Article

THERE’S A TWO-WORD EXPLANATION FOR THE BM’s WOES: BAD POLITICS

BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY SEPT. 28, 2017) —  Bad politics (like there’s some other kind). That’s the two-word explanation for the disaster happening at the Berkshire Museum (BM) by its own suicidal hand.

The BM’s crass plan to sell its treasures to the highest bidder — works of art, mind you, that were either donated or purchased in a more enlightened time in order to enrich in trust Pittsfield’s future generations — can ultimately be traced back to the failure of the city to put on its “big boy pants” after General Electric left town. Pittsfield made two fatal errors, each political: First, it failed to plan for the eventual inevitability of this gigantic loss. Second, when it had GE at the bargaining table, it let the company off the hook, allowing it to exit without cleaning up the deathly toxicity it bequeathed to the city’s soil, air, and water. Talk about bargaining tough: GE left town laughing at the rubes in exchange for a woefully inadequate “remediation” and a pitiful $10 million dollars of sucker dough.

This set up a power vacuum not even Electrolux could fill. After the GE brain and money drain, a motley collection of parochial, inept, and inbred political amateurs staggered into the void. A generation later, Pittsfield is without an economy, its tax base can dance on the head of a pin, city spending continues through the roof, and The Suits keep feeding Their Own from the public trough. The devolution of the BM and its current situation fits the classic Pittsfield profile:

1. Dump a lot of public money into a failing private enterprise (EV Worldwide, Workshop Live, Spice, Nuclea ad infinitum, ad nauseum)

2. Import ringers from out of town at big salaries, thereby wiping off the local fingerprints from the murder weapon (ad infinitum, ad museum)

3. Load the boards and directors with Good Ol’ Boys and Girls who will be compliant to the inevitable and subsequent rape, making sure pockets are lined in some manner.

How else does a Van Shields end up as executive director at Large $$, a man who evidently had to get out of town in a hurry at his previous museum gig in South Carolina? How else do we get “Buzz” McGraw, a hockey-playing woman who doesn’t live in Pittsfield and doesn’t know it, though she would love to take THE PLANET into the boards?

These are the kind of outsiders The Suits bring in, arrogant snobs who Know What’s Best For The Rest Of Us. Such people have helped continue a process begun 10 years ago, to turn the once hallowed BM into McDonald’s Playland, or haven’t you noticed, for instance, the first-floor great room on the left. The glowing gem booth and the great displays of natural history and science, including that incredible Western Diamondback rattlesnake, have given way to a sandbox, toys, snot-nosed kids, screaming, and desperate parents and day-caretakers looking for a place to stick the miserable brats.

——– ooo ——–

The BM’s “New Vision” plan looks to amp up this abhorrent trend, taking a venue that once had the sacredness and gravitas of a Gothic cathedral and turning it into Chuck E. Cheese, an immortal turn-of-phrase suggested by one of our dear commentators, That Girl.

The BM’s “New Vision,” a desperate plan intended to mask a decade of financial and programming mismanagement, includes selling off its marquee works, including what is likely the single most valuable piece of artwork in Berkshire County short of the 15th century stained-glass mural above the altar at St. Joseph’s Church in Stockbridge. This director and board have made the BM an outcast in the art, museum, and cultural worlds; damaged every other cultural institution in the county in a trickle-down process; and turned Pittsfield into a national laughingstock. Ah, but we have $6,000 garbage cans on Tyler Street.

Here’s the name names part. You already know of the Executive Director Museum Molester and his gun moll, Shields and McGraw respectively, though not respectfully. Here’s the Board of Trustees. See if you recognize any names:

McGraw, president; Stacey Gillis Weber, vice president; Ethan Klepetar, vice president; Carol Riordan, treasurer; Lydia Rosner, secretary. They have been aided and abetted in their art heist by the regular board members: Mike Addy, Stephen Bayne, Jay Bikofsky, Douglas Crane, Howard J. Eberwein III (yes, JIVE III!), Ursula Ehret-Dichter, Nancy Edman Feldman, David Glodt, Wendy Gordon, Bill Hines (ex- of PEDA fame), Joan Hunter, Eric Korenman, Barbara Krauthamer, Donna Krenicki, Susan Nash, Jeffrey Noble, Melissa Scarafoni (hmmm, where have we heard that name before?). The three honorary Life Trustees are Mike Christopher, Jeff Cook, and Betsey Selkowitz. Run along folks, nothing to see here.

Any of these people who have not publicly condemned the planned art sale must stand indicted as co-conspirators. By the powers vested in THE PLANET by our virtue of the blessed Fourth Estate, we hereby serve papers.

Now for some inside baseball from an impeccable source who told THE PLANET what he (or she) says was the political game-plan to sell the public on the BM’s short-sighted move. We’ll call this person Sunny. Needless to say in a small town governed by political terror, Sunny demanded (and received) anonymity. We wouldn’t betray such a source even if we had to forfeit our Davy Crockett iron-ons.

“The board has long known about [Shields] mismanagement and his ‘carelessness’ with funds.  Many [board members] are in his pocket and at his defense, but not all,” Sunny said. “Finally, in late spring, early summer, there was a confrontation of sorts, with threats to go public. The board managed to put a stop to that. There was a loud, angry discussion about programming, which several board members blamed for much of the financial difficulties. They were basically shouted down, and since then, they’ve been afraid to speak out. I don’t think anyone will.”

Sunny said that once the outraged public and art world began to protest the intended sale, someone on the board — either Shields or McGraw, Sunny thinks — asked board member Bill Hines to ask former Mayor Jimmy Ruberto to get involved. As you may recall, after Hines sold Interprint and began looking around for something to do, then-mayor Ruberto gave him the ultimate no-work, no-accountability plum: executive director of PEDA. One look at the results on the 52 acres of PEDA tells you all you need to know about how successful Hines was at the job.

Sunny says Ruberto wrote a letter to The Boring Broadsheet, as requested. The BB published that earlier this week. This came after Ruberto, Sunny alleges, delivered on a second favor: “Order” [Sunny’s word] state rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier to come out publicly to defend the sale.  It seems logical. Ruberto recued TFB from curbside, installed her as a city councilor, created a new position for her as the mayor’s “director of administrative services,” then king-made her butt into keeping a seat warm on one of Beacon Hill‘s most distant back benches as one of the State House’s most useless hacks. All she had to do in return was “play ball.” She did.

She acted as her master demanded, an exercise in bargain abasement that can be read in her hysterical, inarticulate apology for the BM’s plan to destroy the institution.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave …

TOMMOROW: Part 4 concludes the series with a look at what the city is losing from a more personal perspective.

———————————————————————————-

“Now unknown dust on black dress gathers, / and every prayer is being answered / by cripples who masquerade as dancers.”Dan Valenti, from “December Sunlight.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

The Usual Disclaimer.

 

 

40 Responses to “THERE’S A TWO-WORD EXPLANATION FOR THE BM’s WOES: BAD POLITICS”

  1. Jonathan Melle
    September 27, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    GE left Pittsfield without an economic base when Jack Welch converted GE from a manufacturing to a financial business. After Jack Welch retired, GE almost went bankrupt during the two great recessions of the 2000’s decade. This year [2007], GE is the biggest loser on the Dow Jones index. However, GE is still one of the wealthiest corporations in the World.
    The Consent Decree was backed by all of the powerbrokers in Pittsfield politics. The people were against the “Devil’s bargain” with GE. Pittsfield’s cancer-causing PCBs are capped. The caps don’t last forever. Pittsfield is a de facto Superfund site!
    Pittsfield politics is ran by the Good Old Boys. They all come from inbred, interrelated, multigenerational families. The Good Old Boys don’t represent democracy and the people who live in Pittsfield, and they lead by fear. If you don’t support them, they will take away your job in a New York minute. Most of the people don’t vote in local elections in Pittsfield. There is a reason for that. It is that Pittsfield politics is a fix!
    The Berkshire Museum’s sell out is a done deal. It is another sad chapter in the annals of Pittsfield politics!
    – Jonathan Melle

  2. Diet Red
    September 27, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

    Just about everything in Pittsfield is run by the Buffoonocracy.

    • Jonathan Melle
      September 27, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

      Pittsfield politics Biblical organizational chart:
      God: Carmen Massimiano
      Sinner: Angelo Stracuzzi
      Devil: Luciforo
      King: Jimmy Ruberto
      Ambassador: John Barrett III
      Queen: Tricia Farley Bouvier
      Princess: The Lovely Linda Tyer
      Lobbyist: Peter Larkin
      Court Jester: Chris Speranzo
      Bartender: Gerry Doyle
      Communist Leader: Paul Marx
      The Devil’s minion: Shitty Pignatelli
      Jack of Clubs: Adam Hinds
      Joker: Richie Neal
      Jailer: Tom Bowler

      • Spagirl
        September 28, 2017 at 2:20 am #

        You Sir, get 5 Stars for detailing Pittsfield’s Mafia.

        • mi
          September 28, 2017 at 3:44 am #

          Bravo, Jon, Bravo….add BOOtlicker Bill.

  3. dusty
    September 28, 2017 at 1:33 am #

    Great piece of writing.

    Given the cast of characters, and the history of Pittsfield politics, and the fact that there is a large sum of money involved, nothing would surprise me as to the true intentions of this art sale.

    And I wonder how often Sothebys encounters a situation where a city is selling off its legacy in such a manner. But it really does seem like the kind of thing that could happen in Pittsfield. It really does.

    This reminds me…they finally got Pitino.

  4. The school committee
    September 28, 2017 at 3:05 am #

    How can there be any bad politics after Trumps election.

  5. Pat
    September 28, 2017 at 4:07 am #

    Politicians in this city DO NOT plan for the future. They rarely look beyond next week when they make their decisions. The huge loss of jobs from General Electric and other large companies was NEVER addressed. Now politicians are making pathetic attempts to play catch up to address all the failures of the past.

    One of the most pathetic is to rely on pot to provide jobs for locals. The LAST THING this area needs is encouraging another substance to get out of control and one that can be abused. We have enough people in the area who can’t think clearly as it is. Local and state politicians want to continue the downward slide of the Berkshires by focusing on pot and tourists to fill the void left by the loss of so many good paying jobs.

  6. Bill Q
    September 28, 2017 at 4:17 am #

    It’s a sad day for, my idol died at the age of 91.Hugh Hefner

    • dusty
      September 28, 2017 at 4:29 am #

      It is kind of weird having all these playmates coming out now thanking him for letting them pose nude while they were younger.
      It can be sexual harassment if you tell a girl she looks hot but then it seems half of woman want to pose nude somewhere. Very confusing.

      • Levitan
        September 28, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

        No more foolish nor presumptuous thing than to try to understand them.

  7. Spagirl
    September 28, 2017 at 4:48 am #

    PEDA is the biggest fraud of all time.

  8. SojournerTruth
    September 28, 2017 at 5:07 am #

    Cudos to the town of Cheshire for taking an initiative to cut costs by eliminating health insurance benefits for elected officials. There seems to be the usual legal wrangling and implied threats and even a time card program and its falsification potential was discussed.
    How would Pittsfield’s city council respond to a similar petition ? Isn’t the council itself eligible for city benefits as is the PEDA director ? School Committee also ? What would John Krol do if he lost this part time perk ?

    • War Pigs
      September 28, 2017 at 5:34 am #

      Pittsfield gives part time employees health insurance and benefits and that’s just fiscal incompetence but I’ve come to expect that from this place.

    • LoneGunMan
      September 28, 2017 at 7:35 am #

      I was literally thinking the same thing as you you wrote in the last sentence.

      He’d have to get a real job and stop hacking FB TV shows for his political causes

  9. War Pigs
    September 28, 2017 at 5:30 am #

    First, thank you to Mr. G for answering my question yesterday on whether or not trustees get paid.
    Second, when a trustees opens their checkbook and contributes to the not for profit BM, it’s a tax deduction. Therefore, I conclude they mostly do it for selfish reasons, and only the well off have the time and spare change to contribute significant amounts of cash in order to become a trustee. The rest of us have neither the time (it’s called working for a living) or money (we have bills to pay) so the process is in effect shut off from us normal folks.
    That leaves the rich elite and connected to be on the board and make all the decisions. It’s no wonder the BM has been mismanaged for so long.

    • Mr. G
      September 28, 2017 at 7:03 am #

      All true Pig…all true. But I don’t begrudge anyone their tax deduction because the money they laid out was indeed real. And these organizations are put in the position of relying on the integrity of their most ardent supporters for their existence. Many of them are good, fine people who are really trying to make the world a better place, and who just have better tools to do so than you or I. There are certainly times when people are less than upstanding, and the trust of the organization is misplaced, but I like the “glass half-full” approach when dealing with people. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and presume people are basically good and doing whatever it is they do for the right reasons.

  10. Thomas More
    September 28, 2017 at 6:02 am #

    Why the attack on the children,”snot nosed kids….miserable brats”. Children are children, you may not like what they did to the room nor do I but to call them such names for something they had nothing to do with is low.

    • dusty
      September 28, 2017 at 6:16 am #

      I agree. But then, to Dan s point, some children grow up to be like Donald Trump, so I understand the concern somewhat.

      • Thomas More
        September 28, 2017 at 8:40 am #

        I never thought of that. That is probably what Dan was thinking except he’s a Trump enthusiast so he was most likely thinking some grow up to be like Hillary Clinton. Your comment was well thought out.

    • LoneGunMan
      September 28, 2017 at 9:59 am #

      I agree with attacking the kids. I do however understand how the museum is trying to improve the interactive nature of its exhibits and gearing it towards younger populations. They have to compete with the Springfield and Holyoke Childrens museums which are quite fun.

      There is no rhyme or reason to half of what you see at the BM these days. It’s a hodge podge of whatever they found that month

  11. Shakes His Head
    September 28, 2017 at 6:15 am #

    It seems there out to be a consortium of museums and institutions that negotiate long term borrowing using monetization of holdings as a benchmark to establish fairness.

    So maybe even multiple direction asset trades could work. Like the Berkshire museum sends the norman Rockwell’s to the Norman Rockwell museum, then the norman Rockwell museum sends assets to a science or natural history museum, then that museum sends something that fits into the Berkshire museum’s vision to Pittsfield.

    While there still may be some disposition of holdings and proceeds should be placed into endowments, it would avoid potential private purchase of publically owned pieces.

    That said, the Berkshire museum should rebrand itself as a science and adventure oriented institution.

    • Roberto Del Halatoso
      September 28, 2017 at 6:56 am #

      I’m hoping that they have Gerry n Doyle’s beer can collection as an exhibit. Or maybe Carmen’s lubricants.

      • LoneGunMan
        September 28, 2017 at 9:59 am #

        What about Angelo’s windowless van, assorted bags of candy and puppies

    • dusty
      September 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

      I am not sure other museums feel safe loaning art work to the Berkshire Museum. Their piece could wind up at an auction in NY City and they might have to buy it back.

      I think I can hear Norman trying to kick his way out of his coffin.

  12. Sum Ting Wong
    September 28, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    What would you like to see on exhibit at the BM? Chose a classic Pittsfield character and describe the memorabilia you think belongs there.

    • LoneGunMan
      September 28, 2017 at 10:01 am #

      Linda Tyer’s knee pad collection right beside Joe Durwin’s jar of marbles (half empty jar)

      • Tricksie
        September 28, 2017 at 10:46 am #

        Don’t you mean Joe Durwin’s jar of morals ? Which is empty – ask the Springside Park people –

        • LoneGunMan
          September 28, 2017 at 10:54 am #

          I heard Joe owns a brothel at the old Springside House where you pay for 20 minutes of romp time with local ghost and ghouls. Namely you stare at a picture of Joe while romanticizing yourself

          • Wild in the Sreets
            September 28, 2017 at 11:15 am #

            This isn’t like the Ghost and Mrs. Mir, is it?

    • Kate Dempsey
      September 28, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

      How about Tricia Farley-Bouvier-Kennedy-O’Nasis-Clinton’s (D-Country Buffet), VIP table from the Ole Country Buffet?

      Legend has it, that a few children sat in the seat that TFBKOC used to sit in and have never been heard from again-it was so deep. Maybe this explains all of Pittsfield’s missing kids?

      On a more happy note, just read a report on WCVB-5 (ABC-Boston), and according to the FBI’s 2016 violent crime stats of the most violent cities in MA, the Berkshires didn’t disappoint:

      #1 North Adams
      #9 Pittsfield

      • The school committee
        September 28, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

        Please add Trump to the Fat boy list along with fatboy Howie Carr

        • 12 Gauge
          September 28, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

          I keep telling you not to post until your psyc meds kick in.

  13. dusty
    September 28, 2017 at 9:31 am #

    I would like to see about 7 mummies made from Civic Authority era city councilors. All people I would not turn my back on (or let handle my cash)

    • Dilly Dally
      September 28, 2017 at 9:53 am #

      Lol, Rockewell just broke a pencil.

    • Nota
      September 28, 2017 at 10:13 am #

      The Magnificent Seven, so it is said and shall be written.

  14. Wild in the Streets
    September 28, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    Trump is being called out for dragging g his feet, this in Purto Rico, this could be bad.

  15. Unwanted Carl
    September 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    I’m a downtown Museum Artifact that has been moved along so many times I’ve turned into a relic.

  16. The school committee
    September 28, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    Cant wait to tell everyone how Trumps tax break put money in my pocket,no Trump supporter will tell you about how Dons tax break for millionaires put money in blue collar pockets,he will tell his sheep he did and that will do

    • Len X Abhorant
      September 28, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

      Trump cuts benefit the rich,and the poor slobs who voted for him will pay for it.