PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

EDITOR’S NOTE: Being on the road, THE PLANET did not have a chance to post and reflect on yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. We shall be doing so at a later time. For now, the time calls for calm, restraint, and help for those who suffered injury or worse. The important thing, from our perspective, is for authorities to respond without  overreacting. It’s a delicate balance, the true equilibrium of which will best be found in the embrace off our civil liberties and not in the imposition of more “security.” Above all, we must keep America “America.”

God bless and Godspeed.


(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2013) — Our Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield City Council approved on first reading a bill that would allow senior citizens the option of offering their sweat to the city in exchange for tax breaks. Here’s hoping that the second reading corrects this mistake.

The dubious program, if passed again the second time, would become law and have these features:

* Only 25 people per year could participate in the program — This minimal number shows that even the backers of this program think it’s a lousy idea without much traction or translatability.

* The city would reimburse seniors at the minimum wage — That’s all these people are worth, what you would pay a teenager to ask “More popcorn on your butter” at The Beacon?

* The program would be for those 70 and older. — 70 is the new 50.

* What projects would seniors be doing? — No one has specified. THE PLANET guesses the work will consist of carrying large boulders from the bottom of Clapp Park Hill to the top, for what purpose we haven’t the foggiest. Perhaps the city wants to stone sledders next winter. Why else wold councilors want to make Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus required reading for the program?

Senior Work Program a Dumb idea that Got Dumber

The “Senior work for tax relief” program a dumb idea that can only get dumber the longer it lives. First, THE PLANET objects to making anyone work free for the city to get a tax credit that would be worth “up to” $1,000. There’s a lot of wiggle room in “up to,” enough to drive a (Kevin) Sherman tank. We have a better idea. Rather than keep raising taxes, our approach would eliminate the middle man, so to speak, and allow across-the-board tax breaks in the first place in the city budget. Mayor Dan Bianchi, the city council, and the school committee could start on that during this year’s budget. That would, of course, mean belt tightening, something with which neither the Bianchi Administration, the council, nor the school committee is familiar.

Second, it is an insult to offer a payment equal to minimum wage, especially to seniors. For that, the old people would be better off working at McDonald‘s or picking up soda cans on North Street. Third, for what purpose is the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, and how would this tax-credit initiative affect the RSVP program? That hasn’t been answered. Fourth, why is it that the city, state, and feds can give all sorts of “free” assistance — enough to provide a lifestyle — to ‘entitlement” deadbeats, for example, single teen moms who can’t keep it out of the slot and continue to produce baby after baby, with no dad to hang around and families that won’t assume responsibility, but when it comes to tax relief for seniors, there’s not a dime?

‘Tax-credit Workers’ Has Slavish Ring to It

The notion of “tax-credit workers” has a slavish ring to it, like “indentured servants.” The program in effect would make of these people share croppers in the municipal fields. Where is the dignity?  If these elders had wanted to find work, they would either be at the RSVP or in the Dreaded Private Sector.

Councilor-at-large Melissa Mazzeo put forward a proposal that makes more sense. She favored revising the city’s property tax abatement program, making it more expansive and inclusive for seniors. Currently, the tax abatement program gives a $1,000 tax credit for means-tested people 70 or older. Mazzeo wants to lower the age to 65. THE PLANET supports that approach rather than insulting a demographic that is, in many ways, the city’s most valuable. They vote. They tend to have discretionary cash. They keep their yards clean. They’ve lived. They’ve learned. They vote.

For those keeping score at home, the first reading of this bill passed, 7-4. Voting yes: Yon, Capitanio, Lothrop, Krol, Sherman, Clairmont, and Cotton. Voting no: Mazzeo, Morandi, Simonelli, and Connell.


$15,155.71 is a Little Amount but It’s also a Big Amount

Here’s a “little” thing that is a Big thing and a good look at how government thinks and works. The city found $15,155.71 left over in a fund initially set up for equipment purchases and building maintenance. Great, eh? More than $15,000 of taxpayer money, not used and coming back to them.


There to scoop up the “free” cash was city maintenance director, Peter Sondrini, who convinced the tax-loving city council to give him the money to buy a new truck for the parks department. Actually, the money will be used to be applied toward the truck buy. It will cost much more. THE PLANET doesn’t blame Sondrini in advocating for his department. That’s his job. We would, though, also remind our Right Honorable Good Friends on the council of their job: To protect taxpayers and, at this point, begin to offer them some relief.

The assignment of the $15,155.71 illustrates the initial response of public officials, elected and appointed, whenever a penny of taxpayer money is “left over.” They want to hog it all up. Granted, in an isolated sense, $15,155.71 returned to taxpayers won’t make much difference, but if each time the city ended up with left over money it put it into an account to lower taxes, within a year, the accumulation would be significant.

Government doesn’t work that way. Councilors have as their main constituents the branches and trunks of city government. That attitude changes for a few weeks every two years, when they come hat-in-hand schlepping for your vote, but after that, they take care of their own first, and their own is The State, the connected, the special interests, and not We The People. This year, when one of the  skunks comes looking for your vote, ask then, point blank, “What did you do to make my life easier? How did you serve me? By raising my taxes twice again?”

Right smart bastards, they.


“Go, little book, and wish to all / Flowers in the garden, meat in the hall, / a bin of wine, a spice of wit, / A house with lawns enclosing it, / A living river by the door, / A nightingale in the sycamore.”Robert Louis Stevenson





  1. FPR
    April 16, 2013 at 6:52 am #


    Excellent column.

    With this generous pay of minimum wage, will the city also be paying the FICA and Medicare?

    Worker’s compensation?

    People in their 70’s have been known to be frail. What happens in the case of injury? Will the city pay all the medical bills perhaps costing it more than the tax bill itself?

    Hasn’t the city tried something like this years ago but had to abandon it because of personal injuries?

    Will an elderly person have a loophole to collect disability simply by just hurting their back?

    If this is such a good idea then why not make all welfare recipients work for their check? Would this not eliminate all city workers and replace them with welfare recipients and elderly taxpayers thus saving the city tons of money?

  2. in the know
    April 16, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    Wow! Not even a mention of the horror in Boston….. If Dan won’t say it I will Prayers to all of those in Boston. God Bless

  3. hill billy
    April 16, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    In the Know
    ..pathetic to use the tragedy to try to score points on the Planet
    .please crawl back under your rock and go away you troll

    • In the know
      April 16, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Hilly or is it Dan. Sorry if you think this blog today should talk about taxes and about Boston… How sad you are..

      • Scott
        April 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

        This from a person who used the bombing tragedy to spout a tasteless joke yesterday.

        • in the know
          April 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

          Scott Sorry about the Heller joke. Still I think it stinks that the Planet writes about a minor story about a senior tax brake, yet never mentions the Boston tragedy .How pathetic!

          • Scott
            April 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

            He mentioned it in the beginning and said there would be more tomorrow.

  4. The Kraken
    April 16, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Can someone tell me what kind of compensatory work Spice did when they got all that tax relief from Ruberto?

    • Scott
      April 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      There should be a “like” button…

  5. tito
    April 16, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    This tragedy only reinforces my appreciation for the first responders. Don’t quite understand how this can happen, especially with a high profile event.

    • Scott
      April 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      That is the best post you’ve ever made. I too appreciate those people they don’t get paid enough! Especially to be shot at when showing up to save lives. I hope they figure out who set those bombs off and planned this whole thing.

      Are the conspiracy theorist making stuff up or are there really DHS drills really going on during all these tragedies? Coincidence or conspiracy?

  6. Dave
    April 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    In the know- “I will be doing so at a later time” is O.K. with me. Would we rather have a knee-jerk comment- I think not. Knee-jerk comments in cyberspace (like your insensitive “joke”) are there forever, as Dan well knows. As far as Slippery Barry’s program, I think it starts at 60, not 70 Dan. I think it can work along with Councilor Mazzeo’s proposal to lower the qualifying age for automatic qualification for the $1000 credit. The drawback of Slippery’s program is that if someone is not physically capable to donate their time(and I’m sure it is not breaking rocks), but at 60+ even getting places or even some easy tasks are hard-especially one would think if they are income qualified-will not receive help until 70. Lowering the age to 65, and making sure that if at 65 the person qualifies under the automatic credit that they receive that credit and don’t take a volunteer spot away from someone on the waiting list would be the best case scenario.

    • B
      April 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

      Dave, you are correct when it comes to the age of 60. The jobs will most likely be office type jobs. I would think that the school department could come up with lots of jobs to help all the young kids at school or an extra set of eyes on the school bus or at recess. We can call them “bully watchers”.

  7. Ed Shepardson
    April 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    I’m one of those old geezers who might be eligible for this abatement. But I’m willing to bet, those “lucky” 25 end up being friends and supporters of the mayor. If you want to help us geezers out, trim costs and reduce taxes. Or at least, stop raising them. Now, what was I saying?

    • Dave
      April 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      supposedly Ed, it goes from most qualified on up- but to your scepticism, which I share, I’m sure numbers could be skewed in certain circumstances, which makes Councilor Mazzeo’s proposal- you either qualify or you don’t- the fairest of them all.
      Sadly-watching the Charter Review Commission “Public Hearing” as I type, which in the last hour has been Mayor Bianchi and Councilor Mazzeo giving their opinions, it seems that the public really doesn’t care to look behind the curtain and the Wizard rules. We need a Dorothy this election season, but I think she was smart enough to stay in Kansas!

      • Dave
        April 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

        but I totally agree with the cut spending angle.

      • Ed Shepardson
        April 16, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

        Dave- Tom Bowler’s sister worked for the mayor. Andy Mick’s wife worked for the mayor. Why? Those jobs are big money. Who’s going to watch over those 25 to make sure the abatement is not being handed out as favors? I hate to say this but I’m beginning to think we are just sheep being herded by border collies.

        • Twist
          April 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

          I can see you don’t know Donna Mattoon… she needs no help or special favors- regardless of sibling position.

          • Ed Shepardson
            April 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

            I don’t know her personally her but I know she was a highly regarded reported at the Eagle. However, there are many highly regarded reporters, past and present, that were not offered that job. And Twist, why don’t you use your real name? Your endorsement would mean so much more.

          • Ed Shepardson
            April 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

            Sorry twist. Reporter, not reported. That’s why I’m not highly regarded.

          • Ed Shepardson
            April 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

            Twist.Twist. Hello. Are you there?

  8. tito
    April 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Good one Ed. Of course it will be by appointment only, all this bickering is infighting between the Council and Mayor, it’ll never end, the lines have been drawn with Mazzeo and the quorum issue and slipper Low throw up and troll, with allegiance to the former mayor.

  9. Scott
    April 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Can a younger person do the work for an older person? I always wondered why more couldn’t be done by everyone even those on public assistance imagine how nice the streets would be if all those people walked around picking up trash, cleaning and other city needs. What the heck do the city workers do all day???

    • Ed Shepardson
      April 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

      Scott- a bunch of city workers spent the day at Clapp Park working on the infield. Let’s see, how many kids on the PHS team?
      20 maybe. Time for parents to step up there too. Although maybe the kids should if they want a nice field.

      • Dave
        April 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

        parents, ok…. but maybe some people getting welfare(Is that still a politically correct term) who can’t seem to pull it together for long enough to hold a job to spend a couple of hours raking an infield or laying down some lines. But wait, then we would take hours away from city and state employees therefore saving the taxpayers money on both the state and federal level…….. never mind

      • In the know
        April 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

        Sorry Ed I saw 2 guys there for about a hour. Is that alot?

        • Ed Shepardson
          April 16, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

          And your point is? I saw two trucks, a “bunch” of guys for way more than an hour. And they were there yesterday too. Can we afford this?

  10. joetaxpayer
    April 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    @In the know, after your Heller comment you should be in time out.To quote Baba Ram Days “The quieter you become, the more you can hear”.

    • In the know
      April 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

      Joe. We all know Heller is a nut job. What’s your point?

      • Ed Shepardson
        April 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

        At least Heller has the courage to use his real name. And you In the Know?

        • Ed Shepardson
          April 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

          In the know. Are you there?

          • In the know
            April 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

            Ed. Some how I dought you use your real name. Only because you sound a little slow. Your special.

          • In the know
            April 16, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

            Jim Knowlton. Is that ok

    • In the know
      April 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      Joe Sorry I don’t drink the Planut kool aide. Believe it or not not everyone thinks Dan is God!

      • Ed Shepardson
        April 17, 2013 at 3:35 am #

        In the know, it’s doubt. I think dought is the sound Homer Simpson makes. And I might read a little slow, but as you can’t hear me on this blog, you couldn’t possibly know if I sounded a little slow. And I should have picked another name to hide behind. Hmmm, how about Bond. James Bond.

  11. tito
    April 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    If anyone is watching Wheel of Fortune, my sister Rita is a contestant.

  12. tito
    April 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    ,,,,can’t say what happens, but it was good.

    • Ed Shepardson
      April 16, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      You could have given us a heads up Tito.

  13. tito
    April 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Ed, how about using jail inmates on these fields?

    • Ed Shepardson
      April 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      Inmates are already used to work on some fields, the Doyle Softball Complex for example. The ultimate answer is figuring out a way to live within our means. Larry Bossidy donated one million dollars to maintain these fields. Somehow, that money is gone and our fields are still a mess. We have got to stop wasting money. The first step would be to make sure that all city employees are qualified and not just “entitled.”

      • Scott
        April 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

        Yeah I saw inmates last summer up @ fish pond in N.Adams that was great getting them out to clean up but it sure would be nice if people cleaned up after themselves too!

  14. dusty
    April 17, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    I agree with Ed. Stop wasting the taxpayers money and stop raising the damn taxes. A strong mayor would seek out these waste areas (think school administrative costs) and knock the taxes down helping everyone.
    We are talking about giving the volunteer school committee members pay and that seems simple enough. But to give seniors, with one foot in the grave, a legitimate break seems so painful to the council.

    I hope the Bersteins, Haddads and Stanleys are not allowed to double dip because their cakewalk is an insult to every senior choosing between cat food for dinner and chipping in for the new superintendents salary.

  15. joetaxpayer
    April 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    We had a fiscally responsible candidate. Joe Nicholas he lost.I guess the people of Pittsfield want high taxes and incompetent officials.

  16. In the know
    April 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Wow planet can’t talk about Boston bombing until Thursday. I guess Planut was scooped by The 3 days! What’s with that Planuts?

    • Joe Blow
      April 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      So know you resort to name calling? How clever of you..Planut…Planet..Ha Ha! Why do you come here if you don’t like his writings? Do you not have anything better to do than troll here all day?

      • Joe Blow
        April 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm #


      • In the know
        April 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

        Just giving a more sane point of view

    • Scott
      April 18, 2013 at 4:05 am #

      When you read the eagle do you agree with everything they print?

  17. In the know
    April 17, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Mr Blow. I just think you guys drink Dans kool aide. Sometimes he makes sense .what would Dan write if the Eagle didn’t write about the. Boston bombings for 4 days? I see through Dan. He lives in Stockbridge He is all concerned about Pittsfield , has all the answers yet you don’t see it’s all about Dans ego. I hope Dan runs for mayor, then the dirt on him will come out. By the way you need to be a Pittsfield resident to run for mayor

    • Joe Pinhead
      April 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Mr. In the know, how very sad that you see this or any election as an opportunity to expose “all the dirt”. Be it on Dan or any other candidate. With this type of a mindset by those of you in the know the city of Pittsfield will never emerge from its perpetual position of being a victim of itself.
      I implore you to take a broader look at the upcoming elections, look at the candidates based upon their positions and stances on issues their plans for the future the fiscal plan they articulate. Do we really need to learn the dirt on anyone? I mean really everyone has lived a life, some of it filled with moments we hold dear, some of the moments we each speak of with pride and each of us I am sure have a moment or two we are not so proud of. At the end of the day the City needs leaders with a vision and that vision need not be from a rear view mirror.

      Just sayin

      • In the know
        April 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

        Joe P. just saying your candidate Mr Valenti will be fair game if he runs for mayor. I hear he has skeletons in his closet. I don’t know. All I know is he has a LARGE Ego. I also see he doesn’t always check his facts . Sorry to disappoint you