Last night’s Budget Hearing ran for over 4 hours, here is my comment in case you didn’t catch it.
The Winter Hill building is a mark of shame on us all. How long will we continue to bear this shame? Over a year ago the City Council invited Somerville Educators Union – SEU members to testify about the state of the building. In response Mayor Katjana Ballantyne added a study to the budget. I am not sure what we need to study. The list of issues with the building goes on and on and on and on and it is beyond clear to anyone paying attention that the next step is to build a new building.
Which begs the question, why hasn’t Katjana Ballantyne moved with any expediency to address the state of the Winter Hill? Why did she focus on building a $100 million police station before rebuilding the Winter Hill Building? Why did she focus on a $100 million building for municipal office before rebuilding the Winter Hill? The Mayor’s track record is clear that the Winter Hill community has not been her top priority since being elected.
Even now, after an emergency closure because the building is literally endangering the lives of students, today Mayor Ballantyne hosted a press conference to announce… Another study. This evening the Mayor’s staff delayed the beginning of this hearing to announce… another study. It is mind numbing to list the number of times this mayor has responded to a demand from the community for tangible improvements with a study.
Mayor Ballantyne likes to talk about the historic 10% budget increase in last year’s school budget. What she doesn’t like to mention in her story is that the budget increase was 5% until a week before the budget hearing. That is, until our union flyered the community about her campaign promise to increase the budget 10%. Suddenly, the 10% budget emerged.
Likewise, the Mayor likes to talk about the MSBA statement of interest as a sign of her taking action on the Winter Hill. But that only happened after the School Committee refused to release the 1895 building to the city for municipal offices.
This mayor has shown time and time again that for her, inclusive leadership means ignoring the community until being forced to take action. I implore the city council to hold the Mayor accountable, as your colleagues on the school committee have done, and refuse to pass this budget until the Mayor releases a real plan for rebuilding the Winter Hill, with identified funding sources, timelines, and plans for where students will go to school during construction. If we can afford $200 million in bonds for police stations and municipal offices then we can build a healthy and safe school for the Winter Hill community. And the hundreds of people here tonight won’t settle for anything less.
Winter Hill Community Innovation School PTA