FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: PLANET RECOMMENDS VOTING DOWN PROPOSED CHARTER REVISION … plus … WARD 6 DEBATE SLATED FOR OCT. 23, KROL vs. NICHOLS (uh, maybe) …KROL ACCEPTS WITHOUT CONDITIONS, BUT NICHOLS IS PLAYING HARD TO GET
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, OCT. 10, 2013) — The campaign trail is funny. It can bring out the best in some, the worst in others. It rarely performs in neutral.
In Pittsfield, there is what one may term a “sleepy” ballot. The mayor’s “race” features — though trust THE PLANET on this, it’s not really much of a “feature” — an unopposed incumbent. There is an agitator named “Dan Valenti” who’s making noise about a write-in, but basically, that race is toast. The at-large race is somewhat interesting: seven candidates, three of whom are incumbents, vying for four seats. They are Barry Clairmont (I), Melissa Mazzeo (I), Church Cotton (I), Donna Todd Rivers, Mark Miller, Kathy Amuso, and Jim Conant. Amuso and Conant are finishing up terms on the school committee. Rivers is a former city solicitor and personnel director. Miller used to own the Berkshire Eagle.
In the wards, it’s Christine Yon (I) versus Lisa Tully in 1, Nick Caccamo versus Richard Latura in 3, and John Krol (I) versus Joe Nichols in 6.
Also on the ballot, voters will decide whether or not to approve a new charter. THE PLANET will not be making any endorsements in the other races at this point, but we shall quickly tell you what we think about the charter. THE PLANET recommends that voters reject this charter, on a couple of grounds:
(1) It will extend the mayoral term to four years (effective in 2016) and
(2) It will pay members of the school committee.
As for (1), all things being equal, a four-year term makes a lot of sense. In Pittsfield, however, all things are not equal. All things are tilted in favor of the GOB, The Suits, and the Special Interests. They are tilted against Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, We The People, and The Little Guy. The present two-year term for mayor at least give people the possibility of making a change in two years time. As we’ve seen this year, sometimes it’s little more than a theoretical possibility, but it’s a possibility nonetheless. THE PLANET recommends preserving that possibility by rejecting this charter revision.
(2) Again, it other times and space, dates and places, it might make perfect sense to pay the school committee. They ostensibly rule more than 70% of Pittsfield’s municipal budget, an amount well over $90 million. But this is Pittsfield, and, other than Terry Kinnas, the city has for a number of years now been saddled with a Sad Sack school board that sides every single time with the Administration and the teachers’ union to stick it to taxpayers. The vested interests get more money, even as product quality declines. Taxpayers are required to keep their mouths shut and pay the bill. Until the school committee takes its fiduciary responsibility seriously and begins to insist on accountability within the PSD, it would be throwing money away to pay them.
THE PLANET shall save comment on the races for another day, except for Ward 6, Krol versus Nichols.
There’s a story brewing in this race that is at once a big story (given the claustrophobic confines of Pittsfield’s dysfunctional politics), and at once it is a petty story, as petty as the most Lilliputian political mind could dream.
THE PLANET has to run in a moment, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version: The West Side Steering Committee contacted the candidates, Krol and Nichols, about setting up a debate. What happens next is a matter of, well, debate.
Nichols claims he agreed. He said that after this agreement, he heard nothing for two weeks, before being told there would NOT be a debate, after all. Nichols implied that Krol didn’t want to debate him in that forum and used his position on the steering committee to squash the debate.
THE PLANET contacted Krol, and he vehemently denied the accusation, calling it “a bald-faced lie.” The minutes of the meeting where the West Side Steering Committee discussed this confirm that Krol showed enthusiasm and encouragement for having the debate. Board members Jane Winn, Vickie Kane, Linda Kelley, and Judy Gittleson confirmed this as well, as did at-large candidate Kathy Amuso, who was present at the meeting. Thus, the record supports Krol and disputes Nichols claims.
In any case, the steering committee decided not to have a debate, saying there wasn’t enough time to get the word out.
Into the breach stepped THE PLANET. We contacted Krol and Nichols and offered to moderate a debate on PCTV. Both agreed. Cool, right?
Krol agreed without conditions. Nichols then added a stipulation: He wanted podiums, saying he had a bad back and needed to stand not sit. THE PLANET wanted and still wants to keep it as simple as possible: Two chairs for the candidates with the moderator roving with a wireless mic. We compromised on bar-type stools, which would allow for sitting or standing, as the candidate wishes. THE PLANET hates podium because they are too formal and stilted, and they give a candidate a place to hide in and an object to hide behind. Podiums also cut off the candidate from the camera, which is to say, the TV viewer.
Yesterday, we started hustling, visited PCTV, made some phone calls, and did 95% of the “t” crossing and “i” dotting to make a live, televised debate happen. Dave Cachet of PCTV was great and as accommodating as one could ask, given the late and impromptu nature of our request. We came up with a debate date of Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. It would be broadcast live and taped for later re-broadcast.
With 95% secure, we contacted each candidate, telling them it was on.
Today, we received e-mails from Krol and Nichols:
Krol wrote: “Sounds good to me. It’s on my calendar.” That’s a dream response for a moderator and producer of an event like this — a candidate who wants to “let it happen,” who’s ready to rock and roll, and who doesn’t need high maintenance.
Nichols wrote to THE PLANET this morning:
I thought this would be easy for you to put together with the idea of recording it ASAP rather than with less than 2 weeks remaining before the election. The format you chose is completely unacceptable to me. I thank you Dan for trying to pull something together after learning that there would be no debate at Conte Elementary School as originally planned.
I wish both of you the best and I’ll see you on the campaign trail.
This came out of left field. Personally, we respect whatever Nichols decides. Professionally, it’s the people of Ward 6 who will be cheated if Nichols doesn’t come around to reason.
THE PLANET has had subsequent communications with both Krol and, especially, Nichols, to try and save the event. Krol has made it clear: He will debate Nichols, no conditions. It’s up to Nichols now to accept. We have asked him what conditions, specifically, are “completely unacceptable.” We are waiting his response.
In any case, until we decide otherwise, THE PLANET will conduct a debate on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. from the PCTV studios. There will be two chairs (or stools). One will have John Krol in it. The other will have either Joe Nichols or a potted plant.
It’s up to Nichols now.
THE PLANET thinks if Nichols wants to have a chance at winning, he will show up. If he wants to secure his loss prematurely, he will let the plant to the talking for him.
More on this developing story as we get it.
Oh, the joys of politics in Palookaville.
“I follow the women wherever they call.” — E. A. Robinson, from “John Evereldown,” (1897).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL