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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Appalling City Council Action on Libraries

I was especially appalled by the statements by Samuels, Ostrow and
Rybak at the City Council meeting.

From the Strib:

Samuels said he understands the growing concerns of the libraries, "but at the same time, when you are a person at the other end of gun, tip of a knife, and in the middle of a threatening crowd, the only use for a book is to throw it at them, or block a bullet with it. We have to remember that. We cannot compromise public safety."

Libraries are a core part of government services. Putting money into libraries does not prohibit having police. Having libraries open helps keep young kids from getting into crime.

I am embarrassed to be represented by someone who makes such an appalling statement.

There are lots of comments on the Minneapolis Issues list:

There's plenty of blame to pass around, but when are our local elected officials going to take some responsibility for their own actions? There are tax loopholes that could be closed, there are administrator salaries that could be curtailed, how about those councilmember provided auto perks? The lost LGA is such a tired tune at this point. It's the excuse for lack of funding for NRP, cops, park staff, schools, firefighers, for freezing rain on the roadways--you name it LGA is the sole blame.

Justin Eibenholzl

It's all about priorities...with a budget of $1.3 billion, there's plenty of money available. Apparently our mayor would rather give it away as "subsidies" rather than use it to address the basic social infrastructure of the city such as law enforcement, libraries, and SO much more. I seriously doubt RT Rybak would be mayor if he'd have had serious competition in the last election.
(county officials perceived as arrogant and corrupt do not count as serious competition)

David Piehl

A false choice was presented of police v. libraries.
Even if you run with that fallacy...

43 new police officer positions are to be added.
Libraries sought $250k/year. Will 4 police officers
(est tot $280k/yr) provide greater net public safety
than open libraries? Aren't libraries part of the
crime fighting arsenal?

Jason Stone
Diamond Lake

Rybak tries to play defense:

Knowing that you care about our city's libraries, I wanted to report on
action the City took this week to support our libraries and what you can expect to see over the coming months on this issue:

  • Yesterday the City of Minneapolis approved $24 million for our city libraries, along with an additional $1.2 million of one-time bridge funding to help keep more city libraries open for longer hours than they are today. This additional funding responded to the Library Board's request for $100,000 more than my initial $1.1 million proposal requested.

  • Our decision to provide an additional $1.2 million of city money gives the Library Board more resources along with more flexibility to make good decisions. Along with additional funding, we eliminated budget language that presumed libraries must be closed and we removed restrictions on how funding could be spent, leaving that to the discretion of the Library Board.

The additional funding the City provided to libraries is part of a series of actions we will take to address the deep challenges facing our library system. As Mayor, I will continue to play a large role to keep us focused on real, long-term solutions for our libraries and I will lead whatever discussions are necessary to make sure our libraries are strong and stable far into the future.

The libraries need money right now and we are giving it to them, but we must not abandon our commitment to finding a long-term solution for our libraries. We need to be honest about library finances and continue to ask the tough questions because there is no simple solution to the deep, structural challenges facing our libraries.

In the next few months we will be taking a number of actions:

  • Lobbying the legislature to restore the cuts in local government aid that are at the core of this problem.
  • Working with the Library Board's Advisory Committee addressing long-term solutions.
  • Working with the Hennepin County task force examining the role Hennepin County can play in funding and governing city libraries.
  • Exploring structural library governance issues, including whether the libraries should become a city department.

The library votes taken yesterday were part of our annual city budget. With our budget we focused on public safety, our largest challenge, and we took significant steps to help our libraries. We can aggressively address both of these challenges without playing them off each other as long as we continue to set clear goals and long-term priorities.

Libraries are critical to our community and provide an essential service to Minneapolis residents and visitors. The current situation - with some libraries open only three days a week - is not worthy of a great city. We need to fix this and we will.

Again, thank you for your continued interest in our libraries. I am actively working on the many facets of this issue and I welcome your ongoing participation as we move forward. I look forward to your thoughts on each of those points and strongly urge you to help us convince legislators of the need for restored local government aid. Together, we can and we will build the world-class library system that Minneapolis deserves.

R.T. Rybak

The Mayor is passing the buck. The point is the libraries need to be less dependent on LGA.