Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Text of the People's Indictment of Mayor Nutter

We are the Coalition to Save the Libraries, a group of concerned citizens taking action to keep ALL of Philadelphia's libraries open.

We are here today to indict Mayor Nutter for crimes against the people of Philadelphia. Because closing libraries is a crime. I’m not just talking about the legality of the issue. We can leave that to Judge Fox upstairs. I’m talking about a human and civil rights issue. Every person in this city should be guaranteed equal access to education.

The Mayor announced yesterday that he would be restoring the federally-funded after-school program, LEAP. This message was underwhelming and misleading. First of all, the LEAP program is not an acceptable substitution for library services. It is a program for school-age children that runs during the school year in the hours right after school. While the Mayor is assuring us that there will be computers available, the LEAP program, when in libraries, has access to not only computers, but all of the library system’s books, up-to-date resources, and qualified librarians.

This is a case of the parts not equaling the whole. When we talk about libraries, the sum is so much greater than the parts. Dividing the services of the library and distributing them around the neighborhood just doesn’t add up. And it makes me question… Mayor Nutter, if you acknowledge that all of the services of a library are, in fact, vital to a community, and if you plan to replicate the services of a library all over the community, why would you consider closing the library in the first place?

Let me tell you, Mayor Nutter, that we keep hearing about this plan to make the Main Library stronger at 19th and Vine and that you are seeking money to create two regional branches. And a person just has to ask, close 11 neighborhood libraries? And create 2 more regional ones? Does that make logical sense? Siobhan Reardon, President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, has said that a library system that has a strong central branch and less neighborhood branches, makes a stronger system. Well, this brings up an issue: Who is this system stronger for? Hundreds of people stood up in rallies outside of their branches telling you, Mayor Nutter, that your vision of the library doesn’t work for them. The people throughout the City of Philadelphia are saying to you, Mayor Nutter, this vision of a centralized library DOES NOT WORK FOR US. Who ARE you making the system stronger for, Mayor Nutter? If it is not for the people who live throughout the cities’ diverse neighborhoods, then who is it for? What plans are you hiding and what cuts are you blaming on this budget crisis?

We see through your smoke and mirrors, Mayor Nutter. We see that you have a vision for the Philadelphia library system that is not for the people of Philadelphia. It is a plan that provides more resources to those people who can travel to or live close to 19th and Vine Sts and less resources to the people, living in communities far and wide throughout city of Philadelphia. I don’t know when you last took Septa, Mayor Nutter, but it can be very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to get across neighborhoods. So, when you take our vital resources and pull them farther away, you are making it more challenging to get those resources and are making it less likely that people will actually be able to access them. This is especially true during times like these, when pockets are tight. Budgets are shrinking for the average person, and yet you are targeting 11 communities and telling them they have to stretch their budgets even further. And for all things: to access a library.

We have had enough! We’ve had enough of your town hall meetings during which you repeatedly say that you are listening, but refuse to answer questions directly and never respond to the growing call to save our city’s libraries. We have had enough of invitation-only “stakeholder meetings” that refuse to even consider alternatives to permanently shuttering 11 of local libraries. Don’t think we haven’t noticed that you are responding to a temporary budget crisis with a permanent elimination of libraries! Don’t think we haven’t noticed that you are taking many library staffers and putting them into other programs around the city like your new pet project, the 311 program. That could be helpful, except IT DOESN”T SAVE YOU MONEY! No, Mayor Nutter, things are just not adding up.

You know, you ran on a platform of transparency and community involvement. And in less than a year you have come back like a slap in the face of Philadelphians. You have made unilateral decisions as if you are the Emperor of Philadelphia, and not a publicly voted-in representative. You have already forgotten, Mayor Nutter, that we are YOUR boss and not the other way around. You only have a job if we say you have a job. You have already broken the trust of the people of Philadelphia. We do not believe you when you say that libraries must close because of budget cuts. We will not celebrate the so-called restoration of a few privately-funded individual services as a replacement for publicly-funded libraries. Your press conference yesterday was no victory, Mayor Nutter. It was a sad shame, that you believe you can stand up in front of the people of Philadelphia, look at us with a straight face and outright lie.

Mayor Nutter, we see where you stand. It is not with the people of Philadelphia. It is not with the community of the Cohen/ Ogontz library, not with the community of the Durham library, not with the community of the Eastwick library, not with Fishtown, not with Fumo, not with Haddington or Holmesburg. You are not standing with Kingsessing or Logan. You, Mayor Nutter, do not stand with the community of Queen’s Memorial or Wadsworth. Because you do not stand with the people, because you are closing 11 of our beloved libraries, we hereby indict you on these charges:

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