2016-09-29 / Letters

Officials should have cooled their heels on school vote

To the editor:

On Monday, Sept. 19, the Saco City Council voted to reverse its decision to issue a bond to replace Young School. This action takes the decision away from the voter and leaves the folks of Saco powerless to act for their own future. Now, we should all favor state funding if it’s available. It would be foolish to pass up assistance that saves taxpayers so much money. If it turns out that the state picks up the tab for rebuilding Young, then this will likely have been the correct decision.

However, the decision to repeal the bond was unnecessarily rushed and did not engage the community. That was a mistake. The council could have repealed the bond in late October as easily as on Sept. 19. As leaders, the council could have a led an effort to gather information and led the discussion to reach consensus city-wide on how to proceed, rather than acting unilaterally. During a discussion period, we could have learned how many schools will be funded, which districts are likely to apply, what the process will be and where we might fit on the priority list. A slower process would have allowed a meeting between the council and the school board to discuss what to do. The school construction committee could have been recalled to consider this new information and make a new recommendation (or not). It would have given time for residents to weigh in and help make the decision. It would have been the transparent, respectful and collaborative thing to do. Instead, the council acted without public notice and without regard for the construction committee and the school board, who were the experts on the process and worked for years on this issue. This process also disrespects the community members who have worked so hard and passionately on this.

I would remind the city council that a representative government doesn’t mean that you decide for the residents, it means the residents decide and you represent their will. In our city, we vote for city council and school board separately. The city council appears willing to simply override the school board, an independently elected body, and ignore the recommendations of the committee designed to study the issues. Perhaps it’s time we revisit the city charter to clarify who it is that we want making decisions about our schools. This process is broken.

Mike Burman Saco

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