GAFFES GALORE AT SCHOOL COMMITTEE-COUNCIL JOINT MEETING … BIANCHI TO BLAME, IN THE LOWEST MOMENT OF HIS CAREER … MAYOR TAKES A STEAMING DUMP OVER DEMOCRACY ITSELF … IF THAT ISN’T ENOUGH FOR A RECALL, WHAT IS?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, MAY 2-4, 2014) — The “hits” just keep piling up, as the inept mayor continues to run roughshod over due process. The appointment of Monterosso and Berkowitz Sabourin … an FY15 budget that approached $150 million … staff jumping the sinking ship … the seeking of a near-40% pay hike for himself, retroactive to July 1 of last year … low morale and an atmosphere of fear in city hall and in most city departments — it goes on and on.
The mayor has had two years and four months to prove himself. He isn’t “new” anymore, as his apologists claim. He didn’t inherit all of the city’s ill from previous mayors, as they like to blather. Even if he did, even if we agreed for the sake of discussion to accept this ridiculous proposition, let us ask: What has Dan Bianchi done to drive improvement for the city? What has he done to rectify all of the problems he “inherited?” What new programs has he introduced that have made a decided positive impact? What has he done, specifically, to inspire confidence? Answers, in this order: Nothing, nothing, nothing, and nothing.
THE PLANET shall be exploring the question of a recall in the near future, but first we must tell you about the latest. You won’t get it from the lapdog mainsteam press, and that’s for sure.
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On Wednesday night, April 30, prior to its regular meeting, the Pittsfield School Committee conducted a joint session with the city council for the purposes of reviewing the school finances. The heart of the session was a presentation by the mayor. This was a meeting among what should be three competing-not-complementary entities: The mayor, the schools, and the council.
The meeting was so fraught with procedural gaffes as to be rendered virtually meaningless if not illegal. Citizens and taxpayers, go ahead and ask: “How did they ‘love’ us? Let us count the ways.”
GAFFE 1 — No Public Input
THE PLANET refers readers to city council rule 1-C. The relevant portion of 1-C reads:
For a period of fifteen minutes at the beginning of each regular or special meeting of the Council, or the City Council meeting as the Committee of the Whole, individual members of the public shall be permitted to address the Council. At a regular meeting, individuals shall be allowed to speak on any subject. At a special meeting, including the Committee of the Whole, individuals shall be allowed to speak on any subject listed on the agenda for the special or Committee of the Whole meeting.
Clearly, this was a “special meeting” of the council, and yet the agenda issued for the meeting allowed no provision for public input. The agenda listed a “Call to Order” a “Moment of Silence,” the “Pledge of Allegiance,” a “Roll Call” and then led directly into the meeting.
Terry Kinnas, ever-vigilant citizen watchdog and as honest and informed a public official as the city has ever seen, raised his hand for a point of order. In parliamentary procedure, points of order can be requested of the chair. The chair must acknowledge the point and dispose of it, yeah or nay.
GAFFE 2 — No Co-Chair
We are taking this step-by-step, so you can see how inept the city’s public officials, led by Mayor Bianchi, are when it comes to proper procedure and protecting citizens’ rights to fairness and due process. As a joint meeting of equal “branches” of government, the meeting required co-chairs. That would be Kathy Yon, school committee chair, and Melissa Mazzeo, council president. Mazzeo did not attend the meeting (neither did Lisa Tully; all other councilors were there, for a total of nine). However, council vice president Chris Connell did attend. Connell should have been sitting next to Yon as co-chair — you know, he should have been in The Big Boy Seat. He did not do that, nor did he appear to know he should do that.
GAFFE 3 — Bianchi Shits on the Democratic Process
THE PLANET is about to reveal what is by far the ugliest moment of Bianchi’s career in so-called public service, exceeding even the Scopes Monkey Trial, a lynching for which he in cowardly fashion skipped town. When Yon as chair acknowledged Kinnas’ point or order and announced “We have a speaker from the floor,” or words to that effect, Bianchi, apparently not thinking his mic was live, spit out these foul words: “Oh, wow, what a surprise.”
With those five words, Bianchi shit upon democracy itself, which is predicated upon citizen involvement. Now we all know that participatory government is on life support in Pittsfield (24% turnout for a general election??) thanks to malevolent politicians like Bianchi, who have inspired nothing but apathy in We The People. But here we have Kinnas, the only private citizen who dared speak, and the mayor issued what amounted to both an unprincipled personal attack on Terry Kinnas as well as a statement about what he truly feels about the democratic process: He thinks its for suckers and that he’s rather rule as a dictator. That’s pretty funny coming from such a ribbon-cutting, photo-op’d wimp.
It’s incredible: The chief executive officer for the city of Pittsfield mocking a citizen for participating in government. In any other reasonably governed city or town, such a citizen is praised, not taunted. Think of the chilling effect that has on anyone who might be willing to brave parting the curtain of fear The Suits have placed between We The People and their government to perhaps offer public input on a proposal. One could make a compelling case that in those five little words, Bianchi just signed his own political death warrant.
Perhaps after Bianchi is recalled by citizens, he can repeat: “Oh, wow! What a surprise.”
GAFFE 4 — Point of Order is Simply Ignored
In our long journalistic career, THE PLANET has attended countless public meetings. We have seen many “points of order” raised. We have never seen a point of order ignored by a chair. Legally, the chair cannot simply ignore the point. The chair, or in this case, the co-chairs, needed to rule on Kinnas’ point of order and a vote is then taken. Terry told the joint meeting that they did not have a public input session on the agenda, as council rules require. Neither Yon, as co-chair, nor Connell, who for some reason did not take Mazzeo’s place as co-chair, said anything on the point of order. They simply ignored Kinnas. Astounding.
We asked various parliamentarians if they had ever seen that happen. THE PLANET even asked Kinnas himself. No one had.
“I’ve never seen a chair not respond to a point of order,” Kinnas told THE PLANET. “After I made my point, nothing happened. Literally, nothing. I was stunned. They didn’t know their own rules. They didn’t know what to do.” Bianchi sat there with one thumb stuck up his rump and the other twiddling itself.
GAFFE 5 — Bad Timing, No Notice
Continuing in the unbelievable category, Kathy Yon told Kinnas she didn’t find out about Wednesday’s joint meeting until Monday. None of the councilors knew about it before Friday, when the agenda was posted. Hmmm. Posting Friday for a Wednesday meeting? Seems like they don’t want officials knowing too much in advance. That theory would be bolstered by the fact that none of the councilors received their informational packets until arriving at their seats at the meeting. Barry Clairmont at least offered a mild objection (it should have been much stronger, for he has a valid point), saying it prevented councilors from preparing in advance and — Bog forbid! — to be able to formulate questions.
GAFFE 6 — ‘Total Lack of Communication’
“There seemed to be a total lack of communication [among] the mayor, the school committee, and the city council,” Kinnas said. “Each group has its own rules and procedures. They must meet in advance and organize the meeting, together.” That wasn’t done. Kinnas said he placed most of the blame for this on the mayor, since the mayor, pursuant to Section 7-2 of the city charter, gave the central presentation at the meeting — (from the agenda) “an overview of the financial condition of the City, revenue and expenditure forecasts and other relevant information prepared by Mayor Bianchi in order to develop a coordinated budget.”
THE PLANET agrees with Kinnas. The onus for the Keystone Kops nature of the meeting falls mainly on the mayor. Bianchi once again failed a test of leadership.
GAFFE 7 — ‘Administrative Budinsky’
Continuing what THE PLANET believes to be an illegal practice, the school superintendent Jake McCandless provided a “Recommended Action” to the members of the joint session, advising them “to accept the presentation by Mayor Bianchi.” THE PLANET has covered this before.
Public meetings cannot issue two different agendas. In this case, the public received one version of the agenda and the meeting members received a different one, with the administrative recommendation. Moreover, having the superintendent continue to make recommendations on agenda items implies there have been secret (that is, not public) meetings between the school committee chair or other members and the superintendent. How else could JIV‘s recommendations appear on the alternate agenda prior to the meeting?
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Ladies and gentleman, how much evidence do you need that The Suits, the Good Old Boys, the Special Interests — call them whatever you wish — are not only not dealing with Pittsfield serious problems but in fact by their inaction and their mis-actions are making them worse?
THE PLANET has reviewed the numbers: WIthout a drastic reversal, the city under this inept, cynical, and negative mayor, is fast-approaching the financial cliff.
Remember this and keep it seared in your mind: Dan Bianchi took a hot, steaming dump on democracy itself when he mocked citizens for getting involved with their government.
What more do you need to join what looks to be a soon-to-come effort at recall?
Are you in? Are you willing to lay it on the line for the city you love? Are you up for Pittsfield’s version of what the Founding Fathers did to that lunatic, King George III? Soon, you may have your chance to put up or shut up.
Ponder it over the weekend and be serious about it, because if this effort if launched, dabblers need not apply. You will have to be serious: Are you in?
“There was Bonaparte, a mean one, if ever I’ve seen one, and Nero fiddling through that lovely blaze. Antoinette, dainty queen, with her quaint guillotine. Ya ha ha haaaaa, those were the good old days.” — Ray (Uncle Martin) Walston as Applegate, “Those Were the Good Old Days,” from Damn Yankees, (1955).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.