In what was supposed to be the culmination of bi-partisan politics, I was attempting tonight, to get a point across that I was appreciative of the efforts of the Council in extending the proverbial olive branch to the Board of Education. My concept was intended to stand as both a thank you to the Council but also as a warning about perception. To most people, perception is reality. It is very hard to convince anyone that what they see and hear is not true. It is crucial in most scenarios, to say what you mean and mean what you say.
Admittedly I had my "five minutes" derailed, by what could simply be characterized as rudeness extended to me by our illustrious Mayor Drew. I was so stunned by his interruption that I was never able to regain my composure and get back on task. As angry as I was at him (and still am), I was just as angry at myself for letting him get to me. So, below is what I was going to say, without the interruption, or the arrogance.
Good Evening and thank you. I was on two minds as to whether or not I was
going to stand up and speak tonight - but I may as well keep the streak alive.
Logic would tell me that nothing I am going to say tonight is going to change anyone's
decisions about the impending budget vote. But as you saw by my email yesterday,
I sent you a petition of over 400 Middletown residents, all of whom are in support of fully
funding the budget. I only speak for myself tonight, but I stand up for the four hundred who
are not here. I didn't want to speak but also did not want that act of not speaking
to be perceived as resigning myself to the inevitable.
I am happy that there was a 200% increase to the Mayor's original proposed allocation
but, I for one will never be satisfied until the BOE budget is fully funded.
That alone, is my axe to grind.
I am here to speak about perception, and the fact that perception is reality. (Even when it isn't.)
I am here to issue a warning, not an ultimatum, but a cautionary tale perhaps.
To the public, the initial actions by the Mayor and the council did give a perception
of not supporting Education. I think we all know that is not true. I can't imagine
a single one of you doesn't support education or the children in this City. There is a perceived
notion that the council does not work well with the Board of Education. I think the end result certainly proves the contrary. Through many open conversations with the Council,
the Board was granted an increase, that should allow the Board to save teachers, custodians,
and even hire for positions that are mandated by the State.
My point is this, with information being readily available to the public,
if you are looking to avoid the battle of a tenuous budget cycle next year, change your
perception the public has of you. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If the
spreadsheets are "too complicated" and "numbers don't reflect what is really happening",
then find a better way to explain it. If you want the public to believe you care about
whatever the matter at hand is (Education, Arts, Public Safety, etc.) then say it and
show it. Don't leave it to us, to read between the lines - that won't work out well for you.
But in closing, I do thank you for the efforts you have made. The State certainly hasn't
made it easy for you. I certainly didn't make your lives any easier this past month either.
But, rest assured, the bi-partisan efforts did not go unnoticed.
(Back to real time)
I would like to publicly thank all the council members, but I do have a special shout out to Common Council Members Blanchard, Nocera, Giuliano, Bartolotta, and Serra for spending time with me personally. I know others of you spent time with parents, teachers, administrators, and even in our schools - but since I can only speak for my personal interaction - you five have my thanks. We may not always agree with each other 100% of the time - but I know what you did made a difference.