The historic lack of accountability, probity and credibility in managing the affairs of the Detroit Public Schools has created reason for some today to be skeptical about yet another $500 million bond.
But this time around it is fair to say that we live in a different era, given the current educational dispensation even though that does not eliminate the pattern of previous shady practices.
Last week’s overwhelming vote now makes possible the availability of $500 million in bonds that would be used to build ten new schools and technologically upgrade a decaying school district. Many voters supported this bond proposal because the leadership of DPS said it is for the children. Despite the justifiable opposition to Proposal S — the name of the bond proposal — it was apparently clear that any project that projects itself as working on behalf of children will succeed with parents and anyone who is concerned about preparing tomorrow’s city leaders.
Now the issue for us and many people in the community, including those who demonstrated their civic duty to pass Prop S, is the question of oversight.
Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb has indicated that an oversight committee will be set up to govern this bond money. Doing so will avert any mistakes evident in the last bond proposal.
DPS under past administrations did not live up to its fudiciary duties, to the extent that the public lost confidence in the district. Coupled with a board that always placed contracts and personal gains ahead of curriculum, there was no focus to address the needs of an educationally starving school system.Robert Bobb has to do more than assure the public that there will be thorough accountability with this new money.
On Monday when I spoke with him, Bobb said he was in the process of putting together a nine-member oversight committee, to be assembled in the next four weeks.
This committee, chaired by Bobb, will be charged with the enormous responsibility of ensuring that the rules are followed in the disbursement of funds for the various projects.
“We want to make sure that there is no waste fraud. The oversight committee will review the implementation process,” Bobb told me in an interview Monday afternoon. “I would also have a staffing committee, the Office of the Inspector General and the Auditor General would be heavily involved to ensure that funds are placed in the proper accounts and the projects are done on time.”
But key to the project Bobb said is making sure that Detroit residents get the jobs and businesses based here get the contracts.
“One thing that is important going forward is ensuring that Detroit-based companies have the first opportunities for these contracts to be done in a competitive basis,” Bobb said. “We are setting up a process to benefit local minority and women owned businesses without violating the law.”