June 23, 2008
Re: William "Smitty" Pignatelli blocks my emails & all of my communications to him
My anger with Massachusetts State Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli is strong. My list of grievances against him are as follows:
#1 - Pignatelli served with my dad, Bob, on the Berkshire County Commission for two years in 1997 & 1998. When he realized County Government was not the place to be in politics, he decided to step down at the end of his term. He then joined forces with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and Tom McCann to propose a voluntary regional government called a "COG", which stands for Council of Goverments. Pignatelli's Op-Ed's and support for the COG had no merit and was purely political.
#2 - In 2002, Pignatelli was rude to me for backing Tom Stokes for State Representative, who was previously elected to the Berkshire County Commission in 1998 and served in that seat for 1.5-years. His father, John Pignatelli, spoke to me after he witnessed "Smitty's" rude behavior towards me. "Smitty" is NOTHING like his father!
#3 - In 2003, Pignatelli's first vote as a State Representative was to vote for the now convicted Felon and then Speaker of the House of Representatives, TOM FINNERAN! Like his support for the flawed "COG" in the late-1990's, Pignatelli voted for Finneran for his own political self-interest. Please note, after Finneran's political demise, Pignatelli then voted for Speaker Sal DiMasi, who has multiple conflict of interest "ethics" complaints lodged against him.
#4 - In 2003, Pignatelli used to call my parent's home in Becket, Massachusetts, yelling at me for writing letters to the Editor against his terrible political record. Pignatelli even left in appopropriate messages on my parent's answering machine saying weird things like "You are such a nice guy, and when your write letters to the editor, I want to hook up with you." Pignatelli also said to me in a threatening manner that one of these days he was going to show up in my parent's then-Becket driveway.
#5 - Now, in 2008, Pignatelli blocks all of my emails and all of my communications to him. Pignatelli represents top-down politics of closed doors, secrecy, silencing dissenting voices, & insider self interest!
In closing, Pignatelli is a terrible politician! Not only has his legislative district become the #1 place for JOB LOSS in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but also, he is the biggest phony in the World! Pignatelli has NO integrity, is out for his own self interest and personal benefits, and puts to shame any semblance of democracy. Pignatelli is NOT a man of the People!
Jonathan A. Melle
"Lawmakers feeding pet projects: Bacon comes home to every corner of the Commonwealth"
By Matt Viser, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 4, 2008
One item calls for $200,000 to be disbursed to the Boston Symphony Orchestra so the renowned group can renovate and repair Tanglewood. There is $25,000 in state taxpayer money to pay for the town of Halifax to have its 275th anniversary next July Fourth. There's enough to cover a merry-go-round in Holyoke, a ballfield in Fitchburg, and new seats at a theater in Medford.
In the $28.2 billion budget approved yesterday by the House and Senate, there are scores of earmarks to fund pet projects in legislators' districts in nearly every corner of Massachusetts.
"This budget is a good document," Representative Robert DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said yesterday during debate on the House floor. "I think it's a good document for each and every member of this House."
Many of the requests submitted by lawmakers to bring projects home to their districts were taken care of, giving legislators fuel for reelection campaigns this November.
"You're there to deliver for your district," said Representative James R. Miceli, a Wilmington Democrat who secured several earmarks, including $200,000 for the Wilmington Historical Commission to rehabilitate an historic farm. "Show me a legislator who can't, and I'll show you someone who will not be there very long."
The earmarks are spread throughout the 266-page budget, making it difficult to determine the total amount. But it is a small number in the context of a $28.2 billion spending plan that relies heavily on higher taxes and spending from reserve funds to increase spending on local aid, education, and healthcare.
Republicans immediately pounced on the spending items during a time of rising healthcare costs and an uncertain financial future.
"Beacon Hill Democrats are addicted to spending, period," said Rob Willington, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party. ". . . This budget, which is coming three days late already, contains enough pork in it to make BLTs for the whole Commonwealth."
Meanwhile, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a major corporate tax reform package yesterday that will prevent corporations from declaring some of their profits in states with more favorable tax rates.
Since taking office, Patrick has been seeking the changes, which will raise $285 million in new state revenue next year, but his proposals had been rebuffed by House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi. "I want to thank my partners in the Legislature for their work in passing this important legislation," Patrick said yesterday.
The budget relies on a $1-per-pack increase in the state's cigarette tax, which will bring in $174 million, and uses more than $500 million in reserve funds.
The budget also includes a provision to lease Ponkapoag Golf Course in Canton, a storied state-owned course that has fallen into disrepair while under management of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Under the plan, the state would lease the course to an outside manager. Town officials in Canton will first be given at least 180 days to decide whether they want to take the course over.
It is still uncertain whether additional adjustments to the budget will be needed. The state has been negotiating with federal officials over extending a Medicaid waiver that helps subsidize coverage for low-income residents. The waiver was set to expire June 30, but federal officials have allowed for a two- to four-week extension for more negotiations. The state budget assumes those will come out in the state's favor; if they do not, it could create a budget gap of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Budget analysts warn that state spending may be too high, given uncertainties with the Medicaid waiver and the capital gains tax, which may drop in an economic downturn.
"It's a very risky budget," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded budget watchdog group. "This is certainly the time when we should be limiting state spending to the absolute most essential items. It's one thing to add projects during a boom time. It's quite another when we're in fiscal peril."
The budget was approved three days after the start of the fiscal year on July 1, which required Patrick to approve a $1 billion temporary budget last week that allowed the state to continue paying its bills for two weeks into July. The governor now has 10 days to review the budget before offering any vetoes, which will probably include some of the earmarks stuck in by the Legislature.
Other set-asides approved yesterday included $50,000 for the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Beckett. The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, and the Bing Theatre in Springfield are all beneficiaries. The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, which charges $16.99 for admission, is getting $300,000 of taxpayer money, which a legislative aide said would go toward securing a Division II college basketball tournament.
Legislators argue that the earmarks are necessary to pump money into the local and regional economies and that controlling the flow of taxpayer money is one of the most crucial duties of their office.
Patrick has made an effort to eliminate the legislative earmarks from state spending, arguing that they amount to micromanagement of local spending.
Republican governors had long sought to eliminate legislative earmarks through vetoes, but the Democratic-run Legislature often overrode the governors' decisions.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(A Boston) GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Beacon Hill potential and peril"
July 29, 2008
THE MASSACHUSETTS Legislature is entering a danger zone: three days of fast-paced, high-pressure, sleep-deprived action before the session's clock runs out Thursday night. Past history suggests that such conditions can create a feeding frenzy that serves special interests, but leaves the public frustrated. The legislators must be careful to avoid passing bills in the dark of night that could fuel voter discontent in November.
Already, House members were in such a self-imposed rush last week that they agreed to adopt amendments to a $3 billion bond bill without even reading the amendments out loud, much less debating them. Yesterday, in an extraordinary morning session, the Senate passed a poorly-conceived bill - with no recorded vote and no debate - that would strike gender neutrality requirements in certain life insurance policies.
Meanwhile, good legislation can get lost in the crush. Here are several bills we believe would advance a progressive agenda for Massachusetts - and avoid tarnishing the reputation of a legislative session that can otherwise claim real accomplishments.
One way to curb health costs
The Legislature has before it two bills that would limit the pharmaceutical industry's ability to coax physicians into prescribing new drugs, which are often more costly but not demonstrably more effective than older ones. Gifts, free meals, and other inducements to doctors create obvious conflicts of interest. The Senate version of the bill would prohibit such practices, while the House version relies on industry-sponsored codes of ethics and would still allow drug company sales representatives to bring free lunches into medical offices. The Senate bill is a better choice.
A modest pension fix
Another drain on state and local coffers - not to mention the public's patience - are pension abuses that beef up the salaries of public employees with costly add-ons. The House has a worthy proposal to clarify what can be counted in the base pay of officials for pension purposes. It eliminates overtime, housing allowances, travel reimbursements, tuition and other fringe benefits that can be used to enhance "regular compensation," and where state law has been murky. The entire public pension system may be ripe for an overhaul, but this bill would take steps to curb the most obvious abuses.
Parity in more than just name
Without full insurance coverage for mental illnesses, the state's eight-year old mental health parity law cannot deliver on its promise. A Senate bill creates more access to treatment for autism, eating disorders, substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Currently, insurers can limit treatment of these conditions to 24 outpatient sessions and 60 days of hospitalization per year. The Senate bill would lift this cap, and make it easier for the state's mental health commissioner to add other illnesses to the list of required coverage.
Easing the housing crunch
Real estate interests and tenant advocates have settled on a clever strategy to preserve thousands of below-market-rate apartments in subsidized housing developments. Many low-income families can't cope with the rent hikes after landlords prepay their federally-subsidized mortgages or abandon rent subsidy programs. The Senate wisely passed a bill that gives the right of first refusal to developers or municipalities willing to purchase the so-called "expiring use" developments and stabilize rents. The House should follow suit.
Fairer, fuller elections
Same-day voter registration should not be an onerous requirement for city and town clerks. Secretary of State William Galvin puts the cost of hiring and training additional poll tenders at about $1 million - a small price for boosting voter turnout. Additionally, a proposal to have Massachusetts join other states in delivering its 12 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes would eliminate the (admittedly rare) problem encountered in 2000, when the person "elected" president did not have the most votes. And it would expand the number of "battleground states" with a stake in the outcome.
Equal means equal
It is time to turn back the discriminatory 1913 law that prevents same-sex couples from being married in Massachusetts if their home states bar it. California, which legalized gay marriage by court ruling in May, does not have a residency requirement; Massachusetts should be at least as welcoming. The law is a remnant of an uglier time, when interracial marriage was banned in much of the country. Legislators should be proud to put their names to its repeal.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, KEVIN CULLEN
"State House swindlers"
By Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe Columnist, January 12, 2009
This is a truly marvelous, glorious state, where we can find millions for useless, utterly useless "full-time legislators" and no money for the most vulnerable kids among us.
If you read Michael Levenson's terrific story in yesterday's Globe, you would have learned, as you choked on your cornflakes, that Senator Busy Hands Marzilli is hardly alone when it comes to violating innocent people.
Turns out more than a dozen of these clowns are putting the arm on taxpayers, taking advantage of a legal form of larceny in which legislators are allowed to quadruple their pensions if they get voted out of office, or bail out because a grand jury is sniffing around.
Is this a great state, or what?
There was a photograph accompanying the story, showing a bunch of state reps applauding the 2002 farewell speech to the House by Chris Hodgkins, the representative from Lee, who was the envy of his colleagues because of his New York-border per diems. All the reps were smiling and clapping and laughing like hyenas.
And who can blame them? They are being paid full-time wages for part-time work, and they give themselves raises and pension boosts and no one says boo. They work for suckers.
Even by the ludicrously low standards of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, this scam is egregious. These are the same "career" legislators who, when not working at their own law practices, won't let poorly-paid state prosecutors perform a closing or any kind of outside legal work. Our legislators have deemed that a potential conflict of interest for prosecutors, who earn less than toll collectors. I'm sure the stance on the outside work of prosecutors has nothing to do with the fact that so many legislators work as defense lawyers and have a vested interest in keeping prosecutors overworked and underpaid.
It was quite heartwarming to learn that Vinnie Piro, the former state rep from Somerville who was acquitted despite taking five large from an informant to grease a liquor license, was rewarded for behavior that usually lands you in the can: He was able to triple his pension.
It would be nice if some of these frauds could meet Gary McManus in the corridor of Lynn District Court this week and explain why they deserve to be rewarded for political failure or personal malfeasance when he has been told he can't help poor kids anymore.
There has been no attention paid to this, because it involves poor people, but eight weeks ago, a group of lawyers who work as advocates for troubled kids was informed that the state was cutting the service and judges can't appoint them anymore.
McManus is part of a small group of lawyers who for the last decade worked in the juvenile courts as guardian ad litem educational advocates for kids from dysfunctional homes who get in trouble.
These lawyers were paid the princely sum of 50 bucks an hour, or about half of what a plumber gets to show up at your door. The lawyers who do this work are doing God's work, and they could earn more money doing any other sort of legal work. They don't do it for the money. They do it because sometimes they save kids from going to jail or having a lousy life or killing themselves.
Cutting these court appointments will save the commonwealth about $4 million, which is less than the gang of 14 profiled in yesterday's Globe will end up taking in retirement.
Gary McManus shakes his head when considering what we deem important in this commonwealth.
"A very wise judge, Bonnie MacLeod, told me 17 years ago that if we can get these kids into appropriate settings, maybe they won't cost us $40,000 a year to house them at the prison in Concord," Gary McManus was saying. "The trial court has to save money. We understand that. But this is shortsighted. It will cost us more money in the long run."
What else is new?
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com
"Tourism means business"
By Rep. William 'Smitty' Pignatelli, The Berkshire Eagle, Op-Ed, Tuesday, May 12, 2009
According to the U.S. Travel Association, Massachusetts tops the list of New England states when assessing the economic impact of tourism. Spending, tax receipts, employment and earnings through 2007 have been on a steady incline for the past five years — a stat that is even more impressive given these challenging economic times.
In the Berkshires, where I represent the Fourth Berkshire District, the travel and tourism industry is the third largest sector of the economy.
The Berkshires welcomes about 2.5 million visitors annually who spend $319 million in the county for a total economic impact of $506.9 million. This is significant amount of money for our county of approximately 130,000 residents.
Statewide during 2007, Massachusetts visitors spent $15.1 billion — $4 billion more than in 2003 — and that spending generated $2.3 billion in tax receipts. Furthermore, travel and tourism in the commonwealth yielded 127,800 jobs and $3.6 billion in earnings during that time.
In the Berkshires approximately 11,000 people have jobs that relate directly or indirectly to the travel and tourism sector, with those people earning $85.9 million annually.
We at the Statehouse are in the midst of challenging budget deliberations. On May 1, the House passed a $28 billion budget. Our version of the budget, which is now in the hands of the state Senate, was passed after serious debate among my fellow representatives about how best to spend money during these times of fiscal constraint.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development and representative of a district that has over 100 cultural and performing arts destinations, impeccable shopping, and unique lodging and dining opportunities, I was disappointed when my House colleagues opted to reduce the allocation for a program which provides a public match for private funds raised by for the state's 13 Regional Tourist Councils. In the current version of the fiscal 2010 budget this fund is cut by $3 million.
While I supported a measure filed by Rep. John Keenan to offer a compromise to reduce this cut by half, the budget for tourism promotion was not restored.
Regional tourism councils such as the Berkshire Visitors Bureau are an important extension of the state's efforts to draw more visitors and their dollars to Massachusetts.
In the Berkshires, we know visitors have come to trust the information they garner from the Bureau, because they spend significantly more money here as a result of having interacted with the Bureau's staff or collateral materials. (Typically, 111 percent more.)
As we continue through this process, there is a realization that we will have to find ways to supplement this loss of state dollars. I know the businesses of Berkshire County will find new and better ways to collaborate with entities like the Visitors Bureau to ensure that we maintain our Berkshire brand in the marketplace.
State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli is a member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development. He represents the 18 communities of the Fourth Berkshire District. This is the first of three columns to appear on the opinion page this week in recognition of National Tourism Week.
"Berkshires 'creative economy' gets boost: Local institutions, such as Jacob's Pillow and the Colonial Theatre, will receive $1.4 million in grants."
By David Pepose, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, May 18, 2009
PITTSFIELD — State officials hope to energize Berkshire County's "creative economy" through their announcement of $1.4 million in grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund.
The Fund, which is overseen by MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, will give $12.4 million to 85 cultural institutions statewide.
Among the Berkshire institutions getting funds are the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.
This financial support is not without strings. These funds are actually challenge grants, which mandate the insitution in question to match the prospective funds.
"It's definitely possible (to complete this), but anyone who thinks its going to happen overnight needs a little adjustment," said Ella Baff, executive director of Jacob's Pillow, which received the county's largest grant of $400,000. "These challenge grants are great incentive for fundraising — I think it really sends the message to the public that we have a wonderful honor and endorsement from the state, and it really gives an incentive for people to participate."
According to Adam Bickelman, a spokesman for MassDevelopment, the "creative economy" model actually has financial benefits. "The organizations that received funds over the last two years are spending $800 million in construction projects," he said, saying that these new projects in turn create 5,700 temporary jobs as well as 570 new jobs. "The creative economy is the fourth biggest sector in the (state), averaging $4 million a year."
Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said he was "ecstatic" over the new funds. "The Berkshires fared very well ... for every dollar we spend on this creative economy in tourism, we get $5 in turn," he said. "The organizations that are being funded this year are going to be very beneficial."
— they are going to spend this money wisely and I think we are going to get a return on this investment that we really need."
- 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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