PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, FEB. 11, 2014) — Sifting though the information provided by Office of Community Development director Douglas Clark, THE PLANET reveals a fact that many discussing the MBTA contract for railcars seem to have overlooked.

This is for assembly work, not manufacturing.

If the company that wins the bid chooses the Berkshires or Pittsfield to house its facility, it won’t be to manufacture. It will be to assemble. There’s a vast difference between the two. Manufacturing facilities mean investment, usually in the multimillions, for the machinery needed to produce components. All this business property is taxed, meaning good things for city coffers. Manufacturing in the 21st century requires a highly qualified, trained, and educated work force.

Assembly work, on the other hand, is piece work. It generally requires little investment in machinery or facilities. The work can be done by almost anyone, usually for low wages. It’s sometimes the kind of work than can be done by the developmentally disabled, people we used to label with the unsatisfactory epithet, “retarded.” Fortunately, we no longer employ that word, showing that at least some progress has been made in Pittsfield.

From Clark’s report: “While the RFP requires that the final assembly of the rail cars be in Massachusetts, much of the production may occur elsewhere. … [C]ompanies with existing manufacturing capabilities in New York may only do the minimum amount of assembly in Massachusetts as required by the RFP.” Those lines form the “smoking gun” in Clark’s report. If Pittsfield gets the contract, it will be for assembly, and most likely for “the minimum amount.”

Pittsfield wants to give away $2 million for that?

And what are we to make of the contract for the job, reported to be between $850 million and $1.3 billion? It looks as if the bulk of that work — the manufacturing — will go elsewhere, likely out of state. That would reduce the Pittsfield end of the overall pact to pennies on the dollar. Clark doesn’t identify the nine companies interested in the MBTA job except to say that “all of these companies are large or multinational corporations.” Translation: Pittsfield, if it gets anything at all, will get the dregs of this contract.

Why else are these companies hedging so much on their requirements? If they had big things planned for Pittsfield, wouldn’t it have provided much more than the sketchy information Clark passed on to the City Council? Clark, with the blessings of PEDA‘s Corydon Thurston and Mayor Dan Bianchi, could only write in his report: “Until a company provides us with specifics, we are limited in the amount of information we can provide at this time. None the less [sic], it is clear that this project could have an enormous beneficial impact on Pittsfield’s economy.”

Is it? “Clear” to whom? Just because Clark & Co. claim it “could” be a good thing we are supposed to believe him? The city council’s economic development subcommittee did, voting unanimously to approve Bianchi’s request for $1 million of your money. Clark’s report to the council has no hard data to back up his claim that this contract “could” be worth it. The simple retort to “could,” of course, is that “it could not.”

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THE PLANET has scrutinized the OCD-PEDA-1Berkshire-Mayor information, and we’ve gleaned these other pearls:

— Currently, Clark says, “only one suitable site [for the assebmly work] has been identified in Pittsfield.” That’s the 125,000-sq.-ft. slab foundation where Building 42 used to be. Interesting, he says that “to avoid remediation, the parcel would be leased by PEDA to the company …” There appears to be a bombshell here. “Remediation?” In this sentence, Clark seems to be admitting the major reason why, after 16 years, PEDA has been such a flop. Any company looking to build and own there would be in for “remediation” issues. What board of directors would let a company get into that can of “R”?

— The company would be given a tax break. But of course. Real-estate taxes would be phased in “over a period of five to twenty years,” Clark writes. The company would also be “exempt from the personal property tax.” Perhaps Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski can apply for such an exemption based on their decades of paying their taxes, keeping their properties clean, and not daring to bother city officials, an activity they accede to the loudmouths, the squeaky wheels, and those looking for a handout.

— Clark says “The amount of future water and sewer fees cannot be quantified based on historical data.” Again, an utter lack of information normally required to make an educated and informed decision on a $2 million giveaway.

— Clark claims an estimated “total local investment of $25 million.” He provides not one number or one line of hard data to support that claim.

— “We have asked 1 Berkshire [sic] to provide a more detailed estimate of the economic impact to the region. This analysis will be forwarded when available,” Clark writes to councilors. THE PLANET would ask: How objective an analysis will 1Berkshire provide, when it has a direct stake in paining a rosy, “moons-in-June” scenario, if for no other reason than to justify its dubious hold on the public dollar.

Clark’s five pages of analysis detail what appear to be adequate protections if a company moves to Pittsfield and leaves early, doesn’t maintain at least 100 jobs, or hits insolvency.

It looked like Clark’s hastily put-together report, however, was the best he could do under “hurry-up” conditions. To bulk up the look and feel of his pages, he attached 23 pages from 1Berkshires “show-and-tell” report given earlier, at BCC; a five-page sample contract; and seven spreadsheet pages of PEDA financials. It looks like Clark realized his five pages would look rather puny, and so, like Hans and Franz, he decided to “pump it up.”

The “hurry-up offense” with which the city has pursued this opportunity — one that loses its luster the closer one looks — recalls the manner in which Pittsfield has handled other dreaded “economic engines” —$750,000 for Workshop Live, for example, or $1.1 million for the Beacon Cinema.

Anyone care to guess when Dr. Marvel’s Wonder Elixir Inc. will be coming to town, asking for $1 million?


“The crow looks rusty as he rises up. / Bright is the malice in his eye. // One joins him there for company, but at a distance, in another tree.”Wallace Stevens, “No Possum, No Sop, No Taters.”




  1. dusty
    February 11, 2014 at 2:00 am #

    Speaking of the Beacon Theater Complex, are they paying any taxes yet? Stanley got the deal of the century with that mega giveaway of taxpayer dollars.

  2. Sparkie
    February 11, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    Tonight our illustrious City Council with give away the million bucks to Cory and Mayor Methadone in an futile attempt to land a company to do business on the PEDA site. What is puzzling is why are they going thru the motions of all of this when they have been already told there is no chance a company will come in and remediate the foundations on the site before a building can be setup.

    The sub-plot to all of this is our City Council President the Honorable Mazzie the Lap Dog has two items on the agenda that try to change council rules 7&9. These items are in response to the councilors who were smart enough to send the Mayors one line request for the million bucks to sub-committee.

    Mazzie actually wants to stop debate on issues sent to committees and not allow any more public input. My how the spots on the leopard has changed.

    • Larry
      February 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Sour grapes Christine. I guess you are no longer BILLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Christine Yon
        February 11, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

        I’ve recently been accused of being several bloggers, for the record, I don’t blog.

        • danvalenti
          February 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

          THE PLANET can attest, for the record, in triplicate, that the above is from the authentic Chris Yon. We thank the former councilor for this message.

      • Billy
        February 11, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

        Please let your issues rise and fall on its own merits,stop attacking a councilor that is no longer serving. But when she did was willing to look look someone in the eyes and say why she had a issue, not personally attack them.when she had a issue with the solicitor it was over job performance and putting the city at risk . I call that representing your city properly.

  3. Ron Kitterman
    February 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Good investigative reporting, it’s always good to listen to the B side of the 45 before you make the investment of buying the record.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

      Good analogy.

  4. Dave
    February 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Damn. I am definitely a pessimist regarding Pittsfield politics, but let’s give this until at least May 1st, when all interested companies will have made their intentions known, before we pass judgment on our chances to actually create some jobs with this money. I would much rather take a chance with a company supplying real jobs, than another cultural type project that only creates service type jobs and one high paying director job, or one that creates service type jobs and pays the developer handsomely. I know the saying once bitten twice shy, but I am glad this money is being used for a possible job creator, instead of what could have been a pile of carved horse manure.

    • Scott
      February 11, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      Yeah I think just about any job or use of the peda site is a step in the right direction even if they’re jobs for people with low IQ and barely livable wages. The problem it seems is people want to start out making big bucks there is a big entitlement problem. You don’t start out as manager at mcdonalds you start out cleaning the bathrooms and taking out the trash. So if anything these low level jobs will provide a stepping stone for those who are willing to work and move up in the world. Dan can be a pessimist at times.

      • danvalenti
        February 11, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

        I am a realist, taking the path where the facts and objective analysis lead me.

        • Scott
          February 12, 2014 at 5:11 am #

          Yes and the reality is if we want any business here we’re gonna have to dig in our pockets. What’s to say one can’t start out working there while putting themselves through school then say get a job at saibic or general dynamics? Plus I have to disagree with you on this one for the knucklehead who thinks I follow you blindly.

    • joetaxpayer
      February 12, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      Dave, must agree with that I like to see the money go to real job creation not the arts. But don’t see any reason to waste 2 million on a company that will leave once the MBTA contract is up. Remember they are coming to MA. because the contract states the cars need to be assembled In Massachusetts. We will get minuscule property tax after all there incentives and employment and duration of jobs will be less than anticipated. As Dan already stated the cars will be assembled here, if there is any delay in the manufacturing of the parts needed there will be layoffs. Rather give them 2 million if they stay after the MBTA contract is up. Forget the Alomo, remember Kawasaki Rail Co. 1991 Pittsfield Ma.

  5. chuck garivaltis
    February 11, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Little off kilter here but I’ll go with it anyway. It’s 5 p.m. and I am watching CNBC and an announcer just said., “Curling, the best of the winter sports”. Has someone gone crazy here? I think the announcer has.. Have you seen this foolishness.? It has nothing to do with the Olympic credo for thousands of years of Higher, Faster, Stronger. It has to do with weaker, fatter, cuter. And bring your broom. It won’t be long now before everyone who competes in the Olympics receives a medal for competing. We don’t want anyone to return home sad and a loser. Everyone a champion! Let me repeat, everyone a champion, no matter how mediocre.

    • Dave
      February 11, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      Chuck. could you have missed the sarcasm in his voice? I don’t know because I don’t watch cnbc, msnbc or any of the D machine channels, but your “everyone gets a medal” comment is way off because there are still only 3 winners(G>S>B). Our football is not England’s Football-to each his own. The U.S. has a curling team and I will root them on—-and the funny thing is, if you hit the bars 4 years ago, curling was what everyone was watching. Silver Lake curling leagues are forming now! lol

    • Scott
      February 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

      Chuck we can’t have peoples feelings being hurt because they didn’t train as hard as the other competitors. One plus in opting out of cable tv. Russia blah listening El Rushbo’s take on that aspect was interesting.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

      Lovely post, CHUCK. Curling is a sport like buckshot is a condiment. We would take any reasonably upright American, give him one of those curling teapots, give him two practice shots, and he could approximate this “sport’s” motions. And it’s coming: Everyone gets a trophy!

      • Dave
        February 11, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

        I am old enough where everyone did not get a trophy and the “we don’t keep score” leagues makes me want to vomit, but to equate what you deem as not worthy as a “sport”
        where there is still only 1 winner with everyone gets a trophy just doesn’t make any sense. I would bet Dan and Chuck would not score 1 point against the 5th alternate team for the U.S. in curling. Wait, they would need 2 sweepers cause they probably never swept in their lives.

        • MrG1188
          February 12, 2014 at 8:46 am #

          I resent this trashing of Curling. Certainly it is not a “sport,” but then neither is archery or shooting a rifle and no one seems to complain about those in the Summer Olympics. For the record, and now this is WAY off topic but I think it bears discussion, I have come up with 3 classifications of competitive events: SPORT: a competition with Objective scoring and for which substantial athletic ability is required. If you can smoke or drink beer while doing it…it ain’t a sport and that includes curling, bowling, darts…golf, etc. GAME: a competition with Objective scoring which may (or may not) require skill, but not necessarily substantial athletic ability. All of the above mentioned fall into this category. And finally, ATHLETIC ENDEAVOR: a competition with Subjective scoring which also requires substantial athletic ability. These include figure skating, synchronized swimming, all the trick skiing events, heck even ballroom dancing I guess. I think we can characterize anything very appropriately in these categories.

  6. We Love Pittsfield
    February 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    Good work on fereting out the rail car deal DV… I think your analysis is right on target.

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

      Many thanks. We are the only media outlet that bothered a line analysis of Clark’s documents.

  7. Nota
    February 11, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    Attention Councilor Lothrop. Council President Mazzeo is addressed Madame President, not Chair? Have some respect!

  8. Bill Sturgeon
    February 11, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    45 rpm records – “Bro” you are telling everyone how old we are getting to be. My father made me turn the Beatles off. I had to to my friend house to watch the rest of the show.

  9. Nota
    February 11, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    Was impressed with Councilor Krol’s impassioned plea with the traffic situation at Center Street, good job John. With that being said, I was behind a patrol car on Onota St tonight as a bus had red flashing lights, and low and behold, a car going south did not stop for said bus. I was aware of this, and flashed my high beam at this car, all the while the officer in front of me did nothing. This was not to far from the new traffic lights at West Union. What gives?

    • danvalenti
      February 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      The officer should have gotten on his radio and sent an alert for the dope who “ran” the bus.

    • Scott
      February 12, 2014 at 5:17 am #

      He was either on his cell phone or surfing the net on his laptop maybe both. Ahhhh duh we have some excellent police officers here in Pittsfield but there’s a couple that I think are brain dead.

  10. amandaWell
    February 11, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Curling is for girls with a hair issue!

  11. amandaWell
    February 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    There is about to be a very telling vote on a petition by Council President Mazzeo, the vote has not been taken yet, but it is very clear that factions do exist, and we are about to see this.

  12. Nota
    February 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    Don’t look now Mandy, but Council President Mazzeo has command of the bible, Demeters and that’s all she needs. so, Lothrop can struggle, and talk about making sausage, you have no power anymore boys, Mel Mazzeo Rules!

  13. amandaWell
    February 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    ait until the Planet gets a gold of tonight’s C ity Council Meeting, CareBare just called a charter objection and are currently in recess, should be interesting.

    • C.J.
      February 11, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      Please explain, What exactly is a “charter objection”, at a Demeters and/or council’s own rules governed meeting ? Just confused.

  14. amandaWell
    February 11, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Low is not the President of this City Council and should ask the President to speak when he has something to say, one Gotcha is enough in this City, Low.

  15. Billy
    February 11, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    I think tonight’s meeting looked like it came out of the George Orwell 1984. novel.i have never seen more scripted phony debate in my life this was truly what non transparency looks like. Councilor Mazzeo doesn’t want debate,she wants to be able to give the mayor what he wants ,when he wants with the delusion of a true debate on the issue. That’s why they have sub committees ,so issues and lose ends are solved there not during the council meeting itself. I have never seen so many dumbfounded people after the charter objection.I think it was quite obvious who has a grip of the rule book and it’s not the president or vp,they looked clueless. The solicitor was even scrambling though papers with Mazzeo and Connell it did not look good

    I also think Morandi statement saying he serves the people of his ward was hilarious because he is like a six foot parrot repeating what the mayor or one of the magnificent seven say,he doesn’t. even attempt to put it in his own words. I hope i see him argue a point on his own and take of the training wheels.

    I think we are witnessing. ” big brother” government in action. If you can’t win a issue change the rules and control the discussion itself. this is very un healthy government . Scary stuff!!

  16. Sparkie
    February 12, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    Billy you are dead on with your observation.