Saturday, October 24, 2009

Library Talk

I really like a lot of Mike Madison's commentaries on Pittsblog.

Whatever one thinks about the proposed library closings, or transit cuts; they shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Is it really a surprise that a city that's population has shrunk from near 700,000 to a bit above 300,000 would have to make tough choices? Isn't the fact the city is basically in receivership a clue?

"Second: Why, oh why, are decisions and reactions to this sort of thing always made in a one-off crisis mode? Pittsburgh lurches from "close the fire stations? never!" to "close the libraries? never!" to "where's the casino payment for the new arena" as if Captain Renault were supervising the premises. He was shocked, SHOCKED, to find gambling going on at Rick's -- as he pocketed his winnings. What I mean is that there is no plan here, no sense whatsoever that library-branch-closing or fire-station-closing or arena-construction-subsidized-by-gambling is part of a vision of the city's future. Instead, it's just the latest crisis to be dealt with -- at a time when absolutely no one can pretend to be ignorant of the fact that the crisis is part of a long-term restructuring of the city and region. Library-branch-closing is just a game of winners and losers, and the Carnegie Library Board appears to be doing its best with a bad hand of cards. Metaphorically, Pittsburgh is Captain Renault -- without the winnings."

Hello-- everyone, slightly awake and in a board position should have known about the cards they had-- long, long, long ago. They were just hoping to pass the buck.

Further on he gets to the meat of it.

"What if we sketched out a map of public transportation, parks and schools and libraries and other community "centers," public safety resources (some of which could double as community centers), and housing and shopping concentrations (let's call those "neighborhoods") and figure out how to make those different systems talk to each other in ways that reinforce communities and livability? Doing that wouldn't stop the Board from closing library branches, but it might make branch closing (fire station closing, arena subsidies, and so on) part of a game plan that persuades people that a little sacrifice today is part of a better future. Maybe we think about closing library branches here and opening library branches there. Maybe we think differently about the current round of Port Authority transportation cuts. Maybe the arena gets security for its money from the casino up front, rather trying to claim it out of the back end.

I'm not optimistic right now about the region's collective ability to do all of this. But if it is not done, eventually it will have to be done, and it will get done via the winners-and-losers mode that we're seeing at the moment rather than in any more considered way."

Hey kids, now might be a good time to ask the question --What is a "Pittsburgh Promise" from people who operate like this really worth?

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