Article

ELECTION LEFTOVERS: CHARTER BARTER, CLASS IN VICTORY AND DEFEAT … plus … MEET BRITTANY DOUGLAS

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, NOV. 12, 2013) — Cleaning out the notebook from Election Day:

* OFF THE CHARTS — In its most recent election, three out of every four of the Pittsfield electorate chose not to participate. In light of this, can anyone refer to a “democratic republic” and keep a straight face? Once again, low turnout, or should we say “suppressed” turnout, gave the election to the Special Interests, who jumped on it in the same reverse proportion to enact the new city charter. The charter shall award a four year term to the mayor, allow for automative salary increases for the mayor and city council, allow for payment of school committee members, and make the recall process more difficult for We the People. Other than that, the city might just as well kept the old one.

* CLASS ACTS — Of all the wons and losses, a couple of class acts stood out. In winning a seat to the school committee, young Josh Cutler acted appropriately excited and subdued at the same time. He celebrated quietly and did not boast or gloat. During the campaign, he eschewed lawn signs. For that alone, Cutler stood out from the pack. He also saved the bedraggled public added eye strain. In losing her bid for an at-large council seat, Donna Todd Rivers accepted the narrow loss with equanimity and grace. It impressed THE PLANET probably more than a win on her part. This kind of healthy perspective of political office is the kind citizens should encourage.

* TEENAGE DAYDREAM — THE PLANET investigated the situation with school committee candidate Brittany Douglas and her lack of appearances during the campaign. The young woman, all of 19, took responsibility for her actions and inactions. First first part of this is an interview we conducted with her. The second part of her statement for The Pittsfield Gazette.

THE PLANET: In fairness to Jim [Therrien of the Berkshire Eagle], he said he (a) called the number you left with the city clerk several times, (b) tried to find a contact, and (c) mailed you a letter (post, it sounds like). He says he also stopped by your address on Center Street. Assuming that Jim did all this, and I would take him at his word, how do you explain not getting any of his attempts to reach you?

DOUGLAS: I do believe that he tried to get in touch.  He just never succeeded.  I contacted him as soon as I could after seeing the article in the paper.  I hoped he would be able to help me.  He couldn’t.  Lesson learned.

PLANET: Was the phone number you provided the city clerk correct? Does it have voice mail? Is your Center Street address correct?

DOUGLAS: I do live on Center street.  Access to my apartment is at the top of a locked stairwell.  If he knocked on the first floor door, I wouldn’t have heard.  I haven’t checked what number is on file at the clerk’s office, but my cell number was on all my campaign paperwork, and it does have voice mail.

PLANET: Why didn’t you or your campaign manager take a more proactive stance regarding the press during the campaign?

DOUGLAS: What campaign manager?  I’m nineteen and have never run for office before.  Lesson learned.

PLANET: To whom would you assign blame for the communications mixup?

DOUGLAS: I don’t blame anyone.  Mistakes happen.  I do wish Mr. Therrien would have fixed the online article to say that I could not be reached rather than saying that I didn’t respond.  Along with the other missed opportunities, it probably would not have made much difference anyway.

PLANET: Do you intend on attending school committee meetings this year?

DOUGLAS: I will when it doesn’t interfere with work or school.  I intend to stay informed and share my opinions.

PLANET: Are you a student?

DOUGLAS: I will be starting my third semester at BCC in January.

PLANET: Do you work full time?

DOUGLAS:  I work between 30 and 40 hours a week at Big Y on West St.  I am a head cashier there.  If you ever happen by, do say hello.

PLANET: What high school did you attend?

DOUGLAS: I graduated from PHS in 2012.

PLANET: Do you intend to remain in Pittsfield or the area?

 DOUGLAS: I do.  When I finish up at BCC I want to continue my education at MCLA.  I would like to go into education or child psychology.  I have no intention of leaving the area.  I also plan on running for school committee again in two years.

PLANET: I would be glad to take anything else you wish to add.

Below is the 400-word piece I sent to The Gazette.  It tells a little about who I am and what I think.  I hope it will help you to see me as Brittany, a real person with real opinions, instead of as just “the teenager.”  Thanks for listening.
——- 000 ——-
Although I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, I attended Pittsfield schools from first grade on, graduating from Pittsfield High School in 2012.  As a relatively recent graduate, I can bring a fresh perspective to the school committee that is both timely and relevant.   Also, having supported myself since soon after graduating, I come to the table as a fellow taxpayer.  While I wish to be a strong voice for Pittsfield’s youth, I believe I can also be a strong voice of reason.   My vision is simple.

First, we must renew our focus on teaching and learning. “Is it for the children?” is not a legitimate litmus test for educational decision-making.  Rather, the essential question should be: “How does this affect what happens in classrooms?”  All policies, personnel and programs must show evidence of significant and sustainable positive effect on what happens in classrooms in order to be considered.

Next, we must commit ourselves to fiscal responsibility.  We must invest in our future, not spend it.  If we bankrupt our city, our graduates will have nothing to stay for.  One of the most pressing fiscal issues facing our city is the possibility of a new vocational school.  A new vocational school is necessary only if it truly expands opportunity; it is relevant only if it serves as a labor pipeline for our community.  Creating a new venue for old programming and/or providing skills to students only to have them employed elsewhere does not serve our community interests.  Such concerns must be addressed.

Finally, we must be fully engaged in the mission of educational improvement.   While we must celebrate and build upon the good things that are happening in our schools—and there are many, we must also address the fact that one third of our schools are in the bottom 20% of performers statewide.  We must work with the larger community to support the formation of systems and structures to address problems such as attendance.  In 2012, our school district  had two and a half times the state rate of chronic absenteeism.  Some of our most needy schools had four and five times the state average.  If students are not present, teachers cannot teach them.

As we move forward we must do so with a sense of vision and purpose.  I would like to be a part of that.  I hope you will consider voting for me on November 5th.

——- 000 ——-

Douglas impressed THE PLANET on all levels. She shows extraordinary maturity in someone so young. We hope she does as she says: Stays in the area, make her future here, and, more importantly, runs for school committee again, in 2015.

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“Get on over here, Mama, tell you everything gonna be alright, alright, alright, alright, alright.” — Steve Mattiott, Humble Pie, “Smokin’, 1972.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

16 Responses to “ELECTION LEFTOVERS: CHARTER BARTER, CLASS IN VICTORY AND DEFEAT … plus … MEET BRITTANY DOUGLAS”

  1. scott
    November 12, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I would have voted for her had I read the gazzette piece before I cast my ballott. She has a better more vision than the current mayor or anyone else on the school committe and counciler at large.

    • danvalenti
      November 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      SCOTT
      Yes. Her statement had none of the vagueness and generality you get from “cookie cutter” candidates.

  2. amandaWell
    November 12, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Planet, what about Anne’s question about Boy’s Club Director Peter Bell? Why wasn’t an explanation given by the Board of Directors.

    • danvalenti
      November 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      AMANDA
      We will have an update on the Bell situation later this week. Lots of mystery here.

  3. Ron Kitterman
    November 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Agree with Scott on her platform she also had excellent radio ads, instead of using the progressive buzz terms like together we can focusing on the collective. She addressed the fiscal problems and used the phrase I. Which demostrates a little individual responsibility. As far as the Mr Therrien it doesn’t look as though he tried very hard to make contact with her. I saw two lawn signs and it would be pretty obvious to a nose for news reporter that her residence was sporting one of the signs. We’ll look forward to seeing you in the future Ms. Douglas for sure.

    • danvalenti
      November 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      RON
      Agreed. Her statement of purpose was exemplary. It sounds as if she has already profited enormously from the hard lessons learned in Campaign ’13.

  4. Mike R
    November 12, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Donna Rivers has now used her Demon charm on The Planet as well. Too bad the Tully and Rivers team isn’t teaming up with Mazzeo to make one of the most disfunctional and incompetent city councils.

    • danvalenti
      November 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      MIKE
      Hardly. The only charm she used was the graciousness in defeat.

  5. dusty
    November 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Britanny sounds as though her talents are just what Pittsfield needs. However, it would be a huge shame to waste such vision and energy. In all sincerity I would suggest she move to an outlying district where her ambitions would be much better received and appreciated.

    More mature, educated and knowledgeable people have tried to fight the good fight in Pittsfield and wound up on the “thanks but no thanks” heap of unwanted citizens involvement.

    Brittany, if you insist on going forward talk to Terry Kinnas first for pointers on just how far your good intentions will get you.

    • danvalenti
      November 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      DUSTY
      Judging by here remarks, we won’t be seeing the last of her.

  6. joetaxpayer
    November 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    On a not so happy note Gov. Porktric given Pittsfield 1.7 million dollar grant for The Common. Yes, more money to piss away on the same park that has already received to much funding. Mayor Dan thinks this will help spur economic development. Maybe, I guess the drug dealers might sell more product in there new,improved digs. Why not invest a little money in all of our parks?

    • dusty
      November 13, 2013 at 2:03 am #

      I wonder if they will let the homeless go there. Perhaps they can put up a little shed for them to get out of the cold. I am not saying they should buy them warm clothes or provide heat with that 1.7 million dollars just a lean to or run in shed to break the wind.

      Is Krol helping out with finding shelter for the cold homeless people? I am pretty sure some of them came from his ward.

  7. outfox
    November 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I cast my vote for Brittany, having never heard of her until I read the Planet’s endorsement: “Don’t vote for the teenager”. I thought, who better to be on school committee than someone who has recently been in one of the local schools and may well have first hand knowledge of what could work? Now that I’ve seen her platform, even more disappointed she did not win—too bad there aren’t alternates!

  8. JUST SAYING
    November 13, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    This young woman sounds like a stand up type of person. She didn’t make excuses or blame others for not being involved more with the campaign process.
    She is well spoken and presents well reasoned thoughts.
    Sadly, these things will most likely get her nothing in politics.
    Ms. Douglas would likely make a great employee and future leader in a private sector company. Being intelligent and honest, I think she has little future in getting elected to office. The liars and cheaters and blamers will fight hard to keep someone like Ms. Douglas from shedding light on their doings.

  9. Terry Kinnas
    November 13, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Ms. Douglas was the only candidate who came before the School Committee at the open public mike . I did get a chance to talk to her after the meeting. She works in the private sector and I told her the school committee needs people with private sector experience. Nothing surprises me about the media.

  10. JUST SAYING
    November 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    TK- This person may be young, but from her responses to DV, she sounds like an individual who is too intelligent to deal with the BS that comes with holding office.
    Straight shooters rarely last in politics. They either leave or are forced out.