SIMONELLI SHARES FACTS ON SCHOOL BUSES: IT’s MORE COST EFFECTIVE TO PRIVATIZE … TULLY EXPLAINS HER VOTE ON BEHALF OF TAXPAYERS … CACCAMO SAYS HE HASN’T DISENFRANCHISED ANYONE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
[ED NOTE: What’s up at Berkshire Works? Has the “new” executive director, William Monterosso, been placed on paid leave after multiple accusations of sexual harassment were reported to Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi and city personnel director John DeAngelo? That’s what reliable sources are alleging. You will recall that Bianchi dumped John Barrett as head of Berkshire Works in favor of Monterosso, a man Bianchi sold to citizens with gushes of praise, a man who has been on the job only since Jan. 21. Now sources claim Monterosso is in hot water. Is there anything to this story? THE PLANET is on it, and we will share what we learn after we complete our initial investigation. Stay tuned.]
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2014) — The helpless flapping in the bus water by the Pittsfield School Department, the school committee, and Mayor Dan Bianchi could have been avoided simply by doing the breast stroke and recognizing economic common sense: Privatizing bus service is (a) less costly while (b) removing the burdens for personnel, upkeep, and the rest of the anchors that otherwise keep taxpayers submerged.
Going with a private bus company takes the school department out of the transportation business, where it has no business being, and into a more solitary focus on the education of young people. It leaves the purely mechanical function of transporting children to the pros … or to parents, which is virtually the same thing.
THE PLANET needn’t remind you that by almost every metric — academic, administrative, economic — the Pittsfield Public School Department hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire, much less starting a brush fire in a sandlot. It would have at least an even shot of improvement if the burdens of running and paying for a bus company were removed from the equation.
During the most recent city council meeting, our Right Honorable Good Friends defeated Mayor Bianchi’s blinded-by-a-blizzard request to borrow almost $3 million to purchase new buses — this while the city still owes $1.2 million on the current fleet. Since you can’t sell what you do not own, the city would have to settle the books for the current bus fleet before it advances one cent in purchase of its replacement.
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The measure went down, 7-3-1, needing a supermajorty of eight votes. As THE PLANET told you last week, the “1” indicated a recusal, when Missing-in-Action Nick Caccamo had to spit in the face of his Ward 3 constituents. As we say, Caccamo had no choice, as this site presciently predicted last year during the election. Caccamo is an employee of the PSD. He cannot take part in any debate, discussion, or votes involving the department.
Wanting to know how he can in good conscience continue on the council, THE PLANET sent Caccamo the following message:
In light of your inability to represent Ward 3 constituents on matters pertaining to the school department, have you given thought to reconsidering your council position? You have, in effect, disenfranchised Ward 3 citizens when it comes to a department that consumes 70% of the city’s budget. I would like your thoughts on this.
I have written about this on THE PLANET and intend to do so again. I would welcome your thoughts.
Caccamo answered this way: “Yes, [I] cannot cast a vote on the school department budget when it comes before the City Council. However, my position does not stop me from attending meetings, working on subcommittees, returning calls and emails from residents, or learning about the issues. Which are the core of being a City Councilor and in no way disenfranchises the residents of [W]ard 03 [sic].”
THE PLANET reminds our Right Honorable Good Friend that he is young and has much to learn about representative government. If you can’t vote, you are in a gunfight without any bullets. Private citizens can “attend meetings.” Private citizens can “work on subcommittees” via their input. Private citizens can make as well as return “calls and e-mails.” Private citizens can “learn about issues.”
Caccamo says, these “are the core of being a City Councilor and in no way disenfranchises the residents of [W]ard 03 [sic].” Yes, he did use “ward 03.” THE PLANET has never seen a councilor write out his or her ward designation without capitalizing the “w.” As for “03,” we have never seen a single-digit ward with its number preceded by a zero. A small detail, we’re sure, but could there be a bit of a Freudian slip in it? Could it reflect Caccamo’s realization that without a vote, he’s no more of a councilor than Mary Jane or Joe Kapanski?
Good Lord, man. Is this Caccamo’s understanding of the job? Does he actually believe the activities he gave represent the “core” work of his position? Earth To Nick … Earth To Nick: Private citizens can’t vote. Only councilors can vote — except for you, when it comes to matters that involve 70% of the city budget. Your inability to vote on the biggest slice of the gravy train’s pie most certainly does disenfranchise your constituents.
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The three dissenting councilors — Ward 1’s Lisa Tully, Ward 2’s Kevin Morandi, and Ward 7’s Tony Simonelli — gave the city a rare victory against The Special Interests and Suits. The former would include the lackeys running The Boring Broadsheet, who, in the second of two contemptible editorials, actually wrote that Pittsfield “is not a poor city.” If there was ever any doubt that The BB management were any more out of touch with actual Pittsfield, let it now be put to rest.
The BB editorial lambasted the courageous trio of councilors, of course, and puked up more of its noxious non sequiturs. The editorial was unsigned, probably written by Bill Everhart.
As a lad at Wahonah High School, Everhart was not what you’d call a home-room homey. He probably said three words in his high school career, preferring to hide out without notice. He thus found the perfect landing spot — writing lame, anonymous editorials at a dying newspaper from bullet points dictated to him by his bosses, who themselves have had their “minds made right” by The Suits and the GOB.
What else can we say of The BB? What can we say of a newspaper that continues to publish the broken-down gas bag Alan Chartalk, whose idea of thought provoking editions of “I, Pretentious” include sucking up to south county restaurants so he can eat for free and giving rhetorical head to every liberal loon politician this state, county, and city can muster. Other columnists of the stinking rag including the decrepit Milt and Ruth Bass, shells of their former shells who at this point can only gum mirrored echos of columns long ago. We shall mercifully stop there.
THE PLANET contacted Simonelli on his game-changing vote. Here is what he told us (the underlines are those we have put in, for highlight:
“First and foremost, as I stated at the Council meeting, I am philosophically opposed to the Pittsfield School Dept. owning their own bus fleet. When I asked Ms. Behnke, she confirmed Pittsfield is the only district in the County that does). Beside my philosophical belief we should not [be in] the transportation business, I would like to provide you some facts.
“According the the school department line item fact sheet, FY14 anticipated final expenditures are…bus drivers: $743,262; supervisor: $41,208; mechanics: $120,634; operations & maintenance: $249,600; handicap transportation: $88,322; gasoline: $287,248. (I may have overlooked other expenses). My understanding is that bus drivers, monitors, supervisors & mechanics all receive various benefits/pensions as well (cost?). As we know, these expenses will certainly go up.
“According to Ms. Behnke, in 2005 the auditors stated owning our buses would be cheaper than privatizing. While no study has been taken over the past 9 years, the auditors felt the same results would occur, if they performed another study today. According to Supt. McCandless, if the City owned 40 buses or less, it may make sense to privatize. The school committee is looking to purchase 43 buses, (close to 40?). Doesn’t this warrant another look? In addition to these expenses, the City is currently responsible for paying off over $1.2 million for the current (53) buses that the Committee wishes to trade-in. Should we bond $2,766,075 when over $1.2 is still owed? FYI: bond payment for the $1.2 million isn’t due until 2020.
Ms. Behnke stated the plan was for the school dept. to include $550,000 in the budget for the next 5 years in order to pay off the $2,766,075. I believe this to be an “addition” to the school budget, not reducing the budget by $550,000 … and putting it towards the buses. So with the addition of $550,000 on top of the anticipated $1.5 million for negotiated raises, the school department budget for FY16 would automatically be a $2 million increase over “whatever” the budget will be for FY15, and continue on until payment is complete.
I believe it is important to note that at no time did Ms. Behnke (or Supt. McCandless) say the buses were in critical condition, putting the children in danger. The reasoning was basically the buses were 9 yrs. old, and to get the best trade-in value by doing it now. I believe it was actually stated that the current fleet could last several more years. My question is, why couldn’t the school dept. hold on to (at least) 1/2 of the current fleet, and stagger the purchase of new buses, as was originally promised several years ago?
Regarding your question if I had been approached by anyone to change my position, the answer is no. On the contrary, I have received several phone calls and emails as well as people coming up to me in support of my vote, including several former City Councilor/officials.
Read his response again. Put it on your refrigerator door. Send it to your friends. Simonelli, a former long-time school administrator, sees and tells it like it is. For once, Pittsfield, you got to experience what it’s like to have honest representation.
“The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of our command.” — Led Zeppelin, “The Battle of Evermore,” (1973).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.