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TIME TO START TRUTHIN’ ABOUT THE EMPTY SUIT’S DISASTROUS FY15 BUDGET … COUNCIL MUST BE CALLED UPON TO DO THE RIGHT THING FOR TAXPAYERS … FOLKS, IT’S IN YOUR HANDS! GRAB IT!!

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

First in a Four-Part Series on the Proposed FY15 Pittsfield Municipal Budget

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2014) — Under Mayor Dan Bianchi, more popularly known as The Empty Suit (TES) thanks to our recent coverage both here at this website and on the telly, Pittsfield has approached the beginning of the financial end. We kid you not.

THE PLANET, enjoying the Stockbridge Memorial Day Parade. (Photo by Ansel Adams).

There are three groups of people who love this recurring development of the past 3 years: (1) TES apologists, (2) School Department employees, and (3) city-side employees who are department heads, managers, exempt employees, or those in the police and fire departments who over the years have enjoyed the yield of the pyramid of benefits pushed through by the politicians to secure political cover which, over the years, has become political immunity due to public apathy.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to put an end to this. In today’s column, and for the rest of the week, we shall tell and show you how.

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As our readers, viewers, and followers full well know, THE PLANET has never been afraid to reveal the truth and inner workings of the financial “Groundhog’s Day” of the city’s budgets. What began to go astray under then-city treasurer David Kiley has taken the reckless turn past the “Stop! Dead End!” sign under TES’ financial chief, Susan Carmel, who is to taxpayers what an audible, wet fart is to a formal, dinner party at the Smyth-Smyths of Kensington.

Carmel’s idea of working up the new fiscal year budget from one annum to the next involves calling up the saved Excel spreadsheets from last year and plugging in the new, higher numbers ordered by the mayor. Under Bianchi, this process has become lethal. The next mayor — it won’t be Bianchi — must as a first order of business invite Carmel to collect her walking papers and not let the door hit her in the backside on the way out.

Despite the factual, non-political nature of our budget analyses (or maybe because of them!) Bianchi’s apologists — everyone from school superintendent Jake “JIV” McCandless to the head The Lollipop Guild and all the good little greedbuckets in between — raise doubts whenever we present the straight, unvarnished truth of the city’s finances. Even when we take the city’s own figures and place them in the proper context, the doubters doubt and try to deflect citizens’ attention from the discussion by getting into deliberately pointless discussions or ad hominum attacks.

Here’s the good news: The Suits have never been squirming the way they are now, because, much to their chagrin, our message is beginning not only to get through (it’s always done that to some extent) but is having a more regular impact.

Example: THE PLANET exposed Frank “Free House” Cote‘s part in “Housegate” and followed that up by exposing to the daylight the ruinous contract he had with the Pittsfield School Department, courtesy of his drinking buddy Jake Eberwein III. This unholy pact allowed allowing for the legal stick-up of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. With Free House’ contract expiring on June 30, we publicly questioned the school committee about the wisdom of renewing. Would it be better to let Free House go? The answer came when Free House got religion announced that he’s moving on to a new school district. “Go East, Young Mont.” Without THE PLANET’s crusading, chances are Cote come back for another three years, with a raise, to more than $100 grand a year.

Example: When THE PLANET got on the school department for not putting it’s FY15 budget online, it took down the “budget book” the very next day. In its place, voila!, the actual FY15 request. It’s still hidden on the city’s website, taking about 29 keystrokes and Sherlock Holmes to find it, but at least it’s now there. Without THE PLANET’s coverage, the FY15 budget is nowhere to be seen or examined by the public at large.

Example: When the executive director at Berkshire Works drove the staff to nervous breakdowns and they appealed for relief to Bianchi and his personnel director, The Sheffield Shuffler himself, John DeAngelo, nothing happened. The Suits buried it. Then THE PLANET started investigating. Sources came forward. The pressure became undeniable and irresistible, even for the entrenched TES, who desperately wanted to save himself from the embarrassment caused by his fair-haired boy from Kentucky. William Monterosso is now history.

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We could go on and on with these examples. We won’t. THE PLANET’s blower doesn’t need to be chimed, the way some supermarkets and stores have a bell to ring “for good service.” The point is this: THE PLANET deals with truth. When truthin’ while among the con artists, soft-shoe shufflers, medicine oil barkers, and three-card “mounties” among The Suits try to blame messenger, our growing coalition of the pissed off and disappointed scoff at them. Our readers and viewers are too smart to fall for the old trick, the one that used to work: “Ohhh, you’re being ‘negative.’”

THE PLANET has taken “negative” and shoved it right up their vacuum tubes.

Thus, when we share information on the city’s finances, smart folks take it to the bank.

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Just 10 FYs ago, the city was dealing with a budget of $99,673,084. FY04 became the first year that topped $100 million ($100,002,226). In just 10 short years, the city budget has risen to the irresponsible, rash, and reckless $148,142507 that The Empty Suit has requested the city council to approve. Bianchi inherited a budget of $129,347,849 (Jimmy Ruberto‘s final budget) and in three short years has it pushing $150 million, with requests of $133.13 million (FY13), $137.58 million (FY14) to this year’s $148.14 request.

Tell me, good friends:

— Have city services increased nearly 50% for you homeowners and businesses in that time?

— Are the roads 50% better?

— What about the population? Has that grown 50%?

— Has the tax base improved by 50%?

— Have your wages in The Dreaded Private Sector climbed 50%? Yeah, right. If you’re lucky enough to have a decent job, chances are your wages have been frozen. Chances are you don’t have your employer pick up 85% of your mounting health insurance costs the way taxpayers do for city employees.

Bianchi’s criminal request will soon be in the council’s hands. The council must two things:

(1) Trim the school department request, something the school committee and the mayor didn’t have the guts to do. This is paramount, since the PSD consumes well more than 70% of the entire city budget. Send the new figures back to mayor, who can send it back to the superintendent, who can make a couple of tough but responsible choices for a change.

(2) Perform a careful review of every department’s spending request. If there’s $1 to cut, that dollar must be cut. There is no such thing as a spending cut too small in the same way there that The Suits thinks a request for a hike can be too big.

Our Right Honorable Good Friends on the council must, for once, rise to the challenge. They must present more than just a perfunctory budget review. They must dip the rubber stamp in battery acid to dissolve the imprints. They must ask tough questions of Carmel and, for once, not stand for the quackery of her evasions, non-answers, and the sincerity of her being in over her head.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can begin doing your part by contacting the mayor and councilors. Here’s the contact info.

MAYOR’S OFFICE

Dan Bianchi

(413) 499-9321 (city hall)

(413) 442-1967 (Global Montello Group, Bianchi’s other job)

(413) 441-2387 (cell)

e-mail dbianchi@pittsfieldch.com or dbianchi@globalp.com

CITY COUNCIL

At-Large
Melissa Mazzeo, Council President
57 Winesap Road
443-4079 – homemmazzeo@pittsfieldch.com
 Mazzeo
Ward 4
Christopher J. Connell, Council Vice President
105 Dawes Avenue
443-6779 – home
822-6008 – cellcconnell@pittsfieldch.com
 Connell
Ward 1
Lisa I. Tully
58 Oak Hill Road
499-7505 - home
329-0074 – cellltully@pittsfieldch.com
 Tully
Ward 2
Kevin J. Morandi
19 South Carolina Avenue
499-0108 – work and home
429-7936 – cellkmorandi@pittsfieldch.com
 Morandi
Ward 3
Nicholas J. Caccamo
130 Parkside Avenue
486-0464 – cellncaccamo@pittsfieldch.com
Caccamo
Ward 5
Jonathan N. Lothrop
18 Willow Lane
281-0994 - celljlothrop@pittsfieldch.com 
Lothrop
Ward 6
John Krol
7 Trova Terrace
464-5830 – celljkrol@pittsfieldch.com
 Krol
Ward 7
Anthony J. Simonelli
59 Kellie Drive
442-2191 – hometsimonelli@pittsfieldch.com
 Simonelli
At- large 
Kathleen A. Amuso
78 Leona Drive
442-1926 - homekamuso@pittsfieldch.com
 Amuso
At- large
Barry J. Clairmont
12 Lillybrook Road
822-8866 – cellbclairmont@pittsfieldch.com
Clairmont
At- large
Churchill Cotton
15 Donovan Street
442-0862 – home
822-3710 – cellccotton@pittsfieldch.com

There’s your assignment. Call them. E-mail them. Tell them enough is enough. Remind them that you vote.

Finally, understand that you cannot overestimate the power generated by one e-mail, one phone call, or one in-your-face sentiment. If enough of you get involved, you can perform miracles. That’s the part of participatory government The Suits think you’re forgotten. Time to prove them wrong.

Let’s Take Back Our government.

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“Wah-wah, you’ve given me a wah-wah, and I’m thinking of you and all the things we used to do. Wah-wah, you made me such a big star being there at the right time cheaper than a dime.”George Harrison, “Wah-Wah,” from the album “All Things Must Pass,” (1970).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

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18 Responses to “TIME TO START TRUTHIN’ ABOUT THE EMPTY SUIT’S DISASTROUS FY15 BUDGET … COUNCIL MUST BE CALLED UPON TO DO THE RIGHT THING FOR TAXPAYERS … FOLKS, IT’S IN YOUR HANDS! GRAB IT!!”

  1. Sheriff Dawg
    May 27, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    Spot on DV. Let’s hope we can start something here. Somthing like a big fat N-O to this budget request.

  2. Still wondering
    May 27, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    It’s looking like it is time to move on from Pittsfield. The budget is out of control, the roads really suck, the welfare/druggie population keeps growing… there’s no end in sight.

    • dusty
      May 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

      There are a ton of FOR SALE signs on homes around the city. Makes me wonder if people are reading the tea leaves and cutting their losses. We have been waiting for it to get better for a long long time. It is great that we can all talk about turning the city around with honest politicians and good paying jobs. But what real evidence is there that it will ever happen and in time to save any seniors nest egg? Personally I feel trapped here but if I were younger I would be seriously looking for another town to live in.

      • danvalenti
        May 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

        People are leaving. The population says so.

  3. Dave
    May 27, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    Wasn’t the school budget request increased a million from last year? So there is an additional 10 million requested on the city side? What line items are increasing so dramatically to explain this? TK do you know?

  4. Paul Revere
    May 27, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Dan,

    Its not just Pittsfield. Cities across the United States have been filing bankruptcy at an astonishing rate.

    A large percentage of the taxes in Pittsfield are paid by GE retirees on a fixed income. Those who qualify can work off their tax burden for the federally mandated minimum wage.

    The powers that be don’t really seem to care as taxes and fees rise every single year no matter who gets voted in.

    No doubt Pittsfield will end up in Federal Receivership by means of a bailout. With concessions.
    Only the Federal govt itself will implode due to the shear unsustainable debt and wreckless uncontrolled spending they have done since Bush.

    What is about to happen will come as a shock to a great many people.

    • danvalenti
      May 27, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

      What is about to happen probably will, but it should not, come as a surprise. The only way that can happen is if people have ignored the screaming neon. Of course, apathy (low turnouts, no attendance at meetings) shows such ignorance.

  5. joetaxpayer
    May 27, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Would be great to see some consolidation with in the City. Also some outside the box thinking consolidating services in Berkshire County.

  6. Jamie
    May 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    Consolidation would be a start. Heard JLO on Krols show this morning. He loves the budget hike and espec. the increases for school department. Lame utterly lame.

    Ive got a few messages sent (the empty suit, couple councilors)

  7. Ron Kitterman
    May 27, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    I always thought with the close relationship between the Mayor and Sheriff that the communications E911 could be absorbed by the Sheriff’s Department. Tuff wars can develop over paper clips though so God only knows if this could happen in Pittsfield or Berkshire County.

  8. Are We Dreaming?
    May 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Consolidation ripe everywhere. why two personnel depts, two maintenance, two purchasing, to finance directors, etc etc between the city and the schools.
    Savings in the millions just for the asking.

  9. Pat
    May 27, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    North Adams is a city in serious financial trouble and needs an infusion of cash quickly which apparently it will get, but it’s financial problems run deep and and a one time cash drop will do nothing to solve its long term problems. The Berkshire Eagle editorial several days ago was all about lecturing North Adams officials for giving themselves pay raises recently when the city is in such dire financial trouble. In addition, the Berkshire Eagle tells the union to do some cost cutting just as the private sector has had to do all along. The BB stops short of telling Pittsfield to clean up its own act and conveniently ignores all the spending and pay raises that Pittsfield wants to give out. Let’s not forget that 70% of the Pittsfield budget goes toward a school system with a shrinking population.

    The BB received high praise from several commentors from the North Adams area, more than likely, for telling government and the unions to learn how to budget.

    Pittsfield should be given the same message. Many have left the city over the years and the ones who left tell me they are glad they did because they finally found a good paying job. They were disgusted with the hiring policies in the city that favor the few and well connected.

    • danvalenti
      May 27, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

      The BB doesn’t dare criticize the city’s Suits.

  10. Lenny
    May 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    @ Are We Dreaming –

    Good idea on consolidation. Did you know that you can submit a citizens petition requesting such consolidation? If you start one, I will sign it. Heck, maybe then they’ll earn their raises.

    MGL CHAPTER 71 Section 37M Consolidation of Administrative Functions with City or Town

    Section 37M. (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter forty-one or chapter seventy-one or any other special or general law to the contrary, any city or town which accepts the provisions of this section may consolidate administrative functions, including but not limited to financial, personnel, and maintenance functions, of the school committee with those of the city or town; provided, however, that such consolidation may occur only upon a majority vote of both the school committee and in a city, the city council, with approval of the mayor required by law or in a town, the annual town meeting or in a town with no town meeting, the town council.

    (b) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, a decision to consolidate functions pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section may be revoked by a majority vote of either the school committee of the city or town, or the city or town, or both as such vote is described in said paragraph (a).

    • danvalenti
      May 27, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

      Excellent info, LENNY. Many thanks for advancing the discussion.

  11. italia
    May 27, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    This is off the subject posted today, but it still bothers me. Does anyone know why the former ward 3 councilman never was in court? He date was to be Jan. 6th. Never happened. My spies said “it was taken of”. Thanks for any info.

    • danvalenti
      May 27, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

      A reasonable question. Anyone with info, contact THE PLANET.

  12. levitan
    May 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    Ok, this is good, Dan. I can make a few of those calls.