The election pits commercial interests versus to those of the community.
Commercial interests ? Yes the need for roads, sewers, parking for retail, offices, and their employees and so forth and so on. Newspapers are a commercial interest. They sell advertising and one of biggest categories is Real Estate advertising.
What is curious about this elections is that all the giants the local press are or seem to be opposed the Library Bond.
The most vehement is Downtown Magazine. That publication didn't even want the issue to be presented to Birmingham residents on a Ballot. In February Downtown headlined "Keep Library off Ballot". When the Library went on the ballot with a surprising unanimous vote of City Commissioners, Downtown Publications put "Vote No on Library", on the cover of every subsequent edition. They did the same with electronic page which appears online. The current issue's vote no editorial, fills the entire editorial page and consists of over 1500 words.
Apparently the editors of the publication do not have much faith in the reader's ability to comprehend or follow instructions.
The Oakland Press Sunday front page headline was. "Voters face 21.5M Bond for Library". Actually it is a little less grim that. Voters on Tuesday, are in fact voting to determine their library's future. That is a privilege not all communities enjoy.
Even the Birmingham Eagle which normally gets it right got it wrong by presenting the vote as choice between "moving forward .....or going back the drawing board."
There is no drawing board. There is no plan B. Critics of the
Library to do not criticize the library per se. Instead they object to the plan and assume that if it fails there will be another coming right after it.
The City of Birmingham is not however holding auditions for Library plans. The City and the Baldwin Library spent more than two years with the best minds and resources available to develop what the voters will Vote on on Tuesday. The Citizens of Birmingham are true owners of the Library and the property it sits on. City Commission through a Library Director and Library Board elected by the people, run it for the people.
Depending on your viewpoint the Plan is either ridiculously expensive or not.
The price tag is 21.5 million dollars over thirty years. It will cost the average household $124 dollars annually. That is less than some spend monthly on Cable TV. The monthly cost is a little over $10 which currently, will by an adult movie ticket and no popcorn at a local movie theater.
Downtown Publications has suggested a new plan with less City Commissioners participating.
City Commissioners are the elected representatives of the people. So are the Library board Trustees. Without such representatives you have little say in what appears on Bates between Martin and Merrill Street.
Last fall Birmingham residents elected three members to the library board. That is 50% of the board membership. The Library Board incumbents ran unopposed. Because of the remote possibility of a ""write-in" being the top vote getter (as on Detroit) votes were still counted. Shelia Brice swept all precincts except one.Frank Pisano won Precinct 7, his own. Library Board President Andrew Harris was also re-elected.
At the league of Women Voters Candidates Forum last fall all four candidates for City Commission (Hof, Nakita, Sherman, and challenger Walsh) said they favored the library renovation. Downtown Publications endorsed the incumbents who were re-elected.
Where was the opposition to the Library plan last fall ? One wonders why Library Plan opponents Mr. Couter, Mr.Weaver, and Mr. Bloom didn't run for library board ? They could have given the residents a contested election and if elected could have raised objections and perhaps modified the Plan to be voted on Tuesday.
They would have had to file in August for a November election. Their first (if elected) Library Board meeting would have been in December after finalized plan has been presented to City Commissioner in late November. Still as candidates, and possibly as Library Board members-Elect their voices would have been heard.
Truth be told one gets the impression the Library bond issue opponents had and have no plan. They just don't like the current one.
No one has said what will happen if the vote on Tuesday is no.
So we will tell you. In a word, "nothing" and that by itself is bad for the long term future of the Library and perhaps Downtown Birmingham as well.
What was it Will Rogers said ? "Buy Land because they aren't making anymore of it."
Please scroll down to part 2