After waiting a week to get 15 minutes on the phone with Rep. Tony Cabral (D-New Bedford) on whether he'll vote to support a compromise plan for the Alma del Mar Charter School, the interview was a complete waste of everyone's time. I apologize for wasting yours.

The House Rules Committee has got to decide whether to vote out New Bedford's home rule petition seeking state approval for the compromise expansion plan, which is somewhat less than what Alma del Mar was looking for at roughly half the cost to the city. The home rule petition was approved by the Mitchell Administration, the City Council and School Committee.

Let's be clear: officials in New Bedford would prefer no charter school expansion at this time, but faced with an ultimatum from Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to accept the compromise or be forced to accept Alma's full expansion proposal, there are few good options.


Mayor Jon Mitchell warns that unless the home rule petition is approved by the legislature, New Bedford will be stuck with the full expansion at twice the cost. Mitchell tells me that would result in a hefty property tax increase and deep budget cuts. Yet Cabral and most of the rest of the area delegation refuses to say whether they will support the petition.

I spent nearly 15 minutes yesterday trying to pry answers out of Cabral as to how he plans to vote on the measure, whether he could or would amend the legislation and why, faced with the financial disaster a full rollout would mean for the City, he is not enthusiastically rallying for passage of the bill. I got nothing but nothing.

Cabral is a master in the art of evasive conversation. His answers to my questions were contradictory and straight out misleading. Keep in mind Cabral and the local delegation voted in 2010 to give state education officials the authority to site these charter schools and ultimately to give Riley the authority to do exactly what he is attempting to do.

Riley is giving the legislature a couple of weeks to consider the home rule petition and has indicated he will act if it does not. Cabral insists that Riley will see the unfairness of his decision and will come back to the table to negotiate a better deal for New Bedford. Tony, this is that better deal.

The legislative delegation needs to let us in on what it intends to do with this home rule petition. If there is a plan in the works to protect the taxpayers of New Bedford, then let us know what it is. Time is running out and silence is no longer an option.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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