PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014) — Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, “They” are looking to take $2 million of your tax dollars, but “They’re” afraid of scrutiny. Can you smell a “fast one” cooking?

The economic and community development subcommittee of the Pittsfield City Council met on Tuesday night of this week to go over Mayor Dan Bianchi‘s request to allocate an additional $1 million in taxpayer money to help lure a company to the Berkshires to build railcars for the MBTA. The money would come from the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund, an account separate from what’s left of PEDA‘s $10 million it received as part of the GE Consent Agreement. For those keeping score at home, after scouring financials, THE PLANET reports PEDA has an available balance of $5,352,063.92 of the $10 million.

Bianchi appeared before the subcommittee with PEDA chief Corydon Thurston and his director of the Office of Community Development, Douglas Clark.

Since PEDA has already pledged a $1 million bribe … er, inducement … to any company impetuous enough to settle on the former GE campus, this makes $2 million of your candle money Mayor Danny Donothing wishes to dangle into the harsh winds.

A cursory look at this move by the mayor reveals a faint resemblance to action. A more objective look than merely taking the word of the mayor, PEDA, and 1Berkshire suggests more similarity to a shell game. That’s “action,” but not the kind that turns out well for citizens.

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The first honest question one must ask when evaluating the “actions” of city officials is this: Just how serious are they about landing this deal? The second question: Do they themselves believe they have a chance at the winning bid?

The answers to these questions have been forming along the way, and every time the city makes a move, we receive more information that can enable us to make an informed (and likely accurate) answer to both queries.

Q1 Are They Serious? 


— The mayor conveyed his request — all 44 pages of it — for $1 million in additional taxpayer money to the council subcommittee at 11:15 a.m. on the day of the meeting. Councilors were at work, of course, at their day jobs, and had no time to review the proposal. THE PLANET asks the neutral observer: Is that the action of someone who wants serious consideration, or it is more likely the action of a posturer running a “hurry-up offense” hoping to catch the council “D” off guard?

— The 11th hour request (literally, in this case) violates council Rule 38, which requires the mayor and the Office of Community Development to provide to the council complete documentation in support of the request well prior to any request. The mayor and OCD director Doug Clark did not have the information to the city council at the regular Jan. 28 meeting.

What you don’t know is that the Clark hurried to provide the 44 pages (five pages from his office and the remainder innocuous boilerplate from PEDA) on the morning of the meeting only because councilor at large Barry Clairmont e-mailed Clark, outlining the points the Administration needed to address to fulfill Rule 38. THE PLANET nominates Clairmont for a Nobel, a Pulitzer, or at least a set of Davy Crockett iron-ons. He did yeoman’s work for the taxpayers.

— Prior to Clairmont’s request, Bianchi had intended to send to the council subcommittee a two-line request, with no documentation, asking for review of the $1 million request. One observer had this comment: “Say what you will about Deanna [Ruffer,  Clark’s predecessor at OCD], but she never would have sent [the council] a two-line request for a million dollars without a detailed set of backup material, which the whole council would have had time to review prior to it ever being referred to Committee.”

— If Bianchi and Co. were serious about the MBTA contract, why didn’t they give the council full details at the time of the request? Could it be sloth? Nah, the mayor may be lazy but he’s not that lazy. Could it be he forgot about Rule 38? Nope. He served 10 years on the city council. He could quote Rule 38 in his sleep. Ruling out these possible answers, it appears Bianchi wanted to “ram the million bucks through” without bothering to provide proper documentation. As one councilor told THE PLANET, “The Mayor clearly wanted us to vote on it with no information provided and without the need to follow Council procedure or past practice.”

Thus, the Most Reasonable Answer to Q1 is: No! They are Not Serious.

Q2 Do They Believe They Have a Shot of Winning the MBTA Contract?

— If you believe you will win the contract, wouldn’t you define the parameters of the bid? Initially, the city touted 250 “manufacturing jobs.” Douglas Clark’s hastily pulled-together memo to the city council — again, given to the subcommittee, not the committee as a whole, on the same day of the meeting — says “200-250 jobs are projected.” During the meeting on Tuesday, however, the administration backed off that figure. It couldn’t say precisely or even within an acceptable range, how many jobs would be created.

— The best the city has done in identifying the type of building that would be required for a company to manufacture the railcars is “80,00 square feet to 250,000 square feet” — a loose and undisciplined range unacceptable for the purposes of making an informed decision on allocating $2 million in taxpayer money.

— If you believe you will win the contract, don’t you demand it will pay a minimum of $35,000, as defined by Rule 38 as a condition of handing out inducement money? Councilor Jonathan Lothrop‘s incisive questioning of Bianchi, PEDA’s Corydon Thurston, and Clark revealed they included about $15,000 of benefits in the overall compensation figure. That would leave an average salary of $20,000 — practically minimum wage. Lothrop argued his point cogently, managing to convince a majority of the subcommittee to support language that would require average salaries of $35K a year and that lower-wage jobs not be counted to fulfill the conditions of job counts.

— If you are serious about the deal and you honestly believe you will win it, wouldn’t you follow procedure and not risk alienating people by cutting corners? That, however, is what the Administration did when it (a) failed to present the full council with the required information, and (b) only provided a hasty memo, the morning of the subcommittee meeting, and only at at the prompting of Clairmont. Why would it do that? Consider the possibilities:

(1) Bianchi doesn’t trust the council.

(2) Bianchi, PEDA, and company are afraid of scrutiny.

(3)  The “bid” for the contract is just a PR exercise to assure the public that “all that can be done, is being done” to attract the rail cat assembly jobs.  One well-placed source, speaking on condition of anonymity, put it this way: “Maybe, if you ‘know’ the cost to build new is not economically competitive at PEDA, then maybe you don’t bother to go through with the tedious exercise of providing actual scrutiny? When the railcars go elsewhere, the public is told ‘Well, we did our best, even offered them a million from PEDA and a million from the GE money! I guess it wasn’t enough. It’s too bad!'”

THE PLANET would say it’s 25% (1), 25% (2), and 50% (3).

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Incidentally, Clark’s memo to the council claims nine prospective companies have been identified as interested in making the railcars. He says all the companies have been contacted “either in person or by e-mail and telephone” and an informational package sent.

In short, the evidence would suggest that the city, led by Bianchi, is perpetrating another of those “economic engine” scams that have bled the GE money of nearly half its $10 million (Workshope Live, anyone?). The vagueness of the information provided, the “hurry-up offense” intended to keep the council scrambling, the lack of transparency, and other factors would support this interpretation.

Why would “They” bother to do this? Could it be to perpetuate the jobs for the executive directors of all the various “economic development” enterprises, most of which are paid for by public money — PEDA, 1Berkshire, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., and the endless line of similar misfits … we mean, outfits.

Those outfits come along promising jobs. They deliver by giving We The People con jobs, snow jobs, and cushy positions for a Favorable Few who take home big salaries, face no accountability, and need only play deaf and dumb so as not to rock the boat.

Ladies and gentlemen: “They” are messing with $2 million of your money. When the railcar deal falls through, you should be on the lookout for a “savior” company to be nominated, at the 11th hour again.
They” will tout this as a “great opportunity” that needs to be grabbed “quickly” — and there will be little to no private equity wanting to come near it! Want to guess which company that will be?

Demand more from Bianchi & Co. Demand that “They” begin acting like the leaders the powers they have won from the people demand them to be.

Have a great weekend!


“Yet her shade, maybe / Will creep underground / Till it catch the sound / Of that western sea / As it swells and sobs / Where she once domiciled, / And joy in its throbs / With the heart of a child.”Thomas Hardy, “I Found Her Out There,” (1913).







  1. dusty
    February 7, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    It is almost like Gerry Doyle is working behind the scenes advising Bianchi. It’s deja vu all over again.

  2. Nota
    February 7, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    Is it me or is This a Bossidy Gift deja vu all over again, one million, two million, ten million? Can we really believe a contract is obtainable? Does anyone have a list of the companies involved? Who awards the contract? Are these Union jobs? What is Ben Downing doing to lobby for us? Does our local outgoing Governor have any say in this?

  3. outfox
    February 7, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Screw the railcars and the painted ponies. Let’s take the money that’s left and build a monorail that loops around the city; we could charge the tourists to view the poverty. Of course, that would require marketing Pittsfield, but there are lots of artsy fartsy phrases we could use to entice the cultural tourists to ride our attraction: Post industrial. Post modern. Post apocalyptic.TheTomorrowland from Hell. The ultimate dystopia.

    • Jonathan Melle
      February 7, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      I didn’t write it, but I concur with the message. Put Pittsfield on display like a Dickens’ novel of old. Let the bourgeoisie see how the underclass lives in poverty in Pittsfield. The factories are empty, but the people remain behind on welfare. Pittsfield can even set up google web-cams so people across the world can see Pittsfield’s dystopian society.

  4. Nota
    February 7, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    Is. Bianchi an old Peyton Manning? Has he hired to many retreads? is CoryDon the epitome of a retread hire? And does he really know anything about his job?

  5. Ron Kitterman
    February 7, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    It’s almost like they’re playing strip poker or liar’s poker or something. $1 million, $ 2 million, and build me a new high school and police station too.

    • joetaxpayer
      February 7, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

      Ron, don’t forget 5 police officers for downtown, renovations to PHS much needed repairs to the water treatment plant and more money to piss away at the Common the official park of downtown Pittsfield.If they do build a new police station it should be a public ursafety building incorporating both police and fire. Then maybe someone will have the balls to close a couple of the brick shacks.

      • Joe Blow
        February 7, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

        You forgot the 700 grand for the two pocket parks on N St.

  6. Downtown Dweller
    February 7, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Nothing to do with the topic @ hand but there has been a verdict in the Adam Lee Hall case: guilty.

    • joetaxpayer
      February 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

      Thank god Justice has been served. Too bad Massachusetts does not have a death penalty.

      • levitan
        February 8, 2014 at 10:56 am #

        Agree with the sentiment, but there’s no justice for Glasser et al.

  7. joetaxpayer
    February 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    There like kids with there allowance money burning a hole in there pockets, got to spend it! I am all for enticing businesses but would pass on a temporary company. If another Berkshire County town already has a chance to land them,Pittsfield residents with the skill set will be hired. We will get benefits with out pissing away 2 million that we might need someday to get a serious company that wants to be in Massachusetts not forced to be here.

  8. skier1
    February 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    I have no confidence in Thurston and think 1Berkshire is a sham.

  9. Foxy Lady
    February 7, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Can’t believe the mayor, Cory Don and the rest think we are that stupid. Thank you to Jlo and councilor Claremont for helping to try to keep this one above board.

  10. Johnny 2 Shoes
    February 8, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    The whole episode reminded me of the, “We have to pass it first, to find out what’s in it healthcare bill”. How’s that working out?

  11. Sparkie
    February 9, 2014 at 7:02 am #

    You get part time work from a part time Mayor.

  12. Sparkie
    February 9, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    Dan during the sub-committee meeting I really appreciated the insightful questions provided by Lisa Tully. I thought she really represented the citizens and her ward very well.

    OPS sorry I meant JLO…. Tully was on the beach in Florida… Not to worry we all know Lisa’s for manufacturing !!!