!PLANET UPDATE! TOBIN RESPONDS … INNOCENT QUESTIONS: DOES PITTSFIELD HAVE A SECRET ‘VIP NO-FEE PARKING LIST,’ PAM TOBIN? AND ARE YOU ON IT? AND, OH, DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE $75K PARKING STUDY? AND WILL YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ADVENTURES IN DOWNTOWN ALBANY?
By DAN VALENTI
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.
THE PLANET thanks Tobin for her reply.
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(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.
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:
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Ticket pile as big as the Ritz
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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:
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:
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.
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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.
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!
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?
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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.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.