By Gerry Visconti
Without question, a new high school is long overdue. Every member of the City Council, our students, teachers, administrators can all agree. Itâ€™s one of the most urgent issues this election. The decisions we make and the resources we commit during the next administration will impact citizens of Revere for decades to come.
We all want the best facilities we can provide for our childrenâ€™s education, preparing them for the opportunities of the future, which is why itâ€™s critical to follow a process as transparent and accurate as possible with respect to the risks, funding, and timeline of this project.
The Wonderland site was ultimately voted down because of ballooning costs and lack of transparency.
At the debate, Councillor Keefeâ€™s poorly contrived, finger pointing tirade â€œYouâ€™re gonna kill these kids!â€ and his baseless statement that Wonderland is now inevitably â€œslated for more residential developmentâ€ were rightfully called out and rebuffed by every other candidate on the stage. Voters came to hear an adult conversation on serious issues. This is an undertaking of unprecedented size and scope for the city.
â€œDonâ€™t let the facts get in the way of the truth?â€
Itâ€™s the same old willful ignorance of the previous administrationâ€™s failed agenda â€“
No matter the cost.
Here are the facts and the truth:
Before the council voted on eminent domain takeover of Wonderland, all-in construction costs were estimated at $380 million. After that vote, construction costs increased significantly to $500 million, not including the initial $30 million for the takeover, and additional costs of litigation up to $100 million to the taxpayers of Revere.
At over half a billion, WITH A B, plus a hundred million in litigation, The Wonderland site, to coin a phrase, amounted to Pay Now, Pay Later, and Keep on Paying. The council was told we could NOT rule out a Proposition 2Â½ Override or a debt exclusion at the same time we were building on our largest remaining redevelopment site, eliminating millions in potential commercial tax revenue; tax revenue we need to help pay for the largest project in the cityâ€™s history.
When the facts change, responsible and capable leadership adapts, and changes course.
But the previous administration continued to push the false narrative that a central middle school could be completed at the existing site within a year of the new high school opening. That was a lie. Today, weâ€™re told it could take between seven and 10 years. By then, the building would need significant upgrades, even further expanding our unserviceable debt.
There are clearly distinctions in our mayoral candidatesâ€™ qualifications and abilities to take on the complex challenges facing the city. Iâ€™m the only candidate drawing upon a 30-year career in Finance. Iâ€™m currently serving as Chair of Ways and Means with a record of fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability. Iâ€™ve also served on the School Committee, advocating for our children, our teachers, and administrators. I understand the urgency, and their concerns, from their perspective.
The construction of a new high school is a project of paramount importance to our community, and to our future. Itâ€™s our responsibility to provide the best solution for our children, while protecting the long-term finances of the city. As Mayor, I will work closely with my administration, committed to delivering the facilities our students deserve in a fiscally responsible way.
We can, and we will, get it right.
Gerry Visconti is a City Councillor-at-Large, as well as a candidate for mayor in the upcoming election.