Testimony of Diane Payne to the BOE, March 26, 2020

Relates to Action Items: 16, 17, 24, and 32
Times of crisis calls for our government officials and citizens alike to work in ways we never imagined. I do applaud all the work and worry that the SDP & BOE are engaged in at this moment. That being said, crisis can not become a reason to ignore laws and transparency nor a reason to silence or mute the public’s voice.

As this crisis stretches into future months, the Board must rise to the available technological choices which can actively engage the public. It is already happening across a variety of sectors. For the April Action Meeting, this Board should have a viable plan for real time public engagement as the Sunshine Act requires.

In times of crisis, only essential business should be handled as all officials and citizens grapple with what the needs may be for the future. It was heartening to see Action Item 31 eventually withdrawn. However, I have questions about four other Action Items.
Action Items 16 and 17 are for multi-million dollar increases to the ERP process. The details listed in the Action Items refer vaguely to “a change in the implementation timeline” with no details justifying this timeline change. Although it would be easy to justify due to the crisis, this Item was on the list before the crisis. The public deserves to fully understand the WHY and the HOW of a $59,000,000 expenditure.

Action Item 24 is for a change order to the Ben Franklin/SLA project. This is another example of no information about why this $1,798,148 change order is needed. The public deserves to understand.

Action Item 32 is for $638,565 to the AARP literacy volunteer program. This is an example of closely examining all Action Items for a litmus test of “essential”. We are all very much aware that we cannot quite imagine what “returning to normal” is going to look like.

Every expenditure on the Action Item List should contain a sentence – throughout this crisis – that identifies what is *essential* about the item.

Transparency, public engagement, and trust in the District are ongoing places of conflict. This crisis actually offers an opportunity for the Board to look for ways to mend these conflicts. Do not let this opportunity be lost.