PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, OCT. 24, 2013) — Coming off an extremely long day yesterday, THE PLANET dares to post some initial thoughts regarding last night’s Ward 6 debate between incumbent John Krol and challenger Joe Nichols. Yours Truly moderated from the PCTV studios live from 7 to 8 p.m. Terry Kinnas served as producer, and this website sponsored an enlightening and informative exchange.

As an aside, we share something you probably don’t know. When an outside entity such as PLANET VALENTI DOT COM sponsors a political debate on PCTV, it goes to the government channel. TV requires that the sponsor obtain a producer, who must be an elected official (state rep, councilor, school board member, mayor, even congressman). That’s why Kinnas produced. Needing this sign off, he was the first official THE PLANET asked. He agreed. Also as a side note, while we were setting this up, Krol and THE PLANET both agreed that, while Krol could sign off as producer, it would be inappropriate. To his credit, Krol brought this matter up himself. THE PLANET  wasn’t intending to ask him, but it made it wasy to have that quickly out of the way

The debate was unusual in several aspects. First, after the usual speed bumps in nailing down the arrangements, the event came together flawlessly. We credit Kinnas and particularly PCTV’s Dave Cachet at PCTV for the lion’s share of that. We also credit Krol and Nichols, who showed up on time with their A games. Second, we used “The Valenti Format,” which invariably brings out the passion inherent in any campaign, especially  in a race where both candidates are savvy, experienced, and bear little love for each other. Krol and Nichols sat in chairs, separated only by a small table. There were no notes. As moderator, we had a wireless mic and moved about a bit. This tends to rivet the candidates’ focus more on the question, and we have found over the years that this technique produces better answers. Third, there was relatively little dodging of our questions. Fourth, we had a live studio audience composed of our ENG. Comp 1 students, who were there covering the proceedings as part of a class assignment. That added to the adrenaline. Fifth, unlike in so many of the “cookie-cutter” debates you have seen, viewers last night actually learned something about the candidates and their contrasting approaches to solving the many problems facing the city of Pittsfield. The format made that possible. Podiums and desks — anything which comes between the candidate and the audience — are deadly.

Who “won” the debate? The viewers. Afterward, Krol’s people naturally said he won. Nichols’ camp gave it to their guy. We are writing too soon after the event (full disclosure: We are writing this at 9:45-10:15 p.m. last night. Yes, we used the time machine again, the one we borrowed from Rod Taylor [does anyone outside of our fevered brain get the reference?]). Moderating on a live TV broadcast  requires awareness of the cameras, a duty not needed on radio. It can only be done successfully if one “zones in,” focusing only on the questions and answers from that insular and “blocked out” perspective. This produces an irony: the moderator is often the one person who doesn’t have a handle on “who won?” That can only come from viewers.

Each guy had good moments and bad. Nichols appeared to us as the more relaxed. THE PLANET received an e-mail last night that confirmed this sense. Our correspondent wrote, “The candidates did well, but Krol gives me anxiety because he seems ready to battle you.  Nichols did better than I thought he would, and he wasn’t rude toward you at all.”

Krol comes off as the more studied and “urban” of the two. Nichols resonates with more “connectivity” to the common touch. Krol has more polish and is more the policy wonk, with Nichols more home-spun in his approach to policy. Both styles have their advantages and disadvantages.

What THE PLANET liked most about this debate is how we covered a full range of issues. When we say “covered,” we mean it. Interestingly, Krol and Nichols agreed for the most part agreed on the ward’s and the city’s pressing needs (jobs, education, downtown, and the like) but they disagreed sharply on how to approach, respond to, and solve the city’s problems. If you have the chance to catch the replay on PCTV, you’ll see what we mean.Viewers were able to get a clear separation between the two. That’s why we say they were the winners.

The candidates bumped heads at the outset. We asked Krol about the letter-to-the-editor in the Boring Broadsheet from former mayor Paul Brindle, who claimed he called Krol three times about a traffic light problem in the ward and never got a response. Krol admitted not getting back to Brindle but said, bottom line, he got the light problem solved. Nichols used that as his opening to share what he says he’s hearing repeatedly on the campaign trail: that Krol does not maintain good constituent communication. Naturally, Krol disagreed.

On and on we went, talking about jobs, taxes, schools, the downtown, PEDA, issues particular to the west side, and other matters. As the debate went into its second half-hour, the candidates seemed to shift more from the head in favor of the heart. Several times, we were more than happy to step back and let them wrestle. The jousting resulted in several electric and enlightening exchanges. It wasn’t talking heads screaming at each other. It was an honest, frank, set of exchanges. Nichols had the night’s best moment when he transitioned from an issue into a vital reminder for all of us: The People own the government. The people ARE the government.

By the time we wrapped up, we felt certain that viewers came away with a much greater knowledge of the differences between these two men. They have opposite philosophies of government. To use those detestable political labels, we could say Krol is more a let-government-do-it liberal and Nichols, in a relative sense, a more let-people-alone conservative (in Pittsfield, “conservatism” can only be understood in a comparative sense). As we say, we hate those labels.

Krol cuts an almost perfect figure visually. The camera “loves” him more than Nichols. Whether that’s an advantage or not, we don’t know. We do know that both men came prepared, and both weren’t afraid to let the viewers know who they are. As we said earlier, they came with their A games.

Enough for now. More will be forthcoming, we are sure.


“C’mon kiddies. I’m ready to fight. I’ve been looking for my baby tonight, and if I get her in my sights, boom boom, out go the lights.'”Dan Dilly.





  1. Ed McClelland
    October 24, 2013 at 5:43 am #

    Agree with most of DV’s initial assessment of the debate. Mr. Krol, indeed espoused Tax without limits as the cure all for Pittsfield’s woes. In fact, he acted surprised when confronted by the city’s poverty figures. Krol also defended forcing unnecessary and expensive home remodeling as a means to “protect our investment”. Is this only for upper income neighborhoods ? Think not. He further supports unlimited and unaccountable school funding. I hate to disappoint him, but contrary to his statement that “schools are why manufacturers choose to locate somewhere”; there are many divergent factors involved, and they all finalize as bottom line costs.
    Krol also evaded reference to the Krol Coalition on the present city council. Tuesday’s vote once again displayed Monkey see, Monkey do, without any independence or objectivity.
    I’m a fixed income senior, Pittsfield born and educated. Don’t worry Mr. Krol, I’ll be thinking of you when I pay my city TAX, next Friday.
    Krol, continue to pander to the education lobby, we know your connections and still waters don’t always run deep. Opposed to your cavalier attitude; Unfunded Liabilities issues are coming.
    Oh, by the way, nice tie, John.

  2. Russell Moody
    October 24, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    wow… you were up against the Red Sox.

  3. Mike Ward
    October 24, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Thank you Dan (and Terry) for pulling this together on short notice. Dan did a great job of getting below the surface and his assessment of the different styles is apt. Krol appeared as a polished wonk who knows his policy while Nichols offered critical opinions on council debates he didn’t watch. Krol defended school spending. Nichols defended landlords. Let the voters decide.

  4. CarlosDanger
    October 24, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    While driving through Ward 6 last weekend, I noticed that the Krol signs outnumbered the Nichols signs about 10 – 1. The Krol signs were all over the upper income part of Ward 6, and the only Nichols signs I saw were in the poorer neighborhoods.
    The Ward 6 council race is a foregone conclusion. The GOB wins again.

  5. Linda
    October 24, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    I have to say as I did yesterday I thought Mr. Nichols won. He seems more in tun with the common folk such as me and my family. Mr Krol wants more taxes. Well I tell you what, we can’t afford a penny more in taxes.

  6. Ron Kitterman
    October 24, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    I would have to agree with your assesment that the viewers won, Krol supporters and Nichols supporters naturally give the nod to their candidate. Tough competion Red Sox, Dancing with the Stars, reruns of Two and a Halve men. Sad to see Johnathan of the Pittsfield Gazette still on the mend. Maybe the candidates for School Committee, At Large Council and wards 1, 3 and 6 could submit a 500 word brief on the Planet as to why they should get our vote sort of thing like the Gazette offered for so many years. Would also be nice to get the two Dans to write something up as well, just my opinion ? Think we’ll know the endorsements by the Bird before they come out.

    • skier1
      October 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Gazette will be publishing on October 31 with this information in it along with debate coverage from last Monday (Jonathan was there reporting and taking pictures) and will cover next Mondays debate also.

      • danvalenti
        October 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

        Appreciate the update.

  7. Dave
    October 24, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Dan, missed most of the debate. Did you ask them their positions on the City Charter? If so. what were their responses?
    That should be your angle getting Mayor Bianchi to have a conversation with you. Have a show on PCTV with the Mayor, who supports the changes and have perhaps a councilor who has spoken against or is leaning toward voting no.

    • danvalenti
      October 24, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      We didn’t get into the charter. I like your idea of having a special show just on the charter, although there probably isn’t enough time to do a TV show.

      • Dave
        October 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

        How about a 2 hour radio program on WTBR- Use your connection with Mr. Krol to facilitate.

  8. Nota
    October 24, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Red Sox? Up against it? The only way to miss the Planet’s forum was to watch a rerun of Consider This’, or a repeat of a Best of Sturgeon’.

    • Dave
      October 24, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Best of Sturgeon is an oxymoron

  9. Nota
    October 24, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Agree to disagree.

  10. Billy
    October 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    I would have to say Joe Nichols misrepresented that the mayor level funded the City budget.the School department got a three year contract at 3 percent a year. I know he trying to save face for a mayor that can’t defend himself.Dan can’t even get him to show up to defend his record or lack of one. I guess that’s what Joe was doing .

    • Joseph Nichols
      October 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi Billy,

      Sorry that you misunderstood what I was saying in the debate. allow me to clarify. When the mayor requested budgets from his department heads, He requested that they submit two different budgets. One level funded from the prior year and one with a 5% cut from the prior year. Hopefully that clears it up for you and the fact that you mistakenly accused me of misrepresenting.


  11. Nota
    October 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Like to know what Joe thought of the free cash’ the mayor used, also.

  12. AmandaWell
    October 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Big Pappy will meet his match in the St. Louis wonder boy pitcher,
    Watcha gonna do Big Pappy, you’re going down tonight!

  13. Dave
    October 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Just read the BB, nice article in the D section regarding the band Skillet. Gee, I remember posting something regarding this band on this site not too long ago. With everything the BB gets off this site you should get royalties Dan. If I knew how I would post a link to the song they reference “American Noise”. Watch the official video from youtube and if it makes sense to you and you know how post a link.

    • danvalenti
      October 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      Once upon a time, those royalties would have been worth it. Today, with the BB circulation plummeting, it’s hardly worth a powder to or from my barristers. Someone recently told us that THE PLANET is the only reason the BB is still publishing! A bit of hyperbole, but only a bit.

  14. Kevin
    October 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    I found the debate interesting to watch and lots of information. As a Ward 6 resident I had been undecided now I am for Joe.

    • danvalenti
      October 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      Glad the broadcast helped, Kevin.

  15. Tito
    October 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Amanda is our new good luck charm,he he he.

  16. dusty
    October 25, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    The very last thing the GOB wants is an objective open minded, public discussion about a new city charter. They know it is all about giving even more power to those in charge and even less to the people who have so little say in their city government as it is.

    The only way you are going to see Krol and the rest of the power people discuss this subject is if they can totally control the discussion. And by control that means no independent public questions. Soon you will be seeing letters to the editors of the Eagle from supposedly independent free thinking citizens touting the benefits of a new city charter. Like many of the other politically bent letters to the editors they are written by the GOB candidates and signed by neighbors or relatives. Yes it is true.

    • danvalenti
      October 25, 2013 at 7:54 am #

      As you say, the GOB doesn’t want this charter mentioned at all, until Nov. 5, when they will stuff the ballot to pass it. The charter pays the school committee and extends the mayor’s term to four years. Both are bad ideas for Pittsfield and The People. They are great ideas for the GOB.

      • Mike Ward
        October 25, 2013 at 11:32 am #

        Dan – how about a Reader’s Digest version of the proposed new charter for voters? (in your copious spare time)

        • danvalenti
          October 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

          “Copious spare time” sume it up nicely.