Article

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, PITTSFIELD STYLE

0 0 votes
Article Rating

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

ED. NOTE: The following tale was adapted from a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern that was the basis of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Note that THE PLANET will take a Christmas break. Our next new column will be published on Monday, Dec. 29, 2014. Feel free in the meantime to exchange Christmas greetings and also to bring up anything on your mind. Free speech for all! 

 ——– 000 ——–

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, DEC. 24 THROUGH 28, 2014) —  The little city in the center of the lovely Berkshire valley gleamed with colored Christmas lights, but Joe Kapanski didn’t see those lights.

He leaned over the railing of the Lyman Street Bridge and stared into the cold, black water of the Housatonic River.

“How long could a man stay alive in it?” Joe wondered. “Not long, for sure.”

Joe placed one leg over the railing.

From for darkness came a voice.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

A tall, unshaven man wearing a Celtics jacket, Red Sox hat, and ink-stained shirt stepped forward.

“Wouldn’t do what?”

“What you were thinking of doing,” the man answered. “Jumping off that bridge.”

“How did you know that?”

“I make it my business to know everything that goes on in this city. I’m the Aging Greek God, your guardian angel. It’s my job to look after people like you. God knows the politicians are not doing it.”

“You? My guardian angel?” Joe said incredulously. “Yeah, with my luck, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

Joe, a beleaguered taxpayer, had been pushed to the edge. He had seen millions of his tax dollars wasted on the wealthy, on office moves that weren’t necessary, on building of new schools that weren’t needed, on all sorts of excess, and had given up on seeing a nickel for himself or his family.

Joe looked at his once-fair city and saw toxic waste dumps next to grammar schools, no jobs, neighborhoods infested with drugs, a downtown the playground of gangs, a mayor who remained ignorant of the needs of The Little Guy, a school committee that cared only for The Special Interests, and a city council worried more about votes and politics than about common sense.

“I wish I had never been born.”

“What did you say?” the Aging Greek God asked.

“I said I wished I had never been born.”

“Say, that gives me an idea,” the angel said.

The Aging Greek God waved his styrofoam soda cup in the air.

“There! Your wish has been granted!”

“How’s that?” Joe asked.

“I’ve just granted your wish.”

“What?”

“Your wish. You were never born, Joe.”

Joe Kapanski felt woozy, and as he walked toward the city, he couldn’t shake the odd notion that everything was somehow different. He walked up Fenn Street to City Hall. The building looked rundown and empty. An aged sign in front read, “Property for Sale or Rent!”

“What’s happened?”

“City Hall isn’t there, Joe.”

“That can’t be. You’ve got me in some kind of spell. Let me speak to Mayor Bianchi.”

“I’m sorry, George,” the Aging Greek God answered. “Dan Bianchi is not the mayor. He was convicted of runnings a numbers game out of the corner office. You weren’t here to attend the meetings the keep government in check or vote to make sure crooked politicians were not elected.”

A shaken Joe Kapanski shook his head

“And w-w-what about the city council?” he asked.

“They’re not there either, Joe. You weren’t around, so they had no need to pick anyone’s pockets.”

“That’s not true. Let me speak to Melissa Mazz …”

Mazzeo? She never ran for office. She became a dental assistant for Tom Sakshaug. Tully, Morandi, Caccamo, Connell, Lothrop, Krol, Simonelli, Amuso, Cotton, Clairmont. None of them ever ran for office. They’re all gone. There wasn’t a city council. Bianchi abolished it and declared martial law. He became a dictator, Danielissimo The First.

Joe sat down in a snow bank.

“Wait! I’ll go down the The Eagle. They’ll help me get out of this, whatever it is, this dream, this nightmare.”

“There isn’t an Eagle, Joe. It was sold to a big newspaper chain, and it eventually ran the newspaper into the ground. People like you stopped buying it. The Eagle went out of business.”

“There’s a lot of things that are here in the city anymore, all because you weren’t born. There’s no Wahconah Park, no downtown, no Park Square, no Highland. Why, there’s not even a city. It want into bankruptcy during Bianchi’s last budget.”

The Aging Greek God laughed.

“There’s nothing left.”

“Now you’re beginning to see, Joe.”

As far as he could could see into the downtown there were high-end strip joints, gambling halls, and many cheesy but snoity venues — hotels, restaurants — too expensive for the likes of Joe and Mary Jane Kapanski. These were intermingled with many boarded-up storefronts, cheap apartments, and crack houses. The poor and homeless huddled on street corners in front of garbage-can fires. The Beautiful People walked by with their noses in the air.

“Where is the middle class?”

“They couldn’t afford to live here anymore, Joe. The rich didn’t need help. The poor got all they needed from the middle class. They call it “free.” The politicians gave the wealthy the tax breaks and the poor free food, shelter, clothing, and cash. You had to pay for it all.”

“Noooo!” Joe said. “Change me back. Change me back, Pete, change me back! I wanna go back! Change me back!!”

The Aging Greek God changed Joe Kapanski back. For the first time, Joe saw the city as it really was, the Renaissance decayed under its shallow veneer. But this time, Joe vowed to change. He vowed to vote in the next election, to attend meetings, to let the politicians know that He was the boss, not they.

Little bells rang out in the make-believe city.

It certainly was a wonderful life.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

——————————————————————————————

“Please lock me away, and don’t allow the day here inside, where I hide in my loneliness. I don’t care what they say I won’t live in a world without love.” Peter and Gordon, “World Without Love,” (1964).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
78 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

The late Peter Arlos, “the Aging Greek God”, was part of the problem in Pittsfield politics. He opposed all the proposed projects that would have made Pittsfield a better community. Arlos did not want a downtown mall. He didn’t want a new ballpark. Arlos profited off of the poor people who rented his “Pottersville” downtown Section 8 apartments. In terms of being an advocate for the little guy, he was just the opposite, Arlos was vested in the political and governmental system in Pittsfield politics. Arlos was a millionaire, as they called him “pinball Pete”. Despite his wealth, Arlos served decades in the Pittsfield City Council, and was a Berkshire County Commissioner and then a Berkshire County Treasurer. Arlos received public healthcare insurance benefits, a middle class public salary, and then a comfortable public pension. He did NOT need the public dollars and benefits! Arlos was already wealthy! To me, Arlos was just plain greedy and loved the power of Pittsfield politics. Pete Arlos was a Massachusetts Democratic Party Committee member. Arlos was no Democrat! Like many Pittsfield politicians, Arlos said he was a “Democrat” because you had to be a Democrat to be elected in Western Massachusetts. For example, “Democrat” Peter Larkin became a “Republican” GE lobbyist. “Democrat” Andrea Nuciforo II was a private Attorney for “Republican” big banks and insurance companies. “Democrats” Carmen Massimiano II and John Barrett III endorsed Republicans like Bill Weld, the late-Paul Cellucci, and Charlie Baker for Governor of Massachusetts. Being a Democrat in Pittsfield politics is the biggest lie! Peter Arlos would wring his hands with schadenfreude when the little guy struggled and Pittsfield decayed into corruption and poverty. Arlos mocked the poor with pseudo-compassion. Arlos was known to have hurt a lot people. Arlos told me he didn’t want me to receive my Veterans benefits. He told me that I was “no good”. What did he want me to be? A homeless Veteran with no healthcare and mental health care. I ceased my association with Peter Arlos about one decade ago because he was rooting against me, just like many other Pittsfield politicians. I am happy I don’t live in Pittsfield anymore. Pittsfield politics makes me upset because of Pittsfield politicians like Pete Arlos, Peter Larkin, Andrea Nuciforo II, Carmen Massimiano II, et al.

Penny Pincher
Penny Pincher
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

Jon You hit the nail on the head about how phony Arlos was. I’m not sure who had a bigger ego , Arlos or Dan Valenti .

DowagerHat
DowagerHat
Reply to  Penny Pincher
6 years ago

Penny you must be on the Bianchi Sycophant Squad. Peter G. Arlos is the longest serving city councilor not only in the City of Pittsfield but in the State of Massachusetts. He did more good for the citizens of Pittsfield than any other elected official in this city. He puts this administration under Bianchi to shame. In fact, if he were still on our city council the Bianchi administration and cronies would have hell to pay and the people of Pittsfield would have someone who cares about our city and its downward spiral and the current administrations tax and spending and the sneaky administration from the Corner Office. Pete Arlos never forgot where he came from. Oh by the way Penny Pincher, he was elected by the people for all on those years.

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
Reply to  DowagerHat
6 years ago

Peter Arlos may have been an advocate for Pittsfield during his time in Pittsfield politics, but he did oppose all of the ideas to make Pittsfield a better place. Arlos opposed the downtown mall proposal. Arlos opposed the new downtown ballpark idea. Arlos opposed the performing arts theater project for downtown Pittsfield, which did succeed during the Jimmy Ruberto regime. Pittsfield has a continuous decline in population and a remaining aging population that will die off in a couple of decades from now. Pittsfield’s current plan is to attract young families to stay and move to the area. The opposite is happening in Pittsfield. Young people are moving out of Pittsfield because if they stay they will be working poor and/or live in poverty with welfare assistance programs for their subsistence. Moreover, hundreds of students are choicing out of Pittsfield public schools. Pittsfield’s planners want a broader use of the city’s downtown, and a new 21st century broadband system. Downtown Pittsfield, which has received tens of millions of public dollars for its revitalization, is still known as Social Services Alley by day, and place most people avoid after hours.
If I didn’t know otherwise, I would guess that Pittsfield politicians like Peter Arlos was a Republican. He supported Proposition 2.5, which gutted local funding and control of public schools. Arlos supported Massachusetts public school teachers and other public employees not being vested in the Social Security system, which screws them out of many thousands of dollars in retirement benefits and leaves them in poverty. Arlos called teachers, cops, and other local and state public workers: “Public Payroll Patriots.” Arlos was a hypocrite because he was a vested in the public personnel system himself, despite being a wealthy millionaire. Arlos, like the movie character Henry Potter, profited off of the poor, who rented rooms in his Section 8 downtown Pittsfield housing. Arlos liked downtown Pittsfield’s poverty because he preyed on and profited off of the poor. Arlos never wanted Pittsfield to develop into a middle class community. Peter Arlos was a phony!

Guess what
Guess what
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

Jonathan if all these things happened to you then how came you didn’t do anything about it. Move on, get a life and stop living in the past.

Penny Pincher
Penny Pincher
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

Jon I’m sure Pete is enjoying the warm weather down where he is!

spagirl
spagirl
Reply to  DowagerHat
6 years ago

Peter Arlos held people accountable. He was on the heartbeat of every move in Pittsfield. His service was unmeasurable.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  DowagerHat
6 years ago

It’s the new thing to despise wealth especially by those who worked thier buts off to get it. The fact that Mr Arlos didn’t need the money and still served his community speaks great volume about his personality and that he was a man of integrity.

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
Reply to  danvalenti
6 years ago

Merry Christmas to Dan Valenti and all who support Freedom of Speech and roots for and still loves Pittsfield.

Ed Shepardson
Ed Shepardson
Reply to  danvalenti
6 years ago

powers-that-be — which he did repeatedly — Arlos also fell victim to the temptations that afflict the powerful. He lost his seat on the Berkshire Regional Retirement Board in 2006 when he was found to have violated conflict-of-interest laws by voting for his own pay raise six years earlier.

” In 2007, he filed a petition with the City Council that sought more enforcement of an ordinance that requires residents and businesses to clean their sidewalks after a major snowstorm. But during discussion at the subcommittee level, it was learned that Arlos owned a vacant lot on Dewey Avenue and Linden Street where the sidewalks were never cleared and the grass was never mowed.

Although he considered himself a champion of the people, Arlos was cited by a fellow councilor in 1972 for being the only council member with an unlisted telephone number.

Ed Shepardson
Ed Shepardson
Reply to  Ed Shepardson
6 years ago

Sorry about the bad edit.

charles kronick berkshires
charles kronick berkshires
Reply to  Ed Shepardson
6 years ago

He also urged City Council to petition the mayor (Ruberto?) to join Bloombergs Gun-Grabbers club, MAIG. That makes him an elected official who also opposed the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth, violating whatever oaths he may have mouthed to protect either.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

John as usual you are mistaken. If more people in Pittsfield were like Mr. Arlos we would be a much better community. God bless you Pete, may you rest in peace, you truly made Pittsfield a wonderful place.

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
Reply to  joetaxpayer
6 years ago

Look at the outcomes of Pittsfield politics! The picture is not pretty. Thousands of people have moved away from Pittsfield over the past several decades. Pittsfield tax base is shrinking, while its taxes are growing way above the rate of inflation. The test of any community is an affirmative answer to the following question: “Would the average middle class family move to our community?” Put another way, does our community attract investment via families and business. In Pittsfield, population and job losses are staggeringly high. Why is that? I am not scapegoating the millionaire turned Pittsfield politician named the late Peter Arlos, but his fiscally conservative and shortsighted (penny wise, but pound foolish) policies that produced every negative trend and socioeconomic indicator in the book of social sciences and behavioral studies. Pittsfield politics is a failure in long-term socioeconomic planning! I use the following illustrative example of Pittsfield. If I had a daughter who studied in school and earned a scholorship to Harvard University, I would be seen as an elitist and would not fit into Pittsfield’s dysfunctional social fabric or way of life. But it I had a daughter who had an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy at the age of 16 and went on welfare, we would fit right into Pittsfield’s culture of dependency, job loss, population loss, poverty, etc. My pregnant daughter would receive all the welfare assistance programs, rewards, and affirmation in Pittsfield. In fact, there are more local people in Pittsfield who receive welfare assistance programs and other social services than have full time, living wage jobs. Those are the people who have not moved away from Pittsfield because they don’t have the means to go anywhere else. Pittsfield’s downtown is known as “Social Services Alley” by day, and place most people avoid by night. Peter Arlos made his money and political career off of the underclass in Pittsfield. Pete Arlos was no Democrat. Pete Arlos was a phony!

Quentin
Quentin
6 years ago

Lighten up Jon! Love the parody, DV!! Merry Christmas to all my brethren on The Planet.

dusty
dusty
6 years ago

I always vote. And I always wonder why. So often in Pittsfield we are voting, not for the candidate we want , but for the one we think will do the least damage to us. For instance, I voted for Mr Bianchi, whom I thought would be a breath of fresh air in the aftermath of Ruberto.

The hard lesson I learned, again, was that no matter what a candidate says, or who his friends might be, or who supports him he may still be a person who has no intention of honoring his vow to work for the people. The face you see and the words you hear from any political candidate are MEANINGLESS. Bianchi is the ultimate fox in sheep’s clothing as are his closest political cronies.

I don’t know what the answer is for Pittsfield because you can’t “vote the bums out” if only bums are running.

Merry Christmas everyone

spagirl
spagirl
6 years ago

Merry Christmas to All the Brightest Stars on the Planet. Enjoy your families……Good Food…and Robust Laughter.

Tom Sakshaug
Tom Sakshaug
6 years ago

Wow! I get a mention before all but one Councilor…Melissa might not like it much since she’s a hygienist. Maybe the working with me part would be OK, but I’m not sure…

Cosbiesladies
Cosbiesladies
6 years ago

Lighten up JMEL, is right. Pistol Pete is dead, let him rest for today anyway. You know Dan, I have never watched It’s A Wonerfeful Life, but you have inspired me to do it this week and I will let you know what I have been missing, it is a four star movie I’ve seen that.

Linda
Linda
6 years ago

Thank you, DV for all that you do here on the Planet.
Thank you Tom Sakshaug for your work on the conservation commission.
Thank you councilors for your service.
Thank you Peter Arlos for being such a great public servant. Thank you all on this site for your participation.
Merry Christmas everyone .

Ed Check
Ed Check
6 years ago

Dan,
Thanks for all you do. Pittsfield would surely be Bianchiville if it was not for you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and all your readers and supporters. And Happy Holidays if Christmas does not apply.

Terry Kinnas
Terry Kinnas
6 years ago

Merry Christmas to ALL , and to ALL a good night.

amandaWell
amandaWell
6 years ago

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone at the Planet!

Silence Dogpod
Silence Dogpod
6 years ago

Bianchisomo could work for a dentist if the goal was to take the gold filings out of Pittsfield’s taxpayers.

B. Clairmont
B. Clairmont
6 years ago

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Linda
Linda
Reply to  B. Clairmont
6 years ago

Barry thank you for your excellent service on the city council. Merry Christmas to you.

Ron Kitterman
Ron Kitterman
6 years ago

What a cool piece for Christmas Dan, Merry Christmas to you and yours for sure and wishes for a Happy New Years !!

dusty
dusty
6 years ago

According to the Eagle the library is going to get a new heating system. The project is quite expensive but the good news is that the taxpayers will save $79.000 a year on heating costs for the building if I read it right. So Barry, just how much were we spending to heat that building if we are going to save $79,000?

spagirl
spagirl
Reply to  danvalenti
6 years ago

I could not agree more Dan…..

Scott
Scott
Reply to  dusty
6 years ago

Who knows what the waste was most likly more than $79g’s if you factor in plumbers coming in at night to service. The good thing is we’re going to be saving money moving forward while still providing an invaluable service to the community. I started out using library resources for writing contracts years ago and still utilize them today if I have an issue with my home PC. Of course waiting for some person to run thier time out playing candy crush or surfing Facebook gets annoying when you have business but there’s plenty to read while you wait!

dusty
dusty
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

I am all for upgrading it. But if we are saving 79 grand what were we paying before???

Gene
Gene
Reply to  dusty
6 years ago

I agree Dusty that was a missing piece of information in the story.

To DVs point it puts into perspective the needless spending that the city undertakes.

amandaWell
amandaWell
6 years ago

I believe we will be saving 79g less than what we paid before.

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

In Dan Valenti’s view of Pittsfield politics, Peter Arlos was the champion of the little guys, while Dan Bianchi is part of the problem. I totally disagree with Valenti’s view about Arlos. Pittsfield politics is a textbook case of failed municipal management and long-term planning. Thousands of people have moved out of Pittsfield. Thousands of jobs have been lost in Pittsfield. Pittsfield’s taxes are very high and are raised by around 5 percent per year in addition to its multimilion dollar capital budget, debts, and unfunded liabilities (or long-term debts). Pittsfield’s finances are unsustainable and the municipality will become insolvent in the next 2 decades. Pittsfield will have to declare bankruptcy like other local governments throughout the nation. Peter Arlos was a millionaire. He didn’t need the taxpayer financed benefits, but he took them anyways. Arlos received generous salaries, healthcare insurance, and pension benefits via the local taxpayers. Arlos opposed everything that would have developed Pittsfield from the underclass to the middle class, including the downtown mall, the new ballpark proposal, and the performing arts project. Arlos owned Section 8 properties he would rent to working poor and welfare assistance recipients in downtown Pittsfield. The last thing Arlos wanted was development investments because he would lose his underclass clientele. Arlos always wanted more and more money, political power, and influence over local people. That was his M.O. and political agenda. Dan Valenti should understand that the number one constituent to Peter Arlos was Peter Arlos!

amandaWell
amandaWell
6 years ago

All politicians are bums.

Guess what
Guess what
6 years ago

Most politicians have a personal agenda. They make many promises that in reality they can’t keep and we all know that. Would it be better to be sincere and honest instead but then they would not be a politician would they.

amandaWell
amandaWell
6 years ago

That’s why they are bums. They don’t keep promises. Period!

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

December 27, 2014
Re: Open Letter to Clarence Fanto
I read your latest column, below, about the decline in population in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. When I was a young man, 27, in late-May 2002 – mid-June 2003, I looked for a job in Pittsfield for over one year of my adult life with no success. I would go to BerkshireWorks on North Street in Pittsfield several times per week, go to job interviews, but no one in Pittsfield would offer me employment. I am going to be 40 next summer of 2015; I have lived in Southern New Hampshire since I was 28 in the Spring of 2004, or for the past decade. I now receive monthly annuity pensions from the Veterans Administration and Social Security Administration. I am a 100 percent disabled Veteran who served our nation Honorably in the U.S. Army from the Fall of 1999 – Summer of 2001. I was separated from the military two months prior to 9/11/2001. I wonder if I stayed in the Army, if I would have been deployed to a combat zone after 9/11/2001. Would I still be alive and turning 40? I also wonder if I had better odds of winning the multimillion dollar state lottery jackpot or finding a full time, living wage job in my native hometown of Pittsfield? I believe I had better odds winning the lottery! Those are horrible odds! To get a good job in Pittsfield, you have to be part of the Good Old Boy network. To be part of the Good Old Boy network, you have to come from one of the select multi-generational, interrelated, low gene pool Pittsfield families. My illustrative example is Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. Nuciforo’s late-dad was a Pittsfield State Senator and Probate Court Judge. Nuciforo’s late-Aunt was a former Pittsfield Mayor and BCC Professor. Nuciforo’s Uncle was a Pittsfield State Representative. No one (but me) in Pittsfield would dare speak out against all of Nuciforo’s corruption and abuses of power in Pittsfield because he was feared. In the late-Winter of early 2004, I collected nomination signatures in Pittsfield to oppose Nuciforo for Berkshire State Senator. More than a few people told me they would have liked to sign my nomination papers, but they declined because they feared losing their jobs in Pittsfield. That is how politics and business is done in Pittsfield! Local people live in fear of people like Nuciforo and other Good Old Boys who control the system. No wonder Pittsfield is losing its population. We live in a free country, but not a free community in Pittsfield, Massachusetts! Look at this past year’s elections in Berkshire County. Ben Downing, “Smitty” Pignatelli, and the rest of the Berkshire delegation all ran unopposed for re-election to Beacon Hill. The Berkshire District Attorney also ran unopposed in 2014. The Congressman from Springfield also ran unopposed in 2014. The game is rigged in Pittsfield politics. The system is corrupt and ran by local powerbrokers who rule by fear. As for me, I am happy I don’t live in Pittsfield anymore because I was intimidated by top-down Pittsfield politicians like Nuciforo, who tried to jail me and get my dad fired from his Pittsfield courthouse job in the Spring of 1998 when I was 22. I was also the target of vicious, slanderous rumors by the Nuciforo network of henchmen bullies. Thank goodness there is a bigger World than little old Pittsfield!
– Jonathan Melle
—–
http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/11/clarence-fanto-writings-and-my.html
—–
“Berkshire population decline a growing challenge”
By Clarence Fanto, The Berkshire Eagle, December 27, 2014

LENOX – As Berkshire County leaders look ahead to 2015, they are confronting a challenge that seems to defy solutions while affecting nearly every aspect of life hereabouts: the wide-ranging impact of a shrinking population.

It’s not a new problem, but it seems irreversible, at least for the time being. According to U.S. Census and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission studies, the county continues to lose residents at an accelerating rate.

In fact, according to the Boston Business Journal’s deep dive into federal census profiles, the 10 Massachusetts communities that lost population the fastest between 2010 and 2013 are all in Berkshire County.

The five suffering the biggest declines — 2 percent — are, in order, Williamstown, North Adams, Hinsdale, Adams and Lanesborough. Five more saw declines of 1 percent: Richmond, Pittsfield, Great Barrington, West Stockbridge and Clarksburg. Pittsfield has the dubious distinction of losing the largest number of residents of any city or town in the state — 653 people departed between 2010 and 2013, leaving the current estimated total at 44,057.

Berkshire County as a whole lost about 1,300 people during that period, joining Franklin County just to our east as the only shrinking areas in the state.

Career prep crucial

In our exit interview with Gov. Deval Patrick, he noted the disparity, acknowledged a mismatch of job skills to available positions, and urged a step-up of career-preparation programs at Berkshire Community College for openings that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college’s bachelor’s degree.

In South Berkshire, there’s an intense focus on figuring out how school districts and towns can share services in order to keep their budgets fairly level and avoid hefty property tax increases that are already bedeviling towns such as Great Barrington.

Lenox and Lee are actively exploring collaboration between their two steadily shrinking school districts. A joint meeting between the school boards of the two towns on Jan. 12 may provide some early clues.

“We should consider everything across the board, not just the schools,” Lenox Select Board Chairman Channing Gibson said in a recent interview. “We have to make smart choices and when it comes to working with other towns, we should be taking every step we can to see if there’s an opportunity to work together.”

In his view, territorial concerns should not block the brainstorming. “It’s a tough issue, a real challenge and a central concern of this Select Board,” he said. “We hope we can find economies of scale wherever we can. Anything we can do to cut down on town expenses is important.”

While he knows of no “magic bullets,” Gibson cited the town’s planned solar energy installation and a drive to increase rooms and meals tax revenue as steps that could help.

“I hope that no parochialism will keep us from at least having the discussions,” he said. “Why not talk about it all, there might even be opportunities we haven’t thought of yet. We have a great relationship with the municipal government in Lee, it just makes sense for us to be talking together.”

Consolidation a given

Gibson believes it’s inevitable that school consolidation will emerge sometime in the future, as the population decline continues. Unless that trend reverses dramatically — and there’s no sign of that — it’s hard to imagine that the state will continue to support four high schools south of Pittsfield, he asserted.

Lenox Town Manager Christopher Ketchen sounded a similar theme. “We need to be aggressively looking at opportunities that present themselves,” he said. “It’s a conversation my counterparts in other communities and I have all the time, seeing when there are opportunities to consolidate and economize, municipal and schools. There’s some right-sizing that has to take place at some point.”

“Maybe we’re treading water,” he said of Lenox, “but we’re surrounded by everything. Our population is static at best, and if you broaden it out to decades, we’re on a downward population trend overall.”

Regional planners predict a quickening of the population decline over the next 15 years and by 2060, unless trends are reversed, the county could see a loss of 50,000 people, bringing the total down to a worst-case scenario of 80,000.

Presenting commission findings to various groups around the county, Mark Maloy of the BRPC has linked the aging of the population to the continuing departure of people between 20 and 40, with very few young families arriving from outside the county.

“If demography is destiny, Berkshire County has a massive challenge that needs to be confronted and not deferred,” Ketchen said.

The best and the brightest municipal, business and education leaders across the county might consider convening a wide-ranging summit meeting in the months ahead to seek some answers that could help us navigate through rough waters that threaten our area’s future prospects.
—–

GMHeller
GMHeller
6 years ago

Mr. Valenti:
Did you read Clarence Fanto’s piece in the BB re Berkshire County’s (and Massachusetts) continuing loss of population and businesses?
Can you imagine had Liberal cheerleader Fanto inquired of any of the brainiacs he interviewed (Including outgoing Democrat Governor Deval Patrick) whether zeroing-out the Commonwealth’s high taxes on corporate income and personal income just might dramatically reverse the exodus?
Would not businesses flock to Massachusetts (bringing eager working professionals and their families with them) as occurs in states where income taxes are low or non-existent?
But d’ya think Beacon Hill’s Liberal Democrat legislators, including the slimy Berkshire delegation, want to hear this kind of blasphemy. “Lower taxes, what, are you crazy?”

Here’s Fanto’s column:
“Berkshire population decline a growing challenge”
By Clarence Fanto, The Berkshire Eagle, December 27, 2014
LENOX – As Berkshire County leaders look ahead to 2015, they are confronting a challenge that seems to defy solutions while affecting nearly every aspect of life hereabouts: the wide-ranging impact of a shrinking population.
It’s not a new problem, but it seems irreversible, at least for the time being. According to U.S. Census and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission studies, the county continues to lose residents at an accelerating rate.
In fact, according to the Boston Business Journal’s deep dive into federal census profiles, the 10 Massachusetts communities that lost population the fastest between 2010 and 2013 are all in Berkshire County.
The five suffering the biggest declines — 2 percent — are, in order, Williamstown, North Adams, Hinsdale, Adams and Lanesborough. Five more saw declines of 1 percent: Richmond, Pittsfield, Great Barrington, West Stockbridge and Clarksburg. Pittsfield has the dubious distinction of losing the largest number of residents of any city or town in the state — 653 people departed between 2010 and 2013, leaving the current estimated total at 44,057.
Berkshire County as a whole lost about 1,300 people during that period, joining Franklin County just to our east as the only shrinking areas in the state.
Career prep crucial
In our exit interview with Gov. Deval Patrick, he noted the disparity, acknowledged a mismatch of job skills to available positions, and urged a step-up of career-preparation programs at Berkshire Community College for openings that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college’s bachelor’s degree.
In South Berkshire, there’s an intense focus on figuring out how school districts and towns can share services in order to keep their budgets fairly level and avoid hefty property tax increases that are already bedeviling towns such as Great Barrington.
Lenox and Lee are actively exploring collaboration between their two steadily shrinking school districts. A joint meeting between the school boards of the two towns on Jan. 12 may provide some early clues.
“We should consider everything across the board, not just the schools,” Lenox Select Board Chairman Channing Gibson said in a recent interview. “We have to make smart choices and when it comes to working with other towns, we should be taking every step we can to see if there’s an opportunity to work together.”
In his view, territorial concerns should not block the brainstorming. “It’s a tough issue, a real challenge and a central concern of this Select Board,” he said. “We hope we can find economies of scale wherever we can. Anything we can do to cut down on town expenses is important.”
While he knows of no “magic bullets,” Gibson cited the town’s planned solar energy installation and a drive to increase rooms and meals tax revenue as steps that could help.
“I hope that no parochialism will keep us from at least having the discussions,” he said. “Why not talk about it all, there might even be opportunities we haven’t thought of yet. We have a great relationship with the municipal government in Lee, it just makes sense for us to be talking together.”
Consolidation a given
Gibson believes it’s inevitable that school consolidation will emerge sometime in the future, as the population decline continues. Unless that trend reverses dramatically — and there’s no sign of that — it’s hard to imagine that the state will continue to support four high schools south of Pittsfield, he asserted.
Lenox Town Manager Christopher Ketchen sounded a similar theme. “We need to be aggressively looking at opportunities that present themselves,” he said. “It’s a conversation my counterparts in other communities and I have all the time, seeing when there are opportunities to consolidate and economize, municipal and schools. There’s some right-sizing that has to take place at some point.”
“Maybe we’re treading water,” he said of Lenox, “but we’re surrounded by everything. Our population is static at best, and if you broaden it out to decades, we’re on a downward population trend overall.”
Regional planners predict a quickening of the population decline over the next 15 years and by 2060, unless trends are reversed, the county could see a loss of 50,000 people, bringing the total down to a worst-case scenario of 80,000.
Presenting commission findings to various groups around the county, Mark Maloy of the BRPC has linked the aging of the population to the continuing departure of people between 20 and 40, with very few young families arriving from outside the county.
“If demography is destiny, Berkshire County has a massive challenge that needs to be confronted and not deferred,” Ketchen said.
The best and the brightest municipal, business and education leaders across the county might consider convening a wide-ranging summit meeting in the months ahead to seek some answers that could help us navigate through rough waters that threaten our area’s future prospects.

charles kronick berkshires
charles kronick berkshires
Reply to  GMHeller
6 years ago

Agreed. And this is why I advocate cutting City Council to three members (none could evade public accountability) and dismissing most of Beacon Hill and making the State representatives part time labor and no staff.

Expanding government to the primary employer is the primary cause of death for the Middle Class. Wealth has been extracted from working families and dumped into the institutions of government that return about as much as a tank to the economy.

dusty
dusty
6 years ago

What is he talking about? Pittsfield is growing so fast they are building new schools and boutique hotels. They are fixing up all the parks to make room for the influx of peoples. They may even get a tenant for their new industrial park.

If Pittsfield were losing its people they would be losing their tax base and that obviously is not happening because city govt is spending money like crazy. And that would be irresponsible which democrats are not thank you very much.

This is how rumors get started Glen.

Pat
Pat
6 years ago

We are rapidly losing population, but need to build a brand new high school? I have been to the Taconic High School building recently. It does need to be fixed up, but a brand new expensive one is not needed when eventually only one high school will be needed in Pittsfield with the rapidly declining population. There will be a brand new very expensive building, but with no students to fill it. It makes absolutely no sense.

GMHeller
GMHeller
Reply to  Pat
6 years ago

It makes sense if the real purpose of the massive expenditure is to give boku taxpayer bucks to a choice construction company.
Which firm do ya imagine would end up being prime contractor for the project?

Carolyn Barry
Carolyn Barry
Reply to  Pat
6 years ago

Agreed Pat. Especially with so many students choicing out of Pittsfield. A study was done 5 years or so ago on Greylock and said that school was sound, but you have some who want bigger and better there too. Senseless!

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

@ Charles Kronic our current mayor is part of mayors against guns. He just joined last year. I believe you downplayed his role in the organization when I criticized that but I could be wrong it may have been someone else.

charles kronick berkshires
charles kronick berkshires
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

I would never downplay any association with that group, Scott. On the other hand, the author of this site is no great friend of the Bill of Rights, save portions of the First Amendment, so I’m guessing he is the one who downplayed your concern.

I can’t imagine one reason any mayor or leader of a Berkshire community would join a New Yorker City Money-house group that is committed to undoing the historic contributions of the Commonwealth and vilifying the character of solid citizens.

But back to the discussion, Pete Arlos made it a personal campaign to get City Council to petition his mayor to join MAIG. (The Council had the good sense to decline.)

Scott
Scott
Reply to  charles kronick berkshires
6 years ago

What’s worse a person who’s who’s oversight committee has one member petition or a willing and opportunistic declaration of allegiance for political gain?

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

Plus DV has the bill of rights in his wallet. He also reads the Declaration of Independence as well as the constitution yearly.

charles kronick berkshires
charles kronick berkshires
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

I would not rest my arse on the Bill of Rights and the writings of T. Jefferson, though. Sort of like sitting on a flag. Where was he during the ruckus last year when State Congress debated a law that would have eviscerated the Bill of Rights in MA? Plus, his disgust at the Juries of the Hall murders in their findings of guilt indicate discomfort with Ad’s VI & VII.

Not that it matters, DV is not an elected official and he has not sworn any oaths to protect and defend any Constitution. Pete Arlos advocated for Bloomberg’s group, and now Bianchi is associated with it. Those are significant issues for me.

charles kronick Berkshires
charles kronick Berkshires
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

DV,

That’s rockin’ good news. Which part of the First Amendment were you defending and when?

Who was on the court when you scored the slam dunk?

charles kronick berkshires
charles kronick berkshires
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

The TMI story is interesting – I lived a mere 60 mins as the wind blows from the site so I remember the event well.

But regarding the Nilan case, I saw no slam dunk in the Judge’s order. While you may have argued the case from a Constitutional perspective, the Judge could only have considered it from the angle of harassment which was the subject of the plaintiff’s complaint. His words, ‘you are treading a fine line’ did not suggest the Judge was highly sympathetic. The test would have been if you left the content live the entire time and then sued the State for imposing a harassment order for posting.

I’m not diminishing the fact that the ‘harassment’ incident at heart was funny, which it was, but I don’t see the legal significance. In short, I’d bet you could have said nil and gotten the order reversed having withdrawn the content. Harassment orders lie in a huge stack on Magistrates desks and by the bedsides of Judges throughout the State. Getting them issued just requires a phone call and a few sniffles. Making them stick is hard.

Gene
Gene
6 years ago

The building of a new school is as unnecessary.as it is inevitable. I have a good friend who is an executive of one of hte local “brand name” construction companies…what troubles me is that it sounds like not only has the project been “approved” behind closed doors but its even been decided which local businesses will benefit. Isn’t that type of thin illegal? 9sorry for typos done from phone)

GMHeller
GMHeller
Reply to  Gene
6 years ago

This is Massachusetts.
NOTHING is illegal as long as it benefits the political party in power.
Now, just which political party is that?
Let’s see…….

Penny Pincher
Penny Pincher
Reply to  GMHeller
6 years ago

Hey Glen did you pay your taxes yet?

GMHeller
GMHeller
Reply to  Penny Pincher
6 years ago

I think you’re mistaking me for the Albany public radio station CEO with the whopping expense account, complimentary furnished apartment in downtown Albany, compted Tanglewood tix, etc, all of which never seems to get declared to IRS — at least you wouldn’t know it from examining the ‘not-for-profit’ radio station’s IRS Form 990.

Guess what
Guess what
6 years ago

What I don’t understand is whose decision it is to build the Mega School. Who actually voted to build the school and is their vote legal? Can the tax payer take the vote back? Its election year and this is the best time to get those questions answers.

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

December 28, 2014
Re: Deval Patrick was a good Governor, but problems will continue
Deval Patrick was a good Governor of Massachusetts. He stands for progressive liberal policies of the Democratic Party. He grew up in a poor family in Chicago who received welfare assistance programs. He obtained success in higher education, business, and state and federal government. I do not blame Mr. Patrick for Massachusetts’ financial mess, but he did not make any structural improvements to the way the Bay State operates.
Massachusetts is the number 1 per capita debtor state government in the nation since the mid-1990’s, or for the past 2 decades. The Big Dig’s multi-billion dollar cost overruns are mostly to blame. Over the past 2 decades, state aid to cities and towns was cut by around 40 percent! That really hurts constrained communities like Pittsfield and North Adams, which are the population centers of rural Berkshire County.
On top of cuts in state aid, inflationary costs of municipal government services such as healthcare insurance and unfunded liabilities have increased for municipalities. That means the state not only cut its funding for local governments, but that local governments are paying more than ever before to fund its operations. It is like two cuts in one, or local governments batting with 2 strikes with a Cy Young pitcher winding up for strike 3.
In 2006, Deval Patrick campaigned against Romney/Healey’s “shell game” of not raising taxes on the state level, while forcing the hand of local governments to hike regressive property taxes due to cuts in state aid funding. Over the past 8 years, Deval Patrick’s administration continued to cut state aid.
When Charlie Baker takes the oath of office next week in early January 2015, Deval Patrick will have left office with the a current budget deficit between $750 million and $1 billion. Unlike Mr. Patrick, Mr. Baker will not raise state taxes like his Republican Governor predecessors Weld, Cellucci, Swift, and Romney. That means Mr. Baker is going to borrow money (debt) and/or cut state and local funding, meaning further cuts to public services like education, police, fire, and roads.
The bottom line is that in Massachusetts politics and public finances, Deval Patrick didn’t change anything for the better. He inherited all the political and financial problems that will continue with the Baker Administration.
I hope Deval Patrick becomes a future U.S. President because he is a good man, I concur with his political platform, and he is a true leader who believes in the U.S.A. and World.
– Jonathan Melle
—–
“Patrick leaves with record of accomplishment”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, 12/27/2014
When Deval Patrick ran for governor eight years ago, not many in the state were familiar with the corporate attorney and former U.S. Justice Department official. Not many in the Berkshires knew he had a home here.
But Mr. Patrick’s optimism, charisma and progressive platform quickly ignited his outsider campaign against familiar Democratic rivals. He easily won the party primary, cruised to election and easily won re-election four years later. He is now winding down his terms in office and looking forward to whatever is next, and while that will involve change, he did tell The Eagle in a phone interview that he and his family will maintain their home in Richmond — “God’s country,” as he referred to the county.
If an elected official is measured on whether or not his town, city, state or nation is better off upon his leaving than his arriving, the governor certainly passes the test. Mr. Patrick guided the state through a recession and Massachusetts has seen a 4.1 percent growth in jobs in his tenure, compared to a 1.7 percent hike nationally in that period. The state’s AA+ bond rating, a testament to a solid economy and good management, is the highest in state history.
The governor made education a priority at all levels, and perhaps most notably elevated the game of the state’s long-neglected community colleges. He emerged as a strong advocate for life sciences and the biotech industry, and his emphasis on the development of clean energy technology has made Massachusetts a leader in that area as well. He addressed the state’s long-neglected infrastructure, and successfully advocated for a needed toughening of the state’s gun violence laws. Inevitable tiffs aside, he worked efficiently with the state Legislature.
There were problems along the way, among them breakdowns in the Department of Transition Assistance and the Department of Children and Families. However, Mr. Patrick, a non-traditional politician, didn’t respond with the traditional three-step political response of denial, blame-shifting and media-bashing. He instead acknowledged failings and set about correcting them.
Mr. Patrick’s Richmond presence gave him a perspective on Berkshire issues, such as a persistent job crunch and poor broadband access, that he worked to address. His appreciation for the county’s beauty certainly played a part in his environmentalism and advocacy of clean energy. Less tangibly, it was important to a region often neglected by Boston to have a governor who knew his way around the county, realized the different challenges facing a North Adams and a Lenox and a Pittsfield, and could be bumped into at a local retailer.
The governor is looking at a return to the private sector and isn’t considering any runs for political office (including when asked by The Eagle, a bid for Richmond Selectman.) Mr. Patrick emerged as a national political figure during his tenure, partly because of his friendship with President Obama and also thanks to a powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 in which he chastised Democrats for their passivity and urged them to “grow some backbone.”
Mr. Patrick’s popularity and ease on camera means that his party is not likely to let him drop off the radar no matter how hard he tries to disappear into the private sector. It’s also easy to envision Mr. Patrick on TV news commentary although he has expressed his disinterest in a career as a pundit.
Whatever the future holds for Mr Patrick he has left behind a legacy of accomplishment. In spite of periodic baseless rumors that he would leave for a position in the Obama administration, the governor’s focus never drifted from Massachusetts — which cannot be said of every recent governor. A progressive, he came into office determined to assure that the state would progress, and he succeeded on a variety of fronts. The state is better for Deval Patrick having been its governor.
—–

charles kronick berkshires
charles kronick berkshires
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

Mr. Patrick’s Richmond presence gave him a perspective on Berkshire issues, such as a persistent job crunch and poor broadband access, that he worked to address. His appreciation for the county’s beauty certainly played a part in his environmentalism and advocacy of clean energy

You should come out here and check out the industrial turbines he planted all over the Northern/Central Berkshires. They are ugly, produce near nil electricity, and are driving neighboring residents out of their home that they owned far longer than he bought his pad in Richmond.

We also doubt his casinos well benefit manufacturing and incomes in Berkshire county or the rest of the Commonwealth. He brought them in to help finance the monstrous size of State government.

GMHeller
GMHeller
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

Lucky Jonathan may get his chance to vote for Deval for president.
Look for wind turbines on The White House.

charles kronick berkshires
charles kronick berkshires
Reply to  GMHeller
6 years ago

Nah, they’d attract lightning strikes for sure and otherwise eat up valuable donor-suites. Instead, expect the White House to be clad top bottom in solar panels with the reflective glare bringing down aircraft 100 mile radius.

dusty
dusty
6 years ago

i would imagine Carr hardware has already ordered 6 brand new golden shovels for the mayors groundbreaking ceremony for the school. The speech has probably already been written and nothing short of a plague is going to stop this train. Get on board or get run over people.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
6 years ago

Dusty, agree the school will get built, as fast as possible before the enrollment drops any lower. It shows the lack of leadership, to not even look into consolidation of any of the schools in the Pittsfield public system. No one has the balls to even talk about merging or closing a school. The union is to strong, politician’s to much of conformist. Happy New Year, leading up to another same year. (Tax $pend)

Pat
Pat
Reply to  joetaxpayer
6 years ago

True although someday it will be really bizarre to have maybe 100 or so kids attending Taconic High School. The population just won’t be there to fill the school. The politicians won’t be ashamed of their massive expense on an unnecessary school because they answer to nobody except their loyal followers who show up at the polls every election cycle, usually all members of the school system.

amandaWell
amandaWell
6 years ago

We will pay no bus fleet before it’s time?

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

@charles thats a significant issues for me as well. As
For sitting on the bill of rights I’m assuming no one keeps thier wallet in their back pocket anymore since we’ve discovered it causes sciatica.