Tuesday's trustee meeting introduced us to the newest member, Carol Fulp. She's a trainee of Paul LaCamera, so now we won't have any more confusing ties and you can guess which way the tiebreaker will go. Another millionaire Super Friend on the board. Is it too much to ask for a Trustee that makes < $250,000 a year? This time it's a friend of both the mayor and the governor: http://www.baystatebanner.com/local11-2010-04-15
Don't get me wrong, she is a great philanthropic force in this community and we are happy to have her in Boston. It is just a little suspicious that she gets appointed to a Trustee position that has been open for a very long time just in time to influence the Governor's line-item vetoing of the budget (as opposed to appointing her in November so that she could influence the budget in the first place). What would the Governor want to line-item veto? The budget amendment recently passed by the House and likely to make it through the Senate. Chairman Rudman telegraphed the plan loud and clear by asking pointed questions about what the Governor can and cannot do in Tuesdays meeting.
Get ready to send Gov. Patrick some election year reminders. We'll ramp this up after the Senate amendment process plays out.
Staying in the present, the BPL got a windfall of $237K from two estates since they've submitted their dismal budget. It was completely unrestricted and Amy Ryan sought approval for the funds use at the board meeting. Did she ask to keep a branch open? Did she ask to save 5 jobs? Did she ask to keep the microtext or newspaper room open? No to all of this. Instead she asked for "neighborhood outreach including youth initiatives, adult outreach, book lending initiatives, and other outreach activities and the implementation and coordination thereof". Aren't all of these things already the mission of the BPL? And with "implementation and coordination thereof" you could pretty much justify any expense. But it sounds nice on paper. Later, Chairman Rudman remembered that they were laying off 75 workers and in an unofficial act (i.e., no vote took place) offered up $25K of the money to help provide career counseling to "affected individuals". That comes down to $333 per worker, which will probably go directly to Simmons College, who the BPL is working with for transitional support to the workers.
Community Task Forces will also be coming to "affected" neighborhoods where they want to close branches. These task forces will be headed by employees of the BPL and Boston City Neighborhood Services. It sounded like they will meet with invited guests, not have public meetings, and are looking into providing story hours, "book depositories", and "book vending machines". In other words, it sounds like they want to build branches in community centers, but with 25% fewer employees, who is going to run these programs? With fewer book delivery services, how are these vending machines going to stay stocked?
Additionally, branches are being asked across the board to cut their inventory to 85% of their capacity. Nearly 575,000 books out the door and this doesn't count the branches that will be closed. Mattapan, one of the newest libraries in the system is already has the 3rd smallest inventory. Only Orient Heights and Washington Village has fewer books. They have just 3-10,000 fewer books. Amazing considering that Washington Village is the size of two Old Colony apartments and Mattapan is 21,000 square feet.
Meanwhile another library systems facing the same problem is taking a slightly different approach: http://dontclosethebook.nypl.org/
I will spare you more commentary and move on to the mayor who is still saying that the city is poor even while nearly $400M in reserves can be identified: http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/102055-moneybags-menino/
At his coffee hours he has trotted out ReadBoston to try to save some literary face and get pictures of kids with books. All well and good, but it doesn't change the fact that he is letting millions of dollars of resources wash out of our neighborhoods and laying off 75 of our neighbors. These can't be replaced by handing out a picture book.
So, what can we do about all of this?
We can start by handing out fliers this Saturday in front of the Central Branch to raise awareness. We will meet at Noon in front of 700 Boylston St. to start letting the central branch patrons that their services are in danger, feel free to come to either event and wear your "Save Our Libraries" pin. RSVP to this e-mail so that we can set up alternative locations if we have too many volunteers for Copley.
We'll also be over at Old South Church from about 1:00PM - 4:00PM with a table at the People's Celebration of Howard Zinn http://www.ace-ej.org/a_peoples_celebration_of_howard_zinn
Next week we will hit the MBTA stations on Tuesday and Thursday. I have 2 volunteers for helping with that, which can cover 1 station. I can think of about a dozen stations to hit, so I could really use some more help. The morning shift will run 7:30 - 9:00 AM. An evening shift, if we have the people, will run from 5:30 - 6:30 PM.
I will post our flier on http://peopleofboston.org
soon so that people can do their own information campaigns if they wish
Lastly, an initiative has started up to do a children's letter writing campaign. We hope to involve local schools, but some parents are having letter writing parties for their kids and their friends. We are accepting any and all letters to the Mayor for delivery sometime in June. We'd like to have everything collected by May 28. Let me know if you need any help coordinating.
Just 3 weeks until the budget hearing, we have to start getting the word out now! Please join us.