By NICHOLAS MERCIER
At the recent meeting of the New Britain Common Council, a resolution was proposed by Alderman Salerno and Alderwoman Beloin-Saavedra.
The stated purpose of this resolution was to "clarify" the roles and responsibilities of the School Building Committee, but the vast majority of the changes have another purpose in mind: they remove crucial oversight, and checks and balances from the school building project.
Under the current ordinances, several crucial steps in the school construction project require the approval of the School Building Committee, the Board of Education and the Common Council. The proposed resolution would remove the Board of Education and the Common Council from the process. It would also remove provisions that allow a supermajority to remove a member from the School Building Committee and it also exempts the School Building Committee from a provision in the ordinances that force committees to meet in the evening, which was passed by the Council to make the work of committees more transparent and accessible by the public.
This is not only perplexing because the Council members are proposing an ordinance that would give them less oversight in overseeing multi-million dollar projects paid for by tax payers. But it is baffling members of the Republican caucus, which alleges to stand against waste, corruption and misuse of tax dollars would propose a resolution that would enable all three.
Under the proposed resolution, any mayor could appoint whomever they wish to the School Building Committee. That body could then steer countless millions in bonded funds towards political allies of the mayor, personal friends and extended family, or could simply engage in gross misuse of funds, all outside of any meaningful oversight.
I personally do not feel the current mayor would engage in such behavior. But when passing ordinances that may stand for decades it is important to prepare for the worst case scenarios. Giving the politically appointed and unelected School Building Committee, such broad powers to spend millions in taxpayer dollars without any meaningful oversight is poor public policy and should be avoided.
Vice President, New Britain Board of Education