An impediment to progress

Published 12:26 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

Suffolk School Board member Judith Brooks-Buck should be commended for her recognition of the fact that the City School Committee for Collaborative Fiscal Concerns is broken and desperately in need of fixing.

The committee, which includes members of both the School Board and City Council, was formed a year ago to serve as a forum for members of those two elected bodies to consider and pursue options for saving taxpayer funds. In the time that it has existed, however, the committee has failed to come up with even one solution that it has been able to implement.

Brooks-Buck, during a School Board meeting this week, recommended that the committee be disbanded. She serves on the joint committee and has intimate knowledge of its dysfunction.

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Unfortunately, however, what Brooks-Buck has failed to recognize — and what her failed motion for disbanding the committee ignored — is that her own intransigence is one of the primary reasons the committee is dysfunctional.

She has repeatedly attempted to derail the joint committee’s work by demanding that even consideration of cost-saving measures be approved by the School Board before those measures can be studied by the joint committee. She has also fought against suggestions that school administrators attend the committee meetings to help fast-track the group’s work.

Her efforts to frustrate that work reveal a low level of commitment to the process and a poisonous attitude of turf protection in a group that can only accomplish its goals by operating without such destructiveness.

During Thursday’s School Board meeting, Brooks-Buck suggested that collaboration would be better served by disbanding the committee and relying on the relationships that already exist between the two elected bodies to accomplish the goals that were envisioned when the joint committee was created.

However, anybody who has been paying attention to the relationship between the School Board and City Council for the past several years must conclude that there has been no collaborative attitude between them. Expecting things to suddenly improve to the point where work can be accomplished on behalf of taxpayers is either a pipe dream or a deliberate bait and switch.

The only person who would be well served by the disbandment of this joint committee is Brooks-Buck, whose destructiveness would then fail to be reported on a regular basis.

In fact, during the same meeting, she complained about “negative” media coverage of the committee. Though the coverage has been neutral in tone, she’s absolutely right that the commentary about it on these pages has been negative, and the negativity has been directed primarily at her shenanigans.

This committee can do valuable work for Suffolk. What’s abundantly clear, though, is that its efforts will continue to be of little worth as long as Brooks-Buck is a member of the joint working group. When the School Board considers the matter again in November, that body can make an important statement about its commitment to the process — and to Suffolk taxpayers — by replacing her on the committee with someone who will not be such an impediment to progress.