By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, AUG. 7, 2014) — With our exclusive yesterday on the suspension of Pittsfield vets’ agent Rosanne Frieri, THE PLANET demonstrated how much the mayor’s gag order on managers and department heads has affected us. To spell it out, n-o-t -a- b-i-t-. Today, meanwhile, we watch with amusement as the other media outlets, forced by our investigative work to sloppy seconds, report on a story that, save for our efforts, would have remained “secret.”
After our report, THE PLANET made contact with a recalcitrant department head, a manager in one of the municipal departments. We shall refer to this person as Dixie. Dixie reported that in the wake of our story about the deposed veterans’ agent, Mayor Dan Bianchi issued another warning to department heads and managers “not to talk to the press, especially to [Dan] Valenti.”
Dixie wouldn’t say how the message was delivered, but it doesn’t appear that it was in writing.
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City Hall ‘Near the Boiling Point’
Dixie said city hall is “near the boiling point with frustration” at the mayor. THE PLANET can attest to morale being at a low at 70 Allen St.. Dixie reported the corner office is in “lock down mode,” likening it to a “bunker mentality.” This recalls Herr Schiklegruber in April 1945. Let THE PLANET add that Dixie is an honest, hard-working employee who gives six days of work for five days of pay.
Dixie mentioned how the mayor “went on” about yours truly and others, including several councilors, Mary McGinness (his former executive assistant), and Craig Gaetani (water engineer). It wasn’t clear to us where or how this took place, whether in a formal staff meeting or a more casual circumstance. THE PLANET contacted the mayor, hoping to get his reaction to the information. Bianchi might not think so, but THE PLANET remains genuinely interested in his side of the many stories that are coming across the spike these days. The mayor did not return our request for comment.
Speaking of which, Dixie says Gaetani visited the corner office yesterday to deliver a letter to the mayor. Our source says “chaos ensued,” with Bianchi declaring a “lockdown.” Prompted by this reference, we contacted Gaetani, who confirmed the account.
Gaetani, a co-designer along with Dr. Lawrence Wang of the Cleveland Water Plant in Hinsdale, told us he delivered “a personal letter” to mayoral secretary Susan Santolin. He said Santolin informed the mayor that he had a visitor. Gaetani says when the mayor found out it was him, the mayor yelled from the corner office, “Lockdown” — the same word Dixie used.
Gaetani says he took the letter off Santolin’s desk and went into the office of Julia Sabourin, the mayor’s director of administrative services. Gaetani says the mayor again ordered a lockdown. Despite that, Gaetani says Sabourin did not lock her door. She calmly accepted his letter, he said, after which Gaetani left the corner office.
Gaetani says the letter contained information for the mayor regarding Gaetani’s not appreciating how the mayor has refused to talk to him. Gaetani has been seeking an audience with city officials regarding proposals for the Cleveland plant and the sewage treatment plant off Holmes Road. Gaetani says that he, in partnership with Dr. Lawrence Wang, can save the city millions of dollars in implementing federally mandated upgrades at the plants, especially the sewage treatment facility. THE PLANET has contacted the mayor to request his comments on Gaetani’s claims. As of press time, the mayor had not responded.
‘Leave the Budget to Me and Sue’
Before concluding our interview, Dixie, savoring the last drop of Claudia’s Gourmet Coffee THE PLANET graciously supplied in an endless cup, said he “fears for the future of the city under Mayor Bianchi.” Dixie stated the mayor had no interest in the ideas for operational efficiencies Dixie presented to him at budget time, telling him, “Leave the budget to me and Sue.” He meant Sue Carmel, the city’s treasurer and finance director. “In other words,” Dixie said, the mayor “told me to butt out.”
Dixie said he mentioned to the mayor how citizens were “taxed out and needed relief.” To that, Dixie claims, the mayor told him that people must be willing to “make more sacrifices” for the city. At that, Dixie says, the mayor ended the meeting by turning his back and walking away — no goodbye, no cordialities. No runs, no hits, many errors, and none left.
Ladies and gentlemen, what is going on in Pittsfield?
THE PLANET has requested numerous times for the mayor to comment on these increasingly bizarre matters. We shall not stop our requests. It is up to the mayor to decide if and when to speak. It can only be in his best interest to do so.
The Council’s Big Moment: Will It Step Up to the Plate?
Suffice it to say that the actions of TES, from mid-2012 forward, have been ill-served the city of Pittsfield, its citizens, taxpayers, and anyone who might have love or loyalty to the county seat. THE PLANET would remind our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council of this fact and also of their sworn duties as co-governors of the city. Since it seems obvious the mayor intends to continue on his destructive path, it is now up to the council to push back.
The golden opportunity will come with a petition councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont has filed requesting answers from the mayor to the many questions surrounding the mayor’s proposed deal to move 40% of city hall into new offices at 100 North St. at a cost of $126,000 for the first year. The council must support Clairmont’s request for information on an ethically suspect deal. In doing so, it will give the good people of Pittsfield a ray of “inside” hope.
Clairmont’s petition comes before the council for a vote on Tuesday, Aug. 12. As soon as Clairmont’s petition is posted on the council website, THE PLANET shall inform you of it. Be sure to tune into our coverage tomorrow. You won’t get it anywhere else.
“One and one and one is three.” — The Beatles, “Come Together,” from the Abbey Road album, 1969.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.