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PUZZLING DEBATE OVER THE DEFINITION OF “IMMEDIATE” HINGES ON POWER-ASSIGNING ROLE OF COUNCIL PRESIDENT … POWER GRAB WILL RIP ASUNDER VESTIGES OF FAIR PLAY AND THE DREADED ‘CIVILITY’ … IF YOU LIKE YOUR DEMOCRACY RAW AND ROUGH, YOU’LL LIKE WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEW TERM

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, DEC. 18, 2013) — If you tuned into the last city council meeting of November (11/26), you saw them burn an hour discussing the definition of “immediate.”

THE PLANET is a lexicon-ographer in our spare time. One of our exercises involves defining terms (writers sometimes have strange ways of having fun). One arrives at the definition of a word or term by placing that term into a classification and then differentiating the term from all the other members of the class. For example, we can define a garden as a plot of land (the classification) used for the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other domesticated plants (how the term differs from others in the class).

Thus, we would define “immediate” as “the employment of an action that must take place instantaneously or without delay.” The class is “an action.” The differentiation is in the chronology (it must take place now and not at any other time). Informally, immediate means at the earliest opportunity, promptly, or expeditiously. Simple, eh? Then again, this is Pittsfield, which for the sake of two farthings would torture syntax right along with taxpayers and honest people.

The Bianchi Administration defines “immediately” as “an action that takes place only after a long delay.”

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There’s a power play going on in Pittsfield right now that will most likely erupt like Krakatoa sometime between yesterday and in the first few months of the new term beginning after Inauguration Day in early January. It has nothing to do with the possible legal explosion if Nick Caccamo takes the oath in Ward 3.

To understand what’s going on, one must weave together these separate political strands:

(a) the new city charter, approved by voters on Nov. 5,

(b) the certification of the charter and its effective date, Nov. 18.

(c) a reasonable interpretation of law,

(d) the election of a new council president, and

(e) the manner by which the city council appoints committees.

One provision of the new charter, which were sure not 1% of the people of Pittsfield read, states:

23-(5) Immediately after the election at which this charter is adopted, the city council shall appoint 4 persons to a committee to begin a review of the city ordinances to prepare such revisions and amendments as may be needed or necessary to bring the ordinances into conformity with the charter and to fully implement the charter. The city clerk shall be the fifth member of that committee. The committee shall submit a report, with recommendations, within 1 year following its establishment and may submit interim reports with recommendations at any time; and provided, further that the city solicitor, or special counsel appointed for this express purpose, shall serve as an adviser to the committee.

THE PLANET shall mercifully leave without comment the turgid nature of the prose and ungrammatical elements, particularly as it pertains to punctuation. We will also stem our wonder that the city of Pittsfield paid an outside consultant huge bucks to practically lift Northampton’s charter, verbatim. What, no one in the IT department at city hall knows how to cut and paste? Rather, let me simply ask: What does “immediate” mean in the above-quoted item (5)?

At its Nov. 26  meeting, the city council proposed a process by which it could elect this committee. Councilor-at-Large Barry Clairmont introduced a petition requesting that his colleagues, in accordance with 23(5) of the charter, appoint the four people to the committee. He wanted to do it “immediately” at the council’s first meeting after city clerk Linda Tyer certified the vote and declared the new charter in effect eight days earlier.

Track it back. Voters approved the charter on Nov. 5. The city clerk certified the vote on Nov. 18. Common sense would tell us that “immediate” went into effect on Nov. 18. The next available, that is, “immediate,” chance for the council to appoint the committee was at the Nov. 26 meeting.

However, this is Pittsfield, and Perry Mason quivered. City solicitor Kathy Degnan gave the council her legal interpretation of “immediate.” She told a stunned Clairmont, Sherman, Krol, et. al, that “immediate” meant “after the election process is over,” which she defined as the moment when the new city council (and the rest of the government) takes the oath in January! In short, Degnan’s defines “immediate” as “taking place next year.”

What Degnan did, of course, was carry water for Mayor Dan Bianchi, who doesn’t want the Kevin Sherman-led council to appoint this committee. Bianchi wants a Melissa Mazzeo-led council to have the power, since that would put him in control through a surrogate. At the city council’s final meeting this month, our Right Honorable Good Friends did appoint Clairmont to the commission, something Bianchi did not want to happen. The remaining three members will be selected by Mazzeo, assuming she is the new council president. Her selections will then be voted upon by her colleagues, the first of what will be many 8-3 or 7-4 votes.

Many political observers say Mazzeo is and will continue to be “Bianchi’s girl.” They fear that when she becomes council president she will, like Degnan, be Bianchi’s Gunga Din, ready to do the mayor’s bidding and crush all opposition. THE PLANET does not share this view. We’re agnostic. We simply don’t know. As always, actions will tell all. We’ve had good dealings with Mazzeo in the past, and we would expect her to be “her own man” so to speak.

It doesn’t appear her showdown with Ward 5′s Jonathan Lothrop for the council’s top spot will happen. Sources tell us that Bianchi “was approached about being reasonable about Lothrop.” Bianchi turned the magi away, however, coating the cold, frankenstein, and mirth with Shinola. It does not take the fanciful among us to see the plan, only the clear, steady gaze of a dispassionate logician. Here are the key steps:

(1) Mazzeo becomes council president for Bianchi’s last term as mayor.

(2) In 2015, Mazzeo runs for mayor.

(3) The council presidency will make her the prohibitive favorite.

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 Pittsfield’s political volcano has been smoking and steaming for at least 25 years.  The rumblings are ominous. Political seismologists are predicting a major eruption — an ejecta of bitterness, disharmony, acrimony, misrepresentation, and future shock for the poor, bedraggled citizens of Pittsfield.

In the long run, it may be the best thing ever to hit the city, which has been limping along for the entirety of a lost, post-GE generation. Volcanic eruptions scorch the earth, making new growth possible. Gloves off: That’s how we like our “democracy.”

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“They flee from me that sometime did me seek, / With naked foot stalking in my chamber. / I have seen them gentle, tame and meek, / that now are wild and do not remember / That sometime they put themselves in danger / To take bread at my hand; and now they range / Busily seeking with a continual change.”Sir Thomas Wyatt, “They Flee from Me,” (1557).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

8 Responses to “PUZZLING DEBATE OVER THE DEFINITION OF “IMMEDIATE” HINGES ON POWER-ASSIGNING ROLE OF COUNCIL PRESIDENT … POWER GRAB WILL RIP ASUNDER VESTIGES OF FAIR PLAY AND THE DREADED ‘CIVILITY’ … IF YOU LIKE YOUR DEMOCRACY RAW AND ROUGH, YOU’LL LIKE WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEW TERM”

  1. Still wondering
    December 18, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    I see D.B. being around for a few more years. But you are right about who the next mayor will be.

    • danvalenti
      December 18, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      All things being equal … which they never are in The Pitts. 21015 will have major surprises.

  2. Ron Kitterman
    December 18, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    The Mayor isn’t the first one who thought of changing definitions . One of my favorites is Clinton’s “ it all depends on what the definition of is , is ? Predictions can be funny. As Peter Arlos use to say “ sometimes we make the plans and God changes them .” Imelda LaMountain found out that the city council presidency didn’t have much power at all, so we’ll have to wait and see.

    • danvalenti
      December 18, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

      Wait and see. That’s all we can ever do. Besides see and report.

  3. Billy
    December 18, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Dan
    I hope what are predicting, never comes to pass as far as the political future is concerned.Councilor Mazzeo has never showed a slight amount of objectivity in her professional demeanor and her ability to work with others inside and out of the political arena.I believe she lacks the true leader ship skills displayed by her and her cohorts actions to really accomplish anything other than to carry Bianchi’s ” water”.
    I was taught the measure of a man or women is not judged on what they say but on their actions and if those actions enrich them and their goals but not the common good. Their is a saying; 
    A lie doesn’t become truth ,wrong doesn’t become right & evil 
    doesn’t become good just because it is accepted by a majority.”
    The reason we have three branches of government is to to protect from What is happening in our city. Mazzeo should learn getting a solid block of uninformed votes Is not a mandate,Because she serves the whole city and not the mayor. I have seen this as well with the solicitor .
    If. Mazzeo doesn’t take her oath serious and show objectivity in her dealings but decides to remains a puppet. She will dis serve the city as well as the process.

    This is what our leaders have accomplished so far
    1) mayor sits on school board. ( another 165 students left this year over paid bloated underperforming schools) We our loseing an alarming amount of students due to our head in the sand mentality and lack of fiscal discipline . Throwing money at something doesn’t Fix it
    2) mayor sits on Peda. (We lost Waterstone development & Marriott 800 Thousand dollars in tax revenue. I didn’t know we were doing so well we could push away tax revenue.Lenox opened their arms and coffers
    3) They were trying to control the charter ordinance review by pushing it in to next year. By bending the rules that wereClearly set.
    4) They opposed Barry Clairmont Being on. The ordinance review. Committee cause independent dynamic thinking is not allowed with the. Stepford wives mentality we have going in the current administration.
    5) The mayor continues to pretend the huge pension liability over hanging the the city and. Crushing our tax payers.
    The Infrustructure in the city is crumbling cause. The School dept is eating up all the lions share of revenue at the expense of everything else.
    I. Would recommend they stop with their vindictiveness And thinking about their pensions. And do something constructive instead of opposing everything. Because long after they are gone people will have to live with their mistakes.

    • danvalenti
      December 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

      Lots of food for thought here. Thanks, BILLY.

  4. Gene
    December 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Great analysis DV. No one in politics or media sees more than you do.

    • danvalenti
      December 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

      Thank you, GENE. It’s not that I see more. It’s that I am not afraid to report what I see.