PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2013) — Mayor Dan Bianchi, neither the first nor the last of the political big-time spenders, set an all-time record with his FY14 municipal budget, beating the record he set himself the year before. So much for innovative leadership in the joint cause of pulling the reins on the outrageous cost of government and giving businesses and homeowners a break on taxes.

THE PLANET wonders how Bianchi will spin this latest raid on taxpayer pockets when he hits the campaign trail (IF he hits the campaign trail … thus far, no one has stepped forward to challenge his re-election bid). He shall talk of “fiscal responsibility,” “prudence,” and things of that sort. Those who listen will not hear. They will politely nod their heads and know, if Bianchi wins another term, the city will be doomed to set another spending record. Those who do not listen will be spared the dreariness of effort.

What you may not realize is that the $137 millon-plus budget the mayor filed does not include the mayor’s capital spending plans. This is money for projects that he intends to put on the city’s credit card, paid for with money the city doesn’t have. Granted, a city needs a certain amount of capital spending just to keep up with depreciation, but how these politicians love debt, addicted to it worse than a speed popper loves cough syrup.

The mayor asked the council for more than $4.4 million in capital spending. Our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council gave him $3.5 million, lopping off $1.25 million from Bianchi’s request to spend $1.5 million on renovations to the mothballed Hibbard School building on Newell Street.

The Hibbard Building needs attention. That cannot be denied. Just how much TLC is justified at this point? It depends on who you’re listening to and what agenda they are pushing. In the abstract, THE PLANET supports the notion of bringing back Hibbard into productive use on behalf of taxpayers. We also realize it will cost money to do that. Thus, in principle, we support Bianchi’s move.

The mayor correctly points out that it’s not wise to let such a potentially valuable resource continue to rot. We wonder, however, about the mayor’s lack of information about his plans for the building and the lack of specific plans for Hibbard. One would think that before he came to the council looking for $1.5 million, he would have this worked out in advance. As it is, the council gave Bianchi $250,000 of his request, basically telling him to shore up the building, making the most needed repairs, and to come back with plans if he is serious about Hibbard. Those plans will include hard information on why the building is needed and for what eventual purpose.

That Bianchi would put forth the request for so much borrowing without having an idea of what he would do with the building once repaired (if he has such an idea, he has not shared it with the public) questions the mayor’s seriousness about the building. We guess that to defend this request, he must dip his noodle into what political types  like to call the “vision thing.”

They all have vision, don’t they? The new school superintendent in Lee talked about “vision.” The outgoing interim superintendent in Pittsfield shared his “vision” be fore he left. He got vision, she got vision, all God’s chillun got vision. Given all this, it’s funny that the taxpayers rarely see anything worth looking at.

No doubt we’ll hear Bianchi talk about “vision” if, when, and how he campaigns. A logical followup to any claims to “vision” will be, “So what about Hibbard School?” The mayor has issued general “could be’s” about a revamped Hibbard as either home for the the adult learning center or the Juvenile Resource Center, but, without concrete plans, there’s no telling that the building would be good for either or both. Also, how much would the final cost be to turn Hibbard into either the ALC or JLC. What would the budget be?

The quarter million approved by the council will be used to repair the roof, remove an old boiler, and perform masonry work.



Item, Amount, and Comment

Here is the list of projects for which Bianchi sought funding, which the council approved. We have added out annotations.

* 95 portable radios (Motorola APX 6000), $130,000 — Someone’s been reading too much Dick Tracy. 

* Police motorcycles, $37,828 — Easy Riders.

* Computer replacement for the police department, $50,000 — You mean there are nerds on the force?

* Catch basin cleaning truck, $172,000 — That’s a lot of dough down the drain.

*  Asbestos removal in schools, $50,000 — Never easy breathing in those hallowed halls, is it?

* Door and lock replacement in the schools, $40,000 — Hmmm, has there by any chance been thievery?

* Audio upgrades for each of the city’s five fire stations, $28,000 — The Beyonce will sound a lot better.

* Downtown parking management plan — “Parking,” “management,” and “plan” in the same sentence?

* Municipal garage cameras, $60,000 — So the drug dealers can look good in their closeups.

* Boiler #2 leveling, Crosby School, $98,000 — For 98 grand, it had better be on the level.

* Oil tank removal at Mercer, $30,000 — The Nose must have left it behind when he beat it outta town.

* Streetscape improvements, $1.5 million — What, more self-watering planters?

* Rekey, Crosby School, $75,000 — What the heck is “Rekey?” A cult? Code for “waste of tax dollars?”

* Oil tank removal, Springside House, $66,000 — Buried next to the dead-and-gone carom boards.

* Oil tank removal, maintenance, $20,000 — Oily to bed, oily to rise, taxpayers can’t believe their eyes.

* Library gas conversion, $100,000 — Conversion? From Methodist to Episcopalian?

* Columbus Ave. garage coating, $160,000 — For that price, it better include two pair of pants.

* Hibbard School renovations, $250,000 — See above discussion.

* PHS gym floor replacement, $130,000 — There goes the home court advantage.

* Central fire station, carpet removal/tile — Only the best at Rug Row.

* City Hall floor refinishing, $50,000 — This in addition to the $50Gs already spent. Must be nice.

All this for a mere $3.5374 million, all of it money the city doesn’t have. It will not be begged or stolen. It will be borrowed, at interest … stolen, that is, from taxpayers.


“We are dying, we are dying, so all we can do / is now be willing to die, and to build the ship / of death to carry the soul on the longest journey.”D.H. Lawrence, opening, stanza 7, “The Ship of Death.”






  1. Jonathan Melle
    July 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Pittsfield politics is ran by the Good Old Boy network. Mayor Dan Bianchi used to fight the G.O.B.’s. But resistance is futile. Pittsfield is the #1 employer in Pittsfield. The city is ran on tax dollars. It would only make financial sense to raise taxes and spend public monies in Pittsfield. Thousands of local people depend on the city government for their livelihood. What would Dan Valenti do with all of the people who depend on the city government for their financial security if Mayor Dan Bianchi didn’t raise taxes and spend a record amount of money? Feed them all to the wolves? Make them lose their homes, throw them out on the street, put them all on welfare? The business of Pittsfield is Pittsfield!

  2. dusty
    July 17, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    Where in the hell do these estimates come from? Some of these look like make work projects. These need to g out to bid. I thought all the asbestos was removed years ago. Where is this asbestos?

    Is some bank really happy when the city borrows a ton of money? What bank might that be just out of curiosity?

    • danvalenti
      July 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      The estimates? No one knows. The city doesn’t share this information. Try finding it on the “revamped” city website. The mayor apparently doesn’t want anyone to have this information. Did he and Sue Carmel throw darts at a series of numbers? Get the requisite bids? Make sweetheart deals? Who knows? We The People certainly don’t.

  3. Terry Kinnas
    July 17, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    Dan, just read the blog for the past few days. I’m going answer three questions that Dave (July 9) asked a few days ago. Q1: To the best of my knowledge not in the past 20 years. Q2: It did not include all the money the City spends on the schools. Q3: I cannot speak for last few superintendents, but I have requested several times how much do we actually spend on the vocational department. I have been stonewalled by the school business office and the school committee. To the best that I can figure it has been at least two million less than the Chapter 70 (74) allocation.

    In today’s article, the PHS gym floor just wore out and presented a real safety problem for anyone using it.

    PS: I have not made a final decision to run for mayor or school committee.

    • danvalenti
      July 17, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks for your answers, Terry. As for your P.S., we would encourage you to run for the office. We would prefer mayor, but the government needs you.

    • joe resident
      July 18, 2013 at 4:34 am #

      You have to run for Mayor Terry. You have a lot of support and the city desperatly needs a challenger.

      • danvalenti
        July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

        We agree on the need for a challenge, JR.

  4. The Kraken
    July 17, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    50 grand for computer replacements? A decent laptop only runs about 250-300 bucks so what the heck are they buying? Or are they buying anything at all, or moving the money elsewhere?

  5. tito
    July 17, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Terry, that’s what we need on the council, people like Dave, don’t know him, but he seems very keen on the issues, has a quick temper and doesn’t seem to like bullshit. He would be a welcome change, I would vote for him and you,also.

  6. tito
    July 17, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    ,,,,the Pecks Road skunk is still in the road right before the fire station going west. It’s been there a week now and the stench has worn off,,,,, a little bit,,,,,

    • dusty
      July 18, 2013 at 1:56 am #

      Perhaps they might want to take the remains and mount it at city hall. It could be the new city hall mascot.

  7. Scott
    July 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Spend, spend, spend Bianchi you suck I have two business’s and I need a part time job just to keep up at this rate. If no one runs against him I will. I could do a better job and I was educated in PPS mostly so no one should question my credentials.

    • Tom Sakshaug
      July 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      Better get with it, papers are due July 31 with 300 good signatures!

    • Tom Sakshaug
      July 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

      Whoops, got that off the city website…for 2012! Anyway, it’s coming up quick!

  8. Shakes His Head
    July 17, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Leroi was just repaved, certainly a smoother ride tan all of the other city streets that a crumbling.

  9. Phil
    July 17, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    LeRoi is where the mayor lives, right? Another GOB coincidence, huh his street gets paved while the rest of the roads look like the surface of the moon. Terry K please run agaisnt this man.

    • B
      July 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Terry Kinnas, I think you would make a fine mayor, go for it. We need to get rid of the one we have now.

  10. Roman Knows
    July 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    Follow the money, Who is profiting by loaning it? Who is profiting by spending it? Who is profiting by receiving it?

    July 17, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Good questions. You know someone’s making out with all this borrowing the banks, lenders, contractors and all them millions the mayor is throwing around buys a lot of votes. DV I think you coined the phrase..”phoney bastards”.

    • danvalenti
      July 17, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      Well, the term “phony bastards” has been a long-time favorite of my father, who uses it to describe the actions and words of politicians.

  12. Dave
    July 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Terry Kinnas, please do Pittsfield a favor and continue your service on the school committee. Since you have served on the school committee the amount of “back room” information that has come to light has truly made a difference. The token $200.000 that was “trimmed” from the FY2014 school budget is solely due to your time served on the committee. I truly believe if you did not spend the last 20 months questioning the status quo there is no way that 6 councilors dare vote to cut (the increase of) the sacred school budget. I say this with all due respect as someone who volunteered to collect signatures for Terry last election- Terry is a polarizing figure in Pittsfield politics. I have never had so many people vehemently deny to sign a candidates papers as when I helped Terry. He speaks the truth, does not sugarcoat anything, and Pittsfield is not ready for that yet. We need it, yes, but the odds are a million to one for mayor, and as of now 100% reelection to the school committee(5 candidates-6 slots). Terry, if you feel like your time has been wasted by too many 6-1 votes against you, I understand your reluctance to spend more of your time paddling upstream, but at least know you did accomplish a lot in a short time and I would like to see you continue doing so.

    One man’s opinion = one vote good luck in whichever you choose

  13. danvalenti
    July 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    We agree with your analysis of Terry Kinnas’ service on the school committee. If not for Terry, no way six city councilors, led by Barry Clairmont, vote for even that token $200G cut.

  14. dusty
    July 18, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    Some part of the city govt needs Terry. Question is , is there any part that really wants integrity? He sure won’t be getting a job in the mayors office that is for sure.

    Just for the heck of it though he should be a write in candidate. Just to see how many people are unhappy with Bianchi.

  15. Mr. X
    July 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    For whatever reason, whenever Mr. Kinnas has run for anything he gets trounced, except for the last school committee election of course. I support him on that venture, and hope that he stays with it. Nice job TK.

    • danvalenti
      July 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

      He’s won his last election. He made good on his term. We hope TK “stays with it.”

  16. Mr. X
    July 19, 2013 at 2:51 am #

    Right on