PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, AUG. 2o, 2013) — Let’s get one thing clear from the outset. THE PLANET does not have as its mission the breaking of news. We leave that task to the other media in town, particularly to the so-called “mainstream media,” which consists of The Boring Broadsheet and local radio — Slim Pickens if we’ve ever seen it. This is another way of saying that all too frequently, the news that stirs controversy because of its nature, and the news that’s most relevant to the average, ordinary Joe, does not get reported, much less broken — often until we break it.

Almost by default, THE PLANET breaks story after story. This stems from a combination of several factors:

(1) The BB’s and local radio’s unwillingness to engage even the possibility of rattling the cages of local businesses, GOBs, poo-bahs, and Suits that either advertise or know advertisers. This serves as the faithful attendant of the cowardice of the local mainstream media. Think about it. The BB has an entire newsroom at its disposal, including the personnel. THE PLANET has but Yours Truly. Local radio news has been reduced to rip-and-read cobbling.

(2) THE PLANET’s vast roster of sources and spies, who constantly inform us of the ins and outs of what’s taking place in the slimy halls of local politics. They make the difference. Naturally, we can’t name them, but we have informants in everywhere in the city, including city government and local businesses — City Hall and Mercer (home of the Pittsfield School Department administration and its $90+ million) especially. We also have the streets pretty well covered. Our collection of spies, gumshoes, secret sources, dime droppers, and Z-agents make up what we proudly call The Secret Squadron.

(3) THE PLANET’s editorial independence. We provide this website as a public service, eating its cost of time, talent, and treasure (fear not, since our geese and their golden eggs lie elsewhere, and we also have Pretty Polly and her abundant fruit). Because we neither run nor solicit/sell advertising space, no one can lean on us in terms of what we decide to cover. No one, except THE PLANET, decides this. No one. There’s no other local media player that can make this claim. We have led to a lot of Maalox Moments for those in power and those who claw to hang onto it, but isn’t that the point?

4.) An unprecedented rate of output. In its recent profile of THE PLANET, Berkshire Magazine referred to us as “Berkshire County’s most prolific journalist.” On a daily basis, no other writer comes close to our output in terms of quantity and quality.

The most recent example of breaking news occurred last week (we do not include yesterday’s breaking news regarding the rumored arrest of a city councilor on drug-related charges), when we alone reported on the state Attorney General’s ruling against the Pittsfield School Committee‘s violation of the Open Meeting Law. How did we manage to uncover this news? We did it through simple vigilance — We routinely check certain web sites, and the AG’s is one of them.

The navigate the AG’s web site, and almost any state website, for that matter, one has to be clever and determined. What, do you think state government wants to make certain information easy to obtain and transparent? What should have taken one click on the site took several, and those not immediately apparent. Nonetheless, knowing how to navigate this site, we found the press release that we published on Wednesday of last week. The news itself we reported the day before.

There it hung like a ripe peach ready for plucking: a press release of the AGs ruling against the PSC, in the form of an official communication sent to the general council to the school committee. The BB or any other news organization (and we use the term loosely) could have found this information just as easily, providing, that is, they knew where to look and took the time to bother looking. That they didn’t (or didn’t care) came as no big surprise. That’s how, once again, we scooped the all without even trying.

The BB being the BB, seeing how much local interest our coverage generated forced the newspaper to report the story, which they did on Friday. This being the BB, the paper reported the story as if it was breaking the news, making itself a laughingstock to all those who found out days earlier on THE PLANET. This being the BB, the newspaper did not report that it was merely offering followup coverage and that first broke the news. This being the BB, the newspaper doesn’t know about or doesn’t care about that long-standing practice, called professional courtesy, we one medium acknowledges another when the other break the news first and the first one is doing a follow-up story.

When we broke the story, THE PLANET followed soon after by sending e-mails to all the PSC, copying in Kinnas. Alf Barbalunga, Dan Bianchi, Jim Conant, Kathy Amuso, Dan Elias, and Kathy Yon received the following inquiry:

—– 00 —–

As you know, the state AG’s office ruled that the PSC broke the law with respect to Terry Kinnas’ Open Meeting Law complaint over e-mail deliberations. THE PLANET broke this story and has continued to comment. We shall be only more than glad to include any of your statements. Particularly:
* Do you agree with the ruling?
* Did Kinnas act properly?
* Why didn’t you know the law as well as Terry?
* Do you rate this violation as much ado about nothing or a serious matter?
* What assurances do you give the public that there are no other violations of law?

Feel free to add anything else you wish.
I would like to have comments by tomorrow night.

—– 00 —–

Barbalunga and Bianchi ignored our request. So did Elias and Yon. Conant and Amuso commented. We shall present the latter two comments momentarily. First, a word about the ex-communicants.

Barbalunga’s silence is relatively new. He typically responds promptly to media inquiries, including THE PLANET’s. That seems to have changed since we broke the news that he would not be seeking re-election as PSC chair. [As a side note, it’s interesting to see that almost coincidental with Barbalunga’s decision not to seek re-election came former Pittsfield police chief Anthony Riello’s decision to run for school committee; word on the street has it that there’s a secret deal in place to crown Riello king of the PSC in Barbalunga’s absence]. Yes, we broke that story, too.

Barbalunga amazingly told the BB that he didn’t believe the PSC broke the law, despite the AG’s ruling. This admission is telling, for it can be seen as symptomatic of a general GOB tendency to see itself above the law. The law is for others, the peons, the unwashed masses that do the living, the dying, and the taxpaying in Pittsfield. Barbalunga hinted at an appeal. Apparently, he doesn’t realize that in an Open Meeting Law complaint, the AG, as adjudicator, has final say. The AG serves as judge and jury. There can be no appeal.

We could list countless examples of this arrogance, including, to name a tiny few, the Civic Authority civil war (the city still hasn’t healed from that), the Nilan-Moore case, and Spectrumgate. There is, in fact, a general culture in official Pittsfield and among the GOB to ignore the law when it’s convenient to do so.

Here are the two comments we received:


“I take all issues with the AG seriously.  I accept the AG’s ruling.  We made a mistake and we need to learn from it.  We have put in a different process that will not break the open meeting law that the AG’s office has agreed with.  I feel Terry has a right to do what he feels he needs to do.

We need to concentrate on our district and do the work that needs to be done to improve it.”


“I agree with the ruling,  Terry did what he thought was right and I am fine with his complaint to the AG. I was not totally sure at the time so, did not reply. It is Mass law so I take the matter seriously. I have confidence the SC and the chair are not going to repeat the mistake again.”

Both Amuso and Conant make the essentials two points: First is the need to take the AG’s ruling seriously. That is something Barbalunga has not done nor has Bianchi, apparently, given his silence on the matter. Second is the need to learn from the mistake and start running meetings, be they in person, electronic, or otherwise, in a lawful manner. Again, neither Barbalunga nor Bianchi have indicated they care about the law in this respect.

THE PLANET praises Amuso and Conant for their comments. We cannot say the same for Barbalunga and in particular Bianchi. Above all, the mayor has a responsibility to adhere to the law and not think of himself beyond it. Here we have the state attorney general stating in her finding that the mayor of Pittsfield, in his capacity as a member of the PSC, broke the law, and the mayor doesn’t think that it’s a big deal.

Bianchi’s continued attempts to freeze us out achieves the opposite. We have strong plants inside the administration, and we shall get our information with or without the mayor’s help. The pity is that by pulling the old “I ain’t talking to you” jazz (pulled on us by every mayor since Anne Wotjkowski except Jim Ruberto), Bianchi robs himself of giving us his version of events. The same lame tactic came back to fatally bite Reilly, Doyle, and Hathaway, and it shall do so with Bianchi.

That being said, as always, we remain open not only to the mayor but to any other federal, state, and city official. We remain especially open to those that may disagree with us. THE PLANET is eager, always, to provide a forum for those who do not share our views.


“When the knowers won’t speak, the guessers will guess.”Sir Tiberius Fruitjuice





  1. confirmed
    August 20, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Capitanio was arraigned this morning.

  2. Joe blow
    August 20, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    From the BB just now….”City Councilor Paul Capitanio pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of conspiracy to violate drug laws and accessory after the fact.

    Capitanio, 57, is accused of tipping off dealers to police drug busts, according to court information.”

    • NBI
      August 20, 2013 at 9:01 am #

      Printed story, video and photos. Can you say scooped!

  3. dusty
    August 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Which to councilors responded and which two are running for city council?

    Hope someone tells Reillo about the open meeting laws. Do the incumbent school committee members already know who to vote for for chairman? Did Kinnas back off knowing with Reillo coming in nothing was going to change? Does anyone remember how Ruberto gave up his life in California to come save Pittsfield? Maybe Reillo is coming back to save the schools.

  4. Larry
    August 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Sounds like I just missed the raid at The East Side Friday night…. Cappy was working the bar and handed me over the pizza’s my wife ordered for me to take home. Sorry to hear this transpire.

  5. Larry
    August 20, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    No paid leave for Buffis….. It appears he’s crooked in more ways than one…. ERR?… In many ways rather.

    He gave town supplied cell phones to his son and daughter who live in other states, as well as his wife. These phones were issued by The Town of Lee for official police business. Chief Buffis saw fit to give free cell service to his family that cost taxpayers over 5 Thousand Dollars.

    His leave without pay is due to this and not related to the theft of funds from the x-Mas toy fund.

  6. Ron Kitterman
    August 21, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Conncerning today’s BB story Re: Cappy You would think the Mayor and Councilor Mazeo never heard the words ” No Comment” used before. Odd that Dan never met a microphone or camera he didn’t fall in love with, but when it comes to interviewing with the Planet, he can’t seem to find the time. Maybe they are sucking up to the BB for the coveted endorsement for the sleeper Nov election ?

    • Dave
      August 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      Ron, if they both said “no comment” you would be all over them for saying nothing. They said something that meant nothing that wasn’t “no comment”. They have officially graduated from “Jim Ruberto 101”- You have used your message that you are a concerned citizen well, fleecing the electorate into trusting you and being elected and/or reelected. They are now enrolled in “Jim Ruberto 102”- Make vague statements, never take a solid stance unless it involves supporting “the children” ( even though we know that each year nothing is done to reign in the mounting unfunded liabilities, we are harming them more than if we laid off 20 administrators in the PPS) Can’t wait until they graduate after the November elections!

  7. tito
    August 21, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Follow the money Ron,,,,,,,,the g o b avoid the Planet at all cost,,,,,,,Always been that way.,,,,,,

  8. Ron Kitterman
    August 21, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Tito you nailed it on that one. It’s all about the envelopes !

  9. Dave
    August 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    If you have teenagers, get them away from the rap music that degrades people in every way. I know there isn’t a lot of music out there for our kids but check out a band called Skillet. They are a Christian rock band that will appeal to the kids and has a message that believing in God is not a bad thing, Their new album Rise is a theme album and I encourage even the adults to give it a listen.

    • Ed Shepardson
      August 21, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      God has many names. One is Allah. Some think that believing in Allah is a bad thing. When my parents were growing up, Sinatra was bad. When I was growing up the Beatles and Elvis were bad. Music harms no one. Never has. Never will. Violent video games, another matter. They desensitize killing, but parents should control what games their kids play but many just don’t get it.

      • danvalenti
        August 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

        Video games and “smart” phones are the equivalent of putting loaded guns into the hands of immature teens.

  10. Ron Kitterman
    August 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Good advice Dave, a knee jerk reaction, is to blame the guns, but the video games, music and movies have an enormous impact in some way manner shape or form as well. ” These are the times that will try mens souls ” , hopefully we can meet the challenge

  11. Giacometti
    August 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    The $ 500.00 bail set for Paul Capitanio leads one to believe that it is a case where there may not be strong evidence against him…
    otherwise his bail would be set at a much higher amount .

    • smh
      August 22, 2013 at 4:28 am #

      Or could simply mean he’s not considered a flight risk.

      • danvalenti
        August 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

        It could also be because he’s getting special bonding treatment because of his position as a councilor and his political connections.

    • Joe Blow
      August 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      I highly doubt the St. Police would bring charges against a city councilor without a strong case.

    • danvalenti
      August 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Not necessarily. It could also mean preferable treatment.

  12. Hilly Billy
    August 22, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Just curious as to why there has been no comment from the Planet or the Eagle regarding former Mayor and current Westfield President allegations?

  13. tito
    August 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Dobelle did the same thing in Hawaii, the University settled with him A little less than two million,,,,,,

  14. tito
    August 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Your move, Planet,,,,,,,,,,,

  15. Dave
    August 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    A thought from a nobody- Why doesn’t MA challenge the federal law regarding sports gambling? MA just decided that casinos were OK, 3 of them ,but with casinos in CT and NY we could use a hook. Gov Patrick and Pres Obama being such good pals, now would be the time to challenge the law, and that would give gamblers a reason to come to MA instead of the other states. The bookies would be ok because you need the actual cash to place a bet with a casino, you can’t go to the window and say “give me $500 on the Cowboys, and I’ll be back to pay you if I lose”. There is also one slots parlor that will not( because we didn’t apply) be located here. PEDA- the East coast Sportsbook on the map!!! Would fit into the Berkshire tourism as our new economic engine agenda!!! Just thinking outside the proverbial box.

    • joetaxpayer
      August 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      Dave, couldn’t agree more. Don’t even need to build a casino. Just make bets at convenient stores like the lottery . The state gets there take and stores get s %. Will never happen in my life time, makes to much sense.

  16. dusty
    August 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    I am guessing that a drug raid with the elite drug cops, probably on overtime, cost the taxpayers a bundle of money whether it is successful or not. So if someone were to tip someone off, rendering the raid a waste of time, then the taxpayers just dumped thousands of dollars down the drain. but that is par for the course in a city in bizzaro world.

  17. tito
    August 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Let’s here it for the traffic mess over near Conte School, way to go ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.someone forget the cost of this? please plan better before doing any more feel good projects,,,,,,,,,,and for krist sakes, give the new housing block a name, cuz that’s what it is.

  18. tito
    August 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    ,,,,,,,someone got up and said ‘thank god for Chris Connell’, but god wasn’t mentioned concerning suits Krol’

  19. joetaxpayer
    August 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more #ucked up in Pittsfield, Andrea Nuciforo files a application for a medical marijuana dispensary in Amherst. Of course strictly nonprofit, for compassionate patient care.

  20. tito
    August 22, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    ,,,,,,,does J Mel know about this?,,,,,,,,,,,

  21. tito
    August 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    ,,,,,,,Connell want to put in speed bumps on Maplegrove to curtail the Kathy Way speeders! At what cost? everyone will be asking for them, what a joke!,,,,,,,

  22. tito
    August 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    I’ll have a pack of Marlboro’s, a carton of eggs, um 200 times on the Cowboy’s, oh, and give me some of those slim jim’s, the whole box.

    • danvalenti
      August 22, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      Forget the eggs and dump the Slim Jims. It’s far beyond that!!