Voting 'No' on library bond proposal will open doors for more involvement from community
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Also, I am concerned that some local community and business leaders have lent their names and financial support to this ill-conceived proposal. They may have their hearts in the right place — we all love libraries — but the facts do not support this proposal.
In addition, I am concerned about the influence of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), from the jointly sponsored 2007 survey asking about a 400-seat auditorium, to the DDA’s overrepresentation in the planning process. The latter resulted because few community members engaged in the process.
The new downtown library campaign is long on emotion and replete with claims such as, “It will be so good for downtown Ann Arbor.” Following is information relevant to making an informed, data-driven decision. Please focus on what is best for our library patrons and the present and future taxpayers. I encourage you to add your comments to this list. -
- It's wishful thinking — a bond request without a plan. Per the AADL website, "The Library Board has not commissioned any specific plans at this time." (2012)
- Library services can be improved at a much lower cost without demolishing our library and building a 400-seat auditorium and other conference center elements. The AADL claims to have consulted “experts;” we need to hear from renovation and sustainability “experts” as well.
- The library district is the same as the 125-square mile Ann Arbor Public School District (except Northfield Township). It includes the City and parts of the townships of Salem, Ann Arbor, Pittsfield, Scio, Lodi, Webster and Superior. Should township taxpayers have to support downtown economic revitalization and commercial partnerships?
- The number of annual visits to the downtown library is the same as five years ago. Aren’t more resources needed for the branch libraries where visits are up?
- The poor economy caused this project to be suspended five years ago when the Michigan unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. It's now at least 9 percent.
- Many families in the AADL area are struggling financially. One indicator is that 24 percent of the AAPS students receive free or reduced lunch.
- The new library proposal continues the local trend of building huge projects while basic services are cut. The cost is more than the police/courts building and the Dreiseitl sculpture combined.
- Supporters claim the cost will be $65 million, but bonds have interest! The actual cost to taxpayers would be almost $130 million over 30 years with financing. (AnnArborChronicle.com, AADL meeting on July 16, 2012)
- The AAPS built and renovated the library, then transferred it to the newly created AADL entity in 1995. AAPS stipulated that the building and land could not be sold, but would revert back to AAPS. Does demolition violate the spirit of the agreement?
- David Osler, the architect who designed the 1990’s addition and remodel, is the premiere Michigan architect credited with the restoration of the Michigan Theater. The original building is one of the great architectural designs of Alden B. Dow.
- Demolishing a relatively new building is bad economic and environmental policy.
- The AAPS have major initiatives to upgrade technology (voters just approved a $45 million technology bond) and to bring all buildings into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is being done without demolishing any schools, most of which are older than the downtown library. The AADL board could do the same. What then justifies demolishing our downtown library?
- The majority of respondents borrow DVD's, CD's and books, per the AADL 2012 survey. However, project “possibilities” include an auditorium, a catering kitchen, a cafe to be open before, during and after library hours, and a media production lab. Why?
- Only 2 percent of the respondents of the AADL 2012 survey attend meetings held at the library; only 1 percent rent space for non-library purposes. Why is meeting space a high priority?
Photo by Flickr user ionntag
In summary, a NO vote provides an opportunity for more community involvement — now that the AADL has our attention with this costly, DDA-centric proposal that demolishes a beloved building and interrupts downtown library services. The library proposal is at the end of your ballot.
Kathy Griswold is treasurer of Protect Our Libraries. Learn more about the effort at protectourlibraries.org.