PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, OCT. 29, 2013) — The most significant moment in at-large debate-cum-slumber-party last night at BCC was the sighting of Jonathan Levine, stalwart publisher of The Pittsfield Gazette, recovering from a serious medical setback. That gives you an idea of the z-z-z-z-fest offered last night in K-111 at BCC.

Seeing Jonathan on his feet last night, overseeing the debate his newspaper sponsored, signifies that there is life yet in the little newspaper he founded in 1991, thus preserving a desperately needed alternative voice in a city imprisoned by a Soviet-bloc mainstream media. That media couldn’t be bothered to cover the debate, which is another reason why the city labors under politics more fit for the death chamber than the council chambers. It is unfathomable why the Boring Broadsheet would continue to slap its few remaining readers in the face in such a cavalier and ignorant manner. If you’re continue to pay good money for the BB and need a place to reduce your household expenses … do we have to draw you a map?

Aside from the good news of seeing Jonathan doing his thing, not much happened in an hour unequally divided among seven candidates. They were, from left to right and in ballot-order appearance: Barry Clairmont, Churchill Cotton, Melissa Mazzeo, Kathy Amuso, Jim Conant, Mark Miller, and Donna Todd Rivers. This debate followed the drumbeat of the clock, allowing one-minute answers to questions such as [paraphrased] “What do you think of the proposed new city charter?” and “How would you define economic development and what would you do to spur it in the city of Pittsfield?”

The exercise reminded THE PLANET of the Monty Python sketch where contestants on a quiz show had to summarize the seven-volume masterwork of Proust in 15 seconds. In that sketch, the three contestants, of course, fail. The game-show host, noting that none of the three “have managed to capture the deep philosophical intricacies of Proust’s masterwork” in the 15 alloted seconds, awards first prize “to the girl with the biggest tits.” That is where the resemblance between last night’s debate and the Python sketch dissolves. Awarding a debate winner on such a basis would have been a civil rights violation of the four men on the platform [ED. NOTE: The hilarious Proust sketch is available on You Tube. Watching it will, in less than five minutes, give you the flavor of the hour last night in K-111].

Asked to do the impossible of responding intelligently to complex questions in one minute, the inevitable happened. The candidates pretty much knew the questions before hand, and each had their scripts. You could see the candidates rifling through notes when moderator Dave Cachet asked a question. Essentially, you got about 92% reading from prepared statements — in other words, instead of answers that would help voters, candidates mostly delivered truncated stump speeches. The other 8% were spent this way: 5% coughing and biting nails, 2% day dreaming, and 1% speaking from the heart. To stay awake, THE PLANET couldn’t decide among No-Doz, Jolt Cola, or toothpicks. And that, my dear friends, is why, when THE PLANET designs, produces, and moderates a debate, the clock gets thrown out and viewers have a chance to see the insides of the candidates.

Allow, please, a few observations from last night’s festivities:

— Clairmont is the cream of this crop. Incidentally, he alone said he was against the proposed charter change. That alone is worth support. This is, of course, the correct position for anyone worried about the playing field tipping even more toward the GOB’s side. The GOB pushed for this new charter, wrote it, and now want it to be voted in without review. To the charter question, the rest of the panel nodded their heads “yes” like bobble dolls, following their orders like good little soldiers. Clairmont also had the evening’s N.S. statement (for “no s**t”): “I’m for improving schools.” Like, who isn’t?

— Kathy Amuso helped her cause with a relatively strong showing. Asked about crime, she said that concern for personal safety and public crime was the No. 1 issue by far that she has heard during the six months of her campaign. On PEDA, though, Amuso lost two steps. She said the city has had control of the property for only two years, using that an an excuse to let Corydon Thurston and the PEDA board off the hook. While it may be technically true in a Monopoly-like deed-transfer sense, it is not true in practicality. The moment the city signed the consent decree in 1998, all parties knew the formal transfer of the entire site was a bedrock given. “Ownership” or “control” of the property hasn’t been why PEDA hasn’t done the job. PEDA has failed because the city made it a political board, not an economic development board. It has been loaded with political hacks from Day 1, serving as a nice resting place for those looking to look good in the right eyes.

— Clairmont had the best line of the night when he stated, “Without job growth, the city of Pittsfield is doomed.” How true. He also had the evening’s second best line, saying in response to the question of how much the city council should be involved in the school department budget: “It is irresponsible to expect an unchallened [school] budget.”

— Jim Conant, on the question of PEDA, said the PEDA board needs to hire a professional development team to market the property. Say what? Isn’t that supposed to be the job of executive director Thurston and his 11-member board? The statement itself is an admission that Thurston and his team have failed miserably.

— Mazzeo offered the closest anyone got to contention when she openly challenged Clairmont assertions on a manufacturing study released Friday. As one PLANET commentator observed, she was the only one who let the claws come out. Clairmont said he had a proactive role in seeing the study produced. Mazzeo said the study was a “me-too” version of one produced by Gov. Patrick in 2011. Clairmont said no taxpayers dollars were used in the study. Mazzeo said the study cost $70,000 of taxpayer money. When Clairmont rebutted Mazzeo’s rebuttal, she could barely contain her disdain with lots of eye-rolling and head shaking. For a moment, one could have sworn we were at a council meeting.

— As for the others, Cotton needs to speak up more, Rivers needs to smile less, and Miller needs to smile more.



Politicians and business people: Who wants to be a hero?

You may have noted the emergence of an issue brought to THE PLANET’s attention by Pastor Russell Moody of the Pittsfield Church of Christ. Moody also directs the church’s Giving Garden at 826 Valentine Road. We published his letter to the editor on Friday’s PLANET after he experienced a roadblock in dealing with the city’s building inspector. Mayor Dan Bianchi played Pilate, washing his hands of the matter instead of showing some leadership.

The sad saga began a few days ago when Moody was outside in the garden, harvesting carrots. A couple living in the woods of a local city park came to him looking for help. As Moody succinctly put it, “They are homeless, and it is cold outside. We need a cot shelter and the corner office will not help.”

As one of our readers noted, it’s ironic that the city can produce $75,000 for yet another useless study on downtown parking, but when it comes to helping homeless people survive the ruthless teeth of a looming Berkshire winter, the office of Mayor Bianchi will not get involved. Why? Is it that he is unopposed on the ballot and doesn’t need votes? Is it that homeless people have no political value for him? Is that what this mayor has become? Has he become that much of a heartless, political animal?

Strictly from a person-to-person level, with nothing to do with politics, we have no doubts that Jim Ruberto, Sara Hathaway, Gerry Doyle, Ed Reilly, or Peter Marchetti (had he won in 2011) would have gotten involved and solved this humanitarian problem.

A church needs space for housing cots to help people from freezing to death, and yet, according to Moody, Bianchi will not move a finger. Ladies and gentlemen, that is why “Dan Valenti” offers his name as a write-in candidate for mayor, a place where you can put his name on the “write-in” blank as a sacrificial lamb, the “None of the Above” choice taking on the sins of the incumbent and officially unopposed mayor, who apparently doesn’t mind the prospect of homeless people freezing to death because there’s nothing in it for him politically.

Yesterday, Pastor Moody added this comment to THE PLANET, following up on the comments of other readers:

For clarification… the biggest issue is the Building Inspector’s office, which then becomes a liability issue for the city. No one is going to burn to death on their watch. A hypothetical fire trumps the reality of freezing to death. Plain and simple. There is no liability for the city if people freeze. Although good business sense, the immorality of doing nothing is overwhelming. Man’s inhumanity to man… history is filled with it.

 THE PLANET issues a call to all members of the city council — Christine Yon, Kevin Morandi, Paul Capitanio, Chris Connell, Jonathan Lothrop, John Krol, Tony Simonelli, Barry Clairmont, Melissa Mazzeo, Churchill Cotton, and Kevin Sherman … all members of the school committee — Dan Elias, Alf Barbalunga, Terry Kinnas, Jim Conant, Kathy Amuso, Kathy Yon … all state reps … and any other person of power and influence to step in and help a church get this done.
Notice we did not include Mayor Dan Bianchi. He’s already been asked, twice, and he has said no.
Pittsfield leaders must step forward and show a different face. Someone must step forward in the face of the mayor’s heartlessness.
“If it keep on raining, levee gonna break.”Led Zeppelin, (1973)



  1. Billy
    October 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    I have heard for months a steady drum beat of how this evil empire of rogue councilors was impeding the supposed success of Mayor Bianchi ever growing list of ribbon cuttings of the the previous mayors projects,science fairs, quilting bees and other such needle moving accomplishments of his administration . I tuned into the ward 6 debate last night to see a pathetic display from former councilor Joe Nichols making a assertion that in two years as a councilor that John Krol had never stepped into the mayors office .This brought a quick response from John Krol. Offering multiple times where he had been in meetings with the mayor. Not only with fellow councilors. But the State Representative as we’ll.Joe Nichols offered no apology after the proof was presented saying why would the mayor lie to me before the debate? I don’t know Joe. Ask the mayor ?

    If that wasn’t bad it was followed up by a opening statement
    From. MM. That she was telling the citizens of the city who they should vote for. And she knew what was best for them and the city. I was shocked that she spewed. That venom on fellow councilors. That we’re elected by the people of their separate. Wards, was she saying that she knew better then them? MM did not offer one accomplishmentOf her time in office Then at the end of the debate apologizedfor being negative. I woke this morning to see she continued her tirade accusing her fellow colleagues Of being resume builders and people who come to the meetings looking to attack for their own political benefit. What? Government. Is not always pretty But asking tough questions. From councilors as well as other officials including the mayor is the check and balances of good government. MM. And Mayor Bianchi chose to turn it personal because it would make them not have to answer tough questions. The Mayor and MM. Could learnFrom the teachings of. Buddha That only in Self reflection do we find the truth. Looking for the worst in others who do not share your views, But Are just as passionate in their love of the city. Reflects on you not them.

    • grams
      November 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

      Dear “Billy” (Yon) Thanks for nothing. Glad your spending time with your ” neglected family. Hope it turns out better than your Ward 1 Councilor experience. Just remember…What goes around comes around!!!!

      • danvalenti
        November 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

        We do not disclose identities of those who post under pseudonyms, as you do, but we do correct misstatement of fact. “BILLY,” who is a regular correspondent at this address, is not certainly and emphatically Christine Yon. Do not make such assertions in the future.

  2. Linda
    October 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    I agree with Billy, Nichols was lousy last night. Councilor Krol has been in mayor Bianchis office on numerous times. Councilor Mazzeo had even a worse display with her negative attacks on Councilor Clairmont. Terrible showing bu those two.

    • grams
      November 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      MM only called Clairmont out and spoke the truth. The numbers on election night gave a good example of what the people feel. I only hope Donna Todd Rivers asks for a recount. I don’t know if it’s true (reasons stated) for Clairmont being in Tyer’s office daily with blinds closed and doors closed but it would sure make me wonder what goes on behind closed doors. Could it be handkie pankie or playing with absentee ballots. I can only wonder but I sure wish I was a fly on the wall.

  3. Jonathan Melle
    October 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Pittsfield politics is failing to help the homeless. Maybe the Good Old Boy network will keep raising taxes in Pittsfield so that everyone but the rich will lose their homes. Death by freezing and taxes = Pittsfield politics!

  4. Billy
    October 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    No Jonathan
    The problem with our city we don’t see the forest for the trees. The Mayor has a deficit in leadership ability. He would rather have his allies spend their time Villianizing his opponents Instead of taking the helm of the ship and seeing a wider view rather than the narrow blinders he wears with everyone. I don’t know why he spends his time not. Building things up instead of trying to tear things down. I think if he spent half the time getting to see the good in everyone he might make a difference .

  5. TIto
    October 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm #


  6. amandaWell
    October 30, 2013 at 4:04 am #

    How many outsiders (not Pittsfielder’s) employed by the city at the administrative level, seems awfully high to me.

    • danvalenti
      October 30, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      The number is staggering.

  7. #nomorebianchi
    October 30, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    In the closing statements at the debate on Monday Melissa Mazzeo said that there are people on the council who do not work as a team and how the voters should vote those councillors out. Did it ever occur to her that maybe she is the problem ad we should vote her out. It’s obvious Mayor Bianchi has a slate of candidates running so he can do what he wants with approval if the rubber stamped council. That slate at large is Mazzeo, Miller and Amuso. In ward 1 it’s Lisa Tully. In ward 3 it’s Rick Latura and in ward 6 it’s Joe Nichols.

    • danvalenti
      October 30, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      The slate theory would conform to the known facts in this case, which would give the hypothesis some credence.

    • grams
      November 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm #


  8. scott
    October 30, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    Is Lothtop running unopposed?

  9. teecha teecha
    October 30, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus… *clink, clank, clnk*

  10. Mr. X
    October 30, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Rick Latura is his own man and would never be part of any rubber stamp. Anybody who knows him knows that he won’t ever let someone tell him how to think and act.

    • grams
      November 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      SO TRUE!

  11. scott
    October 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    So they pull mad bitch moves on big papi but the sox pull it out!!

  12. Citrine
    October 31, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Dan, please write something up urging people to vote… since the Berkshire Eagle found it appropriate to already “declare” a winner in Ward 3.

    They may have said endorse, but the comments running in is giving the candidate congratulations. Its crap like this that people read and do not bother going out to vote because our idiotic paper had a thought.

    A paper mind you that never covered ANY of the debates or had stories… Pittsfield Gazette and Iberkshires had everything

    Whomever wins wins… but I wish the paper would not discourage people and make them thing “why bother”