ADD 1 ON ‘CLOSINGATE’: THE THINKING BEHIND THE PLANET’s VIEWPOINT … or … THE INDISCRETE CHARM OF THE OPINION BUSINESS DURING A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN …’CLOSINGATE’: WARD 6 CANDIDATE JOE NICHOLS SAYS RIVERS DENIED SHE WAS ‘CLOSING’ NORTH STREET SHOP … RIVERS’ OWN LETTER, STATEMENTS, AND ADS, SHOW OTHERWISE in CAMPAIGN ’13′s ‘CAN YOU TRUST HER?’ … plus … LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
ADD 1, FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2013 AND INTO THE WEEKEND — THE PLANET has known Donna Todd Rivers for about three years. She has been an acquaintance though not a friend. We’re bought her lunch at the Red Lion Inn and, when she was breaking into radio, sat down with her in and out of the studio giving her advice and answering all her questions. We have long respected her for the pluck of starting and keeping going a boutique business in the heart of downtown Pittsfield.
We were not surprised when she became a candidate for an at-large council seat. The moment she did that, she became a job interviewee. Like every other candidate, she is looking to get hired by We The People. In this case, it’s for an important, citywide position.
In our role as THE PLANET, doing daily cyberjournalism, we function during elections in various ways for the electorate. One of those ways is to act, in effect, as a human resources manager, conducting job interviews, if you will, on candidates. From that, we issue opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the applicants. The “interviews” are sometimes literally that: A sit-down, question-and-answer session. At other times, we “interview” by accumulating evidence from the campaign trail from all sorts of sources and in all types of ways using many types of methods.
We are in a privileged position as a journalist to ask questions the public might not be able to ask, to go places they might not be able to go, and to talk to people they might not be able to reach. Based on all of that — and it’s a moving feast of information that continually changes — we make observations based on fact and issue opinions and commentary based on the application of both deductive and inductive logic. We function as an umpire during a ball game. He takes in a bunch of information, then makes a judgment call. People may agree or disagree with the judgment. That’s how we arrive at public policy in a democracy, by thrashing out contending viewpoints and finding ways to cooperate.
Shared information and opinion. That’s all we’ve done with “Closingate.” We haven’t conducted “a smear campaign,” as some have suggested — these include a former Ward councilor and the head of one of the Big Three public employee unions. In other words, what many would call GOB types, who apparently mightily want Rivers to succeed in her bid for office office.
THE PLANET never conducts campaigns, smear, gear, cheer, drear, fear, jeer, rear, brassiere, career, of cashmere. We haven’t run any type of campaign, in fact, in our postings from yesterday and today. We have simply reacted to a highly public reversal, over publicized, of a person who is running for a citywide office.
Please, take a deep breath, take a stress pill, and look calmly at our role in this (and most other) stories: THE PLANET shares facts and other information, and we make judgment calls in the form of opinions. That’s it. No runs, no hits, no errors, and no one left on base.
We do this because candidates, especially new ones, need to pass the crucible of trust. Everything a candidate says or does in his public life and often in her private life becomes, respectively, relevant and possibly relevant.
THE PLANET doesn’t want Rivers to succeed nor do we wish her to fail. We never take a rooting interest in a candidate. We are Switzerland and the transit area at Moscow Airport: Strictly neutral. The closest THE PLANET will come is when we do as many other media outlets do: Issue endorsements.
As to which candidates win elections, that’s up to the voters. We seem to be in the minority in our confidence for Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. We are content to leave the sorting out to them electorate, who on Election Day will make a decision. Until then, we will continue to do with all candidates what we’ve long done: Assemble information as best we can and make honest judgments with the sole interest of informing the electorate. We do this because informed voters make better voters.
THE PLANET has done that and nothing more with Rivers’ candidacy. We’ve talked to her and others on what her candidacy might mean to the voters of Pittsfield. We’ve presented a judgment based on the information we’ve obtained. That’s all — simply that and nothing more. We would be more than willing to hear from the candidate herself, the same as we do with any and all candidates. We always welcome dialogue, whether they agree or (perhaps especially) disagrees with our judgments.
That being said, we are grateful for anyone who wishes to take on the burden of public office. That includes Rivers, Gerald Ely, Dan Bianchi, Barry Clairmont, Joe Nichols, Jim Conant, Kathy Amuso, and everyone one else who has taken out papers. True, taking out papers doesn’t mean they will get on the ballot (some might change their minds), but taking out papers becomes the first necessary condition to ultimately getting on that ballot.(sticker campaigns notwithstanding).
Our free advice to all candidates: Run hard, run fair, take no prisoners, compete for the seat, toughen up the hide, and give it your best shot. And please, never, never take it personally when THE PLANET might dare to question one of your positions or actions. It’s N.E.V.E.R personal with us. We act only as an agent for an informed electorate.
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2013) — THE PLANET heard yesterday from Ward 6 council candidate (and former Ward 7 councilor) Joe Nichols, who responded to our story on the incredible “I’m Closing/I’m Not Closing” of at-large candidate Donna Todd Rivers. We preface this by saying that in our years of dealing with Nichols both as an office holder and in private life, we have found him an honest man with integrity.
Donna came to see me yesterday, and I told her that she was like the wind. You never know which way she would blow.
When she told me her store on North Street was going to remain open, I was flabbergasted.
I asked her, what about all the advertising that said you were closing the end of this summer? She said, “We didn’t say we were closing!” I said, “That’s the way I heard it.” She said, “That’s the way all the idiots heard it, but that’s not what the ad said, oops!” I said, “Are you calling me an idiot?”
Dan, I have to agree with your writing today. Amazingly, it is dead on!!!
This is a revealing and relevant charge being made by Nichols.
Grasp this: Nichols is saying Rivers denied to him that she ever said she was “closing.” If that is Rivers’ latest claim, it would seem to be a fib as bald as Mel Cooley‘s dome. THE PLANET doesn’t have the script from her radio spots announcing the “closing,” but those who heard it took away the strong impression that the store would be shutting its doors. Many of them who were customers made their subsequent interactions with the North Street beads store on that basis. That is, they assumed Rivers was telling the truth. She may parse the radio spots, but she can’t hide from the statements and documents she issued on June 1 and after.
This is About Truth and Integrity, the Two Most Important Attributes Required for Those Who Would Serve We the People
This issue is about truth and integrity. Let’s be clear: It has nothing to do with what a private business woman does with her store. That’s her business, literally. It would have stayed that way had not Rivers got the campaign itch. The moment Rivers became a candidate for public office, and a citywide office at that, what she said in public statements and did in public action related to her North Street beads shop became The People’s business.
The moment she generated fresh sets of headlines with two separate, conflicting, and mutually exclusive announcements pertaining to her intentions on the North Street shop, We The People had a fair and reasonable right to examine the statements and actions in light of Rivers newly minted candidacy. Had she done this privately, between her customers and herself, it would have gone away without a trace.
That’s not what happened, as we now know. Thus, this matter of Closingate now becomes our job, acting on behalf of an electorate that has every right to be informed about decisions a candidate makes that would indicate his or her reliability and suitability for public office.
“Closingate” is about a woman who made public claims about her business that a reasonable person would say turned out not to be true. That same woman now wants the same at-large public to entrust her with a citywide vote and influence over public policy. That’s asking not a lot. That’s asking too much of a public already so abused and disrespected by other candidates and office holders in the past.
On the basis of her behavior in “Closingate,” THE PLANET calls on voters to reject Rivers for the at-large seat.
Nichols’ claim that Rivers denied the store was closing is troubling. If she’s now denying saying she would close, then it would seem she’s trying to make fools of virtually everyone who fell for the announcement, including the public at large, the media, and most importantly, her customers. What should the electorate make of this in a candidate?
As we stated yesterday, when Rivers made the initial announcement of “closing,” we heard from some of those who knew her, worked with her, and in whom she possibly confided telling us, in effect: “Wait and see. She’s not closing anything. She’s going to get a story, get people talking, and then she’s going to run for citywide office.” As it turned out, they predicted exactly what happened.
That would seem to strongly indicate that Rivers’ planned “Closingate” as a publicity stunt, a cheap one at that. Based on her “I’m closing” then “I’m not closing,” Rivers, who in the interim not so coincidentally became a candidate for citywide office, received lots of publicity, including two glowing puff pieces in the Boring Broadsheet. She also drove desperate business her way from customers who had chits to use or other business to conclude at the North Street beads shop.
Rivers’ Statement Provides Smoking Gun on ‘Closing’ — No Quotes Needed
There is no room for ambiguity or doubt in the June 1 statement Rivers issued on the future of her North Street location.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: THE PLANET apologizes for formatting problems in the remainder of this column, another of those odd tech glitches occur in cyberspace journalism]
Would you trust any public statement coming from a person, any person, who would lead us all to believe one thing, and then several weeks later not only issue a “never mind” but call you an “idiot” if you believed him or her the first time?
Apparently, unless we are missing something, that’s what Rivers seems to be asking voters. Does she think Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski are “idiots,” ripe plums to exploit into an $8,000-a-year opportunity to carry water for the GOB?
Apparently, THE PLANET has a far different opinion of The Little Guy, who holds the most important public office of all — that of “Citizen.”
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Now we present one of the more interesting letters that recently came in by e-mail.
‘A GOB Rats Nest’
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Have you, or to your knowledge, anyone around here looked into the functioning of BCREB and Berkshire Works, especially the latter. It is truly the living incarnation of the GOB network, stuffed with patronage and no-show jobs. I’m not sure if he’s still there, but that’s where John Barrett ”landed” after his initial contract with Pittsfield expired (even though his Linked In profile makes no mention of it!). [In my current position] I had much interaction with them, and never once saw him there, although I always asked. They also had a director under Barrett AND a director under that guy! I know most of the ‘underlings’ there are dedicated people who work hard with little remuneration, but it galls me to see it so top heavy, especially with the ‘top’ being so useless, over compensated and under utilized.
“And of course, to top it all off, Mike Supranowicz has his paw prints all over it too. That whole little cabal over there, all under one incestuous roof (Chamber, Economic Development, BCREB, Berkshire Works, Tourism Bureau, etc) is a real little rats nest of GOB patronage that seems to function as a shadow government above or beyond public scrutiny. Just my take for the day.”
“How are they funded? From the city budget? There’s something called “Community Development” for $543K and a shocking $40 million in ‘unclassified’ funds.” — JMT