MEDIA FLOGGING MAKES WEATHER WIMPS OUT OF TOO MANY or GOOD GOSH! IT SNOWED. IN THE BERKSHIRES. IN JANUARY. … plus … CITY SWEARS IN NEW GOVERNMENT MONDAY — CACCAMO’S LEGAL RIGHT TO SERVE STILL IN DOUBT; MAZZEO, CONNELL TO BE NEW PREZ & VP; MAZZEO CLARIFIES HER POSITION WITH RESPECT TO ‘ELECTIONGATE’
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JAN. 3, 2013) — First and most importantly, happy 93rd birthday to my beloved dad! I visited yesterday, and he was outside, sweeping the back stairs of snow! The toughest, gentlest man I’ve ever known.
Weather. It happens in the Berkshires, but you wouldn’t know it for the panic induced by the media and eagerly consumed by a gullible public becoming more and more hypnotized by its fancy little techno-gizmos. By 5 p.m. yesterday, less than three inches of snow had fallen, and yet —
— The governor called a press conference to declare a statewide mergency.
— Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York State essentially closed all public offices.
— The school declared closure the day before that!
— Even the Dreaded Private Sector bought into the insanity. THE PLANET was out and about yesterday, driving to fit the conditions (that is, sensibly and therefore safely), and discovered that Barnes & Noble bookstore at Berkshire Crossing had locked up at 1 p.m. “for the consideration of its customers.” What B.S. If customer consideration played a part of it, the store would have remained open. We will never buy another book there again. From now on, it’s Amazon Dot Com.
Our relatively recent weather mania can be easily explained.
Follow the money.
Every media outlet that includes weather as part of its mix has learned how to make money off of induced hysterics. The internet, the Weather Channel, local radio, and the newspapers know that if they flog the weather into something it’s not, people will keep tuning in. That will drive advertising. Fan the flames, predict disaster, and people will keep checking in — even when the storm is a dud, as yesterday’s was, and even when it continues to give us a “weather event” we would have hardly mentioned only a few years ago.
Here’s a little poem we composed for the occasion:
“THE SHOCK! IT SNOWED, IN THE BERKSHIRES, IN JANUARY”
Since meteorologists now declare
That clerks and people must prepare
To doubt if snow in the Berkshires ever were,
To say that cold is a new local scare,
To argue, through a solid stare,
That all the weather happening here
Must induce panic and solicit glare —
Since all that, am I common sense’s only heir?
Not to let a little snow muss up my hair?
All weather-watching I now forswear.
I’ll read, instead, my Compact Voltaire.
Fall for it you wish, folks, but here on THE PLANET, it’s an eternal 72 degreesF and sunshine.
MELMAZ SHALL WIN COUNCIL PRESIDENCY; CONNELL WILL BE HER PICK FOR VP
On Monday at 10 a.m., Pittsfield new city government takes the oath. There will be at least a couple of interesting events. First, Melissa Mazzeo will be elected new council president. She will tap Ward 4 councilor Chris Connell to be her VP. Second, Nick Caccamo will be sworn in as new Ward 3 councilor. He will be illegal and ripe for challenge. A reading of the new charter makes it clear: Caccamo, as a man who hold another municipal paid position, will stand in violation of the city’s new rule book.
First, a discussion on the election:
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The Second Election isn’t far away. It takes place on Inauguration Day, in the council chambers at city hall, after the newly elected government gets sworn in and Mayor Dan Bianchi finishes his halitoxic speech about how great everything is and will continue to be.
In its first act of business, our Right Honorable Good Friends on the new city council — From the wards, respectively from one through seven: Lisa Tully, rookie (R); Kevin Morandi, incumbent (I); Nick Caccamo, R; Chris Connell, I; Jonathan Lothrop, I; John Krol, I; Tony Simonelli, I; and At large, Melissa Mazzeo, Barry Clairmont, Churchill Cotton, all I; and Kathy Amuso, R — will take its first vote. At stake, the council presidency.
Since THE PLANET last reported on upcoming Second Election, not to be confused with the Second Coming, the dynamics have changed. The story has changed three times now. Now (and we think finally), it appears that it will be as we first reported: Mazzeo vs. Lothrop. This after Lothrop all but took himself out of the running. Well, he will vying for votes.
What happened? What made Lothrop change his mind?
We contacted J-Lo, who revealed that two weeks after the election, he met face-to-face with the mayor. The Ward 5 councilor said he reminded Bianchi of something the mayor-elect told him in 2011, shortly after the mayor narrowly defeated Peter Marchetti for the city’s top executive post.
“Dan told me he hoped I would run for council president,” Lothrop said. He said, ‘You would be the best choice.'” J-Lo said that when he met with the mayor in mid-November last year, he reminded Bianchi of that statement under the logic of what was true two years ago would hold water today. Lothrop said the mayor brusquely disagreed and ended the meeting.
So much for statesmanship, diplomacy, rapprochement, burying the hatchet for the overall good of the city. It Lothrop’s account of the meeting is accurate, and we have no reason to doubt it, the mayor buried the hatchet all right — directly into J-Lo’s back. We tried to reach the mayor, but he didn’t return our calls.
J-Lo’s intent was an attempt to heal the growing factional political rift in city government that has had dire consequences for citizens and taxpayers of Pittsfield. Following his meeting with and rebuff by the mayor, Lothrop said, and after thinking more about it, he decided to challenge Mazzeo for the presidency.
“You have to be true to yourself,” he told THE PLANET.
An analysis of the likely vote shows Lothrop will most likely go into the presidency vote as the underdog. Let’s do a speculative tally:
Mazzeo can count on Tully, Morandi, Simonelli, and her own vote. These seem certain. Lothrop can count on himself, Krol, and Clairmont. That puts it at 4-3, Mazzeo.
What of the remainders, Caccamo, Connell, Cotton, and Amuso? These are less certain, but here’s how we read it. Mazzeo will pick up Amuso, with Lothrop bagging Caccamo. That would put the vote 5-4. Thus, under this scenario, the vote will come down to Connell and Cotton.
With Connell being offered the council vice presidency, as THE PLANET believes will happen, Mazzeo has his vote. That will be the clincher. Cotton should follow suit. Final vote, as we are predicting: MelMaz 7, J-Lo 4.
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OBJECTIVE READING OF NEW CHARTER SHOWS CACCAMO CANNOT LEGALLY SERVE IN WARD 3
The new charter took effect on Nov. 18. Caccamo’s terms of service as councilor begins the moment he takes the oath on Monday. Prior to that, he was an ordinary citizen. Our checks with both the state’s AG and Secretary of State confirm our reading of the law. You don’t have to be a lawyer. All that you need is the ability to read and a little common sense. Trying to shoehorn Caccamo into “legality” will not survive a challenge, which could come at any point during the upcoming two-year term.
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THE PLANET sat down at length with Mazzeo to talk about several matters, including out reporting of “Electiongate,” where she, Mayor Dan Bianchi, and Pam Malumphy tried to challenge the results of the at-large election.
To sum up the bottom line, Mazzeo confirmed the essential facts of our reporting, as did Sen. Ben Downing. That’s the main takeaway. We nailed the essence of the story.
She downplayed the role Malumphy played and said that she, Mazzeo, was the key driver in wanting the city and state to examine the ballots. Malumphy did little more than “the legwork, the running around for me, since I had too much on my plate to make all the calls myself. Pam’s got a big heart, and she offered to help out.”
At issue — and we all agree on this — is the status of a ballot in which a confused voter writes in the name or names of a person or persons who are officially listed on the ballot. There were several such votes cast in the Nov. 5, 2013 election, Mazzeo said.
When THE PLANET contacted the Secretary of State’s office, they said such a vote should not be counted, based on CMR (Code of Massachusetts Regulations) Sec. 54.04(10). Mazzeo said that another CMR code contradicts that: CMR 950 Sec. 54.06(9).
CMR Sec. 950 contains the regulations of the Secretary of State’s office. CMR 950 Sec. 54 governs “Voting and Counting Procedures for Electronic Voting Systems.” Mazzeo cites CMR 950 54.06(9c), which reads:
“(c) The election officers shall read and record each write-in vote whenever the intent of the voter can be reasonably determined, whether or not the voter has omitted the address, made a mistake in the name or address, or failed to mark the vote indicator for the write-in, sticker candidate, or ballot candidate.”
The key parts: The intent of the voter must be “reasonably determined” even when the voter “failed to mark the vote indicator for [a] ballot candidate.”
To Mazzeo’s point, this appears to conflict with CMR 950, Sec. 54.04(10):
“Write-Ins. A voter may cast a write-in or sticker vote in the space provided on the optical scanner ballot … for a person not listed on the ballot …”
The two regulations appear to be at odds.
Senator Downing’s office appears to have supplied a reasonable response to this apparent conflict. Bethann Steiner, Downing’s chief of staff, wrote to Mazzeo on Dec. 2. Steiner first notes Mazzeo’s reference to CMR 950 Sec. 54.06(9c). Steiner says the Secretary of State advised her that CMR 950 Sec. 54.04(10) is the applicable statue since “it more specifically spells out the same language in the statute.”
Steiner goes on to say: “In sum, the Elections Division is advising our office that both state law and regulation dictate that if your name is printed as a candidate for a certain office on the ballot, but a voter decides to write in your name instead of filling in the circle by your name, that vote will not be counted.”
THE PLANET accepts the Secretary of State’s interpretation as definitive. To Mazzeo’s point, however, state law needs to be clarified. In our view, CMR Sec. 54.06(9c) needs to be written to conform with Sec. 54.04(10). Mazzeo said she challenged the 2013 at-large results not so much to change any results but to help clarify voting counts in future elections: “In my mind, this [challenge] was all about going forward, to the next election. Someday, a candidate will be in a race where a single vote or two will matter. I wanted this issue opened up now to clarify the same situation for the future.”
THE PLANET agrees. We urge the rewrite of 950 Sec. 54.06(9c).
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In our interview, Mazzeo made several other interesting points:
* She explained her origins as a New York Jets fan (comes from her mom’s love of Joe Willie Namath). She says she has just about every piece of Jets memorabilia ever produced. As a fan of the perennial champs, the New England Patriots, THE PLANET listened patiently and with a tinge of sympathy. She also:
* Said she first offered the council vice presidency to Simonelli. Tony wanted no part of it, she said.
* Said she would not consider Lothrop for VP. J-Lo’s name has been floated as a compromise candidate. J-Lo will oppose Mazzeo for council president on Monday. He will lose, either 4-7 or 3-8. It will be interesting to see how Caccamo votes. Either way he votes, fairly or not, he will be pegged as either anti-Bianchi or pro-Bianchi.
* Said she would be independent from Bianchi. Mazzeo says she’s not as close to the mayor as some people say or “speculate.”
* Thanked her husband, Tony, for his support and understanding in and of her political career.
THE PLANET hopes that Bianchi will follow Mazzeo’s example of open dialogue with us, not for our sake, since we don’t care one way or the other, but for We The People‘s sake — because that’s who we report to here on THE PLANET. The Special Interests and GOB have their advocates in spades. Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski have only THE PLANET to speak up for their interests.
“If I were you, I’d realize that I love you more than any other guy, and I’d forgive the lies that I heard before when you gave me no reply.” — The Beatles, “No Reply.” (1965)
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.