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.
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.
(413) 499-9321 (city hall)
(413) 442-1967 (Global Montello Group, Bianchi’s other job)
(413) 441-2387 (cell)
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Melissa Mazzeo, Council President
57 Winesap Road
443-4079 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher J. Connell, Council Vice President
105 Dawes Avenue
443-6779 – home
822-6008 – email@example.com
Lisa I. Tully
58 Oak Hill Road
499-7505 – home
329-0074 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin J. Morandi
19 South Carolina Avenue
499-0108 – work and home
429-7936 – email@example.com
Nicholas J. Caccamo
130 Parkside Avenue
486-0464 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan N. Lothrop
18 Willow Lane
281-0994 – email@example.com
7 Trova Terrace
464-5830 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony J. Simonelli
59 Kellie Drive
442-2191 – email@example.com
Kathleen A. Amuso
78 Leona Drive
442-1926 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry J. Clairmont
12 Lillybrook Road
822-8866 – email@example.com
15 Donovan Street
442-0862 – home
822-3710 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
“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.