INTIMIDATION-GATE: THE FOLLOW UP RAISES MORE QUESTIONS, INCLUDING (SADLY) THE FITNESS OF WOMEN IN POLITICS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014) — Saint Patty gets all the ink, but St. Joe did all the heavy lifting for being a father to Jesus, and with that, we wish you all a pleasant St. Joseph’s feast day. Incidentally, St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, from whence they landed in political offices across the globe, including in many public offices in the city of Pittsfield.
It’s also a day before the Madness begins, especially for our beloved Orangemen, and a day after one of the most excitable stories we’ve ever posted on THE PLANET.
We refer, of course, to the testimony of Ward 6 councilor John Krol.
Krol says that after the Feb. 25 city council meeting, council president Melissa Mazzeo‘s husband got in his (Krol’s) face. He says Tony Mazzeo issued a menacing verbal threat punctuated with threatening gestures for what Mazzeo saw as Krol’s “disrespecting” his wife, the council president. THE PLANET initially heard the story from councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont. Ward 5 councilor Jonathan Lothrop backed Clairmont’s story. More importantly, Krol also confirmed it with THE PLANET. After multiple requests and invitations for comment, Melissa Mazzeo issued a one-sentence comment, saying she found the discussion of the incident “disturbing.” Tony Mazzeo did not return our requests for comment.
Clairmont Follows Up with A Couple of Questions
In response to Mazzeo’s comment, which in full read: “That we have had to have the conversation at all is disturbing,” Clairmont had this follow-up: “I’ve been thinking about Melissa’s comment. Does she find that these incidents were brought to light disturbing? Or does she find her husband threating city councilors disturbing?”
Good questions and one that we would not, because we could not, answer. Only our Right Honorable Good Friend the council president can answer her colleague’s questions. THE PLANET can and will dare speak, though, for every citizen interested in good government in saying that if the incident did occur as reported, we would expect — we would demand — that see such tactics to end immediately. Bullies, though they exist, make poor overseers of honest and good public discussion, debate, and discourse. As for public apologies, as some have called for, that is entirely up to the individuals involved. Perhaps a better apology, if one is in order, would be made privately, out of the spotlight.
THE PLANET also received a clarification from Clairmont regarding his account yesterday of the first incident he discussed, a previous alleged bullying attempt by Tony Mazzeo that occurred after Dan Bianchi won the corner office for the first time, one that Clairmont says was witnessed by both Bianchi and Sheriff Tom Bowler among others. Clairmont writes:
“I just exchanged texts with Kevin Sherman. He told me that his conversation with Tony was cordial (he was not read the riot act). From what multiple people have relayed to him, Kevin says that Tony’s issue with him was over his choice of VP. He asked that I correct the record with you.”
In the interest of accuracy, we have added this amendment to yesterday’s post. We thank Sherman and Clairmont in bringing this to our attention.
THE PLANET doesn’t know if this matter of alleged bullying is a two-and-done, and we can only speculate how this will spill over not just into the next council meeting (March 25) but also in the remainder of the term to come. This isn’t the first time that Pittsfield city government has been torn in two. Factions and factionalism have, to one extent of another, have long been part of the game in Podunk. However, it must also be said that THE PLANET haven’t seen it this bad, this out in the open, or this disruptive in some time if at all. Of more immediate concern is how this affair may poison the atmosphere just as the corner office and council begin work on the most important issue of the year, which is the FY15 budget.
Touching the Third Rail of Gender and Politics
Now that we’ve approached the related topic of gender and politics, readers have noticed that of the three women on the city council thus far in this term, two have had “their men” come to their defense against what the husbands have loosely or tightly characterized as “picking on the fairer sex.” We speak of Ward 1 councilor Lisa Tully and Melissa Mazzeo, each — with all good intentions, we’re reasonably sure — of whom have been positioned as “damsels in distress” in need of rescue by big, strong men. The third woman is councilor-at-large Kathy Amuso. Two out of three would lead baseball in batting average, but as an average for women in politics, it’s appalling.
THE PLANET fails to see how such chivalric behavior, which may have been comfy at home in the days of King Arthur, bolsters the case — in the 21st century — for the proposition accepted as true by many if not most that women are the equals of men in the rough-and-tumble game of politics. Moreover, it has raised once again such dusty questions as: Do women have enough confidence in themselves to be in politics? Can they deal with difficult policy issues on the basis of reason and logic and not on emotions? Are they too “sensitive” to the invariable heat and criticism that comes your way the moment one wins office and takes the oath? Do they need men to protect their fragile, dainty characters?
You may say it’s ridiculous to even raise these questions and we would agree, yet when a husband has to “protect” his political wife — when a “big strong man” has to do the heavy lifting for the fragile, weak woman — it brings these old questions back again. It’s an insult to women, men, and everyone interested in good government.
The last we looked, running for office was a voluntary proposition. Office seekers were not conscripted. We therefore must assume that office holders are there because that’s what they wanted for themselves, as a free choice. It boils down to Harry Truman‘s famous comment about la cocina: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
“On a day like today, we laughed the time away writing love letters in the sand.” — Pat Boone, “Love Letters in the Sand,” 1958.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.