PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, SEPT. 30, 2013) — In our previous installment, THE PLANET presented some thoughts on the two elections coming up in Pittsfield. The first will be for ward, at-large, and corner offices. The second will be for council president. Obviously, both hold critical importance for this city that has seriously lost its way. Today, we would like to expand on the thoughts of election No. 2.

To get you up to speed, here are the comments from last time:

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(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, SEPT. 27, 2013) — There will be two elections this year for the city council. In the first, voters from the electorate will select seven ward councilors and four at-large. In the second, the newly formed city council will elect a council president.

This involves some premature analyses of the at-large council race.Jonathan Lothrop is unopposed in Ward 5, and so he will be back. In the at-large race, of the seven candidates, there is at least one close-to-sure lock at this point: Melissa Mazzeo (that being said, anything is possible). MelMaz has as solid a core organization as you can find locally, and in this era of low turnouts, that spells a pump-in. The import of these two developments can be found in that second election.

In 2011, so the insiders say, there was a tacit “promise” from mayor-electDan Bianchi that Mazzeo would be the council president. Bianchi lobbied behind the scenes for this outcome, but Lothrop’s supporters returned serve. The deadlock produced a compromise candidate, Kevin Sherman. As VP, instead of going for Mazzeo, Lothrop got the call, buzzing the bonnets of both Mazzeo and Bianchi.

In 2013, with Lothrop a certainty and Mazzeo all but, it promises to be another epic battle for what will likely be a split council: For council president, Lothrop versus Mazzeo.

We have been in contact with these two councilors, and THE PLANETshall be back soon with what they had to say.

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Both Lothrop and Mazzeo shared their thoughts with THE PLANET on this matter of the council presidency. As you will see, Lothrop was by far the more expansive of the two. Mazzeo played it close to the vest … or blouse, as the case may be. One played for keeps. One played politics. This isn’t a judgment but a statement of fact. It will remain to be seen which was the more strategic approach, but we can tell you that, even now, there is politicking going on for Election No. 2. For the moment, THE PLANET will pretend the Open Meeting Law doesn’t exist!


We spoke to J-LO in person. His comments were on the record and refreshingly frank.


After pointing out that the new council will be as divided as the current one (i.e., those who are loyal to Bianchi and those who are not), Lothrop said the greatest need for the new council president will be someone who can provide a bridge between the two warring political factions.

“I think I’m the only one who can arbitrate city council meetings in a manner that is both impartial and judicious,” J-Lo said. THE PLANET asked him for his views on what makes an effective council president. He named three qualities:

1. Know the rules.

2. Apply the rules on on a consistent basis.

3. Do so with a sense of perspective and humor.

That last remark recalled the light touch brought by Uncle Gerry Lee. Like him or not, Lee brought a droll, bone-dry sense of wit that served him well. Lee didn’t come as fully packed on the first two qualities.

Without betraying sources, Lothrop confirmed a story we had heard about the council presidency in 2011. The council, unable to resolve a standoff between him and Mazzeo, chose Kevin Sherman as a compromise or coalition president. Sherman proved to b a wise choice, a strictly transitional figure who at times has alternated between pulling out his hair and tugging at his beard — when he had a beard.

This time around promises to be different. If it’s Lothrop for council prez in 2014, he promises to run council meetings with an open mind and respect to all, including his political opposition. If it’s Mazzeo, J-Lo says “It will be an incredibly confrontational two years, because she cannot say ‘no’ to the mayor.”

“If I become [council] president,” J-Lo said, “I will vet every issue for its merits, not for its politics.”

Honestly, now. Step back from your emotions and analyze what J-LO has just said. Consider his detached, polemic style, and one would have to agree that, at least in the abstract, Lothrop appears fully capable of running this type of council. The most important job of the council president is to encourage full vetting on all the issues and to allow a full-throated debate on them.

This contrasts with the mayor’s approach, Lothrop said. Calling the mayor a major disappointment, J-Lo said he is most disheartened by the one-sidedness that Bianchi brings to various issues: “With Dan, it’s my way or the highway. He has shown no respect for minority [or opposing] opinions. He brings politics into every issue, and if you’re not a ‘loyalist’ then your views don’t count.”

On the other hand, J-Lo says, he “welcomes competence over loyalty. It’s been abundantly clear to me that [Bianchi] is the opposite. He doesn’t respect competence but loyalty.” Lothrop says that this has applied not only to the mayor’s dealings with the council but in putting together his administrative team and in dealing with the day-to-day matters at city hall.

On a few other matters, Lothrop says that he sees two “locks” in the at-large council race: Mazzeo and Barry Clairmont. He also said he will liked the bid of Donna Todd Rivers among the challengers.


Shortly after talking to Lothrop, we contacted Mazzeo with the following e-mail:


Hope this finds you well.

I’m working on a piece about the two council elections: one by the electorate and the other by the councilors for the new president. I’ve talked with numerous people, including the wise guys and those in the know, and there is virtual unanimous consent that it will be between you and Lothrop. Lothrop is a lock for his ward seat by being unopposed, and you have to be considered a lock in the at-large race. 

Assuming you win, do you have interest in the presidency?

Do you think you will get it?

Is it true that in 2011, you were “supposed” to get the presidency, but J-Lo’s challenge led to Sherman as the compromise candidate?

I’ve talked to Lothrop about his views on this, and he was candid and forthcoming for the record about his intentions and the probability of going up against you.

Can you give me your thoughts on this, answering these questions and adding anything else you wish. …

Many thanks,


Mazzeo got back to us by e-mail the next day. Here is what she wrote:

Things are great.. I’m busy working with residents on issues right now and haven’t had time to focus on the presidency. Until the election is over and I see if I am re-elected I think I will just continue to do the work that I have in front [of] me and the city.

This is a perfectly proper reply, though, as you can see, one short on details and one that skirts around our questions about the presidency. She dodged them. Again, we shall see which strategy wins out. Mark it, though, the new council president will be chosen among these two strong-will individuals. There will be no compromise candidate in 2014.

The second election will be the one with the most drama.


“He will not go behind his father’s saying, / And he likes having thought of it so well / He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”Robert Frost, last lines from “Mending Wall,” (1914)




  1. Tito
    September 30, 2013 at 4:52 am #

    Of course LOW wants Ms. Rivers to get in, that’s the six vote.

  2. C.J.
    September 30, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    Pathetically true; Oh Tito Titan! Donna Todd prominently displayed Peter Marchetti and J-lo’s support in her campaign facebook album. J-lo is also often seen socializing with Mr.’s Krol and Clairmont. Hardly a statement of the great divide reconciler and objective bridge builder.

  3. FloggingMolly
    September 30, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    Oh my god get a clue people. In the campaign season all the politicians all attend each others campaign events unless they are direct opponents to rub elbows and see who is there. Believe me Dan and others can surmise what they wish based on those false rumors started by those with agendas but the fact is DTR is the most independent candidate there is out there.

    • danvalenti
      September 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      I’m not the one surmising.

      • Larry the contractor
        October 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

        Two other names have surfaced for president that would provide a balance to the city council. Tony Simonelli and Chris Connell. Both seem to not take sides and deal with the issues at hand for the people very much like Kevin Sherman.

        • danvalenti
          October 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

          Agree that both would be less controversial than J-Lo or Melmaz. Would either be interested, and would a compromise candidate work this time around?

  4. Tito
    September 30, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Clairmont, Mazzeo,Amuso, Cotton.

  5. Liz Arrington
    September 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Clairmont Mazzeo Cotton Rivers

  6. B. Clairmont
    September 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    LOL, I’m just voting for Clairmont.

    • danvalenti
      September 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      How about “Dan Valenti” for mayor?

      • B. Clairmont
        October 1, 2013 at 5:16 am #

        I meant in the At-Large race, Dan.

        • Dave
          October 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

          Didn’t answer the question Barry, don’t want to reinstitute the Slippery moniker! Regardless it is my intention to fill in the Clairmont circle-unless the pencil sliippppsssss.

  7. dusty
    September 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Lothrop talks about loyalist? He would have jumped in silver Lake if Ruberto had asked him to. He would be objective and leave politics out of the equation? Ha Ha Ha!!

    He plans to be mayor some day and is going to walk the walk he is told to walk to get there. And the GOB are pulling the strings every time his jaw moves.

    Be careful what you wish for Dan.

    • danvalenti
      September 30, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      The only thing I’m wishing for is a voter turnout of 80% or more.

    • Dave
      October 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      Didn’t JLOW trumpet the forward movement of the city when the Mayor(Ruberto) and the Council Pres(Lee) were all hand-in-hand on every issue? Now that his agenda differs from the administration we need checks and balances. To use JLOW’s logic from before, Melissa Mazzeo as Pres will help move Pittsfield forward. If we want the 3 things that JLOW stated above in a Council Pres.
      1-Know the rules
      2-Enforce the rules on a consistent basis
      3-Do so with a sense of perspective and humor
      There is only one choice who meets all three the past two years-write in Terry Kinnas for Councilor-at-large and demand he be voted in Pres!!!!!!

      • danvalenti
        October 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

        Let’s start a “Draft TK” movement.

  8. Nota
    September 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    That is very selfish on your part Councilor!

  9. tito
    September 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Bob, Carol, Ted, Alice.

    • danvalenti
      September 30, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

      • Jim Gleason
        October 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

        Robert, Jimmy, Bonzo, John Paul.

  10. JB
    September 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    @ NOTA

    why is that selfish? if I were running for office I’d vote for me too…

  11. Nota
    October 1, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    I was just kidding with Barry. Deacon,Grier,Olson,Lundy.

    • Jim Gleason
      October 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Gastineau, Klecko, Lyons, Salaam.

      • danvalenti
        October 1, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

        Roubestelli, Katkavage, Grier, and Modzewleski.

  12. Mr. X
    October 1, 2013 at 5:19 am #

    After reviewing the city charter, it says something like a person cannot be compensated by the city and represent them on the city coucil at the same time. Does this mean Caccamo, compensated by the city as a school teacher, cannot legally be on the city council?

    • B. Clairmont
      October 1, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Mr. X,

      He can be on the Council, he just can’t collect the $8,000 per year pay.


      • Joe Blow
        October 1, 2013 at 10:08 am #

        Can he vote on school budgets and out her school issues?

        • Joe Blow
          October 1, 2013 at 10:09 am #


        • skier1
          October 1, 2013 at 10:25 am #


  13. Nota
    October 1, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    Moe, Larry, Curly Shemp,Joe N

  14. Dave
    October 1, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    It’s nice to know that JLOW hasn’t lost any of that beloved arrogance (oops, I meant confidence) with his 8 vote win last election!

  15. Tito
    October 1, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Ward 5 voters have definitely reached a new, LOW!

  16. Tito
    October 1, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    P S. that’s a LOW 5.

    • Donald
      October 1, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Tito, your jokes bLOW.

  17. Tito
    October 1, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    How do we even know LOW beat Joe by eight votes? Who gets beat by eight votes?

    • Liz Arrington
      October 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      Who gets beat by eight votes, Losers. Who wins by eight votes, winners!

    • Tom Sakshaug
      October 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      How do we know? Our very accurate optical voting tabulation system was confirmed by the Board of Registrars conducting a full recount in a public setting, with the City Clerk present, and three people from each campaign team at the same table as the actual ballot counting, each having the ability to challenge individual ballots. I was at that table. JLo won by 7. I would trust any Pittsfield result with any more than a majority of 5 votes.

  18. Jim Gleason
    October 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    From what I hear, DTR was pondering running in 5 against Blowhard, who she probably would have beaten easily, but was encouraged by certain individuals GOB) to run At-Large and told the full force of the GOB would be behind her.What makes more sense, running against a person who won by 7 votes in the previous election and is ripe for the picking or running against 7 others for 4 seats? Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was.Same as it EVER was.

  19. Tito
    October 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    That is the whole point, voters would have ousted LOW,and we wouldn’t be having the discussion about him being council president. The voters in all Wards need to weigh in on this, personally, don’t favor this particular vote by council to elect a president, somewhere in the new charter should have been a charge to do it differently, other than a popularity contest,(evidentially, it doesn’t take much to be popular) .With that being said, the highest vote getter amongst the at-large should be put in automatically as President of the Council. Esteemed Councilor Mazzeo, or any other at-large councilor that receives the highest tally, and assume the position of President!

    • Tom Sakshaug
      October 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      Perhaps, but only if the top vote-getter can decline and allow #2 to assume the Presidency, ad nauseum. The top at-large vote-getter may be a newbie who has no clue as to how to run a meeting.

    • B. Clairmont
      October 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

      Tito, I see your point, but here is situation you may not have considered ( this wont happen, but does make a point).

      Lets say every voter in Pittsfield votes for candidate #4 as their 4th choice. Then lets say every voter votes for candidate #1 as their first choice, except one voter.

      Candidate #4 gets one more vote than candidate #1, and becomes council president as top vote getter, despite being everyone’s 4th choice.


      • Dave
        October 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

        It doesn’t really make a point because the voters don’t put a 1,2,3,4, in the oval-all votes are equal, that said, I don’t agree with that approach anyway.

        • B. Clairmont
          October 1, 2013 at 6:35 pm #


          You are missing the point. My point is all votes are equal. Therefore, the candidate with the most votes may not be the people’s choice for President.


  20. Jim Gleason
    October 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Jonathan, the decision for council president didn’t go anywhere close to how you said it went. Melissa and Kevin were ALWAYS the two who were going to battle it out for president, but Melissa turned the post down because she wouldn’t have been able to debate during council session. You saying it was between you and here is a slap at Kevin Sherman, like he was third choice. Dude, you won by 7 votes last election, did you forget that fact. You’re a legend in your own mind, i guess.

    • Jim Gleason
      October 4, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      What, no response J-Blo?

  21. Tito
    October 1, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    @ Tom….maybe no candidate will surface in that scenario. I doubt it can be that difficult to be a President. Once in a while you need to defer to Demeter’s rules of order, but hey, even a Priest has to refer to a Bible every so often. Another perk is the President gets a bigger stipend, I presume? Another important thing about the job is limiting a President with debate restraints? Wouldn’t that be a contradiction? Isn’t that LOWs strength as a councilor? We would lose that expertise during the most important criteria such as land use, variances, license procedure,eminent domain,wine tasting,etc.

    • danvalenti
      October 1, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      The prez gets $10 grand. The other 10 receive $8,000. The President is and is’t restrained. The Prez cannot debate while running the meeting. He or she can, though, give the gavel to the VP and address the council as a citizen.

  22. Tito
    October 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    @Barry, do you really want to know who in my opinion would be a fabulous President. So would you? Talk about checks and balances!

    • B. Clairmont
      October 2, 2013 at 5:18 am #


  23. Tito
    October 2, 2013 at 5:38 am #

    All you need is Church’s vote, start lobbying my friend.

    • B. Clairmont
      October 2, 2013 at 7:51 am #

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, but no thank you. I’m not interested at this time.

    • Dave
      October 3, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      Church will finish 5th or 6th this year- What has he contributed to the process. I don’t think he has brought forth anything in his almost 2 years in office.

  24. Tito
    October 2, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    And please, let’s not have a watered down version of a shopping strip on the Tyler Street side. Using the sustainable income as a reason so our current residents won’t have to leave the area. And please let us not give a damn about the developer, and their considerations, of giving us that esthetic look as a condition of constructing it. We don’t want it.