BIANCHI’s TREATMENT OF MEDFORD ENTREPRENEUR & PUBLISHER DOREEN WADE RAISES MANY QUESTIONS … WADE SAYS MAYOR ACTED IN A “RACIST” MANNER … WADE HAS MADE HERSELF AVAILABLE AND OPEN; BIANCHI DUCKS PLANET’s QUESTIONS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2013) — Is Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi a racist? That is the claim being made by a Medford businesswoman after two contentious meetings in April with the Pittsfield mayor.
A preposterous assertion, isn’t it? Or is it?
THE PLANET has known Bianchi, a member of our class, the PHS class of 1969 (Stracuzzi, Grunin were as well in that precocious group of wunderkinds), since well before then, when his family and mine were communicants of the former Mt. Carmel Church, under the aegis of the late, great Fr. Camillio Santini. Bianchi would seem to be lily white of the charge of racism, pun intended.
A Misunderstanding or a True Case of Discrimination Based on a Person’s Skin Color?
Nonetheless, that is the charge being made against the mayor by Medford businesswoman Doreen Wade, publisher and president of the New England Informer, an online news magazine. Wade, who has deep ties to the city of Pittsfield, wants to move her operations to Shire town from Medford for both professional and personal reasons, continuing her online magazine and reviving a print version of the Informer.
THE PLANET’s quick impression after a lifetime of knowing Bianchi and having exchanged lengthy e-mails and long phone call with Ms. Wade: She is an independent publisher, an entrepreneur, an activist, and the kind of assertive woman of color that people like Bianchi — a white man living in an essentially white town personally sheltered from Mean Streets and Hard Knox — don’t know how to handle. Bianchi’s awkwardness may have been misinterpreted by Wade to be something other than it was. We could also see Bianchi’s handling of her as being misconstrued.
That would be the most kind explanation, and THE PLANET would readily embrace it — except that’s not what Wade is contending. She points out that she’s been black all her life and knows racism from simple human misunderstanding when it rears its ugly head. What complicates judgment in this case is Bianchi’s reluctance to speak on (or off) the record with THE PLANET.
We will try again with the mayor.
Seeking a Return Home
Wade is looking to move back to Pittsfield, where she spent many summers visiting with relatives and where much of her extended family still lives. In pursuit of that goal, she first tried contacting the city’s community development office as a precursor to her move, and, not getting any response there, went to the mayor’s office.
Here are the facts as best as we can determine.
* Bianchi and Wade had two meetings, on April 3 and on April 29. The second was worst than the first. Wade called it “ugly.”
* Wade says Bianchi made “racially insensitive” remarks to her at both meetings and especially at the second. Bianchi denies that. Wade repeated her charges to THE PLANET. Bianchi, for his part, ignored three requests by THE PLANET in response to Wade’s charges. Bianchi’s silence is most troubling, indicating that there may be a sore spot here. The mayor must know he’s dealing with a charge of racial insensitivity. He knows that it might be political dynamite in this election season. His silence, thus, speaks volumes, whether he intends it to or not and whether is should or not.
* On April 3, Wade met with Bianchi in the corner office, at 11 a.m. She wanted to discuss moving The Informer to Pittsfield and also find out if the city would or could help with assistance. She says she wasn’t asking for a handout but only doing the normal due diligence any business would do upon relocation to a new city. There are numerous programs meant to encourage business development.
According to Wade, Bianchi was on the defensive from the beginning. “He showed little interest in what I was saying,” Wade said. “When I presented him with a copy of The Informer, he didn’t even look at it. He handed it back to me.” Wade says Bianchi told her the city had no Affirmative Action policy. It clearly has, as anyone can access online. She says that Bianchi made statements that black children are not as smart as whites, based on the graduation rates in the high schools. He noted the lack of availability “of positive roles models” for blacks locally. Depending on nuance, inflection, and other informants of the spoken word, that could be interpreted to mean that blacks are unreliable, shiftless, and imbecilic. When Wade asked why there are no black employees in city hall, she said Bianchi, becoming visibly irritated, replied there were no blacks who were qualified based on the fact that, in a city with open application, no one had applied.
This account of Bianchi’s reaction walks a fine line between accuracy and flatly stating, as Los Angeles Dodgers GM Al Campanis infamously said, that black “don’t possess the necessary attributes.” Essentially, as Wade heard it, Bianchi told her that “blacks were too stupid” to graduate at a rate equalling whites and that they were not “equipped enough” to work in city hall. Is she being overly sensitive or did the mayor come across in a racist manner? Both? Neither? A little of each?
* Bianchi told Wade, a priori, that her business would not succeed because there weren’t enough blacks living in Pittsfield to justify her product. That would seem an odd judgment to make. How would the mayor be in a position to know that? If Wade is willing to assume the financial risks, why not embrace her idea?
* The meeting on April 3 was supposed to be an hour long. After 25 minutes, however, Wade said Bianchi, after repeatedly looking at his watch, abruptly ended the meeting, escorting her out of the office and walking away.
* After what she perceived as hostile treatment based solely on her skin color, Wade contacted Will Singleton, president of the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP, and Pittsfield councilor-at-large Churchill Cotton.
* Singleton attended the next meeting, on April 29, as did Ann Dobrowolski of the city’s Community Development Office and Mary McGinnis, the mayor’s assistant and director of administrative services. Of the April 29 meeting, Wade says: “He [Bianchi] did not use the word ‘uppity’ when we were alone. He was very careful not to use that kind of word. He just kept asking me, over and over, ‘Where are you from?’ However, when we were all together at the second meeting, he accused me of being up to no good and trying to go after him. He kept saying in front of people, ‘Who do you think you are?’ That was his wording: ‘Who do you think you are?’ That is a quote.”
That question, especially repeated in a hostile manner, could be interpreted as meaning the same thing as “uppity.” [We here add this lexiconic note: “Uppity” is a code word used by powerful whites when they come up against a black who will not play the Uncle Tom in the manner proscribed by “polite society.”] At that meeting, Wade says she thought “the mayor would make good and apologize.” It’s clear that he didn’t. In fact, Wade says the second meeting was worse than the first. Bianchi became “agitated and rude, and he said I was going to be a troublemaker.” Wade called the second meeting “ugly.”
* Bianchi has refused to make himself available to THE PLANET’s questions, probably — and this is only a surmise — because he knows we won’t “kid glove” him the way The Pittsfield Gazette did and the Berkshire Beacon did. The Gazette did a brief story in its May 16 issue, which it buried on page 7. The treatment was favorable to the mayor, who was quoted as calling Wade’s race-related accusations “totally untrue, totally inaccurate.” Bianchi told the Beacon, also on May 16: “The operative word here is ‘allegedly.’ I don’t know how she could have misconstrued anything I said.” If all this is true, THE PLANET again wonder why the mayor would not make himself available to our questioning.
* To the Beacon, Bianchi denied saying there was no Affirmative Action program in Pittsfield. He denied telling Wade that blacks were not good students and were not graduating at expected rates. Bianchi denies saying he wouldn’t support Wade application for PERC funding. Wade says Bianchi is lying about all of this.
A ‘Tinder’ Situation that May Yet Explode
Whether of not Bianchi knows it, he’s sitting on racial tinder in a room full of dynamite. The more he refuses to speak to these charges, the more he appears to admit his guilt. THE PLANET doesn’t know if Bianchi is a racist or not; we don’t think he is. It sounds like there has been a colossal misunderstanding that has only gotten worse instead of better.
Later, after the April 3 meeting, Wade spoke to a closed-door meeting of the local NAACP. Of this meeting, Singleton said: “Everybody expressed their concern about the description she gave,” referring to Wade’s accounts of her meetings with Bianchi. “But we didn’t have Mayor Bianchi to hear his side.” Supposedly, Singleton will be meeting with the mayor for more information.
On Monday, THE PLANET will try to report on Wade’s closed-door remarks to the NAACP. THE PLANET is attempting to get a transcript of her remarks. We understand from someone who was in the room that, in her remarks to the NAACP, Wade provided further details of her interactions with the mayor, including a bombshell accusation that Bianchi had her investigated.
The more THE PLANET looks into this story, the more it’s looking like a foot-long crap sandwich that the mayor will, sooner or later, be forced to eat. If he made mistakes with Wade, he should honestly address them. If he is the victim here, he needs to stand before the public and strongly make his case. No one wants to believe the worst about Bianchi in this case, but the more he tries to pretend Doreen Wade never visited him, the more this case will linger.
Only an open confrontation with the facts of this case will put this story to rest. The best way to this to happen is a joint public appearance with Wade, where they can both make their statements, be asked questions, and attempt to achieve reconciliation.
THE PLANET believes this matter can be honorably settled to everyone’s satisfaction.
“Now I will do nothing but listen, / To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute / toward it.” — Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass,” 26.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.