CACCAMO’s TRIP TO THE ‘LADIES ROOM’ DOOMS BUS BORROWING … AS PLANET PREDICTED, COUNCILOR’S ‘DOUBLE DIPPING’ MAKES WARD 3 CONSTITUENTS ‘SECOND CLASS CITIZENS’ … PITTSFIELD SCHOOL COMMITTEE, CHAIRWOMAN YON, FAILS FIRST TEST … ONLY ELIAS, CUTLER PASS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
ED. NOTE: Before we begin our regularly scheduled column, THE PLANET needs to weigh in on yet more odd doings by our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council, who Tuesday night looked overwhelmed and overmatched in the confusion that followed the 7-3-1 vote on borrowing $2,766,075 to buy new school buses. For approval, the bonding measure needed a supermajority of eight votes. It received seven in favor, three against, and — crucially — one abstention. The proposal to borrow the money went down to defeat.
Ward 3 councilor Nick Caccamo recused himself from voting. In doing so, his constituents were taken out of discussion on this major issue. They weren’t at the table, because their representative neutered them by virtue of his employment by the Pittsfield School Department. Ward 3 citizens have no say in 70% of the entire city budget.
Our readers will recall how THE PLANET laid out this precise scenario before and during the election. We said if Caccamo was elected, Ward 3 would be kicked out of the discussions of any PSD matter. It’s like they have 30% representation. For that reason, we advised that Caccamo not run. For that reason, we advised voters not to elect him. He didn’t heed that advice, as was his privilege. Neither did the voters, as was theirs. We will remind all that the total vote failed to reach 25%. Three of every four voters exercised their privilege, depressed by candidates of such caliber.
Sure enough, in the city council’s first substantive vote on school department business, Caccamo, with all eyes on him — excused himself to the ladies room. His inability to vote made the difference in the borrowing measure. Failing a supermajority, the vote to allow Mayor Dan Bianchi to borrow bus money crashed to earth in a fireball.
Is this how his constituents in Ward 3 propose to limp along for another 21 months? Would they not be better off recalling this man from office and getting someone who can provide them with 100%, not 30%, representation.
THE PLANET detests Caccamo’s status of sans portfolio, and we equally loathe his selfishness for putting his interests and ego above the service of the ward he “represents.” It’s asking much, we allow, but his resignation would go a long way to restoring voter confidence.
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(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2014) — On March 21, THE PLANET sent the following e-mail to the seven members of the Pittsfield school committee:
In recent days, my website — PLANETVALENTI.com — has covered two issues related to the school department. The first deals with a horrible case of alleged bullying at PHS, which was reportedly witnessed by teachers and staff, reported to the administration, with nothing done to punish the perpetrators. That story ran on March 19. The second deals with the current employment contract of asst. superintendent for vocational, Frank Cote. That ran on March 6 with a follow-up on March 21. If you haven’t read those stories, I would invite you to do so, because I have a few questions:
(1) Have you looked into the case of alleged bullying? If so, what did you do and would you share that with me. If not, why not? And if not, would you do so and keep us informed?
(2) Can you give us a comment on that particular case and of other such stories we have all heard (can it only be me?) about rampant bullying with little or nothing done to punish the perpetrators.
(3) Regarding Mr. Cote’s three-year contract, it expires on June 1. I would like to know (a) How do you intend to vote on the renewal of his contract. If you think he should be rehired, would you please tell us why? If not, same thing.
Thanks. Feel free to add any other comments. I shall be posting your responses (or non-responses) on THE PLANET. A non-respose will be taken as your response. I would only add that I trust you realize that your constituents, who are citywide, deserve to know where you all stand.
The seven members are chairwoman Kathy Yon, Dan Elias, Dan Bianchi, Pam Farren, Tony Riello, Josh Cutler, and Cindy Taylor.
Q: How many of these members would you guess responded to THE PLANET?
A: Two, Elias and Cutler.
Yon, Bianchi, Farren, Riello, and Taylor each took a powder. For Yon, its a double snub, since, as chair, she is required by law to respond to all press and journalistic inquiries. Say what you will about former school committee chair Alf Barbalunga, but THE PLANET can attest that he responded to every one of our inquiries, even when our queries weren’t the most welcome. He was a pro about it.
Does Yon care about the people who elected her? Her position is not tryout on The Amateur Hour. It is, rather, a serious fiduciary post meant to safeguard the taxpayer’s precious dollars that go toward public education.
THE PLANET acts on behalf of We The People. When political hacks refuse to answer straightforward questions, they aren’t spitting at THE PLANET, literally the only media source locally who will dare ask the tough questions. These hacks are spitting in the faces of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.
For the record, here’s what Elias and Cutler said:
DAN ELIAS: I did check into issue of student bullying. Problem is that I have found no credible evidence that this particular case you mention has occurred. That does not mean it did not happen, but for me to comment I need to be 100 percent certain that it did. As for bullying in general, I have stated on a number of occasions that it is a cancer on our school system. Although we have undergone much improvement in this area, we need to go much further. I find it as one of the top reasons why students choice out. It is a very serious problem.
As far as contract goes, I will take my own perceptions combine them with what the other members think and the evaluation done by a new superintendent and make a honest judgement.
JOSH CUTLER: My responses to your questions are posted below after having a chance to read and ponder the pieces today:
3) If and when a contract renewal is presented to the School Committee for our approval, I will carefully evaluate Mr. Cote’s job performance over the course of his contract and vote based on if I feel he has fulfilled his obligations. I can’t say how I would vote at this time because I owe it to Mr. Cote and my colleagues to do a full evaluation of his performance (as I would do with any contractual employee who comes before our body for approval) before I would vote.
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This is the full extent of response from the members. THE PLANET doesn’t need to say that in a “league” where anything less than batting 1.000 is unacceptable, 2-for-7, .286, is putrescent.
The school committee controls the purse strings of more than 70% of a $134 million budget. When it does not respond to citizens directly or via the press, any chance at honest government dies at the hands of Special Interest politics, a rancid form of public service that has at its end the advancement of private agendas.
The school budget will come under discussion again this week, tonight in fact. As THE PLANET’s preamble to this column said, the city council Tuesday defeated a measure to authorize borrowing for school buses — only because Nick Caccamo couldn’t vote. On Wednesday, the .286 school committee meets to discuss the school budget.
Concerned citizens have but one duty: To exert pressure on politicians to reject the Special Interests for the good of citizens, taxpayers, and, yes, The Children. The school department budget, which shall be presented as “austere,” is nothing of the sort. It pads the existing blubbery with well more than $1 million in new spending.
It’s time for cuts in spending and boosts in quality. The two are not mutually exclusive. Only poor management perpetuates this fiction.
“Somewhere a broom is wearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life.” — Jimi Hendrix, “Castles Made of Sand,” from the “Axis: Bold As Love” album, 1968.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.