Alan Chartock | I Publius: 'Smitty' Pignatelli could have won Senate seat


GREAT BARRINGTON >> State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli will not run for the state Senate.

It's a shame because he's been doing a great job of representing the Berkshires and he would have won had he run for the seat currently held by state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing of Pittsfield. Downing said last week he would not seek re-election.

I have been around state legislators all of my adult life. I've interviewed them, I've written about them, I've watched them. That said, I have not been overwhelmed by the collective DNA of the group.

New York, where I hang out, is filled with self-serving cowards who pick corrupt leaders to do their dirty work for them so they can look clean. Frankly it's disgusting and if you look at the polling, you will find that I am by no means the only one who feels this way.

It doesn't take long for legislators of any stripe to abandon their work for the public good in favor of self-enhancement, either by getting work or money for themselves or their relatives or by getting campaign contributions for favors to be paid back later.

It is common knowledge that people hate the legislature but love their own legislator. The body as a whole is perceived as corrupted but individual legislators are not.

Smitty, a Democrat from Lenox, is different. He is beloved by most of his constituents. You ask for his help, no matter who you are, and you get service. I am fond of telling a story about an elderly woman who was hospitalized but who needed some help from the motor vehicles people. Smitty was contacted and the matter was handled immediately.

I know of no arts agency in Smitty's district that hasn't asked for and received help. What's most interesting about my conversations with Smitty is his love of his job.

Look, it can't be easy. You can't be further from the Statehouse than Smitty is. The traveling to Boston has felled stronger men than Pignatelli.

He still loves the job. He has learned to work well with some mighty tough hombres. It isn't easy, since the stench of corruption hangs on to some of these people's clothes like patchouli on a holdover from the sixties.

Yet while maintaining his dignity he has been able to bring home the bacon again and again. His work on combating addiction has been legendary. He has been in the forefront statewide in advocating for shared services among towns.

His work for places like Pittsfield, Adams and North Adams has been tireless even though large swaths of these areas are not in his present district. He has been able to do that with a small staff of two people while every freshman senator gets six staff members. One can only imagine what this dynamo might have been able to accomplish with such an expended staff. We're lucky that he's still our state representative but I admit I am disappointed.

On a much different matter, I have been getting up at 2 in the morning to get over to the WAMC fund drive. I always check that I have three essentials, my wallet, my keys and my phone.

Before I walk out the door I check that I have all three but last Wednesday no wallet. Anyone who has ever lost a wallet knows about having to replace a driver's license or all those credit cards.

The last place I had used my credit card was at the Big Y. I called the police in case it had fallen out of my pocket. No luck and when I got to work I remembered that I had purchased a gadget and app called The Tile.

It attaches to thing like keys or hearing aid cases or wallets. I turned it on and it told me that the wallet was near Hollenbeck Avenue. In other words, it was in my house. Poor Roselle searched the house again and there it was on the bathroom floor.

My advice to all of you, get the Tile app.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions