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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Birmingham Must Have a Community Vision on Baldwin

By Nancy Skinner

I spent a lot of time in front of the Baldwin Public Library and the Birmingham Post Office collecting 3000 signatures in the weeks before the filing deadline for my run for Congress in our District (11th), so I heard a whole lot about the “Library Vote” from both supporters and those opposed.

Most of the discussions involved the costs naturally, but very little revolved around what I call “the untapped benefits” of having a world-class asset for all residents in Birmingham.  In a time where bookstores and video stores are closing their doors, (I so miss Borders here) and educational funding was slashed, where everyone has been affected by the recession and it’s slow (but picking up steam quickly) recovery, the new Baldwin will be perhaps the most valuable asset to every resident in every age group and every family, if they just availed themselves to all the services and opportunities it will provide.

Before voters cast their votes on Tuesday, I would ask them this:

If you really started using this library as the amazing family resource it is; getting your child to love reading early instead of video games; helping your high school or college-age student discover their passion and therefore aim for a career they love not one of aimless default; if you wish to learn how to start a business of any kind on the side or as a change in your career, or learn a new language to improve your opportunities in the workplace; or if you have a senior family member whose mental and emotional life would be vastly improved by taking their first computer class with other seniors, or meeting new people instead of watching Jeopardy and becoming sedentary, what would that be worth to you? Have you always wanted to write a book? You can learn how to do anything you dream with the right environment. Re-discovering a world-class library holds more value to Birmingham, than the misleading debates over cost-only discussions thus far.

The opposition has tried to appeal to your fear and small-minded red herrings. There are no “do-overs”. If this three-year process and hard work of many (including Birmingham Mayors) for the vision of restored and strong Baldwin Public Library vote goes down on Tuesday, it will never be revived. We will in effect be saying to close the door on the progress and to the future of so many Birmingham residents whose lives will be changed by a book. One book changed my life in 1993, Earth in the Balance, by Al Gore. I decided to use my business degree from the University of Michigan to tap the American entrepreneurial spirit and the powerful profit motive of capitalism to embrace renewable energies and other technologies rather than bury our heads in the ground.

Books do change lives. Every day, somebody discovers, recovers, re-invents themselves, finds their passion or purpose in life, or the right words or courage to say I’m sorry, or I love you, to heal their hearts, enrich their minds, body and spirit.
Many people in Birmingham know my father, as I found out in front of the Birmingham Library and Post Office, Chuck Skinner, the former head football coach at Seaholm, who turned the fighting Maple’s football program around after a long stretch of being down and was inducted into Michigan’s Football Coaches Hall of Fame. My Dad said he couldn’t have rebuilt that team that went 26 undefeated games in 1982 without the Birmingham Boosters, the parents that took it upon themselves to help him “build a winning program” and remain friends to this day. They had a vision for their future “REVOLT” against losing, as they taped to their helmets, invested in that vision and the resources like a weight room, which was named after him, and made that vision a reality. That effort shaped many young lives of his players and this community. He was constantly up against the naysayers, “it can’t be done, its’ too hard, costs too much” and none of that bore out; only the sweet memories of victory.

He also had players hold up four fingers to signify “the fourth quarter is ours”.  The vote is Tuesday, the naysayers are still out there, but if we get people out with a vision of a better future to the polls on Tuesday, “the future will be ours.” Vote YES on Tuesday.

Nancy Skinner is a Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, which runs from Rochester to Milford and includes all of Birmingham. Skinner ran in 2006 in the former 9th congressional district losing narrowly to Joe Knollenberg. Nancy resides in Birmingham. Contact her at Nancy@

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