Friday, March 25, 2005

Topic: Politics -- Local.

Your feedback:

10 Comments:

Blogger jonathan said...

I think Berkshire County's local politicians should be focused on one thing, first and foremost, and that is JOB CREATION! Their are little to no jobs in Berkshire County. It is almost like people go without in the Berkshires do to a lack of jobs. Why aren't politicians doing more to create jobs for their constituents?

Friday, May 13, 2005 8:56:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

I am in concurrence with Alan Chartock's column against former-State Rep. Peter J. Larkin. In my opinion, Peter Larkin's socially conservative public policy record is one of a fascist, right-winger who should never again be elected to public office. (There are a lot of these kinds of crazies in the N.H. Legislature, unfortunately. I thought I was going to puke when I went to a candidate's forum in Amherst, New Hampshire in the Fall of 2004 and heard some of the anti-same sex marriage, anti-choice, anti-public education views proposed by a few of the many otherwise qualified candidates for state and federal public office).

My admiration goes out to the courage of Alan Chartock for his revision of his initial review of Peter Larkin! My only question for Alan Chartock is: What about also further reviewing Nuciforo's deficient (fiscally conservative/corporate elite) and political machine driven, special interest political record, too? I do concede that in terms of socially-focused ideological fascism, Peter Larkin stands alone as the sole social conservative (moral hypocrite) among the handful of the other Berkshire Legislative Delegates to Beacon Hill's State House.

My view of Larkin's success in Pittsfield Politics is that Pittsfield always had an insider's group of Catholic Political Hacks in state and local politics. These Catholic Political Hacks were always a minority among the Pittsfield electorate, but controlled the political machine and many of the jobs in the city. Due to Pittsfield's politicial machine, socially conservative ideological fascists such as Peter Larkin enjoyed great political power, but the catch was that he always had to do the dirty work of the OLD BOYS' NETWORK or the GOOD OLD BOYS.

Unfortunately, I see this happening now with Pittsfield Mayor Jim Ruberto. I do not at all discredit Mayor Ruberto for his faith, but rather, I have always admired him for it. In fact, he proudly touted his faith and his attendance of Saint Joseph High School. Mayor Ruberto wants to serve Pittsfield and I share with him many of his new and positive ideas for Pittsfield. In fact, I am greatly inspired by his commitment and new ideas for our native hometown.

BUT, Mayor Ruberto is falling into "the Peter J. Larkin political trap" set by the few very powerful Catholic Political Hacks, which was most evidenced by Mayor Ruberto's dismissal of a qualified woman from an appointed position and the replacement appointment of a less qualified, but notorious GOOD OLD BOY named Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. to that position. Perhaps Peter Larkin, like Jim Ruberto, started his career in Pittsfield Politics with good ideas and ideals, but Larkin (and now Ruberto) seems to have really only served the dirty business interests of the few but powerful Catholic Political Hacks known as the GOOD OLD BOYS or the OLD BOY NETWORK that truly control the political machinery that is simply known by the many as Pittsfield Politics.

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle

Saturday, April 08, 2006 3:44:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

THE BOSTON GLOBE
OP-ED

MARY CLARE HIGGINS AND RALPH WHITE

The crisis in municipal health insurance

By Mary Clare Higgins and Ralph White

January 29, 2007

THE COST of providing health insurance for municipal employees and retirees has almost doubled in the past six years, while local revenues and state aid have risen much more slowly. A creative solution to stop this unsustainable trend is needed, and it's needed now. We represent different interests -- municipal government and labor -- but we both believe that giving cities and towns a local option to join the state's health insurance system is a creative short-term way to address this crisis.

In the past, this has not occurred. But for more than a year, we and others in municipal governments, public employee unions, and state government sought common ground for reform as members of the Municipal Health Insurance Working Group. These efforts have proved fruitful. This month, Representative Rachel Kaprielian, Democrat of Watertown, and Senator Richard Moore, Democrat of Uxbridge, filed legislation to create a new local option for municipalities to join the state's Group Insurance Commission, which already provides health insurance to more than 285,000 government employees and their dependents.

We need to pass this legislation early this year, so municipalities can begin considering this new option -- and bringing their insurance costs down.

Skyrocketing health insurance costs affect everyone. Annual double-digit increases are one of the prime pressures on property taxes. They constrain the ability of cities and towns to attract and keep the employees who provide frontline services. This problem is an issue in municipal budgets and labor negotiations from Cape Cod to the Berkshires.

Our working group, which was facilitated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and chaired by Sovereign Bank New England chairman John Hamill, brought together organizations including teachers unions, AFSCME Council 93, the Retired Massachusetts Employees Association, the Essex Regional Retirement Board, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the Metro Mayors Coalition . Our analysis shows that joining the Group Insurance Commission may mean significant savings in municipal costs, while providing comparable or better health insurance options to employees and retirees.

This bill represents the delicate balancing of competing interests. Everyone at the table had to give a little in order for this compromise to emerge. Some cities and towns would prefer to join the Group Insurance Commission without consulting their employee unions, but they recognize this would have trouble passing on Beacon Hill. Some labor leaders wish to maintain their current ability to bargain over the design of local health plans. Nevertheless, they recognize that the state system may be an attractive option anyway because its superior purchasing power can lead to better plans at lower cost. The commission itself is used to having a single "split" -- with a fixed percentage of the premium coming from the state and the remainder from the employees -- but the panel has agreed to allow each city and town joining the system to decide its own local split. Cities and towns agreed to continue bargaining over that split with their employee unions.

One key part of the plan is that as cities and towns join the state system, the commission will add new commissioners to represent municipal government and municipal workers.

Our proposal recognizes the interests of both labor and management, and we are prepared to stand by our careful compromise to create a local option that would be considered and voted on by all parties -- and would be likely to win support on Beacon Hill.

The city of Springfield recently joined the Group Insurance Commission under an emergency regulation, and that decision was made jointly by labor, retiree, and municipal representatives. This showed that labor and management can and will work together to solve this municipal health insurance crisis.

Cities and towns need new local aid and deserve more flexibility in governing themselves. However, new resources will only improve public services and relieve pressure for property tax increases if we grapple successfully with the health insurance issue that is straining municipal budgets across the Commonwealth.

Our proposal shows that a variety of interest groups understand the severity of the municipal insurance issue and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to address it. The legislation reflects a spirit of collaboration and consensus-seeking, and we hope it will be a top priority of the new governor and Legislature.

Mary Clare Higgins is mayor of Northampton and immediate past president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Ralph White is president of the Retired Massachusetts Employees Association.

Monday, January 29, 2007 7:49:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

My thought for today is that leaving Berkshire County was the best decision that I ever made in my entire life. It is strange for me to write this, since I have such fondness for Western Massachusetts and write about many of its socioeconomic problems that go unment on both Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill. BUT, that is the way I feel.

I talk to my dad and sometimes my mom about Pittsfield's problems, and the Western Massachusetts' politicians ineffective responses to them. The most frustrating thing for me is that when I go on the Internet to read about Pittsfield and the surrounding region, not only does nothing ever change, especially in politics, but also human conditions are only getting much worse.

To be fairminded in my claim, I am going to list some examples: (a) Teen Pregnancy rates are on the recurring rise, (b) Public Education test scores are dropping, (c) Living Wage and above jobs are diminishing, (d) PCBs are unsolvable beyond the 25 year caps and PEDA has proven to be a waste of well over $35 Million GE and public dollars without creating private sector job one, (e) people like Rinaldo Del Gallo III and myself, respectively, are mocked by the political establishment and censored from posting our views in the mainstream news media (save for the great journalist: Mary Carey), (f) Nuciforo got away with strong-arming 2 women candidates out of a state government election in the Spring of 2006 and now holds the seat of Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds, (g) the choices the 2 aforementioned women candidates had was to oppose the corrupt Pol -- Nuciforo -- who illegally collected hundreds of thousands of U.S. Dollars from insurance company executives and their lobbying firms through his illegal conflicts of interests OR be blacklisted from ever finding a living wage job in Pittsfield (& the Berkshires) by the Good Old Boys Network that Nuciforo is part of, (h) "North Street" is "Social Service Alley" and its sole design is for the city of Pittsfield to cash in on tens of millions of federally funded, state administered social service program dollars, making it the "Banality of Social Injustice" instead of a place where people can find a living wage job like they did back in the 1950s, (i) Politicians like Nuciforo set up plans to fire and/or jail people who dissent against the way the system is being "gamed", and Gold-Digger hypocrite Pols like Denis E. Guyer spread the most vicious rumors about people who participate in democracy but defy the Good Old Boy Network's agenda, (j) Columnists like Alan Chartock practice Orwell's "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" philosophies by throwing his battle axe at Rinaldo Del Gallo III, but not Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. for their common heavy-handed strong-arm tactics in local and state governmental elections, (k) Mayor James M. Ruberto promised to make Pittsfield Public Schools the best in the state, and after 3 whole years of being Mayor, they are among the worst and dropping further down the list, (l) Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. supported Ruberto's disincentives for Pittsfield Public School Teachers by cutting their healthcare compensation, and then the Sheriff was voted a 21% pay raise although he already made over 3x what the beginning public educator makes in Pittsfield (m) Mayor John Barrett III fights his battles over cable companies instead of for more books and computers for his city's public school children, and North Adams has one of the worst performing public educational systems in the state and nation, and the list goes on and on...

As I tell my dad, I shared in his vision to make Berkshire County a better place for the common man to live. By my writings, I hope to showcase my views and experiences so as to help the business and government elites to understand why things must change for the better. If I was a powerful politician from Western Massachusetts, I would ensure that the needs of Pittsfield and the surrounding region were met on Beacon Hill and/or Capitol Hill. But since Pittsfield will never change and I am a mocked, outsider, blacklisted, and the like, former-native son of this locality and surrounding region, I am glad I now live in Southern New Hampshire with my family!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----
Remain in Berkshires, make things better

Letters

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
I guess everyone wants to get in on the housing boom. The face of the nation is changing. Arizona is now the state where people want to move to.

I work at a local drug store in my community. There are people who come in from Berkshire County and they say, "Don't go back to Massachusetts." They tell me, "it's very expensive to live there now." "Stockbridge has become very expensive."

How much of this is sheer greed? Do politicians want to keep low income people out of their communities? I know that they do in some communities in Arizona. Everything keeps going up and up and up!

My advice to people is to stay where you are and try to work out some solutions. Go to your town meetings. Find out the causes of higher taxes, higher prices on everything.

Another reason why I recommend staying where you are is because someday there could be a water problem in Arizona if they don't stop building so fast. Water is a commodity that we all take for granted and there seems to be plenty of it in the Berkshires.

So, then, count your blessings; keep after the politicians to stabilize prices. Everyone can do something to make their communities more livable.

EDWINA ADDISON

Sun City West, Ariz.

Jan. 29, 2007

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 3:50:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

My thought for today is that leaving Berkshire County was the best decision that I ever made in my entire life. It is strange for me to write this, since I have such fondness for Western Massachusetts and write about many of its socioeconomic problems that go unment on both Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill. BUT, that is the way I feel.

I talk to my dad and sometimes my mom about Pittsfield's problems, and the Western Massachusetts' politicians ineffective responses to them. The most frustrating thing for me is that when I go on the Internet to read about Pittsfield and the surrounding region, not only does nothing ever change, especially in politics, but also human conditions are only getting much worse.

To be fairminded in my claim, I am going to list some examples: (a) Teen Pregnancy rates are on the recurring rise, (b) Public Education test scores are dropping, (c) Living Wage and above jobs are diminishing, (d) PCBs are unsolvable beyond the 25 year caps and PEDA has proven to be a waste of well over $35 Million GE and public dollars without creating private sector job one, (e) people like Rinaldo Del Gallo III and myself, respectively, are mocked by the political establishment and censored from posting our views in the mainstream news media (save for the great journalist: Mary Carey), (f) Nuciforo got away with strong-arming 2 women candidates out of a state government election in the Spring of 2006 and now holds the seat of Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds, (g) the choices the 2 aforementioned women candidates had was to oppose the corrupt Pol -- Nuciforo -- who illegally collected hundreds of thousands of U.S. Dollars from insurance company executives and their lobbying firms through his illegal conflicts of interests OR be blacklisted from ever finding a living wage job in Pittsfield (& the Berkshires) by the Good Old Boys Network that Nuciforo is part of, (h) "North Street" is "Social Service Alley" and its sole design is for the city of Pittsfield to cash in on tens of millions of federally funded, state administered social service program dollars, making it the "Banality of Social Injustice" instead of a place where people can find a living wage job like they did back in the 1950s, (i) Politicians like Nuciforo set up plans to fire and/or jail people who dissent against the way the system is being "gamed", and Gold-Digger hypocrite Pols like Denis E. Guyer spread the most vicious rumors about people who participate in democracy but defy the Good Old Boy Network's agenda, (j) Columnists like Alan Chartock practice Orwell's "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" philosophies by throwing his battle axe at Rinaldo Del Gallo III, but not Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. for their common heavy-handed strong-arm tactics in local and state governmental elections, (k) Mayor James M. Ruberto promised to make Pittsfield Public Schools the best in the state, and after 3 whole years of being Mayor, they are among the worst and dropping further down the list, (l) Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. supported Ruberto's disincentives for Pittsfield Public School Teachers by cutting their healthcare compensation, and then the Sheriff was voted a 21% pay raise although he already made over 3x what the beginning public educator makes in Pittsfield (m) Mayor John Barrett III fights his battles over cable companies instead of for more books and computers for his city's public school children, and North Adams has one of the worst performing public educational systems in the state and nation, and the list goes on and on...

As I tell my dad, I shared in his vision to make Berkshire County a better place for the common man to live. By my writings, I hope to showcase my views and experiences so as to help the business and government elites to understand why things must change for the better. If I was a powerful politician from Western Massachusetts, I would ensure that the needs of Pittsfield and the surrounding region were met on Beacon Hill and/or Capitol Hill. But since Pittsfield will never change and I am a mocked, outsider, blacklisted, and the like, former-native son of this locality and surrounding region, I am glad I now live in Southern New Hampshire with my family!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----
Remain in Berkshires, make things better

Letters

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
I guess everyone wants to get in on the housing boom. The face of the nation is changing. Arizona is now the state where people want to move to.

I work at a local drug store in my community. There are people who come in from Berkshire County and they say, "Don't go back to Massachusetts." They tell me, "it's very expensive to live there now." "Stockbridge has become very expensive."

How much of this is sheer greed? Do politicians want to keep low income people out of their communities? I know that they do in some communities in Arizona. Everything keeps going up and up and up!

My advice to people is to stay where you are and try to work out some solutions. Go to your town meetings. Find out the causes of higher taxes, higher prices on everything.

Another reason why I recommend staying where you are is because someday there could be a water problem in Arizona if they don't stop building so fast. Water is a commodity that we all take for granted and there seems to be plenty of it in the Berkshires.

So, then, count your blessings; keep after the politicians to stabilize prices. Everyone can do something to make their communities more livable.

EDWINA ADDISON

Sun City West, Ariz.

Jan. 29, 2007

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 3:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

THE PITTSFIELD GAZETTE ONLINE

Sticker shock hits school cafeterias

26.APR.07

Inflation has become a regular on the menu in Pittsfield’s school cafeterias.

For the third time in as many years, the school committee this week approved an increase in lunch prices.

Effective September 1, student lunches in Pittsfield cafeterias will cost $1.75.
“It just keeps going up,“ said Taconic High School senior Andy Bonin.

Lunches currently cost $1.50; one year ago, the meals sold for $1.25. The year prior, the price was $1.

Upon learning of the pending price hike, Taconic senior Brittany Mason said teens are being squeezed. “We have enough stuff to pay for without having to pay more for lunch,” she said after purchasing a meal from the Valentine Road school’s salad bar.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” added Becky Clark. She also cautioned that the frequent price increases are prompting some students to skip lunch.
“Some people can’t afford it,” Clark said. “$1.75 is just something that some parents can’t give to kids... Some kids can’t afford it and they don’t eat.”

The school committee voted 7-0 in favor of the price hike after receiving a memo outlining increasing costs for the self-sufficient cafeteria program.
Sylvana Bryan, the director of food services, said that the increase would generate approximately $90,000 during the 2007-2008 school year. Without the hike, she projected a deficit in the account.

Bryan reported that food prices have increased five to seven percent this year, while cafeteria employees are in line for a two to three percent salary increase once a new contract is finalized.

On the revenue side, the cafeteria program has been adversely impacted as the city schedules ten “half-days” during which students only have morning classes, with no lunches served. This schedule deprives the cafeteria program of both lunch revenue and federal funds that are paid for each meal served. In addition, a new high school “exam week” has aggravated the revenue drain because students can leave after taking morning exams.

Another drain on revenue is a new “wellness policy” that has reduced sale of profitable a la carte items in the high schools.

Sally Douglas, business manager for the school department, reluctantly recommended the price hike. “We hate to do this, but unfortunately with all the rising costs we feel we have to do this,” she said.

Douglas said that food costs for 2007-2008 haven’t been confirmed — a bulk countywide bid process will occur next month — but increases are likely.
“We spend over $200,000 a year on milk alone,” she said. A four percent increase would boost the cost by $8,000, she noted.

Douglas said that even at $1.75 the city will have one of the lowest student lunch costs in the county.

In Adams, lunch costs $1.75 for elementary students and $2 for middle and high school students; in Dalton, lunch costs $1.55; in Lee costs are $1.50 for elementary students and $1.75 for older students; in Lenox, lunch costs $2 for elementary students and $2.50 for middle and higher schoolers; in North Adams, elementary lunch costs $1.25 and middle & high school lunch costs $1.50.

Douglas said that federal guidelines also suggest that the city keep a surplus of six weeks of expenses in cafeteria accounts. She said that’s essential because the bulk of funds comes from federal and state reimbursements that “don’t come in a timely manner.”

“We have to have those operating moneys in our account to maintain payroll,” she said.

The price hike will not affect students who receive free meals based on meeting federal family income standards. More than 40 percent of Pittsfield students qualify for free meals.

School committee member Dan Elias expressed displeasure with the impact of the lunch-less half days on the cafeteria program. “I just wanted to mention another reason why I don’t like half days,” he said.

Committee member Dorothy van den Honert recalled when lunches cost 25 cents. But she said the price of a school meal has gone up at a much lower rate over time than other programs.

“Someone is doing an awfully good job,” she said.

Committee chairwoman Kathleen Amuso said that rationale for the price hike is sound but the change will impact families. “It does have a significant financial impact,” she said.

As a parent of active middle school boys who purchase “double” lunches, Amuso said she appreciates that “they get good healthy lunches” but is aware of how the lunch bills add up.

Mayor James Ruberto said “it’s unfortunately time that we have to make some adjustments.” But he concurred with van den Honert’s assessment that the cafeteria program is well managed and that the price hike is justified.

“The data here is very compelling,” said Ruberto.

Thursday, June 21, 2007 7:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

[A Boston] GLOBE EDITORIAL

What cities and towns need now

June 27, 2007

A BILL passed by the Massachusetts House this week offers the prospect of greater uniformity and rationality in the purchase of health insurance for municipal employees. The House will demonstrate more good sense today if it approves a bill to bring lagging local public employee pension plans into the state system. Still, neither measure offers a complete fix for the fiscal troubles of Massachusetts cities and towns.

The health insurance bill would allow communities to move their workforces to insurance plans supervised by the state's Group Insurance Commission, if they can obtain the support of 70 percent of the workers and retirees. This plan would give cities and towns the opportunity to tap the greater expertise and plan flexibility of the commission, but the transition could take a couple of years. Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, figures that many towns would stay out because they would not save money by switching. The Senate should also approve the bill, but this is no panacea for rising health costs.

The pension bill would mandate that communities with underperforming pension plans put their assets in the care of the state Pension Reserves Investment Management Board. Beckwith estimates that more than half the local plans are doing well enough so that they will not have to make the switch. PRIM has an excellent investment record, but savings in the communities that do benefit from joining it would be unlikely to offset annual increases in the costs of schools, public safety, and other municipal services.

Many communities have approved override votes to Proposition 2 1/2 to close the gap, but the property tax should not have to shoulder so much of the local burden. The House Revenue Committee is considering two new revenue sources: a local option increase in meal and hotel taxes, and the closing of a loophole that exempts some telecommunications equipment from local taxation. Beckwith estimates the meals and hotel taxes would bring in $250 million and the telecom tax $78 million.

The meals/hotel proposal is an imperfect solution, since not all communities contain either, but at 2 percent for meals, and 1 percent for hotels, the local taxes would be an unobtrusive supplement for cities and towns with many such businesses. The telecom proposal would merely tax telephone poles and switching equipment like other business property. It may have made sense to encourage the spread of telephony generations ago, but it's time to equalize the tax load.

In Massachusetts, by tradition, state government sharply circumscribes the powers of cities and towns. Given that reality, the Legislature is wise to give communities access to its skilled insurance and pension managers. Local government, however, needs money as well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:00:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

By the way...Berkshire County is still the #1 region in the commonwealth for JOB LOSSES!

Extra, extra, read the propaganda!

Revitalization tour
Berkshires: the model cities
Fall River officials visit Pittsfield, North Adams

By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff

The Berkshire Eagle

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

PITTSFIELD — It was a long, hot walk from the Colonial Theatre north through downtown Pittsfield to the Maplewood, then south to the Central Block, but it was an enlightening experience for five economic development officials from Fall River.

They were here to learn how Pittsfield and North Adams had been able to come back from the economic brink and create economic growth, where just a few years ago there had been stagnation.

Fall River, with a population of about 92,000, has been suffering from a severe downsizing of its main manufacturing company, Quaker Fabrics, and the job migration that came with it.

"This has been beyond enlightening for us," said Alan Amaral, president and CEO of Yomega Corp. — a manufacturer, importer and distributor of yo-yos — and president of the Fall River Office of Economic Development, after the Pittsfield tour. "We came here with the hope of getting a glimpse of what Pittsfield has accomplished, and we got a great deal more than that."

He said the elements of the strategy that were of particular interest included:


The role cultural attractions play in economic stimulation.

The arts overlay district being used to foster office, retail, cultural and residential land uses in an urban environment.

The variety of other zoning strategies to help with everything from signage to reinvigorated land use.

The importance of a downtown business association.
Deanna Ruffer, director of Community Development for Pittsfield, noted during the tour that Fall River is the second city to come through Berkshire County to see firsthand the results of the economic development strategy. Officials from Fitchburg, N.Y., have visited twice in the past two years, she noted.

"It's interesting when a city like Pittsfield, which had considered itself down and out for years, has someone come to us looking to emulate what we've done. It represents a turning point in our revitalization," Ruffer said, while walking past City Hall through the intense sunshine.

"This kind of thing gives us outside confirmation what we, internally, have been recognizing and trying to foster," Tyler Fairbank, president of the Economic Development Corporation, said of the visit. "But at the same time, we have to constantly check ourselves and recognize that this will always be a work in progress."

The officials were led through the North Street corridor by Fairbank; Michael Supranowicz, president and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce; Ruffer; Megan Whilden, director of Pittsfield's Office of Cultural Development; and Yvonne Pearson, director of Downtown Inc.

Visiting from Fall River were Amaral; Steve Parr, financial officer of the Office of Economic Development; Jeremiah Donovan, a Fall River property owner and developer; Patrick Norton, a representative of U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and the Narrows Center for the Arts; and Steve Horvitz, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of a furniture gallery.

The group heard an introduction by Mayor James M. Ruberto in the lobby of the Colonial Theatre, then toured the restored facility.

From there, they headed out in the near 90-degree heat for a walk past Park Square, through the financial district on North Street, through the pedestrian walkway to City Hall and on to the Storefront Artist Project in the Howard Building. From there, they walked down First Street to Melville for a quick tour of the Sam Kasten Handweaver plant in the old Notre Dame School and Crispina in the basement of the former Notre Dame Church. Then they went on to the Maplewood for a tour conducted by developer Beth Pearson.

On their way to the Central Block on North Street, they stopped at Spice for a look at the new eatery.

Once at the chamber offices in Central Block, the group had lunch, exchanged questions and answers, then left for a tour of North Adams and Mass MoCA.

Whilden noted earlier in the day, while trailing the group along Fenn Street, that the Massachusetts Cultural Council has been recommending that inquiring cities contact Pittsfield and North Adams to glean economic development strategies that might work for them.

She added that helping other cities to economic revitalization won't hurt Pittsfield by making the market more competitive because "every town is unique. And the more towns that succeed in the commonwealth, the better off we all are."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 4:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

mid-September of 2007

Political rally at school raises questions

PITTSFIELD, Mass. - The state Ethics Commission is investigating top administrators at Pittsfield High School. The group wants to know if taxpayer funds were misused just before last year's elections.

The incident in question took place Nov. 1, 2006. That's when the Democratic candidate for governor attended a rally at the school.

NewsChannel 13 obtained a letter sent to the Ethics Commission. It accuses the city, specifically the school, of using taxpayer money to put on the campaign rally for Deval Patrick.

School administrators will only say they can't really say much.

But the issue has people on both sides of party lines talking plenty.

There were campaign signs, the school band played and city workers helped set up for the event.

The law says taxpayer money is not allowed to be used for campaign purposes. Terry Kinnas, a member of the Berkshire Republican Group, says that's exactly what happened at this event.

"You should know the laws in the environment you work under," Kinnas said.

Ten months later, the Ethics Commission is questioning school Superintendent Dr. Katherine Darlington and former Principal Jake Eberwein.

Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, D-4th Berkshire District, says the city should have known the law.

"I think it was an innocent opportunity to take advantage of the governor in the Berkshires and the last thought was, 'Is this a violation of the campaign finance laws?'" Pignatelli added.

Darlington and Eberwein said they're not really supposed to comment because they don't want to get in trouble with the commission. But they did say any candidate, no matter the party affiliation, was always welcome at the high school.

Kinnas says even in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans three-to-one, it's about taxpayer money.

Pignatelli says this event was a rare opportunity for students and thinks when this is all said and done, the punishment will be a slap on the wrist, though there is the potential for fines.

It's expected the mayor will also be questioned by the commission at some point. He's out of town right now and unavailable for comment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 5:22:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Melle said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

Nonprofit group doing its part to put a buzz in local economy
By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle
Sunday, October 28, 2007

GREAT BARRINGTON — Very soon, if all goes as planned, BerkShares will be a staple currency throughout Berkshire County, not just of towns south of Pittsfield.

BerkShares is the local currency launched in September by the Egremont-based E.F. Schumacher Society and the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce to stimulate the local economy. BerkShares Inc., a local nonprofit, was created to distribute the notes, which are vended by local banks, who in turn sell $100 worth of BerkShares for $90.

For several weeks, the Schumacher Society and the chamber, with help from several local businesses, have circulated a survey for BerkShares users and nonusers to assess how the program is working and how it can be made better, according to Schumacher director Susan Witt.

The results of that survey will be presented on Oct. 29 at 9 a.m. at the Route 7 Grille.

"BerkShares is a membership organization," Witt said. "So part of this is an effort to get feedback on how we're doing and how to shape the program. We believe the users can best tell us what we're doing right or wrong."

So far, there doesn't appear to be a lot of wrong. There are basically two criticisms of BerkShares: There are not enough stores vending them, and the 10 percent discount is too big a break for some stores to grant.

One local restaurateur explained that, although many may believe that business is booming in the Berkshires," for some of us, a 10 percent discount is our whole margin."

Witt said she realizes that it is a problem for some.

"But the 10 percent (discount) is not the issue for us," she said. "Supporting local businesses is the issue for us."

What Witt means is not that BerkShares Inc. does not care about problems with the 10 percent discount, but rather that supporting local businesses is the priority. If, for some reason, the discount becomes a deal breaker, then it would be reduced or eliminated.

"The businesses only lose 10 percent if they have to cash the BerkShares at a bank. If they continue to circulate them, the discount is a wash."

At some point, she said, when BerkShares are more fully integrated into the area's business community, the 10 percent won't be an issue, or at least not as much of an issue.

To date, said Witt, a total of $1.2 million in BerkShares have been circulated, with about $178,000 in continuous circulation.

And as for getting more businesses to use BerkShares, well, said Witt, that is the next step. The currency soon will be expanding into Pittsfield and North Berkshire. The issue there, according to Jennifer Sahn, a member of the BerkShares board of directors, will be hiring a person to do the legwork to educate Pittsfield and North Berkshire businesses and residents about the advantages of the program.

And what are the advantages? It's not, Witt said, just that people get to pay their grocery bills with money with cute pictures of local people on them. This is a way of ensuring that local dollars stay local. (Which is why none of the chain stores will touch BerkShares, she said. Because a lot of their money does not stay local.)

With local dollars staying in local hands, according to BerkShares President Asa Hardcastle, local businesses are strengthened and supported. It's a simple economic formula, Witt said. The issue often has been how to make sure the money stays local. BerkShares make sure the money stays local.

Also, Witt and the rest of the board call BerkShares "slow money." That is, money that requires face-to-face transactions. When you spend BerkShares, you usually have to hand it over to someone.

"It's a personal thing," Hardcastle said. "You get to know the person you deal with."

And, said Witt, the more one uses cash, the less one uses credit cards, and that, too, is a good thing.

Hardcastle's business, Zenn New Media, a Web-based software development company, accepts BerkShares from clients and pays its employees partly in BerkShares. Hardcastle himself takes some of his pay in BerkShares.

"To be honest, I have no trouble," he said. "I spend most of my money locally anyway: food, clothing, car repairs — that's all local."

He estimated that about 40 percent of his purchases are with BerkShares.

These are heady days for the BerkShares board of directors. Film crews from the United States and overseas are in town to record the success of the program.

Sunday, October 28, 2007 11:37:00 PM  

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