PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, AUG. 1, 2013) — Welcome to August, the penultimate act of The Vanishing


Summer. On this day, 51 years ago, Boston Red Sox right hander Bill Monbouquette threw a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. The losing pitcher was Early Wynn. That night he suffered a late loss in his quest for win # 300. Monbouquette’s gem followed that of Boston’s Earl Wilson, who no-hit the Angels earlier in the season. THE PLANET still remembers we were in the dining room at Camp Russell, eating corn bread, when they made the announcement over the loudspeaker of Monbo’s no-no.

ALF BARBALUNGA: Heir apparent at JRC?

It hasn’t been 51 years. It’s been four days now, and still no reply from lame duck school committee chairman Alf Barbalunga on whether or not he’s been anointed to succeed the head of the Juvenile Resource Center when Jack Quinn retires. This tells us that there’s probably something going on behind the scenes.

Barbalunga typically counts among the ranks of the more responsive and responsible public figures when the media comes calling with a query. Certainly, that has been THE PLANET‘s track record going back with Barbalunga many years. Therefore, when he doesn’t respond, we begin to wonder.

With connections within the sheriff’s department, the school department, and city hall, it would not tax Brainiac or even Lex Luthor to find a way to get Barbalunga into the position, if it was do desired. If this scuttlebutt is true, the question would be why? Why would Barbalunga want to leave his position in the south county courts — a lifetime sinecure with $107,000 pay (plus bennies), the last we knew? There would be a good reason, we’re sure.

Let’s see, where are the dots?


* Mayor Bianchi serves on the school committee.

* Alf Barbalunga chairs the school committee.

* Sheriff Tom Bowler worked on Bianchi’s campaign.

* Bianchi worked on Bowler’s campaign.

* Bowler’s sister managed both Bianchi’s and Bowler’s campaigns.

* Bowler’s sister ended up with a job as Bianchi’s director of administrative services.

* Alf is Judge Barbalunga‘s son.

* The sheriff’s department staffs the JRC.

* The JRC is beholden to the school department, hence the school committee, for its budget.

When you add these dots up, does a picture form?



JAKE IV, or JIV (pronounced, “Jive”)

With magnificently safe and unimaginative bureaucrats such as N. Tracy Crowe and Kristen Behnke, deputy superintendent and assistant superintendent respectively to superintendent Jake McCandless (Jake IV), is it any wonder than the Pittsfield School Department continues to languish in achievement while itspills over the top in spending? [ED. NOTE: DAVE, one of THE PLANET‘s correspondents, has suggested we call Jake IV “JIV,” pronounced “Jive.” We like it! So it shall be: JIV]. Behnke is the school department’s finance director — in other words, the PSD’s bag lady. Crowe is … hmmmm, we don’t know exactly what Crowe does. We’re not sure anyone else does, either.

By the way, with a superintendent, deputy superintendent, associate superintendent, and assistant superintendent and who knows what else — each making way more than $100,000 a year plus bennies — do you think the PSD might be a tad, uh, “top heavy?” If so, do not voice this concern publicly, because you will be accused of high treason.

At that point, they will question your “Loyalty,” shine the McDonald’s French fry lights on your face, and begin the interrogation. We know. We’ve been there and escaped to talk about it!

It is the recalcitrant “status quo” keepers such as these administrators who keep taxpayers in the poorhouse, teachers deflated, parents in the dark, and students out in the cold. This type of “safe” administrator, handling more than $90 million of a $137 million budget, will drive good men women out of office if they should by chance attain it and from seeking it if they haven’t.

“I’m Closing, I’m Not Closing” — The kind of “safe” candidate the Status Quo loves.

No. The Status Quo would rather have the likes of, say, Donna Todd Rivers, a woman who, as a former talk show host, played so much softball with those in power she could have hitched a ride to the Carolinas this week with the girl softball team that’s competing in the Babe Ruth World Series. Dull, unimaginative, “safe” bureaucrats who control so much money tend to draw dull, unimaginative, “safe” candidates of the kind Rivers seems to be. Timid, tentative, tame types can be counted on not to upset the apple carts or the booths of the money changers.

And no, THE PLANET isn’t singling out any candidate here. We merely employ the most convenient at hand, one who made news worth lampooning (“I’m closing, I’m not closing.”), as a handy means of exemplification. There are plenty of other candidates who fit in the category.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are officials determined to do the “safe” thing, which is to keep increasing school spending, even as student performance worsens. With fat salaries and little accountability, why would they want to risk inviting any “game changers” into their cozy little nests? They tell the public they have spent more money. For them, that’s the equivalent of having “done something” to address a school system that continues to  sink.

As THE PLANET has long since proven, there is no correlation between increase in spending and increase in student performance, given, as is the case, a certain level of requisite dollars. Give that baseline of funding, great results can be obtained at far less money than that being spent within the PSD. How is it, for instance, that parochial schools, with a fraction of the spending, consistently out-perform their public school counterparts?

The apathy of the electorate tells us that the vast majority of people are not buying it, to the extent that they have lost all faith in the elective process. Of course, that’s just what these types of “Players” want, for the “Average Joe” to give up on the process and leave the process of elections to the special interests.



The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.[1]
 We apologize for the above intrusion. It seems as if we are being monitored by a higher force, even more august than the infallible PSD.
“Oh, often have I washed and dressed / And what’s to show for all my pain? / Let me lie abed and rest: / Ten thousands times I’ve done my best / And all’s to do again.”A.E. Houseman, final stanza, “Yonder, See the Morning Blink.” (December 1895, 1922).


  1. Jonathan Melle
    July 31, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    Pittsfield’s cash cow is its public school system. That is because Pittsfield receives many millions of dollars every year from the state government to fund its public school system. Under Governor Deval Patrick, the public school budget has grown substantially during his tenure. That means more money for Pittsfield’s public schools.
    I call it “perverse incentives” because the more social spending means more federal and state money for communities like Pittsfield. That means there is an incentive for Pittsfield to put more people on welfare and in its public schools than help them have living wage, private sector jobs. The bottom line is that the more teen pregnancies in Pittsfield, the more money Pittsfield receives for its social programs and its public school system.
    It is sort of like the state lottery. The lottery has record profits. But the lottery is a voluntary tax on poor people who do not understand that they are getting pennies on the dollar or who are bad at math and do not understand finances. Now, the state government is going to add casinos to complement the state lottery. That means more social problems, which means more federal and state dollars for social programs.
    Pittsfield is spending a record amount of money on its public education system because the state government is giving Pittsfield a record amount of money for its public schools. It is about finances, not educating its youth to prepare them for living wage jobs.
    The number 1 employer in Pittsfield is the City of Pittsfield. Thousands of people work for the city and public school system. Pittsfield is ran on taxpayer dollars. There is no Fortune 500 corporation in Pittsfield!

  2. tito
    August 1, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    Planet, if you buy ten dollars worth of Ruggie’s, you get a second set for free.

  3. tito
    August 1, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    ,,,,,Jake,,,,shake,,,,,,,Stacy Crowe,,,,, , rattle,,,,,,Kirsten Benke,,,,,roll,,,,,,,,,

  4. Giacometti
    August 1, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    JRC is very important program…it keeps the troubled students out of the school system so that the serious students can go to school then go to college then succeed in life while the JRC
    students graduate from high school to go on to service industry jobs and for the rest of their lives ask ” Paper or Plastic ” or
    ” Would you like fries with that ? ” that is what education in the PPS is all about now and for the future. It will never change until
    high school students make better choices in their young lives.

    • danvalenti
      August 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      I don’t buy it. For the money spent, the JRC returns have been paltry. The school system, sans GRC, has the means, the manpower, and the money, to help any kid who wants it.

      • debbie
        August 7, 2013 at 8:59 am #

        What ever little Alf’s Daddy can buy for him. Alf is as dumb as a box of rocks!! To think our tax money pays for him to sit behind a desk and cereal all day…….should lost his job when he was a probation officer making probationers do community service at his house , then telling a probationer to lift her skirt so he can look at her tattoo….. Daddy saved his ass then and now buys him another position!

  5. joetaxpayer
    August 1, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Really don’t see the need for a seperate building. Let the sweathogs have a couple of class rooms in existing High Schools.

    • danvalenti
      August 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      Right on. There is no need for a separate building. The JRC is all about creating empires and patronage jobs.

      • debbie
        August 7, 2013 at 9:00 am #

        Right on with our tax money!! Joke.

  6. Rick
    August 1, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Alfs’ picture looks like a low budget porno star………..

    • danvalenti
      August 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      TO me, he looks like a Mexican revolutionary, circa 1880.

      • Two Cents
        August 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

        Alf Barbalunga: “I never met a facial hairstyle that I didn’t like!”

  7. tito
    August 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    ,,, We don’t need no stinking badges,,,,

  8. Giacometti
    August 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Johnathan Melle

    Why do you gripe about public salaries and public pensions when both of your parents are retired and living on Public Pensions ?

    • Jonathan Melle
      August 3, 2013 at 8:55 am #

      I believe every worker should get a pension. I am a Socialist.

      • debbie
        August 7, 2013 at 9:06 am #

        Really not when they cover for each other like…..the hidden sex offenders The sheriff Mass-Ass meono!! And Stracuzzi….and back door Cliffy…you ghi k they should collect pension s. Not with my tax money! They should have to register as sex offenders and post pictures on our local TV.

  9. Richard Allen
    August 3, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    With all the griping about pensions, remember that the pension is all the teachers have to retire. They are not allowed to collect Social Security. Most teachers do not gripe about their salaries, but are simply tired of having to constantly defend what they do and what they make. Are there some bad apples? Sure. The majority of teachers that I know across the state are decent people who truly believe that education can change the world and help children. Many of them also have more than one job.

    • danvalenti
      August 4, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. First, the only reason I will get to collect Social Security is because I have toiled in the Dreaded Private Sector. Where did this money come from that I will be receiving? From my own pocket! I have paid in all my professional life. On the other hand, teachers have been allowed to keep that portion of their paycheck. Well, then, that I should be collecting SS and they should not. Agree with you that most teachers do not complain about salaries. That’s why they have bad apples and union chiefs.

      • Richard Allen
        August 5, 2013 at 4:15 am #

        I know many teachers who worked in the private sector as well and will lose the majority of their Social Security. They also pay into the Pension system to the tune of 11% of their salary.

  10. GMHeller
    August 4, 2013 at 1:56 am #

    Without the public teat, what would Alf’s job opportunities actually be in the private sector?
    (Remembering of course that ol’ Alf got the nickname “No-Show” when he ‘worked’ in public service in North Adams.)

    • debbie
      August 7, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      Yup…never showed! Because he was busy with slave labor at his house.