CACCAMO MUST GO … SCHOOL BUS VOTE: RIGHT OUTCOME FOR WRONG REASON … BUS BORROWING MAKES NO ECONOMIC SENSE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentaries
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, APRIL 11-13, 2014) — First, let us share a bit of “You Can Take It To The Bank” news, the kind that only THE PLANET seems to be able to learn. A well-placed source tells us that a new director of The Boys and Girls Club will be announced imminently. When it happens, and you read about it in The BB, pretend like you’re hearing it for the first time. Do it as an act of mercy. We’ve been beating them to the draw so often that we have to make it look like a fair fight once in a while!
Now then, on to the business at hand. Our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council did the right thing for the most terrible reasons Tuesday night when they said no to a proposed borrowing of millions of dollars for new school buses.
Councilors’ defeat of the measure, which was the correct vote, took the most pathetic form, however, when the measure went down because one of their own could not legally perform his job of representing thousands of constituents who elected him to office.
If Nick Caccamo is serious about democracy … If Nick Caccamo has the least amount of concern for doing the right thing over feeding his ego with a hollow title … If Nick Caccamo has any regard for a city he professes to love … he will seriously re-consider his fitness to serve as Ward 3 councilor. Short of that, it will be time for We The People to reconsider it for him. This is not a threat. It’s a promise.
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THE PLANET led a discussion during the election season last year in which we articulated this precise scenario as a reason for Nick Caccamo not to run for office. As a full-time employee of the school department, he must recuse himself from votes involving the department from which he gets his bread and butter. As we understand the conflict of interest law, he cannot even participate in public debate or discussion.
Caccamo’s continued presence on the council disenfranchises every citizen of Ward 3 regarding 70% of the city budget. Why he is not recalled, to say nothing about why he was elected, can only be seen as a tangible though not unusual symptom of the ice age of apathy that has frozen the Pittsfield electorate into a convincing counterfeit of hopelessness. The freeze keeps negligent citizens participation in government, playing right into The Suits hands. They want no-to-low participation in government by ordinary citizens. That’s how they keep the gravy train rolling. That’s how disgraces like Caccamo or Frank “Free House” Cote happen with the school department.
If Nick Caccamo has a lick of good sense, to say nothing of moral integrity, he will abdicate his seat, complete with an apology to every person in his ward. Doing so will win the respect of all and restore him as a member in good standing of the body politick. Not doing so will continue to make a mockery of representative government.
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Behnke: “Old” is Young and “Young” is Old When It Suits Her
As for the proposed borrowing for new buses, THE PLANET can’t see it — not with so many alarming signals warning of an eventual financial implosion in the city of Pittsfield. Here are just a few of the signals: a shrinking tax base, increased government spending, a “money solves everything” philosophy for the school department, the pandemic of group homes, the fact that nearly two-thirds of school children receive subsidized lunches, low voter participation, lack of ordinary citizen involvement in the democratic process, the arrogance of officials such as Mayor Dan Bianchi and School Committee chair Kathy Yon, who think that they have no need to make themselves available to press inquiry. We could go on and on.
One of the most relevant and immediate factors in painting the bus borrowing as inadvisable has to be the $1.5 million taxpayers still owe for the fleet they propose to junk. An accountant friend, reviewing that very situation, said, “It would be financial lunacy” to borrow new millions on top of the million and a half already owed.
The other warning flag would be the games being played by the PSD administration. It’s interesting how 2007 is “outdated” when the Pittsfield School Department wants it that way, while in the same sense 2006 is “immediate” and relevant. Kristen Benhnke, the bag lady for the PSD finances, claims that the 2007 model year fleet of 53 buses are far too old, worn out, and doddering. However, when this fiscal apologist for pickpocketing taxpayers tries to explain why it’s less costly for the district to be in the transportation business as opposed to hiring a private company to bus school children, she cites a 2006 study — and a questionable one at that.
Welcome to Pittsfield, where The Suits want and get it “both ways” while Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski get it just once. Taxpayers and citizens — who have to bear the continual burden of an overfunded, underperforming city department — know just where, how, and when that “once” is delivered. As a cutback measure, the city has even taken away the K-Y Jelly prior to insertion.
The replacement of the bus fleet doesn’t make economic sense.
Is it too much to ask the school department to squeeze another couple years out of the fleet? Has the department been that careless in its maintenance — have the drivers been that bad — to have run an entire fleet of 53 buses into ground from a brand new state in eight short years? THE PLANET drives a 2001 Ford Focus. It has 164,401 miles on it. We have taken care of it lovingly for all those years. We drive responsibly. “Nellybelle” shall be good for at least a couple hundred thou, we should think.
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THE PLANET shall leave the buses for next week. In our follow-up, we shall hear from councilors, we hope on both sides of this issue. We commend councilors Lisa Tully (Ward 1), Kevin Morandi (Ward 2), and Tony Simonelli (Ward 7) for their vote in favor of common sense, acknowledgment of fiscal reality, and the taxpayers, who won a rare victory. One can only hope the victory remains in place and that none of the three flips their vote.
The trio, Tully especially, had their finest moments as councilors. Tully made the case that the buses could and should be extended for a while longer. She, too, drives an old vehicle, and makes do. Funny how when those in the Dreaded Private Sector are expected to make do, including the hundreds who lost their jobs at North Adams Regional Hospital, no one blinks. Suggest one adjustment, however, to the Fatted Calf that is the public budget, and the Vested Interests bleat like stuck pigs, led by the most pathetic of them all. That would be The Suits “kept woman,” The Boring Broadsheet, which embarrassed itself again with its fruit-looped editorial criticizing the vote.
Simonelli also had his shining moment, pointing out that schools have no business being in the transportation business. He’s correct on both administrative and fiscal accounts. Simonelli can also be considered a qualified source, given his long career in education.
You want to tune in next week for a continuation of this discussion. You also want to extend your support to the trio of councilors who did the right thing, which is not necessarily the popular of politically expedient thing. You, along with THE PLANET, need to stand with them and also make it clear that we will tolerate no change in position. That would be indicative of someone having “gotten to” the flip-flopper.
ALso next week, we shall present an explosive story regarding city personnel that Bianchi is fully aware of and is trying desperately to keep from emerging from the dark, dank cell where it’s presently locked. THE PLANET has found a key!
“The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness.” — Led Zeppelin, “The Battle of Evermore,” (1973).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.