Westerly School Committee chairwoman Diane Chiaradio Bowdy said she wants to move on from all the acrimony that surrounded last year’s elementary school redesign project that eventually lost at the polls in November. But it sounds like it’s going to take even more time to get over this hurt.
Witness Tuesday’s committee meeting in which Bowdy and Patricia Panciera berated fellow committee member Gina Fuller, accusing her of “sabotaging” the $38.5 million project last year. Bowdy said Fuller fed voters inaccurate information regarding the tax implications of the project.
As we reported Tuesday night, Bowdy said, “This is what happens every time. You start to act like everyone is against you. You went on Facebook with false information and took a stance against your own committee. I want to move forward but what you did is wrong.”
Bowdy’s backers would label it passion for a project she believed in.
Fuller’s backers would say she had passion for telling people she felt it was a bad project.
Fuller has demonstrated she is no one’s puppet and she can be abrasive in her approach. She was chastised by the previous committee for using social media platforms to speak against committee endorsed policies. She has walked out of meetings and has simply not shown up for meetings.
Yelling at one another and boycotting meetings is no way to advance any cause by a public body elected by taxpayers to handle their money and advance projects in a focused, objective, professional manner.
Municipal boards and committees are based on the healthy exchange of ideas, opinions and even passions to some extent since passion is simply a natural part of anyone who cares deeply about the topic at hand.
But at some point the majority rules and the others need to move on. In this case, Fuller was i the minority on the committee when it backed the project but the committee and project backers were in the minority after the town-wide vote.
With a second take at a multi-million dollar schools project that will affect families with children and all taxpayers, the committee needs to focus on the facts, learn from the past and move on.
On a related note, the committee needs to remember that its meetings are public and on the record. Our reporter was asked on more than one occasion Tuesday night by committee members and the consultant hired to guide them through this second redesign process to ignore a comment or to consider a comment off the record.
That concept doesn’t exist in a public meeting and anyone sitting on such a panel has to know that.
We truly hope this committee can move forward from the ugly showing on several levels Tuesday. There’s a lot at stake — a taxpayer funded school project intended to improve educational facilities, and the integrity of a committee that needs the public’s trust whether there’s a significant project on the line or not.