Regarding Liz Spikol's recent cover story about Mayor Michael Nutter:
In a time of economic downturn it is especially crucial that people across the city have access to libraries. They are a lifeline for adults seeking employment and self-improvement. Public libraries are the core of a democracy and an essential city service, not a luxury.
If cuts must be made (and Nutter's lack of transparency leaves me unconvinced; I've heard many creative budget solutions at the town hall meetings I attended, all of which he brushed away), then they should be made equitably across the system, and the cuts should be viewed as temporary measures, not permanent closures or transformations of the library system into corporate-sponsored "knowledge centers."
I don't envy Nutter's job right now, but I can't find it in my heart to feel sorry for a man so deeply in bed with corporate interests, a man who, once elected, has been deaf to the needs of the people who got him there. Truth is, he doesn't care about the poor, he doesn't care about our neighborhoods and he doesn't care about our futures.
We have a right to be angry and we have a right to demand that our city provide us with essential services. We've proven this in court already, and we'll keep fighting for it. Nothing personal, Nutter, but this is our city and our lives.
Hopefully Liz Spikol's article is a sign that the tides are finally turning. Blaming our mayor for library closings instead of attempting to wrestle with the incredibly complicated realities we as a city are faced with is not only self-defeating, it's a symptom of the hyper-individualism we've fallen victim to. Mayor Nutter, despite what we wished to see in him, was never supposed to be our savior. Today he is not a villain. No man runs a city alone, and it's going to take all of us to redirect Philadelphia's course.
Library closings, as tragic as they seem, can also be our opportunity to begin reclaiming this city. Although I will concede that the tragic flaw in the budget cuts was the lack of public input, I am not convinced that we can place the blame squarely on City Hall. The lines of communication between government and the people are broken at every level and will not be repaired overnight, and as long as we continue to treat our politicians as failed parents, they never will be.
The day we choose to recognize our own social strength, which Philadelphia has in spades compared to many other American cities, and regard our government as a partner--no matter how painful the relationship--is the day we will finally begin to see change.
I want to commend Spikol for her bravery. Her article didn't resort to power struggles and competing interests as means of describing political situations, but instead provided us with a context. That's what free press is supposed to do. Job well done.
Rendell's budgeting assumes that the state will get at least $450 million a year extra from the federal government. Nutter assumes the city will not get a penny from the federal government.
Rendell is actively searching for the least painful ways to raise new revenue. Nutter is not searching for any way to raise new revenue.
Rendell fully discloses the econometric studies firm that gives him his projections. Nutter does not.
Rendell has found countless little ways to save a little money here, a little money there, such as extending the longevity of state automobiles, banning reimbursement for interstate travel by state employees on official business, making most copies of the Pennsylvania Manual paperback copies, etc. Nutter has not disclosed any similar initiatives to save money .
Nutter's mayoral campaign aroused expectations of greatness. That is clearly out of his reach. It is time for him to set a new goal of adequacy in terms of meeting the day-to-day expectations of Philadelphians before that goal, too, becomes out of reach.
Thank you for reminding us that the mayor's choice to close the library branches was not made out of malice or contempt, but necessity. Of course it's a tragedy that so many people will lose access to these resources, but there are alternatives for literacy promotion and throngs of volunteers desperately trying to combat these closures (and the plethora of other ills plaguing our city).