!!PLANET EXCLUSIVE!! TES IN END RUN ON COUNCIL? SOURCES SAY MAYOR LOOKING TO MOVE 40% of CITY HALL to 100 NORTH ST. AND SIGN LEASE IN BUILDING REPPED By BUDDY … BUILDING ALSO HOUSES TES’ GLOBAL OFFICES … QUESTIONS ABOUND … plus … PLANET REVIEWS ‘BENEFACTORS’
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, JULY 25-27, 2014) — During our many years doing talk radio on WBRK, we got on intimate terms with 100 North St., the venerable and august First Aggie Bank building. It’s a fine structure, with its classical architecture and a size that casts an elegant shadow. The Dan Valenti Show studios were located on the second floor. It just so happens that Dan Bianchi‘s offices at Larry Global Mondello were then where they are now, on the third floor of 100 North. Global occupied then and now a cozy two-room suite overlooking North Street.
Many a time we got off the air and headed upstairs for a visit with “Dan’l” to talk politics and life with our long-time friend. Truth be told, we miss those days.
Bianchi still works out of suite 302. He still schleps energy for the Mondellos, whose father finds himself perpetually in Cincinnati. Judging by his recent appearance, Bianchi is disproportionately many years older now than he was then. As for THE PLANET, we were so much older then, quoting from the Tales of Zimmerman. We’re younger than that now.
My, how things change.
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With that, let’s break some news. Don’t tell anyone, because you’re not supposed to know, par for the course for the mayor who, as a candidate, promised transparency. The mayor has this info on Super Secret Triple Lock Down. Naturally, it was a piece of cake for our rhetorical safe crackers.
Credible, independent, and reliable sources tell THE PLANET that Mayor Bianchi “is going ahead with his plan to move the building department, some police and fire inspectors, the health department, the engineering department, and the public utilities department out of city hall (at 70 Allen St.) into the second floor at 100 North St.” Those offices represent about 40% of the current occupancy of 70 Allen St.
In one of his earlier budget proposals, the mayor had put in $100,000 for this move, but the council “stripped it out, because there were no details and no mention of who was moving or why.” In other words, The Empty Suit‘s opaque request was premature, void of detail, and lacking in all critical respects.
The hundred grand that the mayor proposes to waste … er, spend … were included in the capital budget, and it called for the renovations of a space in anticipation of a move. What space? Didn’t say? Who was moving where? Didn’t say. As it turns out, according to our sources, it was for leased space in the same building where he has his Global office.
This means that Bianchi wanted, and wants according to our sources, to use taxpayer money to renovate space in a private building for a landlord with whom sources say is “good friends.” That would be David Carver. Carver is the manager of real estate development for Scarafoni Associates, owners of the building.
The landlord at 100 North has canyons of empty space on his hands at that once-prestigious address. Currently, Scarafoni officially lists three office spaces in the building, a total of 10,445 sq. ft., for a combined monthly rent of $12,070 a month.
Like most downtown commercial buildings, seems there are difficulties renting to the Dreaded Private Sector. It also appears — appear — that Bianchi wants to come to the rescue of his buddy, with taxpayers on the hook for the costs. Such a deal!! Of course, we would normally contact the mayor for comment, but he’s made it clear he has nothing to say to THE PLANET. Moreover, need-full to say, THE PLANET obtained this information without the least bit of respect for the mayor’s “press policy”-cum-gag order.
Just When You Thought the Sleaze Couldn’t Get Slicker
Now, it appears TES is trying to pull an end-run on our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council. Sources familiar with the details tell us that Bianchi is in the midst of negotiations with Carver for the move, even though the council stripped the hundred grand out of Bianchi’s original capital budget request. It is unclear if a lease has been signed on the space, but it is clear to THE PLANET that, if our information is correct, the council faces a showdown with the mayor. It can take the mayor’s attempt at an end-run and stuff it for a three-yard loss. It is, you see, an opportunity for the council to reclaim its self-respect and its rightful place as an equal municipal co-governor.
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Bianchi’s end run raises only a million and one questions. Some of the most obvious ones include:
(1) How can the mayor lease space without authority of the city council? It’s unclear as to how much the lease will call for, but one knowledgable source told us, “I assume it’s at least over $25,000.”
(2) Where is the money going to come from, given that there is no budgetary line item for this expense?
(3) Why is Bianchi bypassing the council? This risks a procedural nightmare that could end up with the AG’s office or even in the courts.
(4) How long is Bianchi looking to lease the space and at what terms?
(5) What is wrong with the current arrangements of the mentioned city offices at 70 Allen Street?
(6) Why rent space at a premium when the offices stay rent-”free” in a building the city owns? Just who, if anyone, stands to “make out” if this deal comes to pass? “Follow the money,” once again, seems to be wise advice.
(7) Why 100 North Street? Is it because Bianchi has an office there and could find it easier to disguise any city time (on the taxpayers’ dime) he wants to spend working for Global Mondello?
(8) Has a lease been signed? If not, THE PLANET would hope the council steps in and cuts this off at the pass. The council (or some other authority) must take steps to void the measure, which has “conflict of interest” written all over it given his reported friendship with Carver and given the location of the Global suite in the building. If a lease has been signed, when is the mayor looking to make the move? When and how is he planning to announce it?
(9) The move would create a lot of empty space in city hall. What would fill it? In all, the vacated offices account for approximately 40 percent of the space at city hall.
(10) Was there only one bid (Carver’s), as sources claim? Doesn’t the state require at least three competitive bids?
(11) Why was the one bid from a friend, as sources state?
(12) What did the bid package look like?
(13) Did the bidding process comply with existing law?
(14) Was the bid rigged based on the way the bid package was written?
(15) Why wasn’t the bid for rental space re-bid? Sources tell us that Bianchi told councilors the lease would be re-bid, but they say none of the councilors has given any indication of that. Did Bianchi lie to the council?
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If the bid was not entered into correctly, that’s the city council’s best method to stop this nonsense. Sources on the inside at city hall tell us “the bid and lease deal isn’t legal based on the numbers” they are hearing. They also say claim there is a plan to push it through “legally,” presumably involving the office of city solicitor Kathy Degnan.
Call to arms. Councilors take action.
We recently stated that Bianchi’s intentions to run for re-election, this time to a four-year term, are delusional based upon his epic failure as the city’s CEO. Well, forget re-election. THE PLANET can only wonder now if TES can survive the remainder of this present term without being tossed out of office. What will be the tipping point to a recall effort?
We ask citizens to get involved. Contact your city councilors and the at-large reps and tell them to put an end to a deal that, if sources are giving us good information, seems as questionable (corrupt?) as they come.
CLARIFICATION ON WATER SAVINGS
THE PLANET stated previously that Craig Gaetani is proposing a plan that he claims would save Pittsfield taxpayers $40 million or so with respect to federally mandated upgrades needed at the water plant. These changes would come from the sewage treatment plant off of Holmes Road and not from the Cleveland drinking water plant in Hinsdale. Gaetani says that he and Dr. Lawrence Wang can offer “slight modifications” to the Cleveland plant to save about $100,000.
UNGENEROUS “BENEFACTORS” SHOWS ITS AGE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
by Michael Frayn
directed by Eric Hillat The Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge
The Larry Vaber Stage
Sponsored by Crowne Plaza, Pittsfield; Furlano & Arace PC; and Haddad Dealerships
Previews July 9-July 11
Press Opening/Opening Night: July 12 at 8pm
Talkback: July 14
Closing: July 26
Tickets: Preview: $42; A: $48
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Thirty years after it was written, Michael Frayn’s Benefactors is a “memory play” with the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The four protagonists representing two married couples put their relationships not so much under a magnifying glass but on an architect’s table, where, though the wisdom of hindsight, they reverse engineer what went wrong “then” from the perspective of a more settled “now.” They look back with selective recall, wiping out aspects of the past that might otherwise prevent “coming to terms.”
“Then” are the years from 1968 to 1970. “Now” is the great Orwellian year of 1984. It’s left to director Eric Hill to take this “look back” dealing with something no director ever had to handle when the play debuted in 1984. In its first years, 1984 was truly Benefactors‘ “present.” In 2014, however, it is Benefactors’ past, with a generation of technological, artistic, and social tumult behind us. There’s no way this is the same play it was 30 years ago, and the benefactions of yesterday don’t seem as generous today. Hill struggles mightily with this problem in the current production, which ends today.
Hill realizes that the key insights in this play highlight the ferocious edge that good intentions often disguise in the present moment. They cut at their fiercest not long after. Only time, the great provider of perspective, allows the salve of understanding. These are meaty ideas, but from a 2014 long view of a mid-80s perspective, the characters in Benefactors engage more in tiresome self-absorption than meaningful introspection.
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The play centers around a redevelopment contract that architect David (David Adkins) wins to build new housing in a London slum. The job doesn’t go as planned, and David has to abandon his designs for individual homes. Due to an inhospitable slice of land, he has to sacrifice principle and build high-rises instead.
As the building project develops, his marriage to the confident Jane (Corinna May) deconstructs with inverse proportion. Their intrusive neighbors Colin (Walton Wilson) and Sheila (Barbara Sims) add to the demolition. Caustic Colin, David’s long-time school chum, can’t stand his friend’s idealism and success. He quits his job as a journalist, becomes homeless, and cleverly employs his cynicism in a rise to fame as a populist hero protesting David’s “skyscrapers.” Colin’s wife — the needy, mousy Sheila — yearns for change. She leaves Colin, and the enabling Jane — trying to help — gives up a job as her husband’s secretary and hands it to the timorous Sheila, who falls in love with David.
Jane helps Sheila, who tries to help David, who reconciles with Colin, who never stops helping himself. Got it? Benefactions run amok. To make sense of it all, throughout the play, each character steps out of time (today, an ancient 1984) and reflects back the events of the past, circa ’68-70.
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Seeing Benefactors from 2014 necessitates a look back at the mid 80s — when a synthetic sterility took hold of culture and the arts (Ronald Reagan, anyone?) — looking back at the late 60s (Jerry Rubin?). John McDermott‘s kitchen set is suitably Partridge Family orange, green, and brown — as effectively bland as David Murin‘s costumes, with the dull and lifeless colors so much in vogue in the mid-80s after disco, Lord help us, had its run.
Frayn’s play depends entirely on dialogue … LOTS of dialogue. Adkins, May, Wilson, and Sims know their voluminous lines, but they have mixed success in making the lines their own. They are not helped by the static set or the drab costuming. One keeps wanting something to happen beside a solipsistic talk-fest — a bomb blast, a murder, a singing telegram … anything.
May fares by far the best, with a sharp, focused portrayal of Jane, a classic liberal “do-gooder” whose “can’t do enough” keeps falling short. She delivers a crisp portrayal, particularly in her “flashbacks” from the present to the past. She’s a one woman Greek Chorus, a solid, substantial, reliable witness to the past.
Adkins seems a force-fit as David. The character’s idealism comes off more as wishful thinking and whiny day dreaming. Adkins’ David speaks with a nasally thin timbre, with line readings that at times call for a hydraulic jack for a lift. Wilson’s Colin is suitably boorish but boring, technically fine but in need of … what, exactly? More. We don’t like Colin, and we are not supposed to like him, but Wilson doesn’t have enough to make Colin an anti-hero, something that happens with the best villains. We envision a laudable villainy for the character, but Wilson doesn’t pull it off. Sims does well as alternately a friend in need, a secretary, a third wheel, and a home wrecker.
Director Hill has chosen an “un-Hillian” vehicle for this production in the intimate confines of the BTG’s Unicorn Theatre. In the smaller venue of the Unicorn, one expects a more daring, experimental, pushy Hill and not this “talkie” from the mid-80s. There is no magic, no dreams, and no myth. There is only the self-absorbed parlor tricks of four characters trying to justify the mistakes of the past.
“27 April: Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.” — Closing line to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, Dublin 1904, Trieste 1914.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.