HOW DO WE JUDGE A MAYOR? THE CITY BUDGET IS A TRUE BAROMETER … POISON POLITICS Is LEADING PITTFIELD INTO ‘THE DETROIT EXPERIENCE’ … plus … THE PLANET WEIGHS IN ON THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY-SUNDAY, JULY 19-21, 2013) — What barometer provides the best measure of a mayor? There are many from which to choose, but the one on which THE PLANET relies above all is a mayor’s handling of the municipal budget. Dan Bianchi has submitted two budgets, each raising the cost of government with record spending and growing its size with no increase in city services.
The mayor has thus failed the most important test in deciding on his worthiness for the corner office. He has raised taxes twice on both homeowners and businesses. Bottom line, he has driven people out of town, since many cannot afford the ruinous taxation the city insists upon to fund the Special Interests, especially in support of a bloated school department. He has continued the city on a dangerous path that will lead to The Detroit Experience.
In Detroit, a city with which THE PLANET has great familiarity and has visited numerous times, has filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in federal court, making it the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history.
According to an AP wire service report, “The filing outlined several factors contributing to the city’s financial woes, including a long-dwindling tax base, population flight, financial mismanagement and overall decay of a city that once had more than 2 million residents and was the world’s hub of auto manufacturing.”
Sound familiar? Look at the factors:
* A steadily shrinking tax base. Same as Pittsfield.
* Drop in population from 2 million to 700,000. Pittsfield’s has dropped by a third, from 60,000 to 40,000.
* Fiscal mismanagement. Same as Pittsfield, with a generation of more spending, more debt, more promises to municipal unions, and higher taxes.
* Overall decay in a city with one dominant industry. Same as Pittsfield, which once boasted the world HQs of GE Plastics and GE Power Transformers.
“According to the Detroit Free Press,” the report continues, “the city is renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt. Chapter 9 bankruptcy would seek protection from creditors and unions.” Protection from the unions. Public employee unions, particularly teachers, were a major causative factor in Detroit’s decline. Now, in bankruptcy, all deals are off. We’d like to ask the president of the teachers’ union there: “How’d that work out for you?”
Detroit is also looking to renegotiate the terms of pensions, health insurance, and OPEBs (Other Post-Employment Benefits besides pensions). Pittsfield’s OPEB debt, [from "Retiree Health Care: The Brick that Broke the Municipalities' Back," www.masstaxpayers.org/sites] is listed at $330,075,000.
Let us repeat that: As of that report (February 2011) the taxpayers owed OPEBs of $330,075,000. How much will you wager that Bianchi won’t say a word about that in the campaign?
That figure includes $80,571,000 already paid by taxpayers. Where will the $330.1 million more come from? Got a mirror. Unless this situation is addressed now, Pittsfield will certainly face The Detroit Experience. It’s not a matter of it, only a matter of when.
“The fiscal realities confronting Detroit have been ignored for too long. I’m making this tough decision so the people of Detroit will have the basic services they deserve and so we can start to put Detroit on a solid financial footing that will allow it to grow and prosper in the future,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “This is a difficult step, but the only viable option to address a problem that has been six decades in the making.”
The Budget: An Issue the Unopposed Bianchi Won’t Have to Address in Campaign ’13
The city budget comprises the single most important issue in the upcoming election. The challenge won’t get easier, and Bianchi needs to be hard pressed on his plans for the next two years. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Bianchi is unopposed. Who will press him to defend his track record on the city’s finances and bid him speak to the years ahead? Nobody, that’s who. He’s going to skate free.
* Cities in general, and Pittsfield in particular, will most likely continue to face future shortfalls from a shrinking tax base, increasing demands for services as the “gimme groups” continue their municipal conquest (those who are milking public assistance), and cuts in state aid to localities. Given these factors of the most recent two years, Bianchi must be called to explain how growing the budget from $132 million to more than $137 million serves the interests of citizens, particularly taxpayers.
* Many other municipalities have responded to economic conditions responsibly. They have taken measures including
— downsizing of the public work force
— payroll reduction
— delaying or canceling capital projects
— cutting services.
— modification of employee health benefits and pensions.
Pittsfield could take some or all of these steps. Bianchi, though, like all political animals, is only thinking as far as November. Based on his inactions, he cannot claim to give a hoot about the future of the city. He will, though, attend many fourth grade science fairs in the next two years.
As Gov. Snyder says, these aren’t easy steps, but a true leader will take them. What about Bianchi’s “leadership?” He has grown government, increased spending, raised taxes, sat by with his thumb up his apple pie while the tax base shrinks and reduced continue to tank. He has taken the worst possible action given the fiscal realities.
Other Cities Have Been Proactive in Meeting the Fiscal Challenges
The National League of Cities’ most recent survey of municipal financial officers indicates that nine in 10 (91 percent of those responding) reported making spending cuts, with 82% saying further cuts were necessary. They recognize the gravy train must be derailed. These cities include Baltimore, Md.; Augusta, Maine; Bossier City, La.; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Dover, Del.; East Providence, RI; Sacramento, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Springfield, Ill.
Pittsfield, Mass., is not on that list. In fact, it’s hard to find any Massachusetts city or town, almost all held hostage by Democratic hegemony which is in turn held hostage by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, of which THE PLANET is a card-carrying member.
Leadership: In Cincinnati, Ohio, the city manager there recommended an FY14 city budget balanced by staff reductions, furloughs, reduction of funding to outside agencies, departmental savings, use of free cash, elimination of full-time job vacancies, a series of expenditure reductions, and reductions in the capital budget. The city voted in $35 million in reductions. Taxes did not go up in Cincinnati.
Leadership: In Austin, Texas, the mayor and city council asked citizens for suggestions to reduce city spending. They received hundreds of suggestions and adopted 39 of them. Total savings? $9.3 million.
Non-Leadership: In Pittsfield, citizen involvement in government is looked upon with hostility. The GOB has effectively achieved a long-successful governmental coup, going back more than a generation, and the city’s “leadership” has been under the dictates of the two local political machines, roughly called the “Del Gallo Machine” and the “Wojtkowski Machine.” Mayors going back to the 1970s — since GE pulled out of town — have come from these two political tribes and have been taking orders from various GOBs made wealthy by the various tribal offshoots and connections.
Under Mayor Bianchi’s direction (he is of the Wojtkowski Tribe), the Special Interests have continued to see their budgets grow. Meanwhile, the ordinary citizens, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, find it harder and harder to remain in their homes. Their taxes are up, their wages stagnant or in retreat, and the cost of everything has increased. How has Bianchi helped them? By taxing them back to Go.
Pittsfield deserves better.
ZIMMERMAN VERDICT: JUSTICE AND THE LAW ARE SERVED
Okay, THE PLANET finally has to register on the George Zimmerman verdict. We were hoping Americans would keep their cool and be sensible, abiding by the jury’s duty, since we are — ostensibly at least — a nation of laws.
The verdict, though, has proven otherwise. Americans have proven too easily swayed by the irrational drumbeat of race politics, and they want revenge on a man who, a jury found, acted lawfully in proper self-defense against a man who attacked him and was pummeling his head into the concrete.
One 15-year-old, obviously poisoned by the hate surrounding the case, tweeted this sterling example of scholarship to register his protest of the Zimmerman verdict:
“If Zimmmerman free imma shoot everybody in Zion causing a mass homicide, and ill get away wit it just like Zimmerman,” he wrote.
“If Zimmer free” this ignoramus writes instead of, “If Zimmeran is freed …”
“imma shoot” instead “I will shoot.” “ill” which literally is the word “ill” as in sickness instead of the first person possessive of “I’ll.” “wit,” not “with.” The lad is no doubt a product of the public schools.
If there was true justice in America, this 15-year -old punk would be thrashed with a solid switch for perpetuating such hate in an ignorant way … but no. This is America today — a land in which stupidity is held as a virtue and knowledge as a vice. Quite the irony, wouldn’t you say, in this so-called “information age.” This is Pittsfield, where crime is rising and rampant. The mayor attends a Zimmerman protest, singing “Kumbaya on the Bayou” with a horde of other social engineers.
In 2013 politically correct America, we can’t let the jury verdict rest. There are too many Special Interests who have a political interest in turning Martin into a martyr that he never was. There’s too much money to be made from this tragedy.
Prosecutors who in dispassion examined the case almost uniformly stated that Zimmerman should never have been tried. The evidence was, at best, flimsy. George Zimmerman, though, became the true victim in this case, as he will now be robbed of the rest of his life — either by a revenge-seeking hothead like our 15-year-old scholar or by virtue of the fact that, unless he becomes a hermit, he will never enjoy privacy or public peace.
THE PLANET agrees with President Jimmy Carter: the jury reached the correct verdict based on the evidence presented. Juries do not decide morality. Juries decide legality. Unfortunately, crowds easily turn into mobs, and both react on emotions — not on evidence, reasoning, and logic.
“I think the jury made the right decision based on the evidence presented, because the prosecution inadvertently set the standard so high that the jury had to be convinced that it was a deliberate act by Zimmerman, that he was not at all defending himself,” Carter told Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA-TV. (EDITOR’S NOTE: THE PLANET here quoting wire service account of the WXIA interview).
The former president and Georgia governor discussed the verdict, and what it says about race in America, in an on-camera interview with the station.
“It’s not a moral question, it was a legal question, and the American law requires that the jury listen to the evidence presented,” Carter said. “The action that was taken in the courtroom was not to bring in the race issue at all. The prosecution avoided that subject quite clearly.”
Judge Debra Nelson ruled that prosecutors could argue that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, but only if they avoided suggesting Zimmerman profiled the 17-year-old based on race.
Asked what the Zimmerman verdict says about race, Carter compared it to other high-profile moments involving race and violence in U.S. history, such as the police beating of Rodney King and the ensuing 1992 Los Angeles race riots and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I think eventually, no matter how deep the moral feelings and personal feelings might be among African Americans or others, with time passing they start seeing what can we do about the present and the future and put aside their feelings about the past,” Carter said. “I think that’s what’s gonna happen in our country.”
George Zimmerman, meanwhile, according the NBC News, is suing over an edited 911 police call from the night he gunned down Trayvon Martin. The case against NBC News was stayed pending the outcome of the criminal case. Now that’s out of the way, Zimmerman’s Philadelphia attorney James Beasley is ready to proceed, according to The Washington Post.
“We’re going to start in earnest ASAP. We just have to get the stay lifted which is a ministerial act,” Beasley told the paper via e-mail. When asked how the not-guilty verdict affects the civil case against NBC News, Beasley responded, “This verdict of not guilty is just that, and shows that at least this jury didn’t believe that George was a racist, profiling, or anything that the press accused George of being. That probably doesn’t get you that much, but it’s simply time for us to start the case and hold accountable anyone who was irresponsible in their journalism.”
The original 24-page complaint accused NBC of creating “this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.”
What hath this country wrought?
“Altarwise by owl-light in the half-way house / The gentleman lay graveward with his furies; / Abaddon in the hangnail cracked from Adam, ‘ And, from his fork, a dog among the fairies, / The atlas-eater with a jaw for news, / Bit out the mandrake with tomorrow’s scream.” — Dylan Thomas, opening lines from “Altawise by Owl-Light.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.