Article

YET ANOTHER DOLLAR STORE WILL BE ADDED TO PITTSFIELD’s DYING ECONOMY … plus … ‘WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES’ LACKS SOLE; EVENT HAS BECOME RATHER WORN AT THE HEELS

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, SEPT. 23, 2013) — We got a dollar if you got a dime.

That seems to be the bargain offered to the Pittsfield economy by the deterministic, often harsh etiquette of the marketplace. When markets rule, cities like Pittsfield — with its politics as poisoned as its air, land, and water — lose out. You can read the times by looking at the signs.

One symptom of a losing local economy is the outbreak of numerous “jobs creation” outfits, non-profits, typically, eating up resources but contributing little in return. These kinds of outfits provide cover for politicians and Swells. In the face of the economy going into the drink, they can’t point to these worthless organizations to make it look like they’re “hard at work.”

They reward themselves at gatherings, dinners, lunches, and awards ceremonies, slapping themselves on the back for what a great job they’re doing — “Many of the Year,” Woman of the Year,” and “Snot Slug of the Year.” It’s all the same in the end. They are, like Mayor Dan Bianchi, masters of the cheap photo-op, and they know that the alleged daily newspaper in town, The Boring Broadsheet, will lop it up and run it on Page One as if it’s a big story. The regular people, though, aren’t fooled on bit. Rather, they are disgusted, and they will demonstrate that tomorrow when they don’t come out to vote in record numbers.

Case in point: The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berkshire Creative, the Berkshires Visitors Bureau, 1 Berkshire, Berkshire Enterprises, the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, the Community Development Board, Mass Development, the mayor’s office, and all the other “economic engines.” They have done little to create jobs — except, of course, the high-paying jobs for the executive directors and other staff, not forgetting the Con Job and the Snow Job for everyone else.

Another sure sign of the local economic failure has to be the plethora of dollar stores that have descended upon the city of Pittsfield like the vultures over the carcass of a jackal. They are to signs of economic life what a falling barometric pressure is to the weather. The latest in these Buck Wonders seems destined for outer West Housatonic Street after the community development board allowed zoning clearance for a 9,100-sq.-ft. structure at Route 20 and Callahan Drive. Just what the city needs, another cinder block store selling lower-end products to victimized and victimless economic casualties.

It’s pathetic. Some of the blame for this has to rest with Bianchi, who has done precious little, if anything, in terms of jobs. Can anyone name any specific, visionary jobs initiative undertaken by this do-nothing mayor? THE PLANET would love to hear it. On jobs, Bianchi is The Man Who Wasn’t There, a true Nowhere Man.

The issue of jobs comes up in every campaign. Every debate moderator asks about “jobs,” and every campaigner tosses out the usual bromides and generalizations that amount to nothing in response.  Unless THE PLANET is asking the questions, the moderator, typically chosen by the GOB because they will be “safe” and not press, does no follow up. The candidates skate away better than Bobby Orr in his prime.

Candidates have the luxury of spinning yarns. Without office, their words remain comfortably hollow. Once in office, however, the issue of “jobs” now takes on the hue of reality. That’s when the men (of both genders) are separated from wooses. Granted, the mayor alone can’t revitalize an entire economy, but what has Bianchi done? Ribbon cuttings and fourth-grade science fairs haven’t worked. Neither has handing out certificates to Girl Scouts.

There are many practical steps that could be taken. These are the measures that would make sense and have a chance  at yielding results, for example:

1.) Get outta town — The city’s strengths have to be marketed. You hit the road, go to shows, conventions, and places where you are likely to meet companies and their executives. The team goes prepared with a professionally produced exhibit. On jobs, Bianchi acts like the star-struck youth from Dubuque, hanging out in the local Capezio store, waiting to be discovered by Hollywood. It ain’t gonna happen, pards.

2.) OCD Retooling — Make the OCD director a kind of “jobs czar” to take the show on the road. Write and rehease the pitch so that it will sell igloos to refrigerators.

3.) Learning from Nothing — Figure out what’s wrong with the PEDA effort. Fifteen years of nothing will reveal important clues on what NOT to do. An objective process analysis of PEDA is in order, free of politics.

4.) Fooling with Schooling — The public school crisis must be addressed. Performance and accountability must be instituted. A first good step will be uniforms for middle and high schools. This will send a message to businesses that Pittsfield is serious about addressing its problems.

When the issue of “jobs” comes up in the campaign, try to ignore the B.S. and pay attention to see if any of the wonderkinds have specific proposals that stand a chance of being implemented. Look, specifically, for measurements. Ask yourself: How will we measure the success of what a particular candidate is proposing? Asking this exposes the fact that almost all of them are making it up on the fly. Most have no clue and even more don’t care.

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WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES TRIVIALIZES A SERIOUS ISSUE AND EMBARRASSES JUST ABOUT EVERYONE INVOLVED

The other day, a bunch of men found themselves coerced by political correctness and walked-a-mile-in-her-shoes. This nonsense has become a now-annual mockery of the serious issue of domestic violence and rape, an event that is “overly light-hearted,” to use the apt phrase of one critic.

This guest post by Kelsey Wallace gets at this objection, which THE PLANET shares:

——- 000 ——-

The ever-wise Scout Finch tells us in To Kill a Mockingbird that, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” While there is certainly truth in that statement, I don’t think Atticus Finch meant that in order to understand a person, you should literally obtain a pair of his or her shoes and then organize a walk-a-mile fundraiser that purports to empathize with their life experiences.

The organizers of the “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” campaign took the quote a bit more literally. Founded in 2002, the campaign aims to raise awareness and money toward ending domestic violence against women by asking men to walk a mile wearing high heels. In the 2009 Walk A Mile calendar, men are shown in fraternity houses, on the basketball court, wearing police uniforms, and hanging out at the bowling alley wearing – wait for it – high heels! Guys are so crazy.

 The men who are sporting “sassy, strappy sandals” on the calendar’s pages are quoted as saying that “it takes guts” to walk in high heels, just like standing up against domestic violence. Says one supporter, “The event is a hoot! And I love to laugh and make other people laugh!” Domestic violence? Hilarious!
Here’s another opinion:
I just can’t get past the tone of the campaign, which trivializes women’s experiences with violence and puts the focus on the so-called “amazing” sacrifice being made by men who put on a pair of heels for 20 minutes. Do these men want a congratulatory pat on the back?While claiming to raise awareness and support for domestic violence issues, this campaign is actually inadvertently reinforcing the gender norms that make domestic violence such a problem in the first place. The men in the calendar (all shown being very, very manly) are given the spotlight, and they use it to mock women’s experiences by wearing something (high heels) that represents the subjugation of women by a sexist culture. Domestic violence is nothing to laugh at. Neither are high heels, for that matter.

We thank our contributors for their input. THE PLANET’s free advice for the men next year is do it in flats.

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“She is Queen Under the Hill / whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words / that is field folded.”Robert Duncan, from “Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow.” (1960)

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

 

42 Responses to “YET ANOTHER DOLLAR STORE WILL BE ADDED TO PITTSFIELD’s DYING ECONOMY … plus … ‘WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES’ LACKS SOLE; EVENT HAS BECOME RATHER WORN AT THE HEELS”

  1. Silent Observer
    September 23, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    Right on once again DV. The economy in Pittsfield — if you can call it that — has been depressed since the 90s. Soon we will have pay-day loans, more pawn shops, more pizza places, and more storefronts decorated with “art.”

    Something that I think you should include on your list is the lack of a decent 4 year college in Pittsfield. Something better than MCLA but not as elite as Williams. Given the lack of such, there is severe brain drain as the intelligent move out for greener pastures and the few talented ones coming in are the ones with connections to the established network.

    • danvalenti
      September 23, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      SO
      Most perceptive. Many thanks for your input.

    • dusty
      September 24, 2013 at 1:00 am #

      The last half of your second paragraph says a mouthful.

  2. Terry Kinnas
    September 23, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Points of clarification: incumbents take an Oath of Office to obey the law, and is it ok to break the law while running for office? That is what the issue of the illegal political lawn signs is about. What laws do they have to follow? Only the ones they want to? I have stated that on two public occasions. People discuss transparency and corruption. Do you want someone who knowingly breaks the law in a position of trust? If one can’t manage a few lawn signs, how is he or she going to manage/oversee $137 million plus budget?

    Additionally, the $15, $25, $50 and $100 fees that should be collected for each illegal sign are an in-kind contribution that should be listed on the official state form when it is filed with the city clerk or the state. The City of Pittsfield is a corporation with its charter issued to it by the state. The CEO of the City is the mayor.

    PS: School council members are elected officials; some are appointed with a majority vote of the school council, e.g. neighborhood or business representative.

  3. Jonathan Melle
    September 23, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    What is the World’s oldest profession?
    If you need a job in Pittsfield, don’t sell yourself to the GOB.

  4. Ron Kitterman
    September 23, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Can anyone name any specific, visionary jobs initiative undertaken by this do-nothing mayor?
    http://www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_21251702/two-employers-get-boost-from-city
    Mad Macs Inc. and Quest Connect have received $45,000 and $25,000 , from the Small Business Fund.
    Now does that qualify me as Groucho use to say “ Saying the secret word “ and winning a $100 or not ?

    • danvalenti
      September 23, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      Giving away taxpayer money to help engineer companies in the Dreaded Private sector may make sense, but I would hardly call that “visionary.” Sorry, RON, try again.

  5. C.J.
    September 23, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    His honor, the mayor of Pittsfield will soon be announcing his choice for the alleged top job creator position in the county, based in Pittsfield;…The Executive Director of Berkshire Works. This position is now held under contract by former mayor and city councilor of North Adams, John Barrett. Barrett was hurriedly appointed to this position by former mayor Ruberto after his other Pittsfield contract as Consultant /Director of Public Works expired.
    It will be interesting to see Bianchi’s choice to replace Barrett.
    I have been told that a so-called screening committee was formed by someone (who ?) to select “qualified” (?) candidates (predetermined ?) for Barrett’s replacement.
    Word around city hall is that this”selection committee” consists of two political patronage appointed employees, none of which reside in Pittsfield, although pittsfield taxpayers support them,and representatives from non profits that live off taxpayer and charity funding.
    If job creation is the primary function of this position and this taxpayer funded organization; Where were the representatives of the business, manufacturing, and dreaded Private Sector ??? Is government,taxpayer and charity funded organizations the only employment future in the county ?
    Wait and see who Bianchi and his “Selection Committee” selects ! Private sector had no input.

    • dusty
      September 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      I hope Bianchi vetted this person because he/she will probably get vetted here. And what about Barrett? Surely he has a cushy job waiting for him. One that he will not even need to apply for.

    • danvalenti
      September 23, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

      CJ
      We shall, if all goes well, be covering some of this. There’s a scam going on, to be sure. Detailing it is another matter, but we have some excellent leads.

  6. Wilson
    September 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    You’re still buying into their lies in believing that it’s even possible to bring jobs to a backwater, that the city has any “strengths” to speak of. The best you could do is divert the tax money from the embezzling politicians’ slush funds and build the factories directly, though the construction would be undermined by the corrupt bidding process, and the factories would go bankrupt due to patronage hires, even before they could be obliterated by foreign competition.

    • danvalenti
      September 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

      WILSON
      We hear your frustration, but we assure you, THE PLANET is not “buying into” one of the lies, of which there are many. The city has many strengths, many of which have been buried by the corruption and nonsense. It will take a fresh set of eyes, “outside eyes,” to see afresh.

  7. NBI
    September 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Not sure if it’s all the way there yet, but Pittsfield must be close to hitting rock bottom. The only positive things about these junk stores is that they haven’t yet figured out to declare non-profit status, so they will pay taxes and they provide (low paying) jobs for those honest souls willing to work a second or third part time job, in place of real ones.

    Now to your points:

    1) How can they create a road show about the city strengths, when frankly, there are none? Any business looking to move here would see through the smoke and mirrors. Sorry I … just thought of a few. We can tout the high ratio of dollar stores, school admins, gang members, non-profits and drug treatment facilities per capita. Did I miss any?

    2) Simple. Eliminate that position.

    3) Eliminate the worthless entity. They haven’t done anything, so why keep it around. Forget about ever developing that property. Look at the terrain along the north side of East street. Maybe goat herders would be interested. Stop throwing more money away. If someone comes along with a valid idea and financial backing, have a chat. But stop hiring consultants to study everything!

    4) Take them to St. Joe and claim it’s PHS. They still wear uniforms right? And nice small class sizes too. Or better yet, eliminate at least 50% of the non teaching overhead to reduce homeowner taxes. Affordable cost of living is one of the factors companies look at. That’s why so many head south. And we all know the repution of rural southern schools, so are they really in play?

    • Terry Kinnas
      September 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      The area has some strengths.

      1. Location. Pittsfield is located in about the middle of 11 million
      people in a 150 to 175 mile radius.
      2. Climate and geology are stable.
      3. Basic and some very high tech manufacturing is still here.
      4.We’re close to an expanding industrial revolution in the
      Albany area.
      5. We’re finally getting the vocational program out of the
      backwater it was put into.

      The area has some weaknesses that can be corrected IF there is a political will to do so.

      1. Work to actually clean up the whole educational system.
      Academic rigor with real results
      2. Work with the Albany area in a unified economic
      development effort.
      3. Get what is left of the private sector to take a lead role in
      developing human resource requirements based on real skill
      sets and attitude toward actually working.
      4. Get the state government of Mass to actually help us.
      Eliminate tolls, not add them; reduce the regulatory structure
      and have people return phone calls and written responses to
      those who are interested in starting or moving here.
      5. There is Big Money here to work with the needy. Non-profits
      must contribute a fair share of the city expenses.
      6. Stop the political illusion of Pittsfield being an arts and
      cultural center.

      • skier1
        September 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

        I wish there were more people with common sense like you Terry.

      • Dave
        September 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

        Good positions for a debate, except for the tolls- we can use the revenue from out-of-staters. I would give a pass to college student commuters if that was possible though.

      • danvalenti
        September 23, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

        Well done, TK.

      • Mike Ward
        September 23, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

        I like this side of Terry (although I disagree with the arts-as-a-weakness sentiment). These are some thoughtful points and much more interesting than the setback of lawn signs.

      • levitan
        September 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

        Excellent suggestions, Terry. Unfortunately, the largest obstacle are State regulations which do nothing to encourage business development.

        The complaints should not be focused on the City level, but at our representatives on Beacon Hill who have contributed zero back to the Berkshires. Try to run against any of those toads and you are asking to have your character defamed.

        For example, TFB promised fiber internet during her campaign and in her debates. Dan should remember – it’s the technological linchpin that he did not address in the debate – but today she has turned her attention to taxing drivers. Apparently, high speed networking is not so important afterall.

        Good luck integrating with Albany when you cannot sustain 24-7 high speed activity.

        • levitan
          September 27, 2013 at 7:01 am #

          I stand corrected, with apologies. The Pittsfield State Rep debate was not moderated by D. Valenti.

          • danvalenti
            September 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

            Depends on which one. I’ve done several of them. THe one with TFB. No.

    • danvalenti
      September 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

      Thanks, NBI. Good response.

  8. Scott
    September 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Atticus definitely did not encourage Scout Finch to actually wear another person shoes. He was figuratively speaking. My favorite part was when he told her no one is better than anyone else. What a powerful message and virtue to pass along! A little virtue would go a long way in Pittsfield…

  9. Foxy Lady
    September 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    DV I have felt the same way about “walk a mile” for some time now. What woman wears red pumps with 4-inch heels? Only hte one the men make up in their fantasies. The entire event is a farce. Only you have the courage to reveal the truth about it, good for you. I am writing in your name for mayor.

    • Tim Bartini
      September 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

      Sorry Dan I walked and PFD raised over $ 1000 dollars for a great cause. Too bad you weren’t there you would have seen the largest participants ever. Too bad you didn’t participate

      • danvalenti
        September 23, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

        TIM
        Don’t be sorry. The Cause? Great. We agree. All the more reason not to make it a freak show … but I guess this is Pittsfield. You have to dumb it down and demean it to pull it off.

    • danvalenti
      September 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      FL
      So right you are.

    • allthesame
      September 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      So am I: i will be writing dan’s name in for Mayor and yes the red shoes is a joke. I was wondering how many of these men that wore the shoes have salp a female around.

      • allthesame
        September 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

        I meant slap around.

  10. Dennis O'Keefe
    September 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    The Dollar General stores are a scourge, and are popping up around the Berkshires like weeds. The chain, underwritten by the mammoth hedge funds Bain Capital and KKR, provides crap jobs and sells crap products to people who simply do not need them.

    Now, these hedge funds are run by smart people, and they see opportunities to make serious money off the backs of the lower income strata in the Berkshires, which is why these are popping up in Adams, Pittsfield, Cheshire, and other towns with substantial low income populations.

    If construction of these pathetic little box stores passes for progress, we’re doomed.

    • Evian
      September 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      Dennis you called it corretly, we’re doomed.

    • Tim Bartini
      September 23, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      Bain Capitol. = Mitt Romney = K B Toys Wow!

      • danvalenti
        September 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

        TIM
        Good one. I would modify it thusly: “Bain Capital” = Mitt Romney = KB Toys = Bankruptcy = Screw the grunts = Reward the Suits.

  11. Evian
    September 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    “correctly.” sorry.

  12. Dave
    September 23, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Dan, please see if you can get an interview with Brian Holloway regarding the recent events regarding his house in Stephentown. I almost vomited when I read the article with the headline “Teens’ parents may sue Holloway” The kids who broke into his house and destroyed it and then tweeted about it are “suffering from anxiety and depression” due to Mr. Holloway trying hold people accountable. WOW, just when you think it can’t get any worse.

    • danvalenti
      September 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Good idea.

  13. Concerned Citizen
    September 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    I am by no means a Bianchi apologist, frankly I’m less than impressed but I have a hard time blaming Dollar General on him. I feel the last 10-15 years in Pittsfield have been like a hand of Texas Hold’em. We put all of our chips down on the flop (arts and culture) to bid time hoping over time some manufacturing would come back to Pittsfield (the river.) I think everyone needs to have a reality check of what our location and population and can support that is in line with national trends. a GE type like manufacturer will not be coming to town. If we leveled the playing field for businesses who are already in town and not bend over backwards to attract someone new we might get somewhere. If we give the people who are already here and have been supporting the community over the years a break we might do better than thinking a silver bullet is out there that will save us. I love Pittsfield and want to see it thrive, I just think this town needs a dose of reality

  14. danvalenti
    September 23, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    CC
    We aren’t blaming Bianchi for Dollar Stores, but we are blaming him for not taking action that would have helped rather than perpetuated the loser economy that makes dollar stores “necessary.”

  15. Jonathan Melle
    September 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    July 31, 2013

    Re: My synopsis of Dan Valenti’s blog on Pittsfield politics

    Dan Valenti bitches and moans about Pittsfield politics every weekday on his blog. The following is a synopsis of what Dan Valenti vents about. In Pittsfield:
    * Taxes are very high with a weak tax base
    * Tens of thousands of people have left Pittsfield and Berkshire County over the past several decades
    * Pittsfield and Berkshire County is the #1 place in Massachusetts for job loss
    * There are more people on welfare assistance than have private sector jobs
    * Teen pregnancies and welfare caseloads double the statewide average
    * The public school system is overpriced and underperforming
    * Tens of millions of dollars were spent on North Street and the dowtown area is still dead and place to avoid especially after hours
    * Crime, drugs, violence, gangs are real problems
    * The Good Old Boy network runs Pittsfield politics and serves the special interests instead of the common good
    * The Good Old Boys consist of multi-generation, inter-related Pittsfield families that derive from two camps: the Del Gallo political machine and the Wojtkowski political machine
    * Pittsfield’s finances have many millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities or debts that today’s Pittsfield politicians are not adequately addressing
    * Pittsfield has gone into state receivership before after the Doyle administration debacle and may go the way of insolvency like the Detroit bankruptcy
    * The number one employer in Pittsfield is the City of Pittsfield
    * Thousands of local residents work for the city government and the public school system
    * Many people and entities, such as the labor unions, depend on the system and control the Pittsfield politicians
    * After the public payroll patriots, non-profits, such as the Hospital, depend on taxpayer dollars and employ thousands more Pittsfield residents
    * The above vested interests make Pittsfield unaffordable to the little guy (the “Kapanski” family) who is not politically connected to get a city, school, or non-profit job
    * Pittsfield needs new Pittsfield politicians who will take on the special interests to regain control of city finances
    * PCBs left behind by GE have polluted Pittsfield’s air, water, and ground
    * Thousands upon thousands of Pittsfield residents have suffered through and died of cancer caused by Pittsfield’s toxic waste PCBs
    * GE left Pittsfield behind for Wall Street

    - Jonathan A. Melle

  16. MrG1188
    September 24, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    Someone above, I believe Terry, mentions proximity to Albany as a positive for potential manufacturing/industry growth. I couldn’t agree more. Albany is the epicenter of a potential “industrial revolution” with nanotechnology on a scale unseen since the first industrial revolution over a century ago. Berkshire towns are, as a rule, far too parochial; often shunning collaboration to go it alone. Some regional planning here, along with some collaboration with companies in the Albany area and some hard work with nanotech companies could help get all of us a piece of this pie.

  17. Giacometti
    September 27, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    MrG1188…are you dreaming…students graduating from our schools in Pittsfield have the ability to say one thing and only one thing…” Would you like fries with that ? “…In Pittsfield… it’s a no no for nano.

    • levitan
      September 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      Tech jobs are not shopping High School grads, Giovanni. One could, if State Reg’s, regional resouces permitting open a high tech venture and bring qualified work in from Springfield and Albany and others remote.

      The high school grads will still need to go to school college and get some work experience before the service work dues are paid.