I believe the City of Dublin is showing signs of a dysfunctional government.
By City Government of Dublin, I mean primarily two entities: City Council and the School Board of Education.
The crisis that has revealed this dysfunction is school overcrowding and failed attempts to find a viable solution to the problem.
The City Council and Board of Education have exhibited four basic signs of dysfunction.
Lack of cooperation
The first sign of dysfunction is a lack of cooperation between the Council and the Board to solve a problem affecting their shared constituents – all Dublin residents. The fact that they serve the same constituents should be reason enough to cooperate and solve the problem of school overcrowding together.
Over-crowded schools is a problem created by explosive growth – something the City Council is responsible for and has control over. Rather than leave the problem to the School Board to solve, the City should partner with them to solve for the location and number of schools required to serve their constituents.
It’s unclear from where the apparent animosity between the two originated, but Dublin residents are the ones who feel the negative effects of this lack of cooperation.
Token gestures and empty verbal support
The second indication of dysfunction are token gestures and vague phrases of support that have little positive effect. These behaviors on the part of politicians are typically reactive and done to make it seem like they’re engaged in meaningful activities related to issues that concern constituents.
One example of such empty gestures is the formation of the City-School District Liaison Committee, without a clear directive. It is unclear how frequently they meet and what the committee is charged with accomplishing, hence the suspicion that it is an empty shell meant to create the perception that the City and School Board are collaborating.
Another example is Dublin Council-member, Abe Gupta’s request to City staff to report on potential school sites, without spending a great deal of time on researching the matter. His objective is to show whether there are “any deal-breakers, so the district is aware of the council’s concerns now.”
Rather than answering “how can the City help the Board secure a suitable site for a second high school?” the City Council is focused on directing the City staff to research sites, about which the City Council can express concerns to the Board.
The School Board is just as guilty of meaningless gestures. Voting on a school site located less than a mile from a jail is ludicrous. Allocating a paltry $100M budget to buy and build a high school serving 1000 students, given the existing statistics on the cost of land cost and of constructing a single building is appalling.
What is motivating these absurd and illogical decisions and token support is unclear, but they smack of political gimmickry with meaningless outcomes. Decisions that don’t make intuitive sense are usually driven by a hidden agenda and are symptomatic of a dysfunctional government.
Whereas the community is calling out for leadership and collaboration, the City Council and School Board are offering seemingly superficial platitudes to their shared constituents.
Lack of transparency
The third evidence of dysfunction in the governance of Dublin is a lack of transparency in decision-making. This is related to the previous evidence in which decisions seem illogical.
The School Board voted on allocating $100M for Phase-1 of the second high school, which is supposed to serve 1000 students.
How did the School Board arrive at this dollar amount? What scope of work is planned for the $100M? This has not been made public. A vague public statement made in a previous issue of The Independent newspaper, by the Dublin School Superintendent, Leslie Boozer, makes it seem like whatever can be accomplished with $100M will be called Phase- 1 of the second high school.
At the School Board meeting in which the Board members voted for the $100M budget, President Megan Rouse and trustee Dan Cunningham strongly opposed a suggestion to increase the budget. They claimed that they trust their committee to deliver phase 1 within $100M, even though what phase 1 consists of, in terms of facilities to serve 1000 students, hadn’t been defined.
The lack of transparency about Rouse and Cunningham’s objection to expanding the budget for phase-1 and about why they feel $100M is sufficient to build a second high school without a publicized scope of work leaves only questions in the minds of constituents, such as, “What are they thinking??! Is there something else going on? Is it corruption? Is it political gimmickry?”
If the outcome of decisions is suspicion, then it’s a sign of a lack of transparency in decision-making, and therefore dysfunction in government.
Absence of strong leadership
The fourth evidence of dysfunction in Dublin is the absence of strong leaders in the City Council and in the School Board, whose actions are driven by their commitment to serving the needs of all constituents more than their political careers.
The City Council’s half-hearted support for solving school overcrowding makes one question their commitment to their constituents’ needs, expressed in the City’s mission statement: a high quality of life…a safe and secure environment…new opportunities.
Reputable research, published on the California Board of Education website, suggests that overcrowded schools do not result in a safe and secure environment with high-quality education and new opportunities. Rather, the research shows that overcrowding increases bullying and diminishes student and teacher performance.
The City Council and School Board seem to lack strong leadership in driving cooperation between these entities to solve the school overcrowding problem. Instead, we see the token gestures mentioned earlier.
David Haubert and Megan Rouse, this is an opportunity for you to leave a legacy of shared leadership in solving a serious problem that Dublin residents are facing!
We – your constituents – want you to work together to expedite the formal declaration of school overcrowding as a problem that needs the immediate attention of the City Council and the School Board.
We want you to truly collaborate on answering “how can the City and School Board fund and secure a suitable site for a second high school?”
The complete solution should unite Dublin and include the following:
1. A well-defined and funded scope for phase-1, including facilities and services that will serve 1000 students.
2. Well-defined subsequent phases that will result in a high-school serving 2500 students, along with a plan for how they will be funded.
3. A well-defined plan for upgrading and renovating existing schools to solve for over-crowding and how these projects will be funded.