!!UPDATED!! — SCANNING THE HEADLINES: ARTSWALK ANNIVERSARY MUCH ADO ABOUT SELF PROMOTION … COUNCILORS WHIFF ON DONUT VOTE BUT GET ANOTHER CHANCE TO PLUG HOLE IN THE MIDDLE … BCC TO GET $23MM FACELIFT FOR ITS TWO MOST IMPORTANT BUILDINGS … HERE WE GO AGAIN: VISITOR’S CENTER RELOCATING … CHARTER COMMISSION CAVES IN TO MAYOR … NEW STEARNS PRINCIPAL NEEDS TO CHOOSE WORDS MORE CAREFULLY … plus … HUMAN SACRIFICE AT PHS SCHOOL GYM?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
ADD #1 TO MAY 7, 2013, 5/8/13 — There are a bunch of items yesterday, and we shall leave them up for further comments. The discussion among Mike Ward, Dave, and Scott on the Dunkin Donuts drive-through issue produced a crackling good exchange. Each man raised solid points, and the issue, ultimately, is for We The People to decide, through representation by 11 city councilors.
THE PLANET agrees with Ward. Drive-throughs, though as numerous as the creepies at Persip park on Columbus and North, are a bad idea in general.
* First, drive-throughs (DTs) hey accommodate the lazy and the time-pressed. Both of those conditions are choices. In this instance, for a donut shop, lack of a DT would encourage people to actually take a few steps on their own, as they did when they learned to walk.
* Second, DTs cause traffic problems, as Pittsfield has experienced.
* Third, DTs contribute to air pollution, as idling cars stuck in a DT line will pour out a lot more exhaust material that cars parked, ignitions off, in a parking lot.
*Fourth, the proposed DD DT will not fit the character of that neighborhood.
* Fifth, the proposed DD DT does not conform with the goals of Pittsfield current master plan
* Sixth, for all patrons of drive-through windows: Pull into the parking lot, park the car, walk a few steps with your God-given body, and enjoy a little slow down in your otherwise microwaved, frenzied, Pop-Tart existence. Use it as a Zen-moment of tranquility and love.
Again, the matter will be discussed again at the city council meeting on May 28. At that time, our Right Honorable Good Friends will likely take up the vote.
Happy hunting! Oh, and feel free to comment on any of the other stories below.
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(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2013) — Small News Items We Need to Examine More Closely:
Artswalk to Mark Anniversary — On Friday, May 3, Pittsfield’s First Monday Artswalk program celebrated its first year with a reception at Spice Dragon on North Street, as if it’s been a great success. This has to be the greatest con job since getting kids to eat marinated broccoli. Both, incidentally, have a beneficent end, one giving kids their iron and minerals, the other putting original art into the hands of buyers. Give credit to entrepreneur Allen Harris for finding a way to infiltrate into the good graces of the Bianchi Administration, handily promoting his business, Berkshire Money Management, in the process. You will notice, for example, on the First Friday Artswalk $100 Artsbuck the prominent name and logo of Harris’ company. For Bianchi, the program has resulted in a few favorable headlines, but little else. Harris provides vouchers redeemable for art purchases. To hear him and Bianchi talk of the program, one would think it has had a dramatic economic impact on — what? — local artists’ abilities to make a living? Downtown revitalization? The sale of art supplies?
When one looks at the results, however, one sees a bottom line much more modest in its appropriation. The vouchers led to the purchase of 30 pieces of art since October. That’s about four purchases, city wide, for each of the monthly Artswalks since then. Four is better than three … or none, but the number certainly doesn’t constitute the type of economic impact the mayor and Harris have talked about. The art itself is as one would expect: of wildly varying appeal and quality, though this judgment is surely in the eyes of the beholder. But four purchases each time out, and that including price supports? It is as poet Theodore Roethke said: “America turns its artists into freaks.”
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City Council Puts Off Donut Vote — It took our Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield City Council four hours to decide not to decide on whether to grant a special permit to Cafua Management to install a drive-up window at the new Dunkin Donuts coffee shop it wants to build on the site of the former Plunkett School. Lawyers for Cafua told the council the issue at hand was not the fate of the former Plunkett School but only the drive-up window. That was the “out” for which councilors must have secretly been praying, but they didn’t the acumen to see it, apparently. If they had agreed to decide only that issue, the matter would have gone down to defeat, then and there (it only needs four votes to defeat, since special permits require at least an 8-3 supermajority), because the last thing the city needs at Fenn and First is a drive-through window.
Surely, there are at least four votes on this council — and hopefully more — that see the folly of providing a drive-up window for a location that is already one of the most traffic clogged … or have you never tried to drive up or down Fenn Street near the First Street intersection, that is, near the postage-stamp front entrance to the Pittsfield Post Office? Instead of cashing in on the opportunity handed to them by Cafua’s lawyers, timid councilors, perhaps bluffed by Cafua’s threat of lawsuits, got off on hours of tangents, many of the minutes related to the historicity of Plunkett School, which Cafua wants to demolish.
The council takes up the matter again on May 28. Our Right Honorable Good Friends, the matter is simple: The last thing you want to approve for that location is a drive-through window. It’s a donut shop. Let people park in the parking lot and drag their fat butts out the car to purchase their lard. If Cafua doesn’t want to pursue a DD without a drive-up window, that’s their decision. Councilors: Deny the drive-through and put the ball back in Cafua’s hands.
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College Readies $23 Million Project — Professor Valenti has taught for decades in both Hawthorne and Melville halls on the campus of Berkshire Community College. We still marvel at the bizarre architectural configuration of these two buildings, and at the beginning of the semester, we can always count the most frequently asked student question: “How do you get to the rest room?” To enter the buildings is like walking into a Max Escher drawing: Up seems down, in seems out, corridors lead to nowhere, and nowhere opens up into entrances and exits. Good news, though: the state has approved a designer for the first major renovation of the college’s primary academic spaces since they were built in 1969. It is especially gratifying to see this happen during the first year of President Ellen Kennedy‘s administration. Kennedy has brought a new sense of esprit de corps to the campus, and the physical transformation of BCC’s two most important buildings will reflect well Kennedy’s forward-looking attitude. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2015.
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Visitors Center Relocating to Bus Station — No matter how you play this, the story of the Visitor Center‘s hegira at various locations in Pittsfield neatly symbolizes a politically incapacitated city unsure of who and what it is. Other cities and town have visitor’s centers anchored in place, and familiarity, in this case, breeds usage. Now, once again, after moving from its most recent location at the Colonial Theatre, folks needing help from the VB will first have to find it first … again. Previous locations have led to controversies — an apt symbol of Pittsfield’s civic neuroses — and whose to say it won’t happen again? THE PLANET also questions the location. The bus station, as you probably well know, finds itself submerged in its creepy, three-season “critters,” a sub-class of folks (drifters, alcoholics, druggies, retarded, and others who have chosen to fall through the cracks) who will give visitors second and third thoughts about making Pittsfield a stop.
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Charter Group Tweaks Document — Not much to say here, except the charter commission erred in striking language that would give the city council a standing committee to review mayoral appointments. True, the full council will still have up-or-down review, but the standing committee would act as a screen, in the same way other subcommittees do. Mayor Dan Bianchi didn’t like this provision, saying it would severely hamper a mayor’s ability to attract new employees. The mayor’s objection, however, does not stand up to logic. Why will a subcommittee charged with the same task as the council as a whole put any more of an obstacle in the way of hiring? The mayor doesn’t say and doesn’t have to: The commission caved in on this point. In any case, the revised charter now must pass mayoral, council, state legislature, and gubernatorial approvals. If those hurdles are jumped, the new language goes to voters in November.
New Stearns Principal Selected — Congratulations to Aaron Dean, who will replace retiring Jean Bednarski as principal of Stearns School for the new school year. Dean has previously served as a roving music teacher for the Pittsfield schools. He has no previous administrative experience. Dean said, “My whole philosophy is the arts should be integrated.” THE PLANET hopes this is not literally true. If this statement accurately describes Dean’s entire academic philosophy, one can only wonder what will happen to the basics — you know, them old friends known as “The Three Rs,” beginning in September. We would rather choose a more generous approach here, and hope that Dean was not speaking the literal truth. We hope he wants to emphasize the arts but not have the arts be his “whole philosophy.” THE PLANET would advise the new principal to choose his words more carefully.
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Funds Eyed for PHS Gym Floor — Mayor Bianchi wants an unspecified amount of capital to replace or fix the gym floor at PHS. Reason: The floor, according to basketball coach Steve Ray, has become “extremely slippery and unsafe.” In December, the school stripped and sanded the floor, which, according to Ray, provided “some temporary relief.” Ray said, though, that the sanding created another problem: It is now difficult to clean up blood. Say what? Since when did PHS begin using the gym floor for human sacrifice?
“all ignorance toboggans into know / and trudges up to ignorance again: / but winter’s not forever,even snow / melts;and if spring should spoil the game,what then?” — e. e. cummings
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.