Trust, Revisited

During last year’s budget discussions, I wrote a blog entry about taxes and trust. In it, I argued that I view taxes and proposed increases through a lens of trust. What was missing in the discussion then, as still is now, is whether our government is trustworthy enough to spend our resources wisely, with the good of the community in mind. I closed that entry on a hopeful note, suggesting constructive ways for our school committee to rebuild the trust of the community.

Unfortunately, very little has changed in the past year. I woke up this morning to an email asking my opinion about a petition to “defund the schools.” Apparently, the chair of the school committee had posted a plea to defeat this petition on Facebook, and another school committee member had shared it to a public group. I couldn’t (and still cannot) view these posts because these members have blocked me on Facebook. I’ve since discovered that a third school committee member has also blocked me. Today I learned that I was not the only community member blocked, an action which now seems to have been a widespread attempt to silence many perceived critics.

To be clear, although I am often outspoken in my criticism of the school committee, I have made no comments regarding the petition in question, and have not signed it. In fact, I have spent much of the past week defending the school budget on many forums. I always speak my mind and when I disagree with the school committee they know it, but I also let them know when I think they are doing well, as I did in an email I posted to SK Spotlight just last week. I don’t know if the action blocking me was in relation to the petition or not, but it does not matter. School Committee members who use their personal Facebook accounts to conduct government business or discuss issues under their jurisdiction are not legally allowed to block constituents from viewing or interacting with their posts and/or comments. I have been informed that this matter has been forwarded to the district’s legal counsel for review.

Regardless, even if these actions were technically allowable, they are not ethical. They are not the actions of people who value civil discourse. How can trust between a community and its leadership be built when this is the response to constructive criticism? How do we move forward when school committee members publicly attack the ethics of members of the community, as one member did this morning in yet another post I could not read (until someone sent me a screenshot), and cannot comment on. I think the budget under consideration is reasonable (if not ideal), but I cannot support a process where “victory” means treating constituents in this dismissive way. The behavior of members of our school committee over the past two years has been simply unacceptable, including calling community members “creepy” at public meetings, visibly laughing during public comment, and now blocking dissenting views on social media.

This is the behavior of Trumpian bullies, not respectable leaders. How disappointing it is for our elected officials to play politics in such times. With the entire nation in pain, that these members would take this opportunity to divide instead of unite our community is a true shame. I surmise that they will be able to defeat the petition at hand and secure their desired funding, but they will have to do so without the support I had, until this morning, been willing to provide.

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