PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2013) — THE PLANET has the smartest readers. Yesterday, the ever-observant Prof. Trzcinka commented that we have more fun with theater reviews than reviewing the dire theatricality of municipal budgets. That’s why the economics department at Indiana University pays Prof. T the big bucks. He’s a man on the side of truth and justice, and THE PLANET is proud to call him friend.

Alas, though, it’s time to skip trodding the boards in favor of boring the tribe by wading into the city of Pittsfield’s FY14 budget. Pittsfield taxpayers, once again because ordinary citizens did not get involved in the process, are in the second day of another fiscal year of being bled by leeches that infest the slimy pond of hegemonic politics. How ironic, then, that while taxpayers continue to be fleeced by municipal government and raise not an ire of protest, blackouts of Boston’s channel 5 on local cable elevate in seriousness to Matters of State.

So great is the concern over the stinkin’ telly that our Right Honorable Good Friend 4th Berkshire District state rep William “Smitty Pignatelli has “kicked it upstairs,” contacting Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Se.-elect Ed Markey to lean on the FCC. If citizens gave the city budget got one tenth of the attention cable TV gets, local government and its officials would know their rightful place — as our servants. Instead, Big Brother Democrats lord over all, dooming Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski to another year of choosing between heating the house this winter, putting food on the table, or getting prescriptions filled. This also furnishes another argument against one-party rule.

Speaking of the budget, The Boring Broadsheet, that great bastion of democracy’s health formerly known as The Berkshire Eagle, embarrassed itself yet again with a fawning, kiss-up editorial to the Special Interests. The BB wrote two colossal fibs: “The city is well under the Proposition 2 1/2 limit, [sic] and is not overly taxed” [editorial note: commas is not needed after “limit,” Mr. BB Editorial Writer, since the sentence is not compound (two independent clauses). It is a complex sentence. Complex sentences (one main clause and at least one dependent clause) do not require a commas between main and subordinate clauses. Perhaps the editorial staff will wish to sign up for Prof. Valenti‘s composition or journalism courses at BCC this fall to learn the basics]. Naturally, the editorial is unsigned.

Muni Budget Showing Rates “F” for Failure

The report card for municipal bodies reads as follows:

* Mayor’s Office — F

* School Superintendent — F

* School Committee — F

* City Council — D

* Citizens — F

Individual Grades                                                                   

MAYOR: Dan Bianchi has submitted two budgets. His first tacked on millions more to Mayor Jimmy Ruberto‘s most expensive spending plan. Bianchi’s second budget, the one just completed, adds millions more to that. Moreover, Bianchi, after putting up token resistance to the school department’s initial budget, signed off in the end to creating more positions, adding to an already bloated school bureaucracy, and giving the department everything it wanted. For someone who claims to (a) know budgets and (b) serve the interests of We The People, Bianchi has not shown effective leadership. GRADE: F

SUPERINTENDENT: That self-described “eternal optimist” Gordon Noseworthy made sure his successor would come riding in on the silk cushions. If The Nose is an “optimist” of any kind, let alone the “eternal” kind, then THE PLANET cherishes our cynic’s halo. The Nose, Bianchi, and the school superintendent teamed up nicely to present Good Cop-Bad Cop. Here’s how it works: The school superintendent meets secretly with the school committee chairman. The former dictates the amount to the latter, whose job it is to fetch the spittoon and deliver it to the thirsty mouths on the school committee. While the committee rolls over and plays dead, the mayor then pipes up to protest the spending, knowing he will look the hero without their being any chance of fiscal accountability. He does this so he can say, come election time, that he fought for budget relief.  GRADE: F.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE: Chairman Alf Barbalunga, F, for choosing politics over leadership … Terry Kinnas, A, for being the only member of that panel to consistently back intelligent budget reform … Dan Elias, Jim Conant, Kathy Amuso, Kathy Yon, Bianchi: F, for again selling out to their powerful masters.

CITY COUNCIL: Our Right Honorable Good Friends had a split showing. Head of the class is councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont, whose dogged detective work uncovered up to $3 million in surplus funds the school department has doing the bends many leagues deep within in the department’s books. GRADE: A … For supporting a cut of $200,000 of the $3 million, THE PLANET awards the grade of A- to Christine Yon, Melissa Mazzeo, Tony Simonelli, Kevin Morandi, and Chris Connell. Earning a generous F for a cowardly support of bloated spending, we find Paul Capitanio, John Krol, Jonathan Lothrop, Kevin Sherman, and Churchill Cotton. Krol, who once again went along to get along, disappointed the most. We know he has good sense. We were hoping, futilely as it turned out, that he might have the strength of political will to back it up with a courageous vote. THE PLANET has long wanted to take Krol under our wing and help him realize his political potential. Instead, the man keeps throwing it away, not out of principle but out of electoral dread.

The Politics of the Vote

Credit Clairmont for the political courage to propose a $200,000 “cut” [EDITOR’S NOTE: To keep this “cut” in perspective, consider that Clairmont found what was in effect $3 million in slush money in the school department’s books. $200,000 is one fifteenth of that or about 6.5%]. Clairmont has proven to be a man unafraid to buck the Type Casting that the local Democratic Machine, Wojtkowski and Del Gallo branches, demand from Loyalists. He’s the one who tracked down the millions in loose change hanging out in the school department’s budget, and he’s front-runner in Councilor of the Year Award. Moreover, he proposed specific, reasonable “cuts.” We must put the word “cut” in quotes, because the school department will be getting $1.66 million in ADDITIONAL dollars. This is the La-La Land of the Public Sector. When anyone reduces the rate of the increase of funding, they call it a “cut.” Works every time.

Simonelli had the best Profiles in Courage moment. Simonelli cast the vote of his young political career and pleasantly surprised us on behalf of taxpayers. When Alf Barbalunga warned of cutting teaching positions if the council went through with its token “cut,” Simonelli responded, “I said [at an earlier meeting] that I didn’t want to hear that, that teachers would be cut.” Finally, someone on the council, a former school department administrator no less, called out the shell game that school officials have used for years.

First sign of a “cut,” and they scream that teachers will be fired. Not knowing to leave worse enough alone, Noseworthy kept digging the hole deeper. He predicted the dire scenario of the school running out of fuel in the winter. THE PLANET reminds The Nose that even if the fuel runs out and The Children freeze to death, he won’t have to worry. He will have been — thankfully — long gone, doing the backstroke in a Palm Beach pool.

Not that it will ever come to that, but if it must be, let the little darlings freeze. At least taxpayers won a symbolic battle. With Clairmont leading the charge and Kinnas riding shotgun, the schools were prevented by wasting another $200K it absolutely, positively does not need.


“No, but I’ve wanted to murder him a lot.” — Actress Lynn Fontanne, when asked if she ever wanted to divorce long-time husband Alfred Lunt




  1. Mike Ward
    July 2, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Dan, you suggest that Krol’s vote was motivated by “electoral dread”. That sounds a lot like feeling pressure to represent the people who elected him. It would appear he’s doing his job, no?

    • danvalenti
      July 3, 2013 at 8:00 am #

      Thanks. “Electoral dread” means fearing what the teachers unions might do to him if he voted to represent the people who elected him. I’m sure JK did feel the pressure to represent his constituency, as you suggest. It’s just that his fear of bucking the Special Interests overcame that. Thus, we have “electoral dread.”

  2. Still wondering
    July 2, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Did you see “The Nose’s” letter to the editor today?

    • danvalenti
      July 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      No. Let me predict: It’s a classic of self-congratulations.

  3. Jonathan Melle
    July 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    The state government in Massachusetts is increasing local aid and school spending to municipalities for the new budget year that began yesterday, July 1st. That should help financially constrained communities like Pittsfield with its budget. The fact is that Pittsfield is the largest single employer in Pittsfield. Thousands of Pittsfield workers depend on the city government and school district for their incomes, health insurance, and retirement plans. After Pittsfield, non-profits like the Hospital employ thousands more of Pittsfield residents that depend on taxpayers. Without screwing taxpayers, Pittsfield would have NO economy! Dan Valenti bitches and moans about the overpriced city government and non-profit agencies in Pittsfield that spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year. But what would happen if Dan Valenti got his way, and all of that money stayed in the private sector instead? Pittsfield would have nothing. I am curious to know what is the answer that Dan Valenti has for Pittsfield?
    – Jonathan Melle

    • Joe Blow
      July 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      Comrade Melle, of course you want higher taxes on working people it’s how you make a living.

      • Jonathan Melle
        July 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

        I am a Disabled Veteran who served our nation Honorably in the U.S. Army. I live in New Hampshire, but I grew up in Pittsfield. I admire Dan Valenti for speaking out on Pittsfield politics. He challenges the vested interests that rule city politics. I believe that Pittsfield needs to change. However, I don’t believe that Pittsfield has any real power over its financial and economic problems. I do believe that Pittsfield can change its social problems. There is no reason why teen pregnancies in Pittsfield double the statewide average. I believe in masturbation, birth control, and sex education. There is no reason why there are more welfare caseloads in Pittsfield than private sector jobs. Pittsfield can change its social problems by caring about its youth and poor people. I believe in social responsibility. Dan Valenti is a conservative Catholic. He has different social beliefs than I do. I would address Pittsfield’s problems from a liberal perspective, while Dan Valenti believes in conservative Catholic social perspectives. Pittsfield is a post-industrial waste community filled with cancer-causing PCBs. I don’t understand how Dan Valenti would change Pittsfield by limiting local government and giving the money to the private sector when there is no private sector in Pittsfield. Pittsfield depends on taxpayer dollars for its depressed local economy. Moreover, the liberal Democrats run the political machine in Pittsfield. But the irony of Democratic Party rule is that not all of the Pittsfield politicians are the Democrats that they say they are. You have to be Democrat to win an election in Pittsfield. Overall, I respect Dan Valenti, despite our different social views.

  4. Hilly Billy
    July 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    Glad to see someone give them “what for’ Keep it up DV

  5. No Reply
    July 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Clairmont an “A”? Be seroious, Planet. I agree with the other marks.

    • danvalenti
      July 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      DR. NO
      We are serious. Clairmont did the analysis of the school department budget that identified the hidden extra money. His work set up the argument that, against all odds, convinced five of his colleagues.

  6. dusty
    July 3, 2013 at 1:10 am #

    I agree with your marks. You forgot the citizens though.

    In a world long forgotten this article would embarrass some of these people. But the school committee in Pittsfield, Mass seems immune to criticism. With their heads high in the clouds shaped like dollar signs the thought of cutting their budget is as distasteful as eating worms.

    • danvalenti
      July 3, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      Great point, DUSTY. In the days of the 50s and 60s, Pittsfield saw electoral turnouts in the 70 and 80 percentages. Today, we feel great if 40% do it. Your description of the PSD mentality is an accurate one.