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Contact the Editor     Updated:  Saturday, January 22, 2005

(The following op-ed piece was published in The Berkshire Eagle on June 18, 2000.  It is reproduced here without permission.)
It's not just a ballpark

By Andrew H. Mick
PITTSFIELD
It's not often I choose to write a commentary piece for The Eagle. However, I  think it is necessary that I set some things straight on the public issue of a proposed multi-use stadium in downtown Pittsfield. There are those who seem intent upon demonizing the effort and they simply do not have the facts.

The multi-use stadium project is about economic development more than about baseball. In the past three years over $79 million of private and public development has been launched in downtown Pittsfield. The stadium project builds on all of this development. It is a driver to keep people coming into the absolute "Heart of the Berkshires." 

Professional baseball statistics show that new stadiums increase attendance by huge numbers. The current team, at Wahconah Park, reported attendance of 80,000 last season. Imagine attendance growing to 120,000 or 150,000. What does this mean for downtown Pittsfield? It means consumers will buy things in the city from all types of merchants. It means an increased opportunity for continued prosperity throughout downtown Pittsfield.

 * * * *

Why not refurbish Wahconah Park? Easy answer. National Pastime, the corporate owner of the Pittsfield Class A franchise, made it clear to the city months ago that it could no longer play in Wahconah and was not interested in playing in a refurbished stadium. It proved it meant business by last month announcing a move to a new stadium in Troy, New York.

We also know that other teams or potential owners interested in moving to Pittsfield are only interested in our location if we have a new stadium. It is that simple. 

Who will pay for the stadium? The development committee, of which I chair, has never had any intention to ask Pittsfield taxpayers to carry this project on their backs with increased property taxes. To date, the only money to flow into the stadium project has been private money from two major contributors, one of which is the parent company of The Eagle; Berkshire Bank is the other. It is the intention of the development committee to fund the stadium from state, federal and significant private funds. And then hand it over to the citizens of Pittsfield. There is a very real and practical financial model being developed to make sure that stadium finances do not increase taxes for Pittsfield citizens.

Why do we need a Civic Authority established for this project? City governments do not operate like private enterprise. A stadium, with year-round events, needs to be run in a private manner even though it will be public property. Authorities are established to achieve this end. The legislation to establish the Civic Authority was based on a model borrowed from Lowell, Massachusetts and is similar to structures used throughout the nation. The elected mayor, council and a business-based Chamber of Commerce make the appointments to the board of the Civic Authority. 

I suppose you could argue the politics of this structure, but when it is all said and done, the Pittsfield City Council needs a Civic Authority to do business in a private enterprise fashion and prevent having to hire city employees to run a multi-use stadium. Keep in mind the Civic Authority and the stadium have to have a business plan that provides cash flow and profits to exceed actual expenses. A strong business plan, which includes a lease/operating arrangement with the ball team, ensures the local taxpayers they will not receive a bill for stadium operations. If it is necessary to issue bonds or get involved in eminent domain proceedings, the city of Pittsfield is protected from direct liability. 

Why haven't we heard more about the details of the stadium project? A private group of business people have been directing this project, using their own money and resources. While plans are being developed it would be foolish to release all of the details being considered. I speak from personal experience when I say I would never have imagined how complicated a project of this proportion is.

When the project plans are made public in the next few days, I think people will understand why it has been prudent to finalize many details before subjecting unfinished plans to public scrutiny. I am happy to say the development committee is very close to being able to share those details!

 * * * *

What can the citizens of Pittsfield and the entire Berkshires expect? They can expect a doable plan to build a modern multi-purpose stadium. It will be funded by state, federal and private sources. It will provide affordable family entertainment year-round. It will improve the appearance and economics of downtown Pittsfield. It will ensure a long-term relationship with professional baseball. It will likely offer events ranging from baseball, soccer, football, stage shows, movies, meetings, celebrations -- maybe even ice-skating. Provision will be built in to meet and exceed modern handicap access issues including parking, ramps, elevators, restrooms, seating and concessions. It will be a modern, downtown venue of which we can all be proud!

No matter how honestly I present the facts about the benefits of developing a multi-use stadium, there will be opponents to the project. And that is to be expected; some people seem to be happy only when they have the opportunity to oppose something progressive for the city of Pittsfield. However, I have faith in the majority of voting citizens who think for themselves and will refuse to be dragged through the cesspool of negative thinking.

Pittsfield and The Berkshires need to win on this issue. Pittsfield deserves to win! I ask you to review the facts and get behind the multi-use stadium and help us make it happen.

Andrew H. Mick is The Berkshire Eagle's publisher and president.
© 2000 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc.


Eagle Editor-in-Chief Scribner Refuses to Retract False
Morning Pro Musica Info

by Glenn M. Heller     Sunday, June 11, 2000
"A Plea for Classical Music" is the title given to a poignant letter-to-the-editor published in The Berkshire Eagle this past Tuesday, June 6th. It is signed by Great Barrington resident Helen E. Radin. (Scroll down to read Ms. Radin's letter or click here!)

Just beneath the letter, The Eagle inserts an "editor's note" proclaiming: "Robert J. Lurtsema's "Morning Pro Musica" program is no longer on the air because the host is ill and his program has been terminated."  The Eagle note goes on to state:  "WAMC still offers 10 hours of classical music on weekends, 11 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays." 

"Editor's Note" is False
It turns out that The Eagle "editor's note" is factually incorrect.  Incorrect enough to mislead Eagle readers and WAMC listeners and classical music devotees into believing that Morning Pro Musica is simply no longer available for broadcast, and that WAMC is no longer able even to receive the program from its producer to broadcast to the WAMC radio audience.

Morning Pro Musica-Alive and Well in Boston
WGBH in Boston, a major production house for radio and television programming for both National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, is the long-time producer of Morning Pro Musica

According to Leah Hollenberger, director of media relations for WGBH, Morning Pro Musica is still very much in production, definitely still on-the-air, with the same fine selection of music as always, and available for those radio stations wishing to broadcast the program to any audience in any radio market outside Boston.

Scribner Contacted
David Scribner, Editor-in-Chief of The Berkshire Eagle, and a good friend of Eagle columnist Alan S. Chartock, WAMC-FM's chairman and executive director, was contacted by telephone at The Eagle Wednesday afternoon and alerted to the misinformation published in Tuesday's newspaper as well as to WGBH's official statement contradicting The Eagle's faulty allegation in its "editor's note".

Mr. Scribner was notified that the program presently being offered by WGBH is still called Morning Pro Musica and is hosted by a substitute host in Mr. Lurtsema's absence, and that this program is indeed still in production, with the same type of music as before Mr. Lurtsema's departure, and is still broadcast over WGBH-FM in Boston and available for broadcast elsewhere. 

Mr. Scribner's response was that he disagreed with WGBH's statement and that as far as he was concerned, the program known as Morning Pro Musica "was cancelled", no longer produced, no longer being broadcast on-the-air, and that an entirely "different musical program with another host" is being offered by WGBH in its stead.

Scribner Still Doesn't Get It
When it was clarified yet a second time to Mr. Scribner that the show's own producers refuted him and that his information was simply not correct, Mr. Scribner categorically refused to acknowledge WGBH's statement as being factually accurate.  Even when offered Ms. Hollenberger's telephone number at WGBH, Mr. Scribner refused to agree to contact the organization to check out the veracity of his "facts" and whether he might be wrong.

He stated that he was standing by the "extensive knowledge" of his editors and by the statements made by those editors, and by what they wrote, and that he would "not print any retraction or correction".

Scribner a Regular Guest on WAMC Shows
Mr. Scribner has often appeared as a guest on various WAMC-produced shows, appearing many times with host Mr. Chartock as a panelist on The Media Project. He has also appeared on The Round Table and on a listener call-in program Vox Pop

Morning Pro Musica also on the Internet
Ms. Hollenberger says that Morning Pro Musica airs over WGBH 89.7 FM in Boston on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7 A.M. till 12 Noon with Doug Brisco acting as substitute host for the program during Robert J. Lurtsema's leave of absence. She says that during these weekend over-the-air broadcasts, MPM can also be heard simultaneously overWGBH's Internet website, via streaming audio, by logging onto www.wgbh.org, the official website of WGBH.

©2000 BerkshireEagleDotNetwork®/
WAMC's Chartock
Admits Cancellation 
Morning Pro Musica Contract

by Glenn M. Heller
In an afternoon telephone interview at his WAMC Northeast Public Radio office in Albany on Wednesday, Alan S. Chartock, chairman and executive director of WAMC, admitted to cancellation of the contract between WAMC and WGBH in Boston to broadcast Morning Pro Musica, a long-running weekend classical music program.  Mr. Chartock's decision to stop broadcasting the popular program has caused many upset WAMC listeners to barrage local print media with letters. (Scroll down to read examples of published letters or click here!)

Lurtsema's Leave Gave WAMC Its Excuse
MPM host Robert J. Lurtsema's leave-of-absence from the program is the rationale which WAMC has publicly given in its press releases for no longer carrying the program over the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. But the show still airs in Boston with substitute host Doug Brisco filling-in for Mr. Lurtsema.  Not until yesterday had WAMC actually admitted to cancellation of the contract between itself and WGBH, the program's producer.

WGBH, a major production house for radio and television programming for both National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, is the long-time producer of Morning Pro Musica.

WGBH Contacted
Leah Hollenberger, director of media relations for WGBH, was asked in a telephone interview earlier Wednesday whether WAMC still has a contract with WGBH to carry Morning Pro Musica, which continues to air over WGBH-FM in Boston every Saturday and Sunday morning from 7 A.M. till 12 Noon. 

Ms. Hollenberger was also asked whether it was WAMC which unilaterally canceled the contract to broadcast the popular program.

Ms. Hollenberger confirmed that WAMC is no longer carrying the program, but she said she preferred that reporters' questions as to which of the parties, WGBH or WAMC, initiated cancellation of the contract be directed to WAMC officials who, she said, would more appropriately be able to answer such questions. She added that WGBHwelcomes any radio station outside the Boston area that might wish to broadcast the critically-acclaimed show.

Chartock Refuses At First to Answer Query
When Mr. Chartock was contacted at his WAMC office later in the day, he was asked to confirm or deny that WAMC cancelled its contract with WGBH to carry "Morning Pro Musica".  After first refusing to answer the question, and then attempting to redirect the telephone call to his assistant executive director, David Galletly, Mr. Chartock came back on the phone, and after additional hesitation and after again being asked to simply confirm or deny the allegation, Mr. Chartock, in a lowered voice with seeming reluctance, finally admitted,  "We have no contract."

According to WGBH's Ms. Hollenberger, Morning Pro Musica is still very much on-the-air. She says that MPM airs every weekend over WGBH 89.7 FM in Boston, and that like Mr. Lurtsema, substitute host Brisco is committed to maintaining a selection of music as fine and as eclectic as ever.  She added that WGBH-FM's MPM broadcasts may be heard simultaneously over WGBH's Internet website, www.wgbh.org.

©2000 BerkshireEagleDotNetwork®/

(The following letter was published in The BerkshireEagleon Tuesday, June 6, 2000 and is reproduced here without permission.)
A plea for classical music

To the Editor of THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE:- 
I am a daily reader of The Eagle and a constant listener of WAMC. I was privileged to meet and hear Clarence Fanto and Alan Chartock at the taping of The Media Project in Pittsfield not long ago. I have supported fund drives and sung the praises of our fine local newspaper and public radio station. I am not a frequent complainer or letter writer. But today I am moved to send this for the benefit of Clarence Fanto and Alan Chartock.

It is Saturday morning and my radio is silent. There are no gentle bird songs and no beautiful classical music to be heard. There is however, a letter to the editor in The Eagle from someone who like myself is extremely disappointed with the loss of "Pro Musica" from the WAMC format, and an article by Clarence Fanto stating that we should support our excellent radio station and listen to WMHT for classical music.

There are problems associated with Mr. Fanto's thinking. Namely, that many folks including myself cannot receive WMHT on their radios. Also, the demographics of the Berkshires are not representative of the three to five percent of the U.S. population at large who listen to classical music. The number here is far greater. Many have relocated here or are here on weekends to enjoy the cultural atmosphere of this wonderful region. 

While I listen to Peter Schickele and Car Talk with relish during the week, I look for a change of pace on the weekend. Only a Game is a far cry from hearing Robert J. Lurtsema begin the day on Saturday morning.

Leave the talk show format for weekdays and bring back the gentle sounds of classical music on Saturday morning!

So Mr. Fanto and Mr. Chartock please reconsider your words and deeds. Do not try to placate us with attempts at assuaging us with commentary and suggestions that make this segment of the listening public seem expendable or relics of the past.

Mr. Chartock, please return to the high standards that you generally adhere to and return classical music to the Saturday morning format. 

HELEN E. RADIN
Great Barrington, June 3, 2000

Editor's Note: Robert J. Lurtsema's "Morning Pro Musica" program is no longer on the air because the host is ill and his program has been terminated.  WAMC still offers 10 hours of classical music on weekends, 11 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
© 2000 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc.


(The following letter was published in The BerkshireEagle on Saturday, June 3, 2000 and is reproduced here without permission.)
Less radio talk, more classical music

To the Editor of THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE:-
It amazes me that only three letters have I seen denouncing the loss of classical music on WAMC. With so many classical music lovers in the area, as WAMC acknowledges with its vast Saturday opera audience in season, I wonder at Mr. Chartock's decision.

It is true that radio station WMHT runs a splendid program of classical music, but I can't get it in Cheshire (although I belong to it and to WAMC because I believe in supporting PBS radio and TV).

In my opinion, we have enough talk programs.

GERTRUDE R. KNEPPER
Cheshire, May 31, 2000
© 2000 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc.


Civic Authority seeks
exemption from competitive bidding
and prevailing wage laws
Stadium Express Sidetracked
Nuciforo not surprised;
Mick jags

by G. M. Heller
The seemingly unstoppable Stadium Express got sidetracked Tuesday by a Statehouse committee that did not like the bells and whistles it heard. After a legislative hearing that raised more questions than it answered, the Joint Committee on Local Affairs voted to place into "study" a home rule proposal to create the Pittsfield Civic Authority. 

The home rule petition, if passed by the legislative committee and voted into law by both houses of the legislature would, after signature by the governor, create a Mayoral-appointed nine-member Civic Authority with broad powers.

The Authority would have power to acquire land by eminent domain and to contract out the building and operation of a new baseball park in downtown Pittsfield. As proposed, the Authority would be exempt from the state's competitive bidding laws and prevailing wage statutes.

The home rule petition, which one local source alleges was "railroaded" through the Pittsfield City Council with no public input, comes just two years after Pittsfield voters overwhelmingly voted "No" in a non-binding referendum asking whether they thought the city needed a new baseball stadium. 

The two main commercial backers of the proposed stadium project include The Berkshire Eagle and Berkshire Bank, joint holders of an option to buy downtown land at West and Center Streets upon which the main portion of the stadium and its parking facilities would be built. If the legislature grants the Civic Authority power of eminent domain, the rest of the land for the project would come from land takings should owners refuse to sell voluntarily.

The home rule petition was approved by the City Council in just days and quickly submitted to the legislature's Joint Committee on Local Affairs by state Representative Peter J. Larkin, D-Pittsfield and state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D-Pittsfield.

In an interview late Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Nuciforo said that while legislators are not required to file such legislative petitions, it is common practice statewide for home rule petitions to be shepherded by a municipality's local legislators to appropriate legislative committees upon request of the municipality.

He said that this was the case here, and that facilitating home rule petitions in this fashion "is actually a good method" because it assures a fair public airing of issues at the statehouse level, as well as an appropriate review by legislative members who see petitions all the time from municipalities across the state. Members are thus able to apply the same standards statewide when reviewing and acting upon such petitions.

Despite Tuesday's setback for Pittsfield's proposal, Mr. Nuciforo pointed out that there is great value in taking home rule petitions to the legislature in an "as-is" form, because then "You let the chips fall where they may."  He said that weaknesses in such "as-is" petitions quickly become apparent and municipalities can then take corrective measures if they so choose. 

Building trade groups testify against proposal
At the hearing, the petition's proposed exemptions to state competitive bidding laws and state prevailing wage statutes brought forth the ire of trade groups, specifically Associated Contractors of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Building Trades Council.  Both lobbying groups testified against adoption of the petition as presented.

Stadium investor testifies for proposal
Also testifying at the hearing was Michael Daly, vice president of Berkshire Bank, who spoke in favor of the proposal.

Mr. Daly, whose bank shares an option to purchase the proposed stadium property, was reached by telephone at his office Wednesday afternoon.  He was asked whether he had known in advance that the petition included language seeking exemption from state competitive bidding laws and prevailing wage statutes.  At first, Mr. Daly referred all questions about the petition to Pittsfield City Solicitor Kathleen G. Alexander, but when pressed for an answer, stated that prior to the hearing, he was "not aware" that such exemptions were being sought.

"Showstoppers" hidden in legalese
Also testifying at the hearing was Ward 6 City Councilor Daniel Bianchi. Mr. Bianchi, one of the councilors who had voted against the proposal in City Council, spoke against the petition.  Mr. Bianchi stated in a telephone interview Thursday morning that "I read the whole document, it was 15 pages long" referring to the original text of the Civic Authority proposal sponsored by the Mayor and presented to the city council for a vote.

Asked whether he had known at the time he read that original document that the proposed Civic Authority sought exemption from state competitive bidding laws and prevailing wage statutes, Mr. Bianchi said "No, I did not know that. I am not a lawyer."  Mr. Bianchi said that the document contained a lot of legalese.

When asked how he felt at the statehouse hearing when he heard testimony from trade groups and realized the city's proposal sought these exemptions,  Mr. Bianchi said, "I was red-faced to think I hadn't pick up on that originally."

He said, "That seems like the kind of thing they (referring to the Mayor's office which had written-up the original proposal) should have thought through. That would be a show-stopper."  He continued, "Like I said, I am not a lawyer. I just felt bad that I didn't pick up on it a lot earlier."

City Solicitor Kathleen G. Alexander was contacted on Wednesday afternoon and again on Thursday, but office personnel indicated she was not available either day to answer questions. 

Mick jags, then hangs up
Andrew H. Mick, publisher and president of The Berkshire Eagle, was also contacted by phone late Wednesday afternoon.  When asked whether he knew in advance that the petition sought exemption from competitive bidding laws and prevailing wage statutes, Mr. Mick referred all questions about the Civic Authority to City Solicitor Alexander.  When asked again to simply confirm or deny whether he knew in advance of the sought-after exemptions, Mr. Mick said that he had "no comment" and that he would answer no further questions.  Without waiting for response, he hung up his phone.

Stadium costs might be affected
Local sources in Pittsfield have told BerkshireEagleDotNetwork that the projected $18.5 million cost for the project, which includes acquiring land, and building a new stadium and parking facilities, was predicated on getting the power of eminent domain, and obtaining exemption from the state's prevailing wage requirements.

Without those two critical components though, cost estimates would have to be factored accordingly, because the cost of acquiring land could go up in the case of private landowners holding-out for higher prices, and the cost of construction could be higher should the union scale rise.

So far though, no officials associated with the project are commenting publicly on whether the projected cost will go higher.

Nuciforo not surprised at outcome of vote
Senator Nuciforo said he was "not at all surprised" by the vote taken by the legislative committee placing the petition in study.

The senator chided the City Council for its failure to seek public input and hold public hearings earlier in the process. Mr. Nuciforo said the public's input "should have occurred before the city council voted on a home rule petition, not after."  He said the council "Put the cart before the horse."

He expressed surprise that the city council had not sought a new ballot referendum on the matter given the major impact on so many aspects of the city of a project that included creation of a Civic Authority with broad powers as well as building a stadium complex in the heart of the city. 

He also said that given the lasting effect that a Civic Authority would have on the city, and given the amount of private property that would need to be taken by eminent domain, that he had expected the city council to hold public hearings and seek much more public input.

Mr. Nuciforo was asked whether he believed the value of the land optioned by The Berkshire Eagle and Berkshire Bank had increased dramatically compared to what it would have been had the baseball complex not been proposed for that site.  Mr. Nuciforo said he had no idea, and that an independent appraisal would have to be sought.  He said that one would have to ask a real-estate expert to obtain a reasonable answer to the question.

Complex likely to benefit Eagle's holdings
Local real estate sources state that the stadium complex will likely spur development and higher lease rates in the area surrounding West and Center Streets, the project's proposed location.

The Berkshire Eagle owns Clock Tower Business Park located at South Church Street, an outfielder's throw from the proposed stadium complex.  According to the sources, at present, Clock Tower is barely 50% occupied, but the presence of a baseball complex nearby will likely change all that.

Lucrative stadium franchise
The real estate sources also mentioned the possibility that The Berkshire Eagle and Berkshire Bank might seek to obtain the lucrative parking franchise for the stadium complex in an arrangement known as a "sweetheart deal." 

The sources said that if the Civic Authority obtains exemption from state competitive bidding laws, it could, for instance, legally award the parking franchise to any entity it chose without legal formality of first seeking competitive bids from interested lot operators throughout the state. 

Normally, lot operators vie for the valuable right to operate franchises in garages and upon empty parcels owned by municipal governments, an arrangement that is mutually beneficial to taxpayers because it provides a parking revenue stream directly into municipal coffers.

The competitive process entails submitting sealed bids which are reviewed in an open and public manner. The winner is usually the one who guarantees to pay to the municipality the highest amount of monthly or annual revenue from lot operations. It is the highest bidder which wins the right to operate the franchise.

The sources stated that in the event the Civic Authority succeeds in being exempted from
compliance with bidding laws, then it could legally get away with simply awarding the parking franchise to any entity or individual, including The Berkshire Eagle, Berkshire Bank, or even family members of politicians or Civic Authority board members.

Further, said the sources, there would be no guaranteed revenue stream for Pittsfield because the bulk of dollars generated by the valuable parking franchise could legally be kept in private hands, thus providing little mutual benefit to the municipal authority and the taxpayers that financed the complex.

©2000 BerkshireEagleDotNetwork®/
Interview with Clarence Fanto/
Eagle Editor Defends WAMC Apologia, &
N. Adams Coverage

by Glenn M. Heller     Sunday, June 11, 2000
With an air of Yankee certitude, Berkshire Eagle managing editor Clarence Fanto this past Monday (June 5) defended his decision to publish what he labels a "Commentary" apologizing for radio station WAMC 90.3 FM Northeast Public Radio's decision to cut back on classical music programming.

Mr. Fanto's column entitled "Lurtsema's Demise Not WAMC's Fault" touts the station and the wisdom behind the recent format changes. (Scroll down to read Mr. Fanto's Apologia or Click Here!)

WAMC listeners have been flooding the newspaper with letters about the recent cancellation of Morning Pro Musica, WAMC's popular and longest-running classical music program aired weekends. 

The Commentary, published in The Berkshire Eagle last weekend (June 4-5), apparently to coincide with the return of summer residents to the Berkshires, comes at a time when WAMC is just weeks away from the latest of its thrice-annual fund-raising drives aimed in large measure at those very same weekend homeowners.

The editorial endorsement given by Mr. Fanto's apologia is sure to help WAMC towards its newest fund-raising goal despite the angry stir created amongst listeners by the programming changes. If the letters being published are any indicator, the bulk of mail being received by The Eagle decry the lessening amount of air time being given to classical music at WAMC. (Scroll down to read examples of recent letters or Click Here!)

"A self-styled Walter Winchell"
In a lengthy, and at times contentious telephone interview, Mr. Fanto gave opinions on a wide range of topics of consequence to Berkshire folks. Mr. Fanto is a long-time employee of The Berkshire Eagle. A source within Mr. Fanto's organization, who asked not to be identified, described him by saying, "He's a self-styled Walter Winchell for the 90's."

Appears frequently on WAMC
Mr. Fanto is also a personal friend and admirer of fellow Eagle columnist Alan S. Chartock, WAMC's chairman and executive director, and has long championed the publicly-subsidized station in his role as an editor at The Eagle.  Mr. Fanto appears frequently as a guest on WAMC-produced programs, including many times with host Mr. Chartock as a panelist on The Media Project as well as on other WAMC shows.

Mr. Fanto defends his coverage of WAMC over the years saying that he believes he has been quite balanced and that his columns have chided the station just as often as they have been laudatory. He said it was unfair to assert otherwise.

Attempts to verify Mr. Fanto's claims of impartiality towards WAMC in past columns have been unsuccessful. The Eagle's website searchengine for past articles has been down for weeks, displaying: "Our Archive Server is Out of Service."

Boosts station, but never asks questions
Mr. Fanto was asked why after all these years of writing columns boosting WAMC Northeast Public Radio, publication of which columns have certainly aided the station in meeting fund-raising goals, that The Eagle has never bothered to investigate just how the public monies channeled into WAMC's coffers are actually being spent.

Mr. Fanto was quoted examples of WAMC's inflated expenditures, such as the relatively high salaries being paid WAMC's senior management out of a budget that presently exceeds $4 million per year.

Circular logic
Mr. Fanto replied, "Why look if there is nothing to look for?" 

The circular logic behind this reply necessitated that this reporter next ask Mr. Fanto how he knew there was nothing to look for if he had never bothered to look, or never instructed his reporters to look. 

Mr. Fanto repeated his answer, saying "There's nothing to find."

When asked if he had ever bothered to look at a copy of WAMC's IRS Form 990, the federal Internal Revenue Service document required to be filed by all organizations exempt from income tax, Mr. Fanto admitted that he had not seen WAMC's in years.

WAMC's latest Form 990 filed for fiscal year ending 6/30/99, shows that Mr. Chartock alone received a total of $97,257 which does not include his travel expenses and a generous expense account and other perquisites---this salary is separate from the one he already receives from SUNY as a full-time tenured professor at the Albany campus. 

WAMC's budget comes not only from listener pledges, but also from government funding, private foundations, corporate underwriting grants, and underwriting contributions from local small businesses.

Moving steadily to All-Talk format
While WAMC in years past favored listeners with a diet rich in classical music programming, the past decade has seen the station move steadily towards an all-talk format. 

"All-talk" in this instance refers not only to National Public Radio-produced programming such as the nightly All Things Considered and Fresh Air, but also to WAMC's own in-house productions. Examples of these WAMC-produced shows include listener call-in (Vox Pop), one-on-one interviews (Me & Mario, Capitol Connection), public affairs kitsch (Legislative Gazette), panel discussions (The Media Project), as well as topical news and feature programming (The Environment Show, 51%, The Law Show).

Where the money is
Private foundations and corporate underwriters will give hundreds of thousands of dollars more in grant monies to a public broadcaster willing to create this type of  "educational"-- read "talk"-- programming than were that same broadcaster merely to run musical programming all day. 

This is one of the reasons that radio stations like Schenectady-based WMHT-FM, which devotes valuable time slots to classical music programming, are, in Mr. Fanto's words, "always hard-up for money."

Unfortunately though, judging by the tone of letters published in The Eagle in the weeks since WAMC canceled Morning Pro Musica, this expanding talk format has done little to soothe the ears of those who like their listener-subsidized radio to include more Brahms and Saint-Saens than Blah-Blah and Yadda-Yadda. This is especially true given the scarcity of broadcast classical music anywhere but on the public broadcasting end of the FM dial.

Never looks at indy websites
Mr. Fanto gave his opinions about a number of other Berkshire topics as well.  When asked if he had been reading any of the independent, alternative Internet websites lately sprouting up around the Berkshires and dealing with local issues, websites such as the controversial NorthAdamsFree.com, or this reporter's own BerkshireEagleDotNetwork and its sister sites --  WAMC Northeast Pirate Network and BerkshireRecordDotCom, Mr. Fanto claimed that he "never bothers to look at" any of those sites.

He accused each of the sites of having a "hidden agenda", but when asked to be more specific, Mr. Fanto was at a loss to offer concrete details as to what those agendas might be.

NorthAdamsFree.com - vast tracts of words
The NorthAdamsFree.com website is operated by two North Adams residents, William Davis,  a retired North Adams police detective, and John Choquette, a local landlord. Using the site as their soapbox, the two men have written extensively and apparently without limit -- vast tracts of words that seem to go on forever -- accusing North Adams Mayor John S. Barrett III of all manner of behavior both in and out of office. This landscape also features piles of verbal abuse heaped upon the Mayor and various of his cronies in city government.

A few nuggets of 24k gold
Yet, buried in this Great Plains of text, are a few nuggets of what appear to be 24 karat gold, certain very specific allegations of wrongdoing which, according to one local criminal attorney who requested anonymity, "if true, would appear to violate a number of state laws, and possibly some federal laws including anti-racketeering statutes." 

There are also documents displayed on the NorthAdamsFree.com website, which documents the site operators say provide evidence that backs up certain of their allegations. Many of the documents have been obtained via requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

So far, Mayor Barrett has steadfastly denied all the allegations, and he has filed a complaint against the two site operators in state Superior Court alleging libel and slander. The case is scheduled for trial in the fall and the defendants have publicized their intention to produce witnesses and evidence not only to defend themselves, but to prove their allegations against the Mayor.

Those allegations include misuse of public funds, misuse of office, selective enforcement, extortion, and even abuse of children at a time when Mr. Barrett was 4th grade teacher at the local Johnson elementary school.

See no evil
Mr. Fanto was asked whether he thought there was any factual information or documentation contained within the NorthAdamsFree.com website which would warrant an investigation by Eagle reporters into the allegations of wrongdoing being made against the Mayor. Mr. Fanto replied, "Nothing! Not a one."

Hear no evil
Mr. Fanto was then asked whether reporters for The Berkshire Eagle had actually looked into any of the allegations being made against the Mayor by Mr. Davis and Mr. Choquette, especially given the seriousness of those allegations. Mr. Fanto replied no. He said that The Eagle was not going to give "credence" to unproven allegations by having its reporters look into rumors circulated by people "with an agenda."

Contradicting Mr. Fanto's statement, sources within New England Newspapers, Inc., parent company of both The Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript, have told BerkshireEagleDotNetwork that NENI employees have indeed investigated certain of the allegations made on the NorthAdamsFree.com website against the city's mayor.

Speak no evil
But, according to these same NENI sources, who requested anonymity, editors at both The Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript have purposely refrained from publishing stories that might be harmful or embarrassing to the mayor and, of greater significance, have decided not to pursue fertile leads. The editors have let it be known in no uncertain terms that if any of their reporters file stories about political skullduggery in North Adams, they will soon find themselves reassigned to quieter beats.

Don't mention it
Mr. Fanto was next asked to comment about statements made off-the-record by NENI employees to BerkshireEagleDotNetwork to the effect that senior editors within both The Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript had instructed reporters to make no mention whatsoever in news stories about the existence of the independent BerkshireEagleDotNetworkwebsite. Mr. Fanto denied that such an order was ever given to Berkshire Eagle personnel.

Mr. Fanto was explicitly frank on his view of the Internet medium and about the type of people who not only create websites, but also those who view them and rely upon them for information. At one point he stated that "Nobody looks at (BerkshireEagleDotNetwork, WAMC Northeast Pirate Network and BerkshireRecordDotCom)."

When asked whether he was sure of his facts, and his source as to the number of visitors to those websites, Mr. Fanto backtracked and imperiously intoned, "Well, nobody significant looks at them."

Mr. Fanto then questioned the veracity of any information that could be gotten off independent or alternative websites, websites not owned or operated by recognized media companies.

Mr. Fanto questioned the motives of those operating alternative websites and alluded to the personal agendas of site operators, even going so far as to question the mental fitness of those who would operate such sites.

©2000 BerkshireEagleDotNetwork®/

Updated ---            Wednesday, May 24, 2000
New details emerge about sleazy deals in North Adams:
Fitzpatrick's Proposed River Street Inn
Displacing 23 Families

By Marjorie Ransom and Glenn M. Heller
Twenty-three families on River Street in North Adams have been given notice that they have thirty-days to vacate their homes in order to make way for a new bed and breakfast, to be called
River Street Inn, aimed at upscale clientele visiting the new Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

River Street is one of the poorest sections of North Adams with a mixed population of black and white residents most of whom have lived in this quiet neighborhood for years. Half of the affected families, those who received the first batch of notices to vacate sent more than a month ago, have already had to move out. Meanwhile, those getting the most recent notices are being forced quickly to find affordable accommodations. 

The proposed B&B is to be managed by the Fitzpatrick family firm, the same company which owns and operates The Red Lion Inn and Blantyre, well known southern Berkshire hostelries, and Country Curtains, Inc., a national mail-order firm known for its fine curtains and quality room decoratives. 

Nancy Fitzpatrick sits on MoCA's Board
The Fitzpatrick family of Stockbridge, whose net worth is estimated to exceed $50 million, is headed by former Massachusetts state senator John "Jack" H. Fitzpatrick and his wife, Jane.  Daughter Nancy J. Fitzpatrick is president of The Red Lion Inn and heads the management team for the firm's proposed River Street Inn.  Ms. Fitzpatrick sits on the board of  Mass MoCA Foundation, the governing body which oversees Mass MoCA, and she is also a member of MoCA's Leadership Council, the fund-raising booster organ of MoCA.

When one River Street resident was asked whether the new owners of the property are helping her to get resettled, the woman replied, "No. We're just given thirty days notice to find a new place."  Asked how she feels about having to move so quickly, she said, "I've spent years buying paint and wallpaper to fix-up my place. I don't know where I'm going to go." 

Local media, including daily newspapers North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle, and local politicians, including North Adams' Mayor John Barrett III, have ballyhooed the proposed B&B project as being a shot-in-the-arm that will help revitalize North Adam's economy.  Missing from all the news coverage though, and from the politicians' rosy press releases, has been any word that the new B&B project meant that 23 low-income families would be ordered to vacate their homes, and be given just thirty days in which to find new places to live.

Mysterious Real Estate Transactions--MoCA's Attorney Hides the Real Buyer
The sordid tale behind the recent whirl of mysterious real estate transactions on River Street would take a Sherlock Holmes to decipher. One particular transaction consists of two pairs of River Street buildings right next to each other. The transaction directly involves attorney John DeRosa, a North Adams City Solicitor who also is the sole attorney currently representing Mass MoCA, according to Joseph Thompson, Director of MoCA.

Mr. DeRosa's name appears on the properties' purchase-and-sale agreement as a nominee trustee acting on behalf of a secret buyer known only as River Street Properties Nominee Trust. Massachusetts is one of only two states--Illinois is the other--which allow use of a nominee trustee in a real estate transaction. It is a legal device usually used to disguise or hide the true identity of a buyer or seller in a real estate deal. On behalf of his secret buyer, Mr. DeRosa paid $132,500 for the two pairs of River Street buildings. 

MoCA Donor Gets Something in Return
In short order, the buildings were sold yet again. Mr. DeRosa sold his just-purchased properties for the total price of one dollar ($1.00) to John "Jack" S. Wadsworth, a Williams College alumnus and investment banker who currently resides in Hong Kong.  According to MoCA head Thompson, Wadsworth is a large contributor to the museum who has given "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to the museum since its initial conception. 

Odyssey Began Last Summer
For the original owner of these River Street buildings, the one who sold the parcels to Mr. DeRosa, the odyssey began last summer with a visit by North Adams City Health Director Michael Sarkis to the property owner's office. Sarkis asked whether the owner wished to sell his property, and wanted to know his asking price. The property owner, who is landlord of a large number of North Adams properties, politely told Sarkis he was willing to consider selling, but would entertain serious inquiries only. Sarkis assured him that indeed his was a serious inquiry.

Sarkis left without getting the landlord's asking price, but in the fall returned and again asked the landlord for a number. On September 22, 1999, Sarkis persuaded the landlord to give him a letter confirming his asking price. In a clear hand, the landlord printed on a piece of paper the following message:

9/22/99
To Whom It May Concern,
This is my confirmation that I am willing to sell my properties at 241-243 River St, 251 River St., and 243 1/2 River St. for the sum of $195,000--
It was signed by the landlord.

Sometime in December 1999 or January 2000, the landlord received a telephone call from a secretary at North Adams City Hall who told him that Mayor John Barrett III would like to see him about a matter.  He was asked if he could stop by City Hall for a meeting with the Mayor. The landlord said sure. Over the course of the next few weeks the landlord did, in fact, have two separate face-to-face meetings with Mayor Barrett in his chambers in which the focus of the two men's discussions was the landlord's River Street properties.

Mayor Barrett Makes An Offer and a Threat
The property owner states that in his first conversation with the Mayor at City Hall, Mayor Barrett  asked him to accept $115,000 for the River Street parcels.  He further states that Mayor Barrett refused to disclose to him the name of the buyer to whom he would actually be selling the properties, stating that the Mayor said, "I can't disclose that right now." The landlord states that the Mayor indicated that there was going to be "a project" in that area, but the Mayor would not specify what kind of project. The landlord says that he believed at the time that the project would entail razing the River Street buildings and putting something new on the site. 

The landlord says that at one of the meetings, the conversation turned heated.  He quotes the Mayor as saying, "We haven't bothered you in a long time. We have been good to you. That can change."  The landlord says that he believed the Mayor was referring to the fact that the City used to "sick" the building inspector on him "for tiny violations, just nitpicking to make life miserable".  He interpreted  the Mayor's new statement to mean that the City would now start up again and send an inspector to look for possible code violations within the landlord's various tenant-occupied buildings, violations which the landlord knew would cost him thousands of dollars to remedy regardless of the nature of the supposed violations. 

It seemed like a carrot and stick game, for at one point, according to the landlord, the Mayor offered a further incentive to the landlord to get him to agree to sell the River Street properties. He offered the landlord a promise of Community Development Corporation grant monies for the landlord's other rental properties. This turned out to be a false promise however, as the landlord soon discovered when he visited the CDC office right across the hall from the Mayor.  Personnel in that office told the landlord that in fact, no CDC grant monies would be available, and that all that CDC could offer him would be low-interest loans that would have to be paid back. The Mayor's transparently false promise only served to infuriate the landlord. 

It was after the two meetings with the Mayor that the landlord received a telephone call from John DeRosa, a City Solicitor and Mass MoCA's lawyer, in which DeRosa suggested a meeting at his law  office. The landlord went to this meeting where the two men spoke cordially, and a few days afterwards he was then invited to meet privately with MoCA's Director, Joseph Thompson, at his MoCA office. Thompson was polite and businesslike and the two men got along well. 

Feeling the Heat, the Property Owner Sells
Nonetheless, despite the amicability of the two separate meetings with DeRosa and Thompson, the landlord says he still felt threatened and intimidated by what had earlier transpired in the Mayor's office, and thought a lot about the Mayor's threat to harass him with City inspectors. He could also read the handwriting on the wall. Thompson and DeRosa had made persuasive presentations to him of what they believed were the long-term importance and benefits of Mass MoCA and whatever project they intended for River Street. Even if most of what they said was salesmanship, and even if he   knuckled under to the Mayor and gave away these properties at less than their fair value, he was left with the impression that he might still do alright in the end. The value of his remaining properties would likely benefit from MoCA's growing presence, and from the influx into the area of rent-paying professionals now beginning to attach themselves to the MoCA complex. Plus, he could for now get the Mayor off his back.

So at a meeting held January 31st in John DeRosa's law office with DeRosa and Thompson present, the landlord finally agreed to sell his River Street properties to nominee trustee DeRosa at a price far less than his original asking price. He says it was Thompson who actually negotiated with him the final price that he eventually agreed to accept. It was a number far below what the market just a few weeks later would be asking once the announcement was made that The Red Lion Inn's owners would now be running a bed-and-breakfast on the block, an announcement which surprised even the landlord.

From an original asking price of $195,000, the landlord ended-up taking a total of just $132,500 for the two pairs of buildings sold to Mr. DeRosa, with one pair going for $53,000, and the other for $79,500. 

That was just a few months ago, this is today. In a likely response to the Red Lion Inn's announcement, there are now For Sale signs posted in front of a few buildings along River Street,  a block or so away from the ones where the new Inn will be.  Similar in stature to the buildings the landlord sold--two-story, with multiple apartments within, the price listed by the local Century 21 agent is $89,000 apiece.

Other Owners Complain of Similar Tactics
Other property owners along River Street have also complained recently of similar high pressure tactics being used to induce them to sell their properties. Some state that they were led to believe, falsely, that their properties could be taken by the city through eminent domain. They also complained of being threatened that if they did not sell their properties for the price then being offered, that their buildings would suddenly be found by city inspectors to require "a lot of work", and that they would then be forced to have expensive repairs made, or be fined for being in violation of city building codes.

The Fitzpatricks Announce Plans
Once all the shadowy real estate transactions had been completed, it was not long after that the local press trumpeted that The Red Lion Inn's owners, the Fitzpatrick family, would be developing the parcels on River Street into a "bed and breakfast" establishment serving the expected influx of upscale tourists visiting Mass MoCA.

The "bed-and-breakfast" concept itself quickly evolved and grew.  On May 14th, Red Lion's president Nancy J. Fitzpatrick announced that henceforth what was to have been a B&B was now being renamed River Street Inn.

Late this past week, Ms. Fitzpatrick appeared before North Adams' Zoning Board of Appeals where she successfully obtained variances from that city board for building setbacks and parking requirements.

It is midday in front of what will soon be the new River Street Inn.  A neighborhood woman who knows one of the older women being forced to move in thirty days points to her friend's front  window. The space behind that window will undoubtedly become one of the Inn's nicer bedrooms or parlors, and the woman says, "How could I recommend to my friends to go over there someday for a nice cup of tea when I'll always picture (her friend's) face in the window looking-out from behind her lace curtains?" 

©2000 BerkshireEagleDotNetwork®/

Updated with the Lakewood/Get REAL amended federal Complaint   Tuesday, April 4, 2000
General Electric's "Love Canal" 
Pittsfield: Sitting on a Toxic Time-Bomb?
Will GE get away with it? 
Decide for yourself.  Read The Housatonic River Initiative's amazing report to the federal district Court detailing the facts about staggering levels of toxic chemical pollution in and around Pittsfield.  This report has been out for more than a month and NONE of the other Berkshire media have seen fit to let you read it for yourself.  For your health, for the health of yours and your neighbors' children, read the ENTIRE report and prepare yourself to feel shock, sadness and anger......
Clean-up Pittsfield? Yeah RIGHT! We got 150+ full-time, highly-paid lobbyists in Wash, DC. Whose side d'ya think Kennedy, Kerry, Olver REALLY take at EPA?
To read HRI's report to the Court Click Here or on the logo above. (This file is large, so please be patient while it downloads.  Logo is a copyrighted trademark - © 2000 General Electric Company - and is used here without permission.)
To read the Lakewood/Get REAL amended federal Complaint Click Here!

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