Save Our Libraries Pt. 2 or WTF is the Council Doing?

Brooklyn Public Library Executive Director Dionne Mack-Harvin testified at a City Council hearing last Thursday and pretty much confirmed everything we reported two weeks ago: the libraries are screwed if Bloomberg’s budget passes. Yet our City Council members are showing little opposition.

Just to reiterate, his dis-honor (Oh snap!) has proposed a budget that includes a $17.5 million cut to BPL. The cut will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs and a reduction in library hours by nearly half (five hours a day, weekdays only). Programs and new book purchases are sure to suffer as well.

Meanwhile, everyone’s cooing over some adorable little Canarsie girl’s plea to the mayor to save our libraries:

“If the library closes, where are we supposed to go?” she wrote in her two-page letter to Bloomberg.
“The only thing we will have to do is go home. And home is not as fun as the library. Home doesn’t have games, programs and books everywhere.
“Please keep my library open is all I say. Please keep it open everyday,” she went on. “If the library closes it will be all your fault.”

Adorable, but I doubt the mayor is listening.

It seems as if many of our city council members aren’t listening either. That includes Sheepshead Bay’s own representative Michael C. Nelson. I sent Nelson an email the day I wrote the original article asking him to oppose the budget. This was his response, which I received yesterday morning:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding Brooklyn’s libraries.
Libraries must be a top priority especially in difficult economic times.  I have always supported libraries and am proud to have allocated funding for the complete renovation of the fully handicapped accessible Kings Highway Branch reopening June 11th.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me.  I hope this addresses your concerns.  If I can ever be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to call upon me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for renovating libraries – especially handicapped accessible ones. But don’t think for a second that this “addresses my concerns.” Actually, it pissed me off for how far it came from addressing my concerns. So I e-mailed Nelson back, telling him that and asking, explicitly, if he’ll be opposing the budget. The answer was as ambiguous as it gets:

As my record in establishing priorities for libraries shows, I will do whatever is possible in these challenging budgetary times to restore the 17.5 million which was unfortunely cut by the mayor in his proposed budget.

What I understand from this is that he’s not able to answer with a simple “yes” or “no” – and that’s probably because the answer is “no,” he won’t oppose the budget, but once it has passed and the libraries have suffered – he’ll do what he can to make it up to them. But without a solution on the table, I’m not likely to buy this as anything but waffling.

Sorry, but in these political and economic times, I’m looking for substantive answers from my representatives – especially when I ask them simple, direct questions. Sure, I expect this kind of evasiveness from those higher in power, but at the local level I really do expect a bit more transparency and openness.

Nelson and other council members: stop playing games and offer some solutions to the problem of the BPL budget – before it’s too late. It’s what your constituencies want.

(Don’t forget to sign the BPL petition.)

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