“Stop the bus. The citizens are not on board,” says Jackie Pinckney-Hackett, a D.C. parent and one of one of eight plaintiffs seeking simple transparency from their secretive, govern-by-the-seat-of-your-running-shorts executive.
“This administration [of D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty] is as transparent as black construction paper. However, it is clear that there are no plans for any meaningful parent, community or council involvement,” Mrs. Pinckney-Hackett wrote in a letter to the D.C. Council on Friday.
Along with the other plaintiffs representing themselves without counsel, she is appealing last week”s ruling by a D.C. Superior Court judge that upholds the legal right of Mr. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, under the council-sanctioned school takeover plan, to withhold the school systems’ proposed budget until the document is presented to the council later this month.
Along with this unconscionable lack of disclosure is a proposal by Mrs. Rhee to close 23 schools, reorganize 27 others and turn over who knows how many to private management companies.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Pinckney-Hackett is imploring the council, which has been acting like a doormat after a snowstorm for Gen. Greenhorn”s muddy boots, to “do some sort of emergency legislation to restore the information previously made public to parents and the public regarding the budget process.”
Since firing off her missive to 13 council members, she has received only one response, and that was from Marion Barry.
In court testimony last week, Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, agreed with the frustrated plaintiffs that by the time the mayor”s budget gets to the council, it will be too late for parents, advocates and taxpayers to effect major changes.
“What parent wants to find out that things have been cut at their school at the council level? It”s like getting down midstream and trying to double back,” Mrs. Pinckney-Hackett said yesterday of the new budget process, which denies parents “meaningful participation.”
“This is something that really requires a judicial order; it should be something [the mayor and chancellor] want to give us,” she said.
Indeed. Government representatives are obligated to be open, honest and forthright. Every taxpayer, parent or not, has the right to ask and be informed how, why, where and by whom their money is being spent, especially in this era of privatization of government services with its inherent potential for misfeasance and corruption.
When the D.C. government has a weak oversight body — on which the mayor once served, and a questionable chief financial officer with unveiled shortcomings that allowed an estimated $50 million to be stolen under their noses for decades — it behooves all elected officials and bureaucrats to disclose as much as possible as often as possible.
How else to restore taxpayers’ confidence in the city”s financial operations than through increased transparency and due diligence? “What”s the big secret?” Mrs. Pinckney-Hackett asked of the mayor, whom she accused of “running a dictatorship, and we”re just here.” Under court order, the chancellor, through city attorneys, provided three pages listing initiatives for consideration but with no dollar estimates, Mrs. Pinckney-Hackett said.
In the past, the elected school board held public hearings about the proposed budget, detailed down to line items, before it was submitted to the executive and legislative branches for overall approval.
The mayor and council historically balked at that process and complained about their inability to micromanage the system”s coffers, even as their constituents held them accountable for the state of the city’s schools.
An early morning pseudo-hearing that lasted less than half an hour was held last month at hard-to-get-to H.D. Woodson High School in far Northeast.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
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