To the Editor:
Way back in the 1990s, eliminating government waste was a bipartisan issue. Waste was bad whether it was due to inefficiency, mismanagement, fraud or even inertia as programs run on forever, producing no benefit. Today, in the era of trillions of dollars thrown out the window at the federal level, it seems that any pushback on government spending is considered sacrilege by some.
Perhaps worse is that in these days of religious fervor disguised as politics, disagreement leads to “cancelation” more often. Of course, this isn’t entirely new. A 2015 GAO report said that whistleblowers “safeguard the federal government against waste, fraud and abuse—however, they also risk retaliation.”
As a result of my vocal opposition to the lack of diligence and poor management at the Central Middle School Building Committee, (CMSBC) the CMSBC voted to ask that I be “refuted” and “removed.” Ironically, they voted against providing any specifics or supporting / backup information.
This behavior by the CMSBC is not new either. The CMSBC previously discussed censuring committee member Nisha Arora after Ms. Arora wrote an editorial objecting to ballooning costs at the CMSBC, and one of the vendors selected by the committee had their attorney send a threatening letter.
On another occasion, the CMSBC Chair and Vice Chair met with the CMS PTA Board and suggested that the PTA be used to pressure the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET, the Town Finance Board) into providing additional funding for the project. One PTA Board member complained that this was improper. Incredibly, that Board member was summarily removed from the PTA, despite the PTA having a policy against whistleblower retaliation.
The reality is that the CMSBC chairman, a former head of the DTC has been relentlessly barreling towards this huge expenditure. The cost keeps escalating, and every attempt to contain this is voted down.
Despite shooting for a June 2023 deadline for no reason, the CMSBC missed that deadline due to errors in the Specifications for the school. The next semi-official deadline is June 2024, yet despite the comedy of errors and cost increases, the CMSBC is now pushing the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve, and the BET to vote on a $42 million (60%) increase in the project budget NOW, in October.
Why October? There is NOTHING that will happen faster if the BET votes to give the funds in December, or January. It seems the goal is to use the election to pressure the BET into signing off on this huge, rushed, ill-considered budget increase before the election, on the theory that the looming election will force the BET into spending far more than they would otherwise, spurred on by irate parents who want a new school NOW, said parents not realizing they have been misinformed by their PTA.
All of this – repeated attempts to silence opposition, attempts to pressure the BET, firing of a PTA mom – appears to be politically motivated and targeted at this election. This is not in the best interest of our Town. Voters should hope the BET doesn’t fold under pressure, and come November, they should thank the BET for holding the fort and sticking to fiscally prudent policy.
Spilo is the RTM Representative to the Central Middle School Building Committee. He also serves as Chairman of the RTM Public Works Committee and the RTM Labor Contracts Committee. The opinions presented are his own.