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?
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
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.
LADIES, LEAVE FOOTBALL PLAYING FOR THE MEN
Finally, we bring you this tale from the hormones. The moral? Biology is sometimes destiny.
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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.
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.
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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.