shooting too would you as a concealed carry permit holder engage them??? You can’t make that stuff up thanks for giving me even less hope for this city!

      • FPR
        March 5, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

        You forgot to mention the IEDs and roadside bombs.

        People need to feel safe walking to the methadone clinic.

        • danvalenti
          March 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

          To think nothing of the growth business created: Wanted, minesweepers! No experience necessary. Apply at city hall, mayor’s office.

          • FPR
            March 5, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

            Yes Dan and the beauty of it is, when they find one, you won’t have to pay them. Saving the taxpayers money.

        • Scott
          March 6, 2013 at 4:09 am #

          I suggest if anyone finds an IED leave it alone there may be a sniper watching and waiting to pick off whoever touches it. Curiosity killed the cat!

          • outfox
            March 6, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

            Scott—curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back to life!

  15. tito
    March 5, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    What does a fish say when he swims into a brick wall…..dam.

  16. dusty
    March 6, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Getting cops on the walking beat might actually get Bianchi a few much needed votes this coming election. Getting a new chief might get him even more.

  17. spagirlfrommass
    March 6, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Dan, Somebody has to hold Pittsfield’s feet to the fire. It is corrupt as it gets…talk about fed-up. I wish you would ask the Mayor about the snowbanks on North Street that the 3rd business owner talked about…..my pet peeve. The DPW used to remove them overnight after a snowstorm…now you get excuses or lies if you ask about it…like we are going to do that on Monday (documented). This is a dis-service to these business owners and their customers.

  18. outfox
    March 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Y’all need to visit North St. at night and see what’s really happening instead of assuming what you read here is true. Here’s what I see at night on North St— not a damn thing. No criminals. no druggies, no welfare moms, nobody. They roll up the sidewalks about 5:30 every afternoon. With the exception of special events, North St. is deserted at night, making it the least threatening place in town. I really think it takes people to make a street dangerous, and damn, there just aren’t any of them there. Everybody’s always pointing out the social service agencies on North, but my question is: What’s with all the banks? Why are there so many of them here?