Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Libraries and Common Sense Take a Hit

And the war on public services continues. Due budget woes, 20 libraries across the city are losing critical staff. The Philadelphia Daily News highlights the impact at the Cecil B. Moore Branch of the Free Library.
The cutbacks mean that the two certified librarians at Moore - and at other branches slated to become "express" branches - will be moved to full-service libraries. Also, the hours at the limited-service branches will be cut from 10 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m. a couple of days a week to 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

City officials say the budget cuts at least keep the library branches open in the neighborhoods and they say library assistants, who generally have a high school or GED equivalent diploma, will get special training to help answer library patrons' research questions.

But Cathy Scott, the president of the union representing librarians said all of the express branches are slated for poor, minority or working-class neighborhoods.

"You won't find any cuts in library services in Chestnut Hill or Mount Airy," Scott said.
Setting aside what Scott says, there is another part of this story that bothers me. And that is the role played by Philadelphia City Council.
Last week, City Councilman Frank DiCicco introduced a bill to rescind $30 million Council approved in December to pay for the expansion of the Free Library's Central Branch. He said library officials had promised that the expansion would not hurt the neighborhood branches.
DiCicco to the rescue. This reminds me of stuff that happened over the summer. Does anyone remember the rallies held by firefighters against proposed budget cuts? Nutter, Kenney, DiCicco, and Kelly were all there. Now that same group is taking up the fight of the neighborhood libraries. However, there seems to be an almost total disconnect from reality.

These are the same people who are pushing for so-called "Tax reform." Why do they think budget cuts are necessary? It's hard to have enough revenue to fully fund city services if tax cuts are constantly being used as the silver bullet to help Philadelphia grow. Of course, I tend to think the city will not grow without decent public services-- like fully funded libraries. But that's my bias.

4 Comments:

At 11:55 AM, Blogger DanielUA said...

Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Simply put, the City cannot have it both ways. Things take money. Now, obviously, there is some truth to the bloated Government stuff in Philly, but I dont get the sense that these Council members care about that either. They just want to scream the need for tax cuts loud and clear, all the while protesting the inevitable cuts that will come with them.

The reality is that every City carries with it a unique price of living there. (Think about the price of a 2 bedroom in DC, NYC or Boston.) Philly's tax burden may be higher than some, but it is still a pretty cheap place to live. People will live here based on what kind of City it is, what services it provides, how good its schools are, etc.

And I would hope Philly is a City with Rec Centers, Libraries across the City, and the like.

Less Tax in Philly? Sure. But how about greater investment in the young? Investments, which we tend to think of as a good idea, take money.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger Charles said...

I think that not only do we need City Services, but we need an Industry that defines our city. I mean what Industry do we have? Healthcare? And that's a big maybe.

The bottom line is that a lot of people are moving here because NYC, DC, and Boston are just way to expensive (some having a higher tax burden as well, by the way). We need to keep these people here by helping small businesses (fuck Comcast!) and improving Education. Education is the silver bullet in more ways than one. Most people, when they live in the city and have children, they have a choice between private school or living in the Burbs. My parents choose the former, but way too many chose the latter.

 
At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely agree with everything said so far. The wage tax that was enacted probably went unnoticed by 99.9% of Philadelphians because it was so small. But that small amount of money "given back" to individuals, when pooled as city revenue, adds up to plenty. Enough to fund libraries, rec centers, the Arts, and so forth.

You are absolutely right to point out the hypocrisy of the city council members who rushed to cut taxes and now are complaining about the inevitable service cuts.

Personally, I'd like to see the mayor or someone on city council propose rescinding the wage tax, but dedicate
or fence those specific funds to the library or the park system or the rec dept.

There's also a great story on Mike Bloomberg, NYC mayor, in last week's New Yorker magazine. Take the time to give it a read, you'll find a lot of support for your positions.

 
At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a false choice - we can have both - tax cuts/reform and libraries and rec centers. Street isn't a good manager and has wasted and misdirected tons of $$. Elect a better manager next time and we'll get better results. Rendell didn't layoff staff and cut services when he and his government all-stars got our City's house in order in the early 1990s.

 

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