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In Great Barrington town elections, consider the value of libraries to economic development

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By Monday, May 13, 2019 Letters 4

To the editor:

Friends of the GB Libraries is a nonprofit organization and, as such, does not endorse specific candidates for elected office. However, we are allowed to educate the public on issues that are important to our members and to let them know how candidates have voted in the past.

When preparing the budget for last year’s Town Meeting, the two incumbent candidates running for Selectboard this year, and two of the candidates running for Finance Committee (one incumbent and one running to get his old seat back), voted to cut thousands of dollars from the library’s book-buying budget in order to save the average taxpayer less than three dollars per year.

They did this despite pleas from the Board of Library Trustees, the Library Director and the public. Consider that one trade paperback book now costs eighteen dollars if you can’t get it at the library.

We understand that taxes are high and that the burden on individual homeowners is heavy and getting heavier every year. We understand the need to carefully examine every item in the budget. But we are not going to solve the property tax problem by saving taxpayers a few dollars (literally). That is old thinking that has never worked. We need a new approach.

Leigh Davis (running for Selectboard) and Meredith O’Connor (running for Finance Committee) both stated in the candidates forum sponsored by THE NEWSletter and the Democratic and Republican town committees that the way to ease the burden of property taxes is through economic development.

In other words, we need to encourage people to move here and to start businesses here and to invest here.

Cutting the very programs that enrich Great Barrington and attract positive attention to our town is no way to encourage growth. Every week in the library we hear visitors to our town praising the Great Barrington Libraries. It’s one of the things that make this a great small town.

Both boards have three people running for two seats. Every voter can vote for two candidates for each board. When you cast your vote, please remember how important the library is to our town.

Holly Hamer, Michelle Kaplan, Michelle Raszl, Jeffrey Van de Visse

Steering Committee

Friends of the GB Libraries

4 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Tom Blauvelt says:

    Dear Steering Committee of the Friends of the GB Libraries,

    I am the incumbent member of the Finance Committee seeking re-election in today’s vote. I want to correct a rather serious error in your educational letter. Since I had a family member employed by the Library, I recused myself from voting on the library budget. I realize you wish to advocate for your candidate and in the interests of fairness and accuracy I hope you will correct your letter.

    1. Holly Hamer says:

      Tom, you are correct and we are sorry. You recused yourself from this vote because your wife was employed at the library.

      However, you DID vote in favor of every other program cut which was eventually overturned at Town Meeting. This does not excuse our mistake and we apologize.

      1. Tom Blauvelt says:

        Thank you for the apology.

  2. Stephen Cohen says:

    The Mason library is a treasure, with the most conscientious staff and volunteers imaginable. It is the intellectual heart of the town. To cut its budget, particularly its book buying budget, just may be the most foolish political act in memory. Communities become attractive and vibrant places to live and work because of their diverse cultural institutions, the library being a major part of the mix. I find it hard to believe that the citizens of Great Barrington would be so penny wise and pound foolish.

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