!PLANET EXCLUSIVE! !UPDATE! — MAZZEO NIXES COUNCIL VOTE! CLAIRMONT’s PETITION ASKS THE RIGHT QUESTIONS RE: SENSELESS MOVE OF CITY HALL OFFICES … VOTE WILL BE KEY TEST OF CITY COUNCIL … IF OKd, MAYOR (OR REP) MUST DISH ANSWERS AT SEPT. 2 MEETING
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
UPDATE, ADD 1
Just when you thought the city’s leadership would allow the tiniest sliver of hope for We The People, city council president Melissa Mazzeo has come in with the tweezers and attempted the removal of the annoying piece of wood.
THE PLANET shall have more on this Monday, but for now, let us be the first to tell you of an apparent fast one Mazzeo is trying to pull on citizens and taxpayers. THE PLANET, moreover, is virtually certain that Mayor Dan Bianchi is behind this latest attempt to screw Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, Pittsfield’s “average citizen” Little Guys.
Here’s the short and sweet. Mazzeo took Council Barry Clairmont‘s petition on “100gate” (see story below) and — under council Rule 27, Charter section 2-7 — referred it directly to the mayor, circumventing the council. If this referral stands, it would avoid an up-down vote on Clairmont’s petition, something vitally necessary to determine where the council stands on Bianchi’s ethically challenged proposal regarding 100 North St. The proposed move to 100 North will cost taxpayers $126,000 in rent the first year, plus a boatload of other costs associated with the move. Total cost will probably exceed $400,000.
This has the mayor’s grimy fingerprints all over it.
Just when you though Pittsfield government couldn’t get any sleazier …
THE PLANET might add that Mazzeo failed to respond to our inquiry into this highly unusual and suspect move. We made the request at 11:10 a.m. Friday morning.
The plot thickens …
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(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, AUG. 8-10, 2014) — After THE PLANET returned to the FORTRESS last night fresh off of another exhilarating hour of Planet Valenti Television, we went to the city of Pittsfield’s website, clicked on the city council link, and looked for the agenda for the upcoming meeting on Tuesday Aug. 12. Typically the agenda gets posted Thursday afternoon. This time, it wasn’t. We don’t know why.
[ED. NOTE: PV-TV will air today on Time Warner Access channel 16 at 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 11 p.m. It will also be available sometime soon on YouTube, search “Planet Valenti.”]
We were eager to see this particular agenda for a petition filed by councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont requesting that his colleagues approve the forwarding of a list of relevant questions regarding Mayor Dan Bianchi‘s risible plan to needlessly uproot 40 percent of city hall offices into the second floor of 100 North St. THE PLANET has been referring to this episode at “100gate.”
In another of those remarkable coincidences that happen with remarkable frequency in Pittsfield, that is also the building citizen “Dan Bianchi” has his offices in his other job as manager for energy company Larry Global Mondello, a.k.a., Global Montello. The fact that an agenda had not been posted on Thursday must also be a “Pittsfield Coincidence.”
Undeterred, we went to the source (“of course, of course. He’ll give you the answer that you endorse”). THE PLANET contacted Clairmont, asking for a copy of the petition he filed. Clairmont responded immediately. Now that, my good friends, is transparency in government — not this phony business of campaigning on “transparency” only to win office and turn into a combination of Howard Hughes and Dickens‘ Miss Haversham.
Petition Lists Key Questions on ‘100gate’
Here is Clairmont’s petition:
Clairmont “requests that the City Council, pursuant to the City Charter, Section 2-7, ask Mayor Bianchi to respond to the attached questions and any follow-up questions that may arise, in person, at the September 2, 2014 City Council meeting. Following the Mayor’s responses to the attached questions I request that the City Council vote to express its opinion to either support or reject moving city departments to an off-site location.”
Here are the questions Clairmont wants his collegeagues to forward to Bianchi:
1.Who is moving to 100 North Street?
2. What is the purpose for moving these departments out of city hall?
3.Will any of these departments maintain an office in city hall or their current location?
4.What specific data analysis was used in deciding that this move has merit?
5.What were the results of the cost/benefit analysis that was conducted prior to this decision?
6. How will the vacant city hall space be used?
7. What communities were surveyed to learn their permitting procedures?
8.When will this move take place?
9. Did you explore any city hall reconfigurations to accommodate all the inspectors inside of city hall?
10. How many permits were issued last year that involved more than one
department not currently located in city hall?
Request For Proposals:
1. What were the specific site location priorities contained in the RFP?
2.What was the process used to develop the RFP?
3.What locations did city officials look at prior to issuing the RFP?
4. What terms and conditions were discussed with any potential property owners prior to issuing the RFP?
5. How many responses did the city receive from the RFP and who responded?
6.Who reviewed the responses?
7.Who was awarded the lease?
8.What was the purpose of the $100,000 line item contained in the capital budget noted for renovations?
1. What are the terms of the lease? * duration of lease / * annual rental costs / *utility costs / * insurance costs
2. What are the estimated costs of the physical move?
3. Are there any new revenues being collected to cover the costs of the lease?
4. What is the specific line item in the FY15 budget from which these lease payments will be paid?
1.What on-line permitting software is being considered?
2. What is the cost for purchasing on-line permitting?
3.What are the annual license fees for on-line permitting? 4.What are the advantages of on-line permitting?
Conflict of Interest
1. What was the response from the State Ethics Commission regarding the potential conflict of interest relating to your private business being located in the same building in which you are now entering into a government lease agreement?
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This list impresses with its comprehensiveness, its neutrality, and its avoidance of political considerations. It has no conspiracy of “grassy knoll” type queries, and this give both the list and the petition itself a deserving air of legitimacy.
Each councilor will have to go on the record regarding this petition. THE PLANET cannot imagine anyone opposing the mere asking of questions of a poorly explained, highly questionable move. In fact, we would think the mayor’s most ardent supporters would welcome the chance to have the mayor state his case directly to We The People through their elected representatives.
After the council votes, the situation then branches. If the council approves the petition, the pressure shifts squarely to Bianchi. The city charter requires the mayor to respond.
“100gate” is probably not going at all like the mayor had first planned: a done deal consummated in the dead of night under an information “lockdown.” THE PLANET took care of that. It also appears that The Empty Suit did not want to have anyone on the council question this move. Clairmont’s petition handles that end. Political Lesson #1479 for Mayor Bianchi: Never buy a cigar at a joke shop.
Councilors Polled; All Respond except Mazzeo, Cotton
THE PLANET sought input prior to the vote Tuesday on how councilors were leaning. Keep in mind that none of them had seen the specific questions included in the petition as of the time of their responses earlier this week. We present the comments as received:
Ward 1 LISA TULLY — I do agree that Mayor Bianchi has a lot of explaining to do. To me it seems more sensible to use the money “that was found” to purchase an on-line permitting software program than spend approx $126,000 a year for rental space. I would have to see the questions on the petition before I agree to support any document but I am sure the questions will be fair.
Ward 2 KEVIN MORANDI — This is in response to your questions: (1) Yes I will support this petition. From what I know about the proposed move to 100 North Street which isn’t much other than what I read in the Berkshire Eagle article this petition is to ask questions and hopefully get answers from the Mayor.There has to be checks and balances in government and the taxpayers of this city deserve an explanation as do the city councilors. (2) I feel it is a waste of taxpayers money and the mayor went behind the backs of all eleven city councilors in doing this move to a private building. There was no due process. I would like to see the online permitting process utilized. Some communities in Berkshire County already provide this service. Let’s use all of our modern day technology to our advantage. All of these offices should stay under one roof in City Hall. Utilize all the space in that building if needed. (3) Where did the money come from? How much is in this fund? Because their wasn’t any communication from the mayor’s office on this there are only assumptions out there and in my opinion that is not what open government is about. It should answer to the people.
Ward 3 NICK CACCAMO — I need to see the wording of the petition before I comment directly on that. However, for something that has had no details presented to us, there is an awful lot of rumors of what might be happening. Moreover, the basement at city hall is not a very good working condition for any department. I feel sorry for anyone who has to work without natural light.
Ward 4 CHRIS CONNELL — See THE PLANET’s column of Monday, Aug. 3. Connell said he would support the petition in principle, pending a look at the specific questions.
Ward 5 JONATHAN LOTHROP — Well – yes I would support questions and an explanation for sure.
Ward 6 JOHN KROL — [ED. NOTE: PLANET’S QUESTIONS ARE LISTED. KROL’S COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD FACE] (1) In principle, do you support of such a petition? Based on what you know about the proposed move to 100 North St. at this point, would you support submitting the questions to the mayor requiring his answers?
I’m definitely in favor of the mayor answering basic questions about this. It’s something that Councilor Bianchi would have demanded of the administration.
(3) What are your concerns, if any?
Ward 7 TONY SIMONELLI — 1. I haven’t seen the petition but in theory I believe there are some questions that need to be asked. I’m not certain of the “particular” questions Councilor Clairmont is asking but am willing to take a look.
2. In my opinion, I’m not in favor of moving the City offices out of City Hall. I believe other arrangements could be made to streamline the permitting process.
3. Concerns I have…the initial cost of moving out of City Hall, where it is currently rent free. The on-going cost of maintaining the offices in a location outside of City Hall.
4. Finally, I have received several calls as well as approached on the street from citizens regarding this issue. Not one has voiced their support for this move.
At-large MELISSA MAZZEO — Did not respond.
At-large CHURCHILL COTTON — Did not respond.
At-large KATHY AMUSO — I have not received information on this process yet. I don’t feel we need to move into a new building with permanent fixed cost. If we need to, I would be looking to renovate city hall to accommodate this. I don’t know if there are issues with renovations in city hall – especially in the basement. We do need changes to the permitting process. I have heard complaints on this for years.
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You can make what you wish of the comments. Two general points stand out for THE PLANET:
(1) Based on these responses, a majority of the council appears ready to flex its muscle and give the mayor some sorely needed push back. Again, we will remind our Right Honorable Good Friends that they are co-governors of the city. Bianchi claims he does not need council approval for this move. He claims to have “found” the money for the dumb proposed move. TES needs to be reminded that he is not a king, a despot, a strongman, any any other head of an authoritarian state. If we want that, we’ll dial up The Generalissimo.
(2) Clairmont is simply requesting that the mayor do what he should have done voluntarily: Provide citizens with clear answers on this cloudy move. For some reason, though, Bianchi has acted with complete arrogance with respect to the council on the matter of “100gate.” Any councilor who opposes merely asking We The People’s CEO to report to them will run a high risk of severe political consequences. Disgust at Bianchi’s performance as mayor seem to be sharply on the rise. His “negatives,” as they say in the political world, are through the roof. Being tied to his coattails would not be advisable for any potential 2015 candidate who wishes to remain viable.
You might want to reserve your seats early for the Aug. 12 city council meeting. It’s going to be interesting.
Have a great weekend.
“Send me the pillow that you dream on, so darling, I can dream on it too.” — Dean Martin, 1960s.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.