Friday, June 4, 2010

Charlotte Observer Editorial: "Should city 'stay in its lane' on libraries?

Link to June 4 Charlotte Observer editorial.

Excerpt:  Council member Susan Burgess, who opposes using city money to help the library, said at a council budget meeting last week, "I love the libraries ... but we ought to stay in our lane. It's a slippery slope." Council member Patsy Kinsey said, "I cannot in good conscience send city money over to support the county." Other council members have said similar things.

Let's see if we understand. It's fine to spend millions upon millions on pavement to bail out the state legislature in Raleigh, but not OK to pony up far less to help keep most of the libraries in your own home county from closing? Yes, pavement is important - up to a point. It is not more important than libraries, however.

The library system, which is independently chartered but which has depended almost exclusively on money from county government, faces the loss of almost half its budget from a cash-strapped county. It has asked Charlotte, the six other Mecklenburg municipalities and the county for more help. Mayor Anthony Foxx has said he'll veto the city budget if it doesn't set aside some money in case a library deal can be worked out. He's using the possibility of city money as a sort of challenge grant - the city would chip in if the other towns do, and if the county does (and if the council approves).

Council members may have questions about how the library has managed resources. Some may question the relative importance of libraries compared with public schools or the park and recreation department or community colleges. It's appropriate to consider those issues. It's also appropriate to make sure any city money would be, truly, a one-time thing.

Related articles:
County commissioners restore some cuts to libraries.  (6/4/2010)
Straw votes begin on Mecklinburg County budget.  (6/3/2010)
Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries continue to look for one-time financial help.  (5/31/2010)
High school junior speaks out eloquently for libraries.  (5/30/2010)
Mayor Foxx on the art of governing.  (5/30/2010)
Mayor supports financial help for library.  (5/27/2010)
County budget:  Oh, yeah, this is fair.  (5/25/2010)
Bailout proposal not gaining traction.  (5/23/2010)
Library trustees vote to close 4 branches.  (5/20/2010)
Mecklenburg County tightens its belt.  (5/20/2010)
County manager cuts $14.7 million from library budget.  (5/18/2010)
2010-11 Mecklenburg County budget to be unveiled today.  (5/18/2010)
North Carolina woman plans on "going straight to the top" to keep Charlotte libraries open.  (5/16/2010)
Charlotte Mecklenburg officials ask local municipalities for $3 million contribution.  (4/30/2010)
Library Board chair speaks out.  (4/25/2010)
County commissioners seek ways to ease library cuts.  (4/23/2010)
Mecklenburg County needs to reduce $85-90 million deficit.  (4/16/2010)
County manager takes library board to task.  (4/10/2010)
Libraries now open fewer hours.  (4/6/2010)
"Save Our Libraries Sunday".  (3/29/2010)
Charlotte Mecklenburg users owe average of 55 cents in fines.  (3/27/2010)
Library announces new hours for branches.  (3/26/2010)
Library Board applies a Band-Aid to its bleeding system.  (3/25/2010)
Follow-up on Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board vote.  (3/25/2010)
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board votes to keep all branches open.  (3/24/2010)
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board presented with 2 budget-cutting alternatives.  (3/24/2010)
More and bigger cuts looming on horizon. (3/23/2010)
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library System Rethinks Closings. (3/22/2010)
A New Day is Dawning in Charlotte/Mecklenburg County. (3/21/2010)

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