Article

PLANET’S COVERAGE OF ‘THE MYSTERY OF STONEHENGE’ SPURS HEALTHY DISCUSSION FOR CITY … AT ISSUE: THE LOOMING FINANCIAL CRISIS FOR PITTSFIELD and ‘LEADER’ships WIMPY LACK OF ACTION … THE FY’15 BUDGET COULD AND LIKELY WILL TELL ALL

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY,MARCH 17, 2014) — On this St. Patrick’s Day, THE PLANET hopes it has spurred enough of a discussion on the vampiric effects a plethora of “non-profit” and “not-for-profit” commercial enterprises have had, are having, and will continue to have if left unchecked on the poor, bedraggled city of Pittsfield. In addition, we hope the debate  will lead to some good.

We can say that while the green beer flows, at minimum the issue has had an airing, something that wouldn’t have happened if left to the bold, fearless, independent “coverage” of the mainstream media, particularly our good friends at The Boring Broadsheet. For some puzzling reason, The BB has not seen fit to say a peep. Hmmm … wonder why?

At maximum, and we’re reaching, the discussion we spurred would lead to an honest, independent analysis of the whole “not-for-profit” situation in Pittsfield. In practicality, the “max” outcome will not happen, because Pittsfield has turned into that place where the doable seems like Utopia, and remember, folks: Utopia is never an option, particularly in Podunk.

This is a city whose citizens continue to be sold out, ripped off, knocked up, and beaten down by its political leaders — precisely the folks elected to office to protect them from that very thing.

PLANET VALENTI: Circling the globe for The Truth

As you likely know, THE PLANET forced this wider discussion through our coverage of the “hostile takeover” of a single-family residence at 71 Stonehenge Drive, which less than three short years ago used to be the home of Angelo Stracuzzi. A “non-profit” business out of Hartford, Conn., the Corporation for Independent Living, purchased the home. It then turned around and “flipped” the property in the form of a 30-year lease to Berkshire Family and Individual Resources out of North Adams (yes, it, too, is a “non-profit” agency). BFAIR has a nine-year contract to operate a four bedroom group home at 71 Stonehenge. It’s curious to note that the average salary of the two top execs of CIL and BFAIR is about $200,000 a year, not counting bennies and perks.

As we previously reported, this will make 46 group homes in Pittsfield that take millions off the tax rolls. Pittsfield government, in this case the ineffectual Dan Bianchi and Company,  then shift the burden of lost revenue from itself to taxpayers, homeowners and small businesses that already gasp for air from the stranglehold that the city’s already-excessive levies have placed upon them.

Mayor Bianchi submits his budget to the city council.

Since Bianchi refused to lower the cost of government and shrink its size in his first two budgets as mayor, THE PLANET sees no hope that he shall do so again. The only hope, and it’s thin as a wafer, lies with the school committee (fat chance) and the city council. It’s only a matter of time before the financial stranglehold turns fatal.

We’ve heard many times the spurious argument that Pittsfield current problems were not created by Dan Bianchi. The mayor inherited all of the woes. THE PLANET responds this way to this “Woe Is the Mayor of Pittsfield” (WIMP) theory:

* First, we agree with WIMP. The mayor did inherit certain woes and many wonders, as far as that goes. No this address has ever contended that.

* Second, to say of an inherited problem that “I didn’t create the problem” is an irresponsible and immature dodge, one that a true leader would not use — nor would his or her followers and apologists. Every mayor in taking the job inherits a certain amount of baggage. You understand that going in, and you expect to take on your bequeathal with good grace and action, not with whimpering and “woe is me.”

* Third, we remind one and all that prior to becoming mayor in 2011, Bianchi served on the city council for a decade. He had plenty of chances to stem the loss of blood. He whiffed on most of those chances. Thus, his decade of tenure even before stepping foot in the corner office places upon him a proportionate share in the creation of Pittsfield’s current economic woes. They are not all his inheritance. At least some is his creation. He is also well into his third year as mayor. When will he stop blaming Jimmy Ruberto?

* Fourth, at some point a leader has to disregard the genesis of a problem and begin to tackle the problem itself. For example, a true leader would recognize what the mayors of many cities across the country have realized, that the onerous deals politicians created over the years with its public employee unions have become unsustainable and that the only reasonable outcome short of insolvency is to tighten the belt. That means elimination of fat and, if necessary, renegotiation of the benefits packages of public employees.

Yeah, like it will ever happen in Podunk!

In short, a true leader who finds him or herself in a stagnant or shrinking economy does not continue to feed the fatted calf. He puts it on a diet. A true leader takes action to reduce, not increase, costs. Neither Bianchi, his department heads, the city council as a group, the school superintendent, nor the school committee have shown any indication that they will take the necessary actions to save the city. Conversely, all signs point to a “business as usual” budget for FY15 — millions more for the school department, an increase in administrative fat, and another added notch on the belt that strains to contain the budget’s expanding waistline.

None of this is good enough.

Did you hear us: NONE OF THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH!

However, as long as the majority of citizens roll over and play dead, as long as average citizens let their anger or their apathy keep them quiet, the more the skunks will put another one past them.

Apologists for the size of the city budget are the same ones advocating for more increases in the next year’s spending plan. They will say, for example, “but there’s not much discretionary money in the budget” and point out something like “85% of the school department budget is tied up in salary.” Indeed, this year alone, even if everything else remained flat (which it won’t), chump taxpayers will have to cough up another $1.5 million just to provide the negotiated pay increases for school staffers.

THE PLANET has many times, though, offered ways to save money. Let us count some of them, some quick and obvious ones, off the top of our head.

1 — School Department Administration = Things are so top-heavy that the PSD headquarters on Mercer Street has begun to sink under the weight of the innumerable superintendents and administrators. THE PLANET submits there’s lots of fat to trim there with no risk of hitting a major artery or bone.

2 — Revision of the Health Insurance Split = Taxpayers pick up 85% of the tab for workers health insurance. That’s what THE PLANET calls heavy tipping. State law says the city must pick up at least half. Those who toil in the Dreaded Private Sector are lucky (a) to have any health insurance. Moreover, (b) if they do, it’s usually 50-50 or 60-40. There are exceptions, true, but they are getting fewer and farther in between. THE PLANET would propose a petition to readjust the split to a more realistic level of 60-40, phased in over three years.

This is a picture of the TP holder in Mayor Bianchi’s private commode, attached to the Corner Office. Yes, these are taxpayer dollars, but at least he uses “ones.”

3 — Pension Reform = Health insurance isn’t the only benefit received by employees and retirees. Past contracts over the years have added what Peter Arlos, the Aging Greek God, used to call “a pyramid of benefits” for public employees. As we’ve seen in many cities across the country, these deals can break the financial backs of once-prosperous communities (case in point: Detroit, Mich., and San Bernadino, Calif., and many more). Through home rule petition, Pittsfield could gain the power to readjust the opulence of these deals downward. Currently Pittsfield has an OPEB obligation estimated at more than $400 million.

OPEB stands for “other post-employment benefits” not counting — yes, not counting — pension obligations, which in Pittsfield can be as high as 80% of a worker’s top three salaries. OPEB benefits include medical, dental, vision, hearing, life, long-term-care, and disability insurance.

Various trends have made OPEB a ticking time bomb for the city, including retirees living to older age, dramatic increases in health care costs, low eligibility requirements, and high benefit levels. The fair treatment of public employees and retirees, always a valid concern, now has to be equitably balanced not just with the financial health of Pittsfield but of its very survival.

This is the discussion Pittsfield “leaders” refuse to have because of politics. Too many fatted calves want to preserve their booty.

As a state, Massachusetts taxpayers face an OPEB liability of $16.7 billion as of Jan. 11, 2013 (source: “Commonwealth of Massachusetts Special Commission to Study Retiree Healthcare and Other Non-Pension Benefits,” available online at mass.gov.). That same report, by the way, includes this hum-dinger: “National data shows [sic] that most private sector employers that offer retirement benefits require their retired employees to pay the full cost of their [health insurance] premiums” [PLANET's underline].

5 — Hidden Dollars — We all know that every department budget in a municipality contains slush. Call it ‘rainy day money,’ a ‘contingency account,’ or whatever cliche you wish — every department has fat. THE PLANET’s recommended principle going into the new budget season is to recognize this and publically resolve that, philosophically:

If there is even as little as $1 of excess hidden anywhere in the budget, that $1 should be found, identified, and cut. No exceptions.

So we put this question to the mayor, the city council, the school superintendent, the school committee, to every department head, and to everyone in a leadership position who can affect and determine the course of the city of Pittsfield’s FY15 budget: “Who among you will stand up for fiscal sanity? Who among you will vote in favor of the long-term economic survival of the city and against the short-term temptations of the bankrupting status quo? Who among you will be Men and Women instead of mice?”

Come on, we can’t hear you. Squeak up.

———————————————————————————

“If I cannot carry forests on my back, neither can you crack a nut.”Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his poem, “Fable.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

53 Responses to “PLANET’S COVERAGE OF ‘THE MYSTERY OF STONEHENGE’ SPURS HEALTHY DISCUSSION FOR CITY … AT ISSUE: THE LOOMING FINANCIAL CRISIS FOR PITTSFIELD and ‘LEADER’ships WIMPY LACK OF ACTION … THE FY’15 BUDGET COULD AND LIKELY WILL TELL ALL”

  1. dusty
    March 17, 2014 at 12:58 am #

    If, and I say if, Bianchi s main purpose for running for mayor was to fill out his pension qualifications then we can expect no real help from him. I do not know how it would be achieved, but what the city needs is a mayor without any ties to the existing political powers in the area. Someone who could cut the fat and not have to worry about not having support the next time around. That might be one good thing about having a four year term as per the new city charter.

    And are the Mercer administrators salaries public record? If so maybe the Eagle would put them on the front page. It might sell a few extra copies.

    • Pat
      March 17, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      A mayor without any existing ties would be great, but the powers that be and those who are living off the pain of the taxpayers, would rush to the polls to make sure that person did not get elected.

    • danvalenti
      March 17, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      All salaries in the public sector are pubic records. Perhaps it might be useful to publish these salaries.

  2. Nota
    March 17, 2014 at 4:29 am #

    The Schools and the Unions are the voting block. Planet, you will never get elected unless you appease those two entities. So, if you cut from the budget, you will for all intenssive purposes commit political suicide. Why can’t anyone understand that?

    • danvalenti
      March 17, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

      The way for an outside “reformer” to get elected is to electrify the electorate into participation. Voters have been beaten down to believe that it’s pointless. Fewer than 25% voted in the city elections in 2013. What would happen if a candidate or movement came along to wake up that electorate and, say, 50% voted. That “new blood” WOULD elect such a reformer.

      • Joe Blow
        March 17, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

        I doubt the BB would give any fair coverage to a reformer. Hard to get elected when the media is so biased. Those of us who come here need to spread the word about this site.

  3. Scott
    March 17, 2014 at 4:57 am #

    All aboard the gravy train all aboard! It seems like the only argument local govt has or disagrees on is who’s friends get contracts and public money. They’re not representing us!

  4. Scott
    March 17, 2014 at 4:59 am #

    Maybe one of our councilors can answer why a charter no one read or knew was in compliance with mass law was pushed through. Why understand it now? Then when changes are needed do we all vote again? Politics is very frustrating.

    • B. Clairmont
      March 17, 2014 at 9:00 am #

      Scott,

      The Charter is in compliance. It is the ordinances that may not be in compliance. When new ordinances are passed, they are checked against MA general laws.

      However, as MA general laws change, some of the old ordinances fall out of compliance. They need to be updated to reflect the current state laws.

      The last time a through review was made was 1966.

      Does that help?

      Barry

      • Scott
        March 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

        No the ordinances should have been up to date it was passed what 6 months ago? Are you saying the ordinances changed the next day???

  5. Still wondering
    March 17, 2014 at 5:35 am #

    Dust, we had a good mayor who had no ties to the powers-that-be and her name was Sara Hathaway. She was destroyed by the GOBs and left by the side of the road.

    • Jonathan Melle
      March 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

      Sara Hathaway was a different and better Pittsfield politician. A lot of her ideas for Pittsfield were continued after her one-term as Mayor. However, Sara Hathaway worked for former state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. prior to running for Mayor of Pittsfield. Nuciforo is a notorious Good Old Boy who ran Pittsfield politics from the Doyle through the Ruberto regimes. It was interesting to see Nuciforo switch his support from Sara Hathaway to Jimmy Ruberto. That is because Nuciforo is a Good Old Boy!

      • Jonathan Melle
        March 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

        My biggest mistake in Pittsfield politics was supporting Jimmy Ruberto over Sara Hathaway. I regret my decision. Sara Hathaway would have helped Pittsfield, while Jimmy Ruberto ran the city into the ground.

        • Jonathan Melle
          March 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

          I almost forgot to note that in 2006, Sara Hathaway ran for Pittsfield Registry of Deeds, along with another Pittsfield woman named Sharon Henault. With two woman running for a state government political office, Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. entered the race. Shortly after Nuciforo announced his campaign for this office, he strong-armed both Sara Hathaway and Sharon Henault out of the election. Nuciforo stepped all over a former Pittsfield Mayor and another woman to anoint himself to this political office. So much for fairness, democracy, equality! I always felt that Sara Hathaway should have stood up to Nuciforo and beat him.

      • Joe Pinhead
        March 17, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

        Early in her administration she had a chance to stand up for the taxpayers but she decided to go with the status quo.
        In the end she was no better or no worse than the others, possibly worse because she failed herself as well

        Just sayin

    • danvalenti
      March 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      Sara had such promise. It was ultimately unfulfilled.

  6. amandaWell
    March 17, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    Poor Sarah’s downfall was her, aberration remark.

    • Jonathan Melle
      March 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

      Pittsfield has become far worse since the days of the Sara Hathaway administration. Pittsfield is on a never-ending downward spiral.

    • danvalenti
      March 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      THE PLANET remembers that remark well.

  7. Rafael
    March 17, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    Until someone with more conservative political leanings decides to run for mayor, gathers up all the support and money needed, and actually gets elected, all this is meaningless. The only way to solve the cities issues is with real action, which is very unlikely to happen. I’d run but would have no chance of winning (not liberal enough, too straightforward and honest) and have a family to support.

    • Wilson
      March 17, 2014 at 9:16 am #

      Yeah, that’s the problem, only grifters and puppets have the opportunity to run, and no legitimate candidate would stand a chance anyway once the government employees started dumping money and volunteer labor into the race. Someone who built a fortune could do it, but why would they be in this city?

    • Jamie
      March 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      How about DV

      • danvalenti
        March 17, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

        Not sure I could afford the pay cut.

  8. Wilson
    March 17, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Would be a start if they would refrain from adding new positions!

    • danvalenti
      March 17, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

      Yes. That would be a start, but the reality will be otherwise, likely, when the mayor presents his budget and the game begins.

  9. Jonathan Melle
    March 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I cannot believe that Dan Valenti still echoes the hypocritical propaganda of Peter G. Arlos! Arlos had a career in local and county Pittsfield politics and collected a lucrative pension and other public benefits on top of his million-dollar bank account. Arlos should have looked in the mirror when he criticized public employees for collecting taxpayer benefits like salaries, pensions and other benefits. Arlos was the biggest public payroll patriot of them all!

  10. amandaWell
    March 17, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Kudo’s to the Councilor lor’s that filled in the Peck Rd. Potholes today. They must have read the Planet?

    • Mike Ward
      March 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Geez, can you put in a request for Pomeroy?

  11. Quentin
    March 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    You bet they read The Planet..I know for a fact thats why this got done. What a difference a little attn makes. Thanks DV and councilor(s)

  12. ed shepardson
    March 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    Looks like every city in the Commonwealth is going all in for the MBTA.

    http://www.masslive.com/business-news/index.ssf/2014/03/springfield_will_host_mbta_red_orange_line_assembly_plant.html#incart_river_default#incart_m-rpt-1

    • dusty
      March 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      Why did I think the rules said it had to be a Massachusetts company?

  13. Pat
    March 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Pittsfield is so corrupt that it’s unbelievable.

  14. ed shepardson
    March 17, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    5 posts of 24 from a NH resident. To be fair, Jonathon does use his own name and we’re not sure where the posters who don’t use their real names are from. Could this blog be made up of disgruntled ex-Pittsfield residents?

    • Jonathan Melle
      March 17, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

      I lived in and around Pittsfield for a majority of my life. I have only lived in Amherst, New Hampshire for the past 10 years. I turn 39 this summer.

    • Joe Blow
      March 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      In a small town like Pittsfield why would anyone who isn’t retired use their real name? People here are very cliquey and hold grudges if you don’t go with the program. I don’t think it’s right to post anonymously and sling insults at others but I don’t see much of that going on here and Dan wouldn’t allow it.

      • Pat
        March 17, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

        I totally agree with you. To say people are cliquey is to put it mildly. People stick with their own friends and those who think as they do. It’s kind of like high school. People just never grow up beyond the high school mentality and maybe that happens in small isolated type communities like here in the Berkshires.

    • Joe Blow
      March 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      I also found this article on The Electronic Frontier Foundation website explaining why anonymous speech is important.

      Many people don’t want the things they say online to be connected with their offline identities. They may be concerned about political or economic retribution harassment or even threats to their lives. Whistleblowers report news that companies and governments would prefer to suppress; human rights workers struggle against repressive governments; parents try to create a safe way for children to explore; victims of domestic violence attempt to rebuild their lives where abusers cannot follow.

      Instead of using their true names to communicate these people choose to speak using pseudonyms (assumed names) or anonymously (no name at all). For these individuals and the organizations that support them secure anonymity is critical. It may literally save lives.

      Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

      Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

      The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym “Publius ” and “the Federal Farmer” spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment.

      The right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page. Thus in 2002 the Supreme Court struck down a law requiring proselytizers to register their true names with the Mayor’s office before going door-to-door.

      These long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a “pamphleteer” or “a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.”

  15. Payroll Patriot
    March 17, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    Questions for our legislators
    1. Why do we (Berkshire county) send 30 million to the MBTA each year and get 15 million back for transportation improvements? WTF (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) we get back only 1/2 back of what we send down? Downing ,while your having your fund raiser tonight, could you answer that?
    2.Why did you know about Stonehenge RD. and didn’t notify any of the people livening there?
    3.Does the BB have a finical connection to all the Stonehenge RD? That’s why the haven’t reported it? Yes they do.

    • ed shepardson
      March 17, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      I’d love to know the BB’s interest in Stonehenge, Mr. Patriot or may I call you payroll.

    • danvalenti
      March 17, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

      Most interesting questions, PP. We would be interested in hearing the details, especially on Q3.

  16. Joe Pinhead
    March 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Ed, I don’t know why you can’t understand why people do not use their real names. You are beginning to mirror the poster from NH who is compelled to mention Nuciforo at every opportunity.
    I’m not sure why you are hell bent on the name deal. If we give out our name what’s next? I mean after all how do we know you are who you say you are?
    Or is this your way to try and silence the critics? We have a government that tracks our phone calls, uses its taxing powers to punish what it see’s as opposition to it including asking certain groups how and to whom they prey to and for.
    Ed, as crazy as it sounds to some bad stuff can happen to those that raise questions.
    Tell me what happened to a presenter of facts at a Dec City Council meeting some years back?
    And then again Ed it is our right to use any name we so desire on this blog if you don’t like it start your own and set up any rules or structure you so desire. Please take a look at this blog it works as it is it is policed and the discussion is mostly civil when comments are over the line the webmaster withdraws them and politely reminds the poster to keep it civil.
    Pretty straight forward.
    As a side note if you care to listen about 15 years ago I had my identity stolen it was a mess to get it all cleared up in the end it was discovered my I’d was taken from what was then referred to as a bulliten board and I will never forget sitting in the Treasury agents office and him saying ” just so I fully understand what your saying you used your real name on these boards? Your not surprised this happened are you?” The board was about cars and motorcycles. Now Ed tell me again why I should use my real name? My comments are tracible via an e-mail address I have provided? I don’t think anyone wants to sit in an office and tell some investigator well Ed was hell bent on real names so I felt compelled to.
    Sorry Ed but I’m thinking past experience and instruction from the investigators trumps your desire to put together an enemies list

    Just sayin

    • ed shepardson
      March 17, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      Mr. Pinhead, or may I call you Joe. And tell me why I should debate with you, Joe Pinhead, someone who does not exist? That would be a little bit crazy, wouldn’t it? “I see dead people.” I could copy and paste a threat of physical violence I received because I use, and continue to use my real name. But I won’t, because you don’t exist. So enjoy yourself and your hobby.

      • ed shepardson
        March 17, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

        Mr. Pinhead, I just read your entire post to me. I apologize. You’re right. And my name is not Ed Shepardson. It’s Fred Pinhead. Now we are equals.

        • danvalenti
          March 17, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

          Geesh, you might be first cousins! Or maybe brothers?

          • Joe Pinhead
            March 17, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

            From along line of pinheads, if I recall correctly my mother and his mother were both mothers

      • Joe Pinhead
        March 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

        Ed, you certainly may call me Joe however I might suggest Joe P as to avoid confusion with Joe T

        Just sayin

        • ed shepardson
          March 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

          Mr. Pinhead, I’m getting tired. I have two dogs that need to be walked. If you have any doubt that I’m using my real name, please feel free to contact me at edshepardson@nycap.rr.com. We can let Dan move along with his business. And by the way, the last person I made this offer to said he “was going to fuck me up.” I hope, Mr. Pinhead, you are more civilized. Threats do come occasionally when you do use your real name.

          • danvalenti
            March 17, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

            ED
            Well put. MR. PINHEAD is infinitely more civilized than the person from whom you received that threat. I can also attest that “Ed Sharpardson” is a man using his real name.

    • danvalenti
      March 17, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

      Thank you, JP and ES. When we began THE PLANET well more than 900 columns ago we had to decide: Do we permit comments or not? We talked to lots of people with experience. There were compelling arguments both ways. The “No” argument is that allowing comments on the Internet will likely take the site into the porcelain commode, as we’ve all seen on numerous sites (e.g., Topix). The “Yes” argument is that, while there is a potential downside, it’s best to allow free comment. I decided to “err” on the side of free speech and the free marketplace of ideas, which I believe in passionately. The second question to deal with once I decided to allow comments is this: Do I insist on use of real names and verifiable names and identities or do I — while encouraging the use of real names — allow nome de plumes? I decided on the latter, based on the amount of political fear there exists in the county and especially the city of Pittsfield. Anonymity would invite a freer, more robust exchange of ideas. I decided to allow it but WITH, as JOE PINHEAD says, a rigorous policy of monitoring comments through the webmaster and an ultimate review by me. From time to time, improper postings slip through. We stop them ASAP and have even banned a couple-a-three people who just didn’t want to oblige. As JOE says, anyone is free to start their own blog and run it by their own rules. We would add with a laugh: Try it! Try blogging at this level: A new story mostly everyday, based on fact, with strident opinions, and raising many many key questions, of a typical length of 1200-1500 words. Be my guest. Try it. No one locally can keep this pace … except of course, moi!

      • Joe Pinhead
        March 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

        Dan, I’m very certain none locally and few nationally could keep pace with the one man band that you are. I sincerely thank you for the information you provide and let others provide as well via the comments section. I like to think over those 900 posts I have added something to some of those community conversations regardless of the name used.
        I will go further and let you know that I respect what you have done for the community via this blog any post to it accordingly I regard both reading and posting as a privilege not a right

        Thanks
        Just sayin Joe

        • danvalenti
          March 17, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

          Appreciate the words, JP. By the way, it’s been 922 columns, to be exact, since 9/29/10.

  17. ed shepardson
    March 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    GILBERT GOTTFRIED-” And that’s another thing with the Internet, it’s like a lazy lynch mob. I kind of am sentimental of the old lynch mobs, where they actually had to put their shoes on, go out and get their hands dirty.”

  18. GMHeller
    March 18, 2014 at 2:48 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    Pittfield’s addiction to wasteful spending is similar to the City’s present heroin epidemic.
    And one way or another there will come a time when that addiction ends either through the economic ‘death’ of the city, or the need to go ‘cold-turkey’ in order to survive.
    Either way, the City of Pittsfield is already technically bankrupt and in an end-game.
    City officials just don’t choose to recognize the economic septic tank which they created for themselves and in which they now are immersed.
    The unfunded liabilities tell the tale.
    These ostriches need only look to the finances of other Liberal Democrat-controlled (and bankrupt) entities like Detroit, Chicago, the State of California, etc. to see exactly what lies directly ahead for Pittsfield.
    These same Liberals like to blame GE, and/or the series of Pittsfield’s woefully lackluster and incompetent mayors, and/or the Comm. of Mass legislature, but none of that changes economic reality.
    What needs to be done right now — RIGHT NOW — is to dramatically cut spending.
    Right now there is need to publicly acknowledge the city’s fiscal crisis.
    The alternative, if cuts are not made, is to have to sustain even greater spending cuts in the near future.
    Death or cold-turkey, which is it going to be?