QWIK HITZ & HOT LIX: CITY WEBSITE ‘ALL WET’ … TO CONSULT OR NOT TO CONSULT? … SNOW JOB … WITHER HEAP BIG MAGIC RED POTHOLE MACHINE? … LIKE MOTOWN, LIKE PITTSFIELD? … MLB ON COLLISION CALL WITH ‘WIMPBALL’ … THE MYSTERY OF STONEHENGE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, FEB. 27, 2014) — Time for another round of Qwik Hitz and Hot Lix, our variety show of disparate items related in odd ways that together offer determined though feeble responses to the age-old question, “What’s the Use?” The assortment of potpourri comes courtesy of life itself, which, after one cultivates the art of seeing, almost always outdoes fiction.
Drowning or Just All Wet? — Each time we go there, the city of Pittsfield’s website provides an inadvertent aqua-blue laugh. As the page loads, the wallpaper photograph of Pontoosuc Lake fills in first. This has the effect of placing the other pictures, including the PHS Dome, under water. THE PLANET finds this more than an apt metaphor for what’s been happening and not happening under the ineffectual reign of Mayor Dan Bianchi. Will the drought continue? We wonder.
Consultants ‘R Us — After the Suits paid a consultant tens of thousands of dollars to essentially lift the city of Northampton’s charter and call it Pittsfield’s, they determined that the new document had to be reconciled with city code. They knew it all along, but, this being Pittsfield, they didn’t tell you that they would be looking to go outside to get the work done. They implied and maybe stated outright that the city could handle the work in house. Now there’s an effort to farm this out to a consultant. Mayor Bianchi opposed this move, saying city solicitor Kathy Degnan and the five-person committee — appointed for that very purpose by our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council — could handle the work. City clerk Linda Tyer and coucilor Barry Clairmont, both members of the review committee, want to farm it out. Tyer says it would cost up to $14,000. THE PLANET stands with the mayor on this one. Degnan said her work load will permit her to do the necessary research. Keep it in house.
Snow Job — THE PLANET is pleased that the mayor pay such close attention to our musings. After we put the spotlight on the terrible condition of sidewalks and snow-bound curbs in the downtown, a vigorous discussion ensued. It spilled over the Facebook. The corner office took some heat in the form of angry phone calls and e-mails, and, not long after, the put put out a press release regarding snow removal. He advised citizens of their responsibilities to clear sidewalks. No mention, though, of the terrible job the city has done this winter, violating its own rules.
Red-Headed Stranger — Where, oh where, is the Heap Bug Red Magic Pothole Machine? Taxpayers shelled out a quarter of a million for it, and it has about as much use as a screen door on a sub. Rumor has it that there are three of these monstrosities in the city, at least that’s what Jonathan Lothrop said when we did a TV show with him a few weeks ago. When did the city get three? Where are they stored? Are they just gathering rust? Have they been installed on the back acres at BCC as modern sculpture? Who knows?
Pittsfield’s Future Like MoTown? — If you missed it, the bankrupt city of Detroit recently presented its recovery plan. The city got in trouble primarily because of an accumulation of bad contracts it negotiated over the years with its public employee unions. The benefits packages became too much to sustain, and the gravy train jumps the tracks. Motown’s plan include a 30% reduction in its pension obligations. The rest of its creditors and bondholders can expect 20 cents on the dollar, if they’re lucky. THE PLANET has written extensively on the building up of a massive (and similar) set of obligations the city of Pittsfield has incurred in the form of salaries, pensions, and other employment and post-employment benefits, especially with its Big Three unions — teachers, police, and fire. The obligation is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Those fees will be coming due before you know it. An aging workforce, early retirement, and other factors will at some point push the city to the brink. If it doesn’t begin acting quickly, it will be heading Motown’s way over the financial cliff.
Wimpball — THE PLANET doesn’t like baseball’s new rule on home-plate collisions. During this season, it will be implementing the rule on an experimental basis, with the intent to install it fully in 2015. The rule tries to fine tune what a baserunner and catcher can and can’t do on a play at the plate. It will require umpires to make snap judgments in which the arbiter will have determine intent — Did the runner deliberately initiate illegal contact? Did the catcher? This rule is both an over-reaction and a blow against tradition. The “brains” guiding MLB essentially wish to water-down the play at the plate, one of the most exciting in baseball. It’s part of a disturbing trend in the politically correct social engineering of sports, a zealous attempt to keep us “safe from ourselves.” A person who plays a contact sport does it of their free will. In football, baseball, hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and others, body contact is not just incidental but plays a part in the strategy of play. America has turned into the Land of Wimps.
The Mystery of Stonehenge — You probably missed this or, if you caught it, the significance hasn’t hit. It will. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the omnipresent Terry Kinnas spoke of a real-estate transaction taking place on Stonehenge Drive in Pittsfield. THE PLANET has done some initial investigating, and it appears that a residential group home is being planned at 71 Stonehenge. We’re certain residents of the avenue, certainly one of the city’s better addresses, know nothing about it. They will soon know a whole lot more. We don’t think they’re going to be pleased with what they find out. In monied neighborhoods like that, the last thing residents want is a group home.
“All is changed with time. The future none can see. Road road, we leave behind. Ahead lies mystery.” — Stevie Wonder, “All if Fair in Love,” from the album “Innervisions,” (1974).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.