PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

ADD 1 WEDNESDAY, DEC. 11, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

Downtown Pittsfield Inc.’s executive director Pam Tobin, the subject of today’s posting below, responded to THE PLANET‘s questions in an e-mail sent at 2:11:31. We present it without comment or annotation:

Dan, Thanks for the outreach.

The Downtown Pittsfield executive board is aware of all of my past experiences as the Executive Director of the Downtown Albany BID.  Please know that I was not fired and chose to resign.  I am not aware of any “no-fine VIP list” in Pittsfield and I have never received a ticket.  So glad you are asking about parking in Pittsfield.  As you may know, I am a part of the work group that has embarked on a comprehensive parking plan to enhance parking for customers, business owners and visitors to assist in overall parking management for downtown.  As you continue reporting on all things Pittsfield, I will gladly send you updates on the outcomes of our work in this area.  

Pam Tobin

THE PLANET thanks Tobin for her reply.

——- 000 ——-

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, DEC. 11, 2013) — On Monday, with a brief follow-up yesterday, THE PLANET ran an article on the punishingly provincial and outright stupid ordinance the city of Pittsfield wishes to enact on food trucks. Our article included  a sample of the kind of opposition being put in the way of food trucks by Pam Tobin in her role as executive director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., among others.

PAM TOBIN: She has lots of experience with downtown parking issues.

Forget about the sheer irony of having the head of an alleged downtown booster organization fighting an idea that would actually inject more life into the downtown. That’s bad enough. Forget that Tobin’s salary and the full DPI budget comes courtesy of bedraggled taxpayers. That’s worse. Focus instead in a story from the Albany Times-Union posted in our comments section by Ed Shapardson that dealt with Robin’s previous gig in Albany. She worked as executive director of Albany’s downtown Business Improvement District. Here’s the story:

—– 00 —–

Ticket pile as big as the Ritz

Casey Seiler
Published 1:00 am, Sunday, August 9, 2009

In December 2007, Pam Tobin sat down withMichael DeMasi of the Business Review to talk about her work as executive director of the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District. The first question: What’s the biggest misperception people have about downtown?

“That it’s not safe,” Tobin said, “and there’s nowhere to park.”

Tobin, who left her post at the BID three weeks ago after 13 years, was in a particular position to know just how mistaken that impression was: There was plenty of parking in downtown Albany. You could park pretty much wherever you wanted — as long as you were part of the city’s secret system of no-fine parking enforcement.

According to a scathing report issued Friday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Tobin’s license plate and those of three other BID employees were entered on the city’s “VIP list” because Tobin and the organization’s former director of operations regularly made requests to Albany’s traffic safety division to void parking tickets “issued to their vehicles while they were conducting official BID business.”

The commander of traffic safety said he made it clear to his lieutenant that Tobin and company were only given this dispensation for official BID activities, not simply to park for free in front of the BID’s offices on Broadway.

Between February 2001 and Dec. 3, 2008 — when a shocked, shocked Mayor Jerry Jenningsended all no-fine ticketing in the wake of an investigation by this newspaper — a total of 980 no-fine tickets were issued to the four BID employees on the VIP list.

Tobin received a whopping 736 of them, which puts her at the top of the comptroller’s list of top-ticketed VIP vehicles. (Take that, unnamed “Police Vehicle,” with your piddling 585 freebie citations.)

“The comptroller’s audit points to the need for reform,” Tobin said on Friday, breaking several months of silence concerning her part in the ticket scandal. “I’m glad the mayor has accepted its recommendations.”

Asked by the Business Review in that 2007 interview how many tickets she had received downtown, Tobin said, “I don’t know. Dozens, I’m sure.” This is completely and utterly true. By the time Jennings shut down the system a year later, her tally had grown to 61 dozen.

“Do you pay (the fines)?,” Demasi asked.

“I certainly do,” Tobin said.

On Friday, Tobin explained that answer by making a bit of a clarification: “Any parking tickets that had fines attached, I paid for.”

Is it fair to single out Tobin, who did much good work during her time as head of the Downtown BID?

Yes and no.

There is ample blame to go around. The city’s shabby no-fine parking system required the silence of hundreds of people who should have known they didn’t deserve to have their parking paid for by Albany’s taxpayers.

That includes the people who designed and administered the system and the in-crowd that took advantage of it. Lee Van Apeldorn, for example, racked up 121 no-fine violations. Her husband, James Van Apeldorn, runs the city’s Parking Violations Bureau.

DiNapoli’s report found 57,420 no-fine tickets were issued, and that’s only going back to February 2001. The lost revenue to the city could reach into the millions.

So ask yourself what Tobin must have thought every time she plucked a no-fine ticket off her windshield. Did she ever wonder what life was like in downtown Albany for all those people who thought there was nowhere to park?

Casey Seiler can be reached at 454-5619 or

—– 00 —–

It shows you what a difference a crusading daily newspaper can make for the citizens of the city. Other cities may still have newspaper’s with a resemblance of balls and the gisted suggestion of gonads. Pittsfield has the Boring Broadsheet. Now, piece this Times-Union article together with two other comments THE PLANET received yesterday in response to our story on food trucks. From Russell Moody:

Hey Dan…
Great article… as a footnote, the parking study ($75,000) to tell us to be more creative in our use of downtown has Tobin’s little paws all over it. It will also affect the mobile food truck debate.

I have it on pretty good authority that Tobin was ‘relieved of her duties’ over in New York state (Troy, or Albany… i’m not sure) in the midst of a parking scandal. This is the ‘ticket’ — Tobin had hundreds of ‘no-fine’ parking tickets ‘disappear’ thanks to her connections in city government while working in a similar capacity as she does for Pittsfield.

Abuse of power and position? It would not surprise. Again, thank you for your work.

Then this one from Bill Sturgeon:


DPI’s Tobin presents a certificate to Mary McGinnis, who works for Mayor Bianchi. Gee, is it a VIP No-Fee Parking Ticket pass? Both ladies do seem pretty pleased in this picture.

That sucking sound you hear is the “Life of Local Businesses” leaving the “Downtown”! North Street can be saved, but the rescue has to start “NOW”!
I was almost rear-ended today, coming around the corner from East Street onto to North. Why BECAUSE there were two delivery trucks parked and unloading something into the old “Pop Corner’ Bank. The two delivery vehicles were a traffic hazard and they were blocking a handicap parking space. I have pictures! What’s is ironic one of the delivery truck’s belongs to a Downtown Inc. “Big Shot!! I know that the dangerous situation lasted at least an hour.

—– 00 —–

When you triangulate the Times-Union article with the comments by Moody and Sturgeon, the question becomes obvious: Is there a secret “VIP No-Fee Parking Ticket List in Pittsfield for certain GOBs, Big Shots, Vested Interests, and other Lords and Ladies who reign and deign far above the unwashed masses that pay the taxes that keep their gigs going? As you let that question sink in, think of the times that you, an honest citizen, have been hassled and abused by the apparent arbitrariness of downtown Pittsfield parking and its enforcement.

Also remember that you, the taxpayer, supply Tobin with her salary. You also pay for her subordinates and the cost of the plush new office space, conveniently located on the corner of Allen Street and Dunham Mall, a tabacky spit away from city hall. Given all this, our question — and it is just that — seems not just reasonable but urgent for the asking.

You in a good mood yet?

To keep everything above board and transparent with our readers, THE PLANET sent the following e-mail to Tobin at 10:44 p.m. Monday:

I would like to ask you some questions about the story that I have attached.

* Is the reporting accurate?
* Were you fired because of this situation?
* Did the city of Pittsfield and Chamber officials know about it when you were hired?
* When was that?
* Are you on such a “no-fine VIP list” in Pittsfield?
* If so, how many tickets have you received for which you have not paid a fine?
*Do you have a copy of that list?
* Who else receives “no-fee VIP” parking tickets in or from the city of Pittsfield?
* Do you have any role, official or not, in the parking study the city of Pittsfield is or will soon be undertaking?
* Add anything else you wish.

You can e-mail me the answers or we can do it in person, whichever you prefer.
I am working on a story now and I need to hear back from you no later than noon Wednesday. I want to make sure that I include your comments and version of events in anything I may write or broadcast.

Many thanks,

Tobin responded at 9:48 a.m. Tuesday morning:

TOBIN: Thank you for reaching out to me. Could you forward the article you were referring to.[sic]  I have several meetings today and will be back to you this afternoon.

THE PLANET answered with a “thanks” at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. Alas, the after came and went. We did not hear further from Tobin. At 6:55 p.m., we again asked for her comments so they could be included in our story. We waited all night. The “afternoon” never came!


Could she be holding a Top Secret “VIP No-Fee Parking Ticket” list?

THE PLANET will inform you the moment we hear back … if we hear back. If we do not hear back, well, we won’t make any conclusions. However, human nature being what it is, while we would never do such a thing, we know lots of folks, justifiably or not, will conclude from her silence that Pittsfield in fact does have such a VIP No-Fee Parking Ticket List and that Tobin just might be up to her old tricks.

We can’t say one way or the other about the existence of such a VIP list, but given the incestuous state of politics in the city, would you be shocked, shocked, to know one existed?

—– 00 —–

Wait, what’s that sound we hear in the distance? It sounds like — wait … — it sounds like paper shredding. We could be mistaken, but it sounds like it’s coming from the office of Mayor Dan Bianchi. Wait. … shhhh! … It seems to be in stereo. We could be wrong, but our Indian scouts tell us it’s also appears to be coming from the nearby offices of Downtown Pittsfield Inc.

And we hear a tune. It’s got a great beat. Sounds a lot like vintage Jerry Lee Lewis, but the words are different:

C’mon pretty baby, whole lotta shredding goin’ on.

C’mon pretty baby, whole lotta shredding goin’ on.

Shred it, baby, shred. Shred it, baby, shred.


“Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.”Childhood’s Rhyme.





  1. Ron Kitterman
    December 11, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    What a creative way to see the Mayor Dan, park your Prius Downtown, take a walk for an hour, return and take the $10 parking ticket in hand with you to city hall. Go to the Mayor’s office waving the ticket in your hand in front of Mary Carrot Cake and request to see the Mayor. Hey you never know…

  2. Ed Shepardson
    December 11, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    With all due respect, Ron, don’t police officers use a very discreet sticker on their personal cars that identify them as police officers, thus granting them a host of special privileges?

  3. Thomas More
    December 11, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    If such a list does exist its doubtful that Pam Tobin would be in on it. I remember an incident a number of years ago when I happened to be in city hall. Councilor Joe Guzzo appeared in a rage for being ticketed on Fenn St. while on city business. Apparently councilors are permitted to park near city hall while doing the city’s work. At the time he was cited Joe was in fact, on your radio show and not doing anything at all in city hall.

  4. scott
    December 11, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Doesnt it go without saying if you know people certain things go away? Not really a big breaking story plus all the woman has to say is she was conducting city business when the tickets were obtained. I never really have trouble parking downtown of course I dont mind a little walking if necessary. One point is the food truck people are in the truck most liky with it running (bad for the enviornment? Does Pitts have no idle zones yet?) At any rate running or not Im sure they can move pretty quickly in the event of an emergency. The impirtant story is how we live in a society that is more and more taking away liberty and encouraging begging as well as dependancy on govt.

    • joetaxpayer
      December 11, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      No idle zones are a joke. If the Country was really worried about emissions, they would outlaw all drive throughs.

      • scott
        December 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

        I know that was my pointthat’s why I’m surprised Pitts doesn’t have one

    • dusty
      December 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

      I doubt if the city fathers are worried about idling cars. If one travels from one end of the city to the other you will wait at a bare minimum ten traffic lights. And ten more on the way back. If this is your route to work each day multiply it times 5. And then add in weekend errands etc. There are thousands of cars in the city doing this each day spewing toxic gases into Pittsfield s air. And city hall adds more traffic lights each year. It is a wonder we don’t have China-like smog.

  5. Russell Moody
    December 11, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    I think your first ticket in Pittsfield is ‘free.’ So, everyone is on the take.

  6. Gene
    December 11, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    First ticket free? Even if so if such a VIP parking list exists we should know about it. Were paying for the shooting match arent we?

  7. Linda
    December 11, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    It speaks volumes that Pam T didn’t get back to you! A sign of guilt.

  8. Tito
    December 11, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Attention Pam..Don’t let all this drivel about parking get you down. almost people know that it is impractical to have to wait for a parking spot in a clustered area, like downtown. people should be cognizant that she works for the people and we can’t expect her or anyone else to park a car in a certain spot as she is all over the place.

    • joetaxpayer
      December 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

      Tito, if she not willing to park by the rules, because it is to difficult to find a spot, why the hell would anyone bother to shop downtown. From my experience, a lot of the downtown workers monopolies many of the convenient spots. That was years ago, not sure if this practice has changed.

  9. Ed McClelland
    December 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Has Ms. Tobin moved to Pittsfield, or is another of many instances where Pittsfield taxpayer cash ultimately pays for out of state or another town’s property taxes, etc. ?
    Real shame there never are any qualified public employees found in Pittsfield.

  10. Ron Kitterman
    December 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    @ Ed I think the sticker you are referring to is the MPA sticker that wouldn’t be a problem in Pittsfield though because after years of previous generations paying dues a few years back the local police union severed relationship with the MPA.
    As a result the events such as the Annual Police Association Ball have not been held for the past couple of years?

    • Ed Shepardson
      December 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Thanks Ron. That did have magical powers, though, did it not?

  11. Ron Kitterman
    December 11, 2013 at 1:39 pm #
    Concerning the no idle zones, they are part of Mass State Law.

    • scott
      December 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      Well the food trucks are exempt from the law provided the power generated from the engine is essential for conducting business. Who leaves thier car running for extended periods of tiime for no good reason anyways?

      • joetaxpayer
        December 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

        I do to piss off all the global warming disciple’s.

        • scott
          December 12, 2013 at 5:09 am #

          One time this guy was in talking actually more like complaining about his wife and how she leaves the car running in the morning for a long period of time. Then I go outside and his cars out there running. I had to go back in and call him on it. I dont know about glibal warming but a society where sustainability and the health of people takes precedent over profits would be nice.

        • Gatos
          December 12, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

          You worry about taxes but spend money on gasoline just for effect? Brilliant.

  12. joetaxpayer
    December 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Change of subject: Mayor Dan should pay for a study ( you know he loves to pay for study’s) to come up with inovated ways to cut our bloated budget. Maybe get 11 concerned citizens that live in different parts of the City. My bad, forgot about the City ( no ideas) Council. Wish they would stop wasting so much time on frivolous items and get serious about outside the box tax saving ideas. Every year the City should be preparing for the next budget, the day the following year is approved. We have to stop business as usual.

  13. nota
    December 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    Where is the DIva?

    • dusty
      December 12, 2013 at 3:27 am #

      Her misdeeds are irrefutable and in black and white in an outside newspaper. There is nothing she can say to make it better. Her only recourse is to stay in the shadows until the hubbub dies down. Time is a sleazy politicians best friend.