The Unholy Trinity of power arrogance and incompetence was prominently on display on July 5 during a special meeting of the Bridgeport Board of Education held in the cafeteria of Cesar Batalla Elementary School.
The president of the school board, the mayor of the city and the superintendent of the schools, “strutted their stuff” in plain view for all to see. They showed everyone just how much power, how much arrogance and how much incompetence they collectively possess.
Of course, only the female member of the troika made an appearance that evening. The other two members were busy hiding out in their bunkers, well behind the lines.
The superintendent was reportedly engaged in the noble activity of moderating discussions for the Church of Christ, the religious organization with which he is associated. I couldn’t help but remember that when Jesus Christ walked the earth, his most severe condemnation was reserved for the religious leaders of his day, who he said “practiced their piety before men” while turning a blind eye to the suffering of the oppressed.
Like Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, the superintendent washed his hands of the whole situation, while the right of the people of Bridgeport to elect members to their Board of Education was being crucified.
The mayor was otherwise engaged and therefore allowed his lackeys, minions and political handlers to make his presence known and to keep his six loyal subjects on the school board in line.
It was very apparent that the mayor is so powerful, that he can play the master puppeteer in absentia. Evidently, he did not want to be present because he would have had to listen to the justifiable outrage of Bridgeport parents, taxpayers and residents.
However, by the next morning in the state Board of Education meeting in Hartford he had found his voice. He preened before the cameras 60 miles from the scene of the crime where there was no opportunity for local input or rebuttal.
Six members of the Board of Education, a nine-member board consisting of elected officials charged by statute with delivering an appropriate education to all school age children, admitted that they were unable to perform their jobs.
They voted, six to three, to surrender their responsibilities to the State Board of Education, by adopting a resolution which admitted their incompetence.
However, the real reason for the abdication of their responsibility lies in their pettiness and obedience to the dictates of machine politics. It all boils down to this; they don’t like the three-member minority on the board, because they don’t play nice.
These three courageous board members, Sauda Baraka, Maria Pereira and Bobby Simmons, have taken their roles as public servants seriously. They have acted independently, and their first concern has been the education of Bridgeport’s public school students, and the efficient use of taxpayer dollars. As a result, the machine has decreed that they must be punished, silenced, and banished.
The charges leveled against Baraka, Pereira and Simmons are flimsy and fatuous; the evidence in support of the allegations is weak and anemic. In a court of law, anyone prosecuting charges of this type would be laughed out of court.
This three-member minority is accused of being too inquisitive, as if seeking information was somehow anathema to serving the public.
Furthermore, they are accused of effectively using Robert’s Rules of Order, the bible of parliamentary procedure. The majority believes that knowing the rules, playing by the rules and adhering to the rule of law is a threat to their authority.This despite the fact, that with six votes out of nine, they can always call the question, thus cutting off debate on any issue. They also accuse these three board members of insisting that overpaid and incompetent school administrators be held accountable for their errors and omissions, when they fail the public school children of this city.
My, oh my!
How dare these three board members upset the status quo in this machine-dominated city? How dare they insist on monthly financial reports?
And, as Mayor Finch whined to the state Board of Education, how dare these members resort to the Freedom of Information law to obtain public records when the administrators obstruct access to public records that are available by law to every citizen and taxpayer?
Obviously, when the going gets tough, the six-member majority quits, and throws a temper tantrum designed to blame the minority for their own failure to function and their inability to govern. They clearly prefer an official campaign of character assassination to engaging in a contest of ideas which should be the object in a democratic society.
Bellinger, Ramos and Finch, aided by their gullible “good government accomplices,” are engaged in a frenetic spin campaign. Despite all of the advantages that their power gives them, including the advantage of a surprise attack and the assistance of the Malloy administration, they were only able to muster a 5-4 vote from the state Board of Education.
No wonder they had to act so quickly and use the Fourth of July holiday to cover their power grab.
However, the historic parallel in this instance does not involve the Fourth of July, but Pearl Harbor. Like the Japanese attack that pushed the United States into World War II, this attack on the voting rights and privileges of the citizens of Bridgeport will live in infamy.
At least we can now say that this episode has spotlighted a culture of bossism and abuse of power in the city of Bridgeport. After Pearl Harbor a Japanese official was alleged to have said, “We have awakened the sleeping giant, and we are doomed.”
We can only hope that this naked display of the arrogance of power will awaken a slumbering Bridgeport electorate.