Library Board Member Responds to Council Member Samuels Claims
Lloydletta's Nooz posted an email from Council Member Don Samuels discussing his position on the libraries. From Library Board Trustee Laura Watterman Wittstock:
So when the library board, equally affected by cuts, came to us to be baled (sic) out, having not done its dirty work the way we did, having spared the public lashings and union discord we endured for our deep cuts to the public's safety.
I'm not precisely sure what is meant by not having done our "dirty work", but I am sure in saying that over 70 library staff, mostly union workers, were laid off in 2004 as a result of the LGA cuts, and in the ensuing period, the library board has had a very large number of members of the public who have come forward and spoken loudly on that outcome of insufficient money to run the library system. No other city system or parks system sustained the level of cuts the library system did. This shortage has continued to the present day, exacerbated by the fact that the city council renewed its policy to set a limit on the amount of revenue the library board could levy to run the library system. This limit imposed an artificial ceiling that did not take into account true costs.
Because the public voted for the referendum pre LGA cuts, the library board post LGA cuts was accused of being too debt ridden and too operating dollars poor. The Hobson's choice proffered was the forced closing of three libraries in the most needy sections of town in exchange for some reduction in the debt. This is tantamount to burning the furniture to keep warm.
Further, after imposing the limit on new revenues for the library system, the city placed a fee on the library's budget for city services. Presumably, the limit included such fees, but no, they were imposed on top of the limit. We thus not only had less revenue, what we had was being charged additionally out of the remaining money.
CM Samuels needs to be aware of this history, aware of city council policy, and aware of the tremendous value the library system has to the well being, quality of life, and public safety of the city.
If the city loses its library system in a consolidation with Hennepin County, it won't be long before other services go on the block. Localism, as we know, is under siege all around the country. At the very least, the city should know what it is doing in these circumstances. Ignorance would be inexcusable.