"Youth sports and GE mentality"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Now that my kids are out of local sports, I find the recent back and forth on the role of youth sports both pathetic and amusing. It is but an echo of a much larger problem in the Berkshires.
When I moved to the Berkshires, GE was booming and very few people had ever heard of Jack Welch. Today, GE is gone and Welch is lionized as one of the greatest corporate executives of the twentieth century.
Jack understood many things, but one of the most important was all employees are not equal. Ten percent should be cut. Seventy percent are employed for lack of a better alternative. Twenty percent need to be put on the fast track to do great things. The Berkshires did not appreciate GE until it was gone. It was basically run off by a sense of entitlement and pseudo-equalitarianism.
The percentages may differ, but the concept is the same in youth sports. Many unskilled young athletes play merely because their union reps. — excuse me, parents — fear damage to their fragile little psyches. And excellent players ride the pine because they don't have pull or seniority.
Supposedly they're paying their dues. In politics this is being progressive and fair; in the real world it's deserving to lose.
"Eric Biss: City should cut frills, just provide basic services"
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff, 2001
PITTSFIELD -- Eric S. Biss spent four years on the City Council and earned a reputation as a person with a detailed understanding of the budget as well as a determined politician who often failed to find a middle ground with then-Mayor Anne E. Wojtkowski.
Biss, 51, now one of 10 candidates for mayor, said during an interview this week in The Eagle offices, "I can play rough if I have to. It's not my first choice, but I can."
With his "Back to Basics" platform, Biss is pushing for a minimalist approach to city government -- if Pittsfield provides the basic services for city residents, the private sector will take care of the rest.
The city has no place endorsing businesses and providing tax incentives to attract new companies into the city, Biss said. Such tasks are best left to corporations, while the city concentrates its energies on the basics of municipal services.
"Cut out the frills. Balance the budget, police the streets. I believe that, by overreaching, Pittsfield became the 600-pound gorilla that stifles business," Biss said. "I am a true believer in free markets."
As a candidate, Biss has not shied away from criticizing the current administration and the other mayoral candidates. As a columnist for The Pittsfield Gazette, a weekly newspaper, Biss said he was Mayor Gerald S. Doyle Jr.'s "harshest critic."
"I spent four years writing for The Gazette, being critical of this administration, and I kind of feel an obligation to run," Biss said. "I really do believe that there is an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade here."
He has been particularly critical of the decision by the council and Doyle to give $250,000 to EV Worldwide LLC, a firm that had originally planned to manufacture battery-powered buses, but has since scaled back its plans and now is exploring the possibility of producing only the batteries.
"We put a quarter of a million dollars into EV Worldwide, and look what has happened. If you have to bribe them to come, how much do you really want them?" Biss said.
As a ward councilor from 1988 to 1992, Biss served during a period when state aid to the city was being drastically reduced while Massachusetts suffered through a recession. Biss has said that experience will help him cope with the city's current budget pressures.
Peter G. Arlos, who served on the council with Biss, said he gives him "high marks" for his understanding of the budget and his work ethic.
"He was an authority on the budget and on municipal finance," Arlos said. "He was serious, he didn't act like a buffoon he took his job very seriously."
Whoever is elected the city's next mayor will inherit a City Council that will have at least five new members and perhaps as many as eight. For an 11-member council, that will represent a huge turnover.
As a self-employed insurance adjuster, Biss said he must be adept at settling claims and reaching compromises, a skill he said he would bring to the mayor's office and his relationship with the council.
"I think everyone will be of a mind that we have problems and we need to work together. That doesn't mean there won't be disagreements," Biss said.
The city is facing a difficult financial future. As it has struggled to eliminate a deficit that was once more than $8 million, Pittsfield has raised property taxes by more than 13 percent in two years, cut $1.3 million from its $99 million budget and has been granted permission by the state to borrow up to $10 million to pay past debts. The city's finances have been placed under the control of a state oversight board, where they will remain for at least three years.
"When I went on the City Council, the first budget that I went through in 1988 for fiscal 1989, that first budget was like walking around in a cloud. I know what it was like as a rookie city councilor, and this is not the time for a rookie in the mayor's office," Biss said.
No money for Colonial
As mayor, Biss said he would not support using city money to restore the Colonial Theatre, a project that has been a cornerstone of Doyle's administration during the past two years. He criticized the investment of $300,000 of city money into The Studio, a failed project that temporarily occupied the former England Bros. building on North Street, which is now the home of the Legacy Banks. Similarly, he is critical of the Central Block, an office building in what used to be J.J. Newberry's.
"If we just do the basic things a city is supposed to do, that in itself will be the best economic development program you could have. If you had been reading the headlines published over the last year or two about Pittsfield, would you come here? Forget about moving here, what business even wants to expand here, if City Hall can't manage its own shop?" he said.
Eric S. Biss
Candidate for: Mayor
Address: 62 Revere Parkway, Pittsfield
Family status: Married to the former Terri Kennedy since 1978; two children, Derek, 18 and Ashley, 13
Education: B.A., American History, S.U.N.Y. Plattsburgh
Profession: Insurance claims adjuster
Political offices held, if any: Ward 3 City Councilor, 1988-1992
Volunteer activities: Create-a-Dream, 1985 to present; Pittsfield Community Television Board, 1988-1997; Parks Department Summer Soccer League treasurer, 1990 to present; Conservation Commission, 1990-1993; Berkshire United Way Allocations Committee, 1994-1996; St. Joseph High School Bingo caller, 1997 to present
Last book read: "On Money and Markets" by Henry Kaufman
Biggest challenge for Pittsfield: "Finding the courage to change. City Hall's ability to initiate economic development schemes which will generate true wealth is practically nil. We must appreciate the ability of free enterprise to generate wealth with only an occasional assist from government. City Hall needs to get back to the basics of fighting fires, policing neighborhoods, educating children, maintaining streets, providing usable water, operating sewers and picking up the garbage. If City Hall scales back non-essential spending, which has almost bankrupted us, the good and caring people of Pittsfield will invest their time and treasure in a well run city and more than compensate for any cuts."
Re: The passing of Pittsfield Political Icon Peter G Arlos
ERIC BISS wrote:
"Twenty years ago I might have written one of the negative letters about Pete, but that was before I got to know him and got to know the essence of government. Pete's value is not to be found in some laundry list on a campaign brochure. Quite the opposite. It is to found in the hare brained schemes he shot down. Peter was an essential cog of govenrment, one of the checks and balances. I certainly didn't always agree with him. I don't know anybody who did. I doubt Alma did. But just as there is no NFL unless there are opposing teams, there must be opposing points of view in any political debate. That is how we in a democracy vet things, and Pete made sure we did for a generation. Somebody asked me yesterday if he always had Pittsfield's best interests at heart. I doubt Pete thought about that much. Pete didn't have any overriding philosophy that I ever discerned. But his never ending moves and mercurial nature kept everyone else honest, even when he was only having fun faking people out with a head fake, draw play, or flop."
"Where is WHEN?"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, December 12, 2008
In the same week it is announced by the Census Bureau that Pittsfield has lost another 2,600 souls, Linda Tyer, the last member of that little exercise in bigotry known as WHEN, feathers her own nest. Pam Malumphy's accomplishments were what? Tricia Farley-Bouvier's? Heckuva job energizing those neighborhoods, ladies.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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