AT-LARGE DEBATE /slash/ SNOOZEFEST: WHEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT THING TO HAPPEN IS SEEING JONATHAN LEVINE BACK ON HIS FEET … plus … WON’T SOMEONE IN OFFICE COME FORWARD AND HELP PASTOR IN KEEPING HOMELESS PEOPLE FROM FREEZING THIS WINTER, SINCE MAYOR BIANCHI WON’T?
By DAN VALENTI
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.
WHO WILL STEP FORWARD AND HELP AVOID NEEDLESS HUMAN SUFFERING?
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.