Article

QWIK HITZ & HOT LIX: SOCHI’s ‘HALFPIPE HALFWITS’ … MORE ON HALL TRIAL … ARE TAXPAYERS BEING ‘RAILROADED?’ … IS CORNER OFFICE TO BLAME FOR TWO PEDESTRIAN DEATHS? … ‘HOTEL WARS,” PITTSFIELD STYLE … plus … PROM THEFT ‘CLUE’

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, FEB. 14, 2014) — Happy Valentine’s Day from THE PLANET. Remember, you can’t spell “Valentine” without “Valenti.”

We at THE PLANET have spent snow time cleaning out files and spider webs at the FORTRESS. This healthy activity left us with another does of a popular round-up feature we call QWIK HITZ & HOT LIX.

Halfpipe Halfwits — Snowboarding is an Olympic sport only in the sense that synchronized swimming is one. Or curling. Don’t get us started on curling. That they give medals for such pseudo-sports stands as perfunctory paperwork, a desperate attempt to “jazz up” a once-rousing athletic congregation that has degenerated into mere nationalism, Olympic Games for fans of “The Walking Dead.” The “Halfpipe Halfwits,” for example, have been complaining about the condition of Sochi halfpipe. It’s unsafe. It’s too dangerous. It’s this. It’s that. THE PLANET can only laugh at these young’ns, the Americans mostly, who apparently don’t realize how foolish and soiled they look. Uh, we thought their sport was supposed to be dangerous and edgy.

No One on Trial Except Hall — In THE PLANET’s commentary on the Adam Hall guilty verdict, we noted the nature of the deliberations. On the fifth day of deliberations, the jury came back deadlocked. The judge told the jury to go back and deliberate some more. Less than an hour later, the jury came back with guilty verdicts on 15 of the 19 counts, including first-degree murder. To question the nature of this verdict is not to “put the jury on trial,” as some critics feverishly put it. THE PLANET merely asked a question other media were afraid to ask: Did the rapid re-deliberation occur as a result of honest weighing of evidence or as a consequence of the pressure of 10 or 11 jurors brow-beating a lone holdout? We’d be willing to bet  was a lot of “arm twisting” in the jury room. While we still uphold the verdict, we yet wonder exactly what happened in the jury room after the judge sent the nine women and three men to reconsider. Was justice served? Hall is that extreme case where justice must prove the validity of our system, one based on “reasonable doubt.” THE PLANET isn’t sure that happened in the Hall case.

Railroaded? — Only THE PLANET has given honest coverage of Mayor Dan Bianchi’s request of the city council for $1 million as bribe money to lure a company to Pittsfield to build railcars for the MBTA. This would be in addition to $1 million PEDA intends to use from the GE settlement. That’s $2 million of taxpayer money on the line, a number worthy of the most intense questioning and scrutiny. Here’s a question no one has asked that must be considered: Since state government will be awarding the contract, must the jobs be offered at “prevailing wage.” That would be a lot higher than the $35K mentioned in Douglas Clark‘s report to the city council — including benefits, that figure translates to little more than minimum-wage positions.

Railroaded II — “We’re confident one of the [nine] companies bidding [on the MBTA contract] will consider the PEDA property,” Bianchi said after a council subcommittee voted unanimously to the million-dollar “incentive” (THE PLANET prefers the more honest term, “bribe”). Look at this statement. We take it as proof that neither he, PEDA, nor 1Berkshire actually believe the city has a chance at the deal. By definition, any and all of the companies considering where to assemble the railcars would have to “consider” the PEDA material. The mere action of of a secretary opening an information pact can be considered “consideration.” The point is not if they will “consider” Pittsfield but “choose” Pittsfield. THE PLANET says they won’t. The push to free $2 million in taxpayer money is more likely a “Trojan Horse” meant for some other purpose, one that the Bianchi Administration obviously does not wish to entrust to Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.

Railroaded III — All we’re going to say is “remediation.” That’s the key word in Clark’s presentation to our Right Honorable Good Friends on the council. It’s the word that has kept PEDA “clean” from true outside private investment after 15 years, and it’s the word that will guarantee Pittsfield does not get the railcar contract. Taxpayers, though, will continue to get “the business.”

Does the Corner Office Bear Blame for Two Deaths? — Two weeks, two pedestrian fatalities at the intersection of Center and Depot streets. How much blame for these two deaths can be put directly or otherwise at the door of Dan Bianchi? The intersection, notably on the outskirts of where the downtown merges into the “west side,” the city’s code the “mean streets,” lacks proper lighting. When THE PLANET drove by last week at night, two lights near that intersection weren’t working. Moreover, the sidewalk wasn’t shoveled. What choice would any pedestrian have but to walk in the road, in a poorly lit area, near an intersection where many motorists disregard safety? Where was the city maintenance of the area? Why were the lights out? Why was the sidewalk not shoveled or plowed? Is this why two pedestrians are now dead? Where is the liability? Where is the blame? Is it at the Corner Office?

Pittsfield Getting in on “Hotel Wars” — In the Pittsfield wrinkle of “Hotel Wars,” an unexplainable frenzy of temp room space fueled by greed and pride, THE PLANET finds the proposed 45-room “Hotel on North,” now in the planning stages. The hotel would cater to the La-De-Da crowd — those tourists who wish to live dangerously by bedding in downtown Pittsfield and corporate guests visiting on business. The rooms are planned for the old Besse-Clarke building. All well and good, but let’s dispense of the notion perpetuated by some officials, including school committeeman Josh Cutler, that this will be entirely private money. The developers will look for lucrative tax credits. It is unclear if they will be pressing Mayor Bianchi for more tax breaks. At that site (Spice etc.) the city has a history of “giving away the store.”

Prom Theft — That the $10,ooo “prom heist” has been covered up by the school department administration, and that Mayor Donothing — both as the city’s CEO and as a member of the school committee — has not demanded transparency stands as a stain on the entire city. THE PLANET has hope, though, that supt. Jason “Jake” McCandless will step up to the plate on this one. We would also call upon the school committee, including Josh Cutler and Tony Riello to make noise. We mention those two because Cutler promised during the campaign to be fearless and not “play ball” and Riello is former city police chief.  Meanwhile, the clues continue to dribble out. We wonder: Are they going to wait until THE PLANET finally declares,”Col. Mustard in the library with the candlestick?”

——- 000 ——-

Have a great weekend, everybody.

————————————————————————————–

“A newspaper is a collection of half injustices / Which, bawled by boys from mile to mile, / Spreads it curious opinion.”Stephen Crane, “A Newspaper.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

61 Responses to “QWIK HITZ & HOT LIX: SOCHI’s ‘HALFPIPE HALFWITS’ … MORE ON HALL TRIAL … ARE TAXPAYERS BEING ‘RAILROADED?’ … IS CORNER OFFICE TO BLAME FOR TWO PEDESTRIAN DEATHS? … ‘HOTEL WARS,” PITTSFIELD STYLE … plus … PROM THEFT ‘CLUE’”

  1. dusty
    February 14, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    Did the school committee ever offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of the prom money heist? Stealing money from a high school prom is kind of low on the morals scale. You would think Barbalunga, of all people, would want this person caught and punished. I wonder if he would simply tell us why he does not think it needs to be made public information.

    And doesn’t covering up a crime make one an accessory?

  2. Mike Ward
    February 14, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Dan — I will grant you that scrutiny of the MBTA gig is important. Details matter, and I’m glad our city council is asking questions. But a little perspective is in order. The last big prospect for Stanley Park was a Walmart.

    • joetaxpayer
      February 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      Mike that is irrelevant, we do need to use money for incentives for jobs on the PEDA site. But why settle for temporary jobs to a company that is being forced to be in MA. At least Walmart wasn’t looking for a hand out, and would stay in Pittsfield.

  3. Mike Ward
    February 14, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    ..and you’re 100% correct about the city’s culpability in the pedestrian deaths. This city has always had an automobile-centric view of transportation. Pedestrian and bicycle access has never been a priority in road construction, new development, or winter maintenance policy.

    • Scott
      February 14, 2014 at 10:48 am #

      I don’t think snow was a factor in either incident.

  4. Mad Trapper
    February 14, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    Dan,

    The “consent decree”

    PEEDA

    The “cleanup”

    ALL A FARCE, plain and simple.

    More contaminants left in JUST Sliver Lake than all of superfund site Love Canal, just Silver Lake , and GE has buried untold amounts of toxic waste under the PEDA site. And the toxic lagoon behind GE plastics, running into the river. Does Sabic own that now? Sue them too!!!!

    ANY wonder why NO NONE NADA takers to build on PEEEDA? Soiled site???

    The spew is STILL going into the SUPERFICIALLY CLEANED UP PORTION OF THE RIVER. Right on down to Long Island Sound, people are eating the fish! Does EPA or GE care?

    Put Mazz foots to the fire to reopen the consent decree, was not THAT A PROMISE?

    BIANCHI, useless POS IMHO.

    I won’t hold my breath

  5. Downtown Dweller
    February 14, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    With regard to the boutique hotel, will its proximity to the methadone clinic be one of it’s selling points when it comes time to print up the brochures?

  6. Mad Trapper
    February 14, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    One more Dan,

    If some MORON takes a PEEDA building site, and the foul spoor from General Electric contaminates , river, private/public property, the fish in LI sound, WHO is liable ???

    I’ll write off fish IN THE HOUSITONIC: GE ,Mayor DOYLE, and the EPA, SCREWED Mary and Joe Kapinski on that

    PEEDA, GE , or the EPA??? Who is worse? Lets start a poll if Dan consents. I start with GE/Jack Welch, EPA is AWOL, PEEDA is JUST DISGUSTING

  7. Spider
    February 14, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Didn’t the city violate it’s own rules about shoveling sidewalks within 24 hrs. when it neglected to clear the walks at the deadly intersection. Who gets reprimanded for not doing their job? Yet we home owners are subject to a fine if we do not clear our walks.

    Could the families of these victims have a case against the city? If so, and they win, more of our tax money out the door!.

    • Scott
      February 14, 2014 at 10:44 am #

      Do they really enforce that rule? How about the grass police have they been stomping peoples guts out yet if your grass gets over 6″?

      • Wilson
        February 16, 2014 at 7:55 am #

        They’re collecting millions from tax payers to hire “health inspectors” and “code enforcement agents” so there is some minimal activity. Of course the city paid 10s of thousands of dollars to landscaping contractors to plant “ornamental grass” that is 3 feet tall, but it’s no secret who wears the boot, and who is stepped on

  8. Scott
    February 14, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Are you saying that once the money is approved by the council if the deal goes sour Bianchi has two million to do what he pleases with? That’s just messed up.

    I hope you were joking about the pedestrians that were killed being the mayors fault. I’ve crossed down there all my life on foot in my bike and been up and down from the underpass. Most pedestrian accidents would be avoided if people (particularly the ones with no steel frame protecting them) would just take care. When I’m in traffic whether in a car on foot or on my bike I assume no one is paying attention and everyone is an inconsiderate idiot who doesn’t know how to drive. In other words I take responsibility for my own safety I never put it on anyone else.

    • B. Clairmont
      February 14, 2014 at 11:03 am #

      Scott,

      I proposed an amendment that if the money isn’t awarded within 12 months of MBTA awarding the contract, the million goes back into the fund. Fortunately, it passed.

      Barry

      • Scott
        February 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

        Well that’s a plus it’s nice to know we have people serving us that think of those kinds of things thanks Barry!

      • dusty
        February 14, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

        Barry, I missed that meeting. Can you tell me what the vote was numerically and who voted against the money going back into the fund? If so thanks ahead of time

      • Tom Sakshaug
        February 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

        And what became of the debate on referrals rule change? I switched to the Olympics during the interlude and missed it.

        • B. Clairmont
          February 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

          Tom,

          I used a Charter Objection to shut it down. I want my fellow Councilors to think more about it and I want the public to have a chance to weigh in if they so choose.

          Barry

          • Sparkie
            February 16, 2014 at 11:14 am #

            The reason Mazzeo wants to change the rule is because she was supposed to deliver the votes in the previous council meeting on a two line request by Mayor Methadone for the million dollar give away. Barry and others were prepared with the correct procedure referencing rule 38. Also there is no need to change the rule; all Mazzeo has to do is ask that the motion to refer to sub-committee be held to give time for comment by the councilors. This process has been done by several of the previous council president’s.

          • danvalenti
            February 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

            Interesting call, B, and a reasonable one.

        • Sparkie
          February 16, 2014 at 11:53 am #

          Council Report Card;

          Mazzeo(F) Still does not understand her roll as the leader of the council. Too many procedural gaffes. Umm, You know, Umm we know, Umm

          Connell(F) Not sure who is worse at understanding the parliamentary process him or Maz. Had to call a recess to understand the new charter that you spoke for. Whatnot.

          Amuso (F) Clueless

          Cotton (C) Come on Church you know its O.K. to dis-agree with Maz especially went she is wrong. Its not that hard.

          Barry (A) The citizens are grateful that you are there to keep the Maz & Bianchi in check.

          Tully (F) Lisa just do what Bianchi tells you to do. Try not to go off script. When you talk.. OOO its bad.

          Morandi (F) MR. MAYOOOR says its O.K. so it must be. O Brother..

          Caccamo (A) A rising star of the council. Comes prepared.

          Lothrop (A) The real leader of the council. Dam right debate needs to stop. Don’t you know anything about the new charter Maz you told every one to vote for because you read it and it was perfect the way it was.

          Krol (B) Good job on center street. You need to remind Connell his ward is 4.

          Simonelli (C) Were has the person who sat on the Parks Commission gone. You know the one who made intelligent and thoughtful decisions. Not the one who follows every word of Maz & Bianchi.

          • Billy
            February 16, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

            Touché Sparkle

            I find it incredible that Madame president who asked the whole city to vote for the new charter because she had read it cover to cover,showed her lack of understanding of not only council leadership but the charter as well. Maz and Connell are so over their head it’s embarrassing that they are running a multimillion dollar budget. I would advice a little less talkie a little more readie.

          • danvalenti
            February 16, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

            Thank you for your “scorecard,” S.

  9. Bill Sturgeon
    February 14, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Mike (Ward) I agree with you 100%! Other areas that this Administration and its Publicworks Administration ignore are the needs of the handicap to incude parking spaces, sounding devices for the blind.

    • danvalenti
      February 16, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

      Yes. The “Administration” has ignored so so much. It has been, thus far, a complete dud.

  10. Nota
    February 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    While we look at ways to save taxpayer’s money, someone ought to look at the property assessment’s a few years ago, Mike Ward was on the City Council at that time, inflated wasn’t the word, we got screwed.

  11. joetaxpayer
    February 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Must disagree on the Hall hoopla. The jury deliberated for 3 hrs on Monday, full day on Tuesday, no deliberation on Wednesday and full day on Thursday, coming up with the verdict on Friday. Since all of the 19 charges had to be voted seperatly I don’t think it took them very long. The man did it, time to pay the piper.

  12. Tom Sakshaug
    February 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Regarding the Hall verdict:
    Is it possible that the jury was deadlocked on one of the lesser charges? Perhaps the others then gave in since they had him as guilty on three murder ones plus other charges. He was found not guilty on, I think, three charges.
    I don’t know whether this could be the case; I’ve never been impaneled. Once I was seated in a jury box and was immediately booted by the defendant. That’s as close as I’ve ever been.

    • Tim Bartini
      February 14, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

      Good point Tom . I think the jury did their due diligence .

  13. Nota
    February 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Try the Filet of Sole with hollandaise @ Mazzeo’s!. Your Sweetheart will love you!

  14. Ron Kitterman
    February 14, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    In regards to the PHS stolen prom money the Administrations spin makes this guy look like a beginner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhoos1oY404&list=PLrn481XBumf8dYPWQ6AMDv6n3bclbhxsO

  15. Nota
    February 15, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    USA USA USA USA!

  16. C.J.
    February 15, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    Saturday’s Letter to the BB editor appears to be Right On!
    Letter “: Giveaways Cost Pittsfield Taxpayers ”

    http://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/ci_25149025/letter-giveaways-cost-pittsfield-taxpayers

    Thank you, Donna.

    Comments ?, Barry, Mike Ward ?

    • Mike Ward
      February 15, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      I believe she has some facts wrong. Wasn’t it an eleven year TIF with no steps written up by Ruberto rather than Doyle? Regardless, I believe that particular investment was a catalyst for many subsequent private and public-private ventures downtown, and I support it.

      • Dave
        February 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

        Was being a “catalyst” written into the agreement as a requirement…. oh wait that is really not quantifiable. It is however the talking point argument to justify why we won’t challenge any of the benchmarks originally set. I hope the hotel succeeds on it’s own with private funding.

        • Mike Ward
          February 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

          Agreed. I didn’t say the terms should have been ignored. A deal is a deal, and at a minimum you need to renegotiate if the requirements aren’t being met.

        • danvalenti
          February 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

          Excellent points, DAVE.

      • joetaxpayer
        February 15, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

        Mike we will never know. If the City gives away money who is to say that spurs development. I know its hard to believe but sometimes the market decides investment in a area.

        • Mike Ward
          February 15, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

          I have no difficulty believing that market forces can determine new development. I just don’t value chain stores and chain restaurants.

          • joetaxpayer
            February 15, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

            I guess that we will differ. I have no problem with Hilton or Marriott. With the room taxes on top of the property tax,’they will be paying more than most.

          • danvalenti
            February 16, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

            That’s just it, though, MIKE. With all the government giveaways, tax breaks, tax credits, and the like, market forces are not allowed to work, let alone prevail.

          • Mike Ward
            February 16, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

            Computer chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries exists in Malta NY precisely because the state put $1.4 billion worth of incentives on the table. Market forces work too. They bring in opportunistic leeches like Dollar General — businesses that literally siphon the wealth out of a community.

          • danvalenti
            February 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

            Yes, and ask the state how that’s worked out for them. Have you checked NY’s fiscal health lately? Most of the money was leveraged and will come due down the road (long after we’re gone). The other factor is the workforce. The Albany-Tri Cities area has an educated, underutilized workforce. If market forces breed Dollar Generals, that reflects the true nature of a region’s identity.

          • Mike Ward
            February 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

            Apparently they’re doubling down on the notion that it takes money to make money. Have you seen the latest initiative?
            http://startup-ny.com

    • B. Clairmont
      February 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      The TIFF was repealed by Mayor Bianchi. The “free ride” was over when that happened. The fact remains that they still paid taxes on the initial assessed value of the building. It was the on the improvements that they made that a tax break was give.

      I don’t know the structure of that particular TIFF, but the tax on the improvements usually kicks in 10% a year for each year until they are being taxed at 100%.

      Mike probably knows the details better than me.

      Barry.

      • dusty
        February 16, 2014 at 4:13 am #

        Barry. Would you care to share the details of the deal Stanley got for his movie theater complex? Am sure most people have no idea of the largess of this mega giveaway.

        And just why did Ruberto have to give the millionaire a tax incentive for a car dealership that he was going to do anyway? Why does it seem like so many millionaires who were obviously coming anyway get tax breaks. And is it not true that Ruberto was offering Dicks Sporting Goods a tax incentive they did not even ask for? I respect them for turning it down.

        • skier1
          February 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

          Dusty, I went to the Community Dev. office a few weeks ago and inquired about the Beacon and the tax breaks. I haven’t heard back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • danvalenti
            February 17, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

            Silence is golden in Pittsfield. What info are you specifically looking for, SKIER1?

          • skier1
            February 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

            Looking to see if they’ve met the employment requirements they were supposed to keep. Have someone looking into that NOW though and whatever else was promised in agreement. Thank goodness the Spice deal was taken away.

  17. chuck garivaltis
    February 15, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    What a crummy way to end a hard fought game. USA beats Russia in overtime 3 -2, but the winning goal came in a shootout just like they settle soccer ties.Still a great victory but it would feel a lot better if the victory came with both teams going at it to the final goal. These are big boys. They could have kept playing until one of the teams scored a winning goal. Again, a great win but a crummy way to end it.

    • joetaxpayer
      February 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

      Chuck, agree but was nice to see ex. UMass goalie shut them down.

      • joetaxpayer
        February 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        Go UMASS!

  18. chuck garivaltis
    February 15, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    See what I mean. President Putin is saying Russia has a better hockey team. A shoot out is no way to decide an Olympic team game.

    • Scott
      February 16, 2014 at 11:25 am #

      Who gives an F what Putin says.

  19. Williams
    February 16, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    The stolen prom money really irks me. It’s symbolic and the city’s big shots refusal to do anything but cover it up says everything you need to know about why outside investment will not come to pittsfield.

    • dusty
      February 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

      The way it was handled in total secrecy is a stain on the integrity of the administration. When I see something like this covered up at all costs it just makes my imagination fly in all directions. Just what are they so panic stricken about at city hall and how can you expect integrity from others if you are cover up things done by certain peeps?

      • danvalenti
        February 16, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

        Yes, D. The hush-hush has been a big, wide yellow stain on the “Administration,” a word we must now start putting in quotes.

    • danvalenti
      February 16, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

      Bingo!, W. You’ve made the connection. That’s the underlying reason why the theft is such a big deal. No respectable company would want to get involved in the political tar pit that is Pittsfield.

  20. Spider
    February 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    What kid or adult is so precious/important that the whole city (school dept., school committee, mayor’s office and police dept.) is covering up for him or her. And such a cover up I have never seen before in this city!
    $10,000 is not a drop in the bucket! Where is it?

    • danvalenti
      February 16, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

      Agree, SPIDER. That’s why we’re not letting people forget. If everyone started on the mayor, supt., and school committee, the case would be solved in no time.

      • dusty
        February 17, 2014 at 2:18 am #

        Yes, let us not forget about the new superintendent. He is off to a good start integrating with the forces of secrecy in Pittsfield. What is his name again?

        • danvalenti
          February 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

          Name is Jason “Jake” McCandless.