PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MAY 8, 2014) — Boys and girls, be sure to tune into PCTV’s  Access Pittsfield, tonight beginning at 7 p.m., for one of the most unusual hours of local TV you’ve seen in a while — or perhaps have ever seen. Tonight, we break the Dom across the bow of the S.S. Planet Valenti Television — PV-TV Starring Dan Valenti.

Will the show stay afloat or will it sink? If the first, how far, long, and wide will it sail? That remains to be determined.

The big difference between writing, radio, and TV broadcasting is that TV is such a technically collaborative medium. You can’t do it alone. THE PLANET has done thousands of radio shows, and we have guested on many TV shows. That’s not what we’re talking about here. On PV-TV, we’re starting a new TV show, from scratch. We have an hour to fill, totally dependent on a new (though mostly experienced) crew. If you had to categorize it, call it a “talk show,” but that doesn’t quite cover it. It is … what it will be. That’s the best we can do.

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Writers produce their output within the comfort and safety of their cabins or offices or wherever it is they lay down their syllables on paper. Radio broadcasters sit in a studio, unseen, and deliver words into a microphone. On TV, you do everything in plain view. To add to the edge, our show shall be broadcast live, in real time. The only thing recorded will be when Planet Valenti TV airs on the re-broadcast schedule.

Hope you tune in, because you will be an invited guest. Yes, we’ll take your phone calls. We don’t have the call-in number yet, but when you tune in beginning at 7 p.m., we’ll make it abundantly apparent.

It takes some time for any show of this type to find its way and figures out what it is, and that shall be the case for Planet Valenti TV. In addition to your phone calls, we anticipate eventually branching out in the skits, comedy, music, and anything else that may occur in advance or at the moment. Don’t expect all of this tonight. We will probably be easing our way into it.

THE PLANET considers this an experiment in TV. This is a first for us, hosting a TV regular show. In May, we will broadcast tonight and the 22nd. If all goes according to schedule, PV-TV will be a weekly on Thursday nights at 7. The fun will be not fully knowing what to expect or even what we shall say or do  … until we say or do it. We’ve always preferred improv to scripts. We did stand-up comedy, radio, public speaking this way, and PV-TV shall be no different. You will be finding out what we do next the moment we do.

One last thing. THE PLANET has promised, and we shall deliver, as our first guest a resident of a Corner Office near you. Allen and Fenn Street. Yes, we speak of the mayor. Finally, at last, what everyone’s been waiting for, an appearance of The Empty Suit live in studio, to take THE PLANET’s questions. You won’t want to miss it.


Clairmont Didn’t Get the Memo

When Peter Arlos, the Aging Greek God himself, ruled the planet (not THE PLANET), he used to hand out a piece of standard advice to anyone wishing to step foot on the public stage. Pete would say that inevitably, you would come in for critical attention. You’d make enemies. You’d have to develop a thick skin. You’d have to know when to keep talking and to keep your mouth shut. The culmination of this invaluable lecture was his priceless dictum: “Never Chase Criticism.” The idea was that “chasing” the criticism — that is, responding to it, particularly in a defensive way — would end up making the situation worse for yourself. In chasing criticism, a public figure would only keep a negative issue alive and well … in the public.

When councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont spoke at the Ordinance and Rules committee during the public input period (he’s not a committee member) to defend the mayor’s pay raise request, he made two regrettable comments.

First, he made comments about recipients on Social Security that were universally interpreted as disrespect to the elderly, those living on fixed income, and those whose survival depends on receiving the S.S. checks. Clairmont may not have meant it, but it came out that way. He implied that recipients of Social Security were better off than city managers. The idea is ludicrous on its face, for a number of reasons:

1. Social Security checks are cut from payments made into the system by the workers themselves. The S.S. checks come from money already earned and paid by workers in the form of government-forced payments. Recipients are only getting their own money back, money that they otherwise could have used as they pleased. Instead, Uncle Sam got it first, interest free. City workers, if the pay hikes are approved, will receive extra money for work yet done.

2. Many seniors receive small S.S. checks. It’s not uncommon to have someone making less than $10,000 a year. When that is your only (or your main) source of income, you’re living on fumes. When you live in Pittsfield, where the only certainly besides death is that the mayor and council will approve taking more of your money via tax hike to grow the government, you’re not even surviving in many cases.

3. The pay hikes in the mayor’s scheme will raise salaries of managers substantially, up to 40%.Here are the actual salaries that Clairmont, the mayor, and others are trying to palm off as starvation raises. The raises would be added to these figures. The numbers are taken from the consultant’s study. These are current Pittsfield salaries:

Building commissioner $49,999; COA director $40,289; city solicitor $66,420; city clerk $54,489; personnel director $54,909; Health director $55,944; fire chief $87654; airport manager $56442; council on aging director $50,535; tax collector $56,101; finance director $73,828; purchasing agent $55,997; maintenance director $63,312; veteran’s director $49,999; community development director $73,672; city engineer $68,772; assessor $51,379; DPW commissioner $83,919; housing manager $57,745; police chief $109,157; planner $54,333; natural resources manager $57,381; library director $74,606.

Keep in mind that according to the city’s own study, these people receive far greater benefits than the average in the other communities looked at. According to data released by councilor Chris Connell, they also live in areas where the cost of living, and particular the cost of house, is dramatically lower.

In other words, as one commenter put it yesterday on THE PLANET, city managers are on the whole fairly compensated and over-benefitted. In fact, half of the positions on the above list make no lower than 90% of the comparable positions in other cities. The last five positions on the list actually make more. When you factor in benefits, cost of living, and housing prices, it’s safe to say that on average, Pittsfield pays more than comparable communities.

Low Pay Causes Theft? Preposterous

Clairmont’s second “duh-oh” came when he linked theft by city workers to their low pays. The notion, on the face of it, is preposterous. It not only puts all city workers in a bad light, it ignores the sociology of stealing. Except in extreme cases (Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family in Les Miserables) people don’t steal because of how much they make. They steal because of who they are.

Clairmont got buried for these two statements in comments made on this website. Rather than leaving the justified criticism alone, Clairmont chased it. In doing so, he fanned the flames. The more he tried to excuse or explain away these statements, the bigger they got.

We trust our Right Honorable Good Friend has learned a good lesson here.

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One related note. It’s been mentioned that ever since the brow-beating from council president Melissa Mazzeo, the trio of Jonathan Lothrop, Clairmont, and John Krol have been missing in action, especially clairmont and Krol. People have noted that they haven’t been themselves. They’ve seemed “cowed,” “reticent,” “timid” “beaten,” so folks have observed.

THE PLANET wouldn’t go that far, but it is a phenomenon that will bear watching in subsequent meetings.

Have they been co-opted? Are they in fear? Or will they get their groove back? Only time will tell.


Seems to me, you don’t want to talk about it. Seems to me, you just turn your pretty head and walk away.”James Gang, “Walk Away,” (1971)




  1. dusty
    May 8, 2014 at 1:40 am #

    What baffled me about Clairmonts comparison of the SS folk and the managers was that he used a larger percentage of a smaller number and compared it with a smaller percentage of a larger number. A smoke and mirrors maneuver. But what really riled me about it was that he thinks the populace was stupid enough to buy into it and for me that is why he came out looking sneaky and Lothrup like.

    Dan I can’t imagine where Bianchi all of a sudden came up with the balls to face you on public TV. He has to have an ace up his sleeve, such as planning a major filibuster or somehow taking up the whole show with a diarrhea of the mouth approach. If so, you will need a six hour show to get anything meaningful out of him.

    For this show to be an ongoing success you need to prevent him from turning it into a mind numbing rant of crap we don’t care about.

    Good luck.

  2. amandaWell
    May 8, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    As bad as Clairmont’s remarks were and Bianchi’s approach to giving all of these increases, the highlight or worst remark was the Low comment : we haven’t even factored an increase for the City Council pay (paraphrasing).

    • danvalenti
      May 8, 2014 at 7:36 am #

      Agreed. Council pay hike? Uh, don’t think so.

  3. Nota
    May 8, 2014 at 4:28 am #

    Almost seems like the Planet has forced the powerless to be, Bianchi, Lothropped and not so Clearmont to agree vicariously on recent issues. What has the Planet in store for this guy tonight? Personally, one has to believe this mayor will show his true colors and walk off the set after the Planet gets done with him, anything less would be a flop. Frankly, the Planet has to much Ammo, if he doesn’t get it done, we will…..Dusty, you should be first in! Just kidding.

    • danvalenti
      May 8, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      We shall be prepared for TES — The Empty Suit.

  4. Ron Kitterman
    May 8, 2014 at 4:41 am #

    Barry should have heeded the advise you parroted many times on here from the aging Greek God never chase criticism, I know its hard we all want to be loved but its a skill you must learn if you want to be in the game BC.

  5. what if
    May 8, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    Can you imagine what would happen if when the mayor walks in to do the show and sees Terry Kinnas sitting there in studio with you Dan?

    He would probably have to leave for an emergency ribbon cutting ceremony that he had forgotten about.

  6. Nota
    May 8, 2014 at 4:46 am #

    An old axiom, you own your own words come into play here. Spider so eloquently called him out and Barry should have responded, in kind. He was wrong and should admit forthright.

  7. Spider
    May 8, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    Yesterday, Ed McClelland asked Clairmont if he would make known the salaries of all city employees and the municipalities in which they live (not home addresses).

    I would settle for just those in line for the raises.

    Dan: Since Clairmont has not responded, would you consider asking this of the mayor tonight?

    Looking forward to your program!

    • danvalenti
      May 8, 2014 at 7:34 am #

      Excellent idea, SPIDER. Such a list would be enlightening for citizens and taxpayers.

  8. Call it like it is
    May 8, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    Barry is all for giving city employee raises, up to 40% over their already ridiculously high pay. So they they won’t steal.

    Yet it was his idea to pay financially strapped elderly taxpayers on SS the federally mandated minimum wage when they fall behind on their tax burdens to the city.

    How generous!

    Can you not see who this guy works for?

    He himself is a total waste of taxpayer’s time and money.
    An empty suit.
    Good Ole boy.

    • danvalenti
      May 8, 2014 at 7:32 am #

      BC is getting beat up, and rightly so, for his remarks, but I think he has a lot of good to contribute — if, that is, he finds his mojo again at budget time. The budget needs to be fully vetted and debated. The mayor is asking for more than $148 million. It wasn’t all that long ago that the city topped $99 million for the first time, and everyone gasped. The budget will tell us a lot about what kind of council we have. The proper thing to do will be to throw it back to the mayor and tell him to sharpen the pencil.

  9. Jonathan Melle
    May 8, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    Only Dan Valenti can save Pittsfield politics from its downward spiral and one way trip towards the proverbial cliff (nilan).

  10. amandaWell
    May 8, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    Why bother with this guy, he’s all rhetoric and a do nothing (other than increase budget) mayor.

  11. ed shepardson
    May 8, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    My spider sense tells me that Dan’s guest tonight will be a real empty suit, not the Mayor. The Mayor would be foolish to appear. But we’ll see.

    • danvalenti
      May 8, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      We’re not saying, but your spider sense could be on to something.

      • ed shepardson
        May 8, 2014 at 7:35 am #

        I think the empty suit bit would be worthy of SNL.

        • Downtown Dweller
          May 8, 2014 at 9:05 am #

          SNL did a skit like that several years ago: “The King Is Gone But The Coat Lives On”. It was around Elvis. They played his songs and just had his white, glittery Las Vegas jacket on display on the stage. 🙂

  12. Rafael
    May 8, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    Re raises. When a position is overpaid, or hits the salary ceiling set for that position, private sector companies put a salary freeze on that position.
    I say that all city exempt employees be immediately put on salary freeze. Because we all know they are not earning their keep in a city that just keeps trending downward.

  13. Rafael
    May 8, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Where was North Hampton in the salary comparisons? I don’t have time to check myself, but I suspect Pittsfield compared favorably (and NoHo’s housing costs are way higher than Pittsfield) so the ‘consultant’ purposely left them out.
    And the fact this consultant compared Pittsfield to eastern Mass – that is all you need to know about the dishonesty surrounding all this.

  14. Matt
    May 8, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    Aren’t salaries of public officials public information?

  15. Rafael
    May 8, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    One more thing, if I were a city councilor and rec’d a ‘brow beating’ from the council prez, I would remind her, in not so kind words, that my job is to represent the people, not cowtow to her and the mayor.
    But then again, I have a spine.

    • ed shepardson
      May 8, 2014 at 8:16 am #

      How ironic.

  16. Matt
    May 8, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    Check out the government salaries for worker titles… Maybe ALL the Pittsfield workers are underpaid and not just the managers and mayor.. Why raise the salaries of the top people only! In the interest of fairness ALL Pittsfield employees should get the same raise levels..

  17. Ron Kitterman
    May 8, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Sorry, I should have read the whole planet before I posted my advice to Barry, so I’ll give you another one BC from PGA YOU CAN’T BE FOR TAXES !!.
    My prediction if the mayor does show up tonight of what would happen. The odds of him showing up, though are slim to none.

  18. Magic
    May 8, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Never wished I had cable before today. I have Direct TV so won’t be able to watch.

    Good Luck tonight, looking forward to commentary tomorrow

    • ed shepardson
      May 8, 2014 at 9:09 am #

      You can watch it on PCTV’s website.

      • Two cents
        May 8, 2014 at 11:33 am #

        PCTV.. No longer streams Live!!

        • Two cents
          May 8, 2014 at 11:35 am #

          With so many city natives who follow local politics from out of town and others without cable or even digital TVs..This is an issue I think should receive more attention.

          • Yes
            May 8, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

            Yes, you would think with all the money being thrown around for shiny new school buses and huge pay raises, they could use a little of it to update these systems to keep the public informed.

            My guess is that its kept this way so people cannot see these public meetings and such so tranparency is kept to a minimum.

            It would not be hard for a citizen to set up a $300.00 camcorder and then upload the video to youtube so that those of us who grew up in Pittsfield but were smart enough to get out of there can keep tabs on our hometown.

            PCTV is a total mess. Always has been.
            Streaming live? Forget about it.

            Then again, this is only the 21st century.
            Maybe by the 22nd century they will have that.

          • Yes
            May 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm #


            Can you have your producers upload your show online?

            So we can see it?

            Maybe post a link or embed it on your web-site?

          • danvalenti
            May 8, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

            The show is available on line at the PCTV website. Go to “Show search.” There, type in either “Planet Valenti TV” or “Dan Valenti” to get all shows that I’ve done. The search window will let you refine the search.

  19. EddieP
    May 8, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    PCTV is not streaming. I have tried their site, called them and they said there is a problem down there. Unless things have changed, there are no buttons on that site that will bring up a stream.

  20. Nota
    May 8, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    Why isn’t this on pay preview?

  21. Scott
    May 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    I killed my tv and only now mourn it’s passing. I’m confident Dan will ask the tough questions and hopefully cover them on tomorrow’s planet????

  22. amandaWell
    May 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Not to be a party crasher, but is an interview really going to happen?

  23. Matt
    May 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    The subject of the $2000/week Executive Director on paid leave from Berkshireworks has been silenced by the stonewalling of the city administration. Can you add this to your list of questions from the little guy of the mayor? Staff live in fear of a return to what they endured before.

  24. Payroll Patriot
    May 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    School Dept personnel director from North Adams Hospital.
    City personnel director from Kolburne School
    Consultant advised Merrill Lynch

    None live in Pittsfield and all three businesses are gone.

    Who picked them all or okayed them? There seem to be a problem in non leadership.

    Everyone should take out papers. Start with “TP”

  25. Tim Bartini
    May 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Why is Dan wearing. Winter hat when it’s 70 degrees out? Leather jacket ? Biker Dude

    • danvalenti
      May 8, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

      Just a different “look.” That is, BTW, my biker jacket.

    • joetaxpayer
      May 9, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      The man puts on a kick a$$ show and that’s all you got?

      • danvalenti
        May 11, 2014 at 9:55 am #

        Oh yeah, babe! Thanks JOE THE T.

  26. C. J.
    May 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    A certain some- person rallied the council chamber troops to call in defending the guest celebrity. DV, you might be challenged to play in the sand box.

    • danvalenti
      May 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

      The more the merrier. We took the “set-up” calls, and we dispatched them nicely. We let them stay in the sand box. We stayed in the studio.

  27. billy
    May 9, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    Is a caring individual and his intentions were good,he has seen the city side getting creamed for years by the school dept. I believe the workers need the pay raise. Many are making 12 to 15 a hour. Not 50 to 100 thousand and have seen no increase in years.

    I have read why Costco is always beating Walmart,it’s because they start you at 11 a hour you work up to 19. Plus you get two 2000 bonuses in five years people make 45000 Walmart 24000.
    Workers are either part of the family or just the help.The city is dysfunctional because there is no accountability in management ranks. Ex. Monterosso,Inhelder, Spectrumgate ,must I go on the mangers don’t answer for lack of production,Collingwood has less responsibility than before and the state the city is in is is pathetic .Smaller towns and their infrastructure are putting us to shame.

  28. joetaxpayer
    May 9, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    Wallmart # 1 in world.

    • billy
      May 10, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

      SAMs club is second to Costco

  29. joetaxpayer
    May 11, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Again Wall*Mart #1 Retail store in World, Costco #5. Although Costco is the largest membership club chain in the world.