Say no to any library closures

The public debate over the future of the branch libraries took a Darwinian turn yesterday morning when BPL Trustees chairman Jeffrey Rudman revealed he couldn’t possibly consider closing branches in Uphams Corner and Egleston Square, claiming they “deal with the most vulnerable people in this city. I would not close them.”

So there you have it: Under this trustees board, under this administration, judgments are made based on a perception of which neighborhood’s residents are “most vulnerable.” In that world, children in Lower Mills are not as needy as children in Uphams Corner. What does that say about what the people who run our public libraries think of us and our neighbors?

The underlying premise of the current discussion is flawed. BPL president Amy Ryan said last week, “The mayor has been very imaginative and supportive of envisioning a world-class library for Boston.” By definition, cities that close libraries can never be considered “world-class.”

Tomorrow, the trustees will take a final vote on the issue. They have a binding fiduciary obligation to approve a balanced budget – but they must not allow any library closures. To say one neighborhood is more deserving than another is unconscionable.

There are almost five months before the new city fiscal year begins, and the library’s budget shortfall is a little more than $3.6 million. With inspired leadership and political commitment, there is ample time to find new sources of funds – from the state and city budgets and from private philanthrophy.

The BPL should ask for voluntary donations from the public, and immediately retain professional fund-raisers to reach out to the greater community for support. Down the road, as the economy recovers, the city can expect to see state local aid restored.
There has been much heat generated in the debate so far; but momentous decisions to close these vital public assets should not be made in such a short period of time. Managing through tough fiscal times can be difficult, but President Ryan, Mayor Menino and the trustees must keep in mind this compelling reality:
Closing a neighborhood branch library is forever.

– Ed Forry

Rough road ahead at the Circle

Travel in and around Neponset Circle and Pope John Paul II Park is about to become ugly.

Next week, the state will begin a $35 million re-build of the Neponset River Bridge, and the congestion that will result is bound to be a major headache for people who live, work, and drive through that Neponset neighborhood.

The Reporter’s Gin Dumcius reports today that the work requires closing off at least two of the six travel lanes that now carry more than 70,000 vehicles back and forth to Quincy, and it will continue for the next three years, causing frequent delays on the roadways.

Currently there’s heavy rush hour traffic, in the mornings as Gallivan Blvd. traffic merges with northbound commuters coming north from Quincy, and in the afternoons, when Expressway traffic at Exit 12 at Staples gets clogged, and slows right lane travel on that artery. There is no doubt the project will make matters worse:
The residential neighborhoods off Neponset Avenue, Gallivan Blvd., and in Port Norfolk are likely to become alternate routes for frustrated motorists, and shoppers who seek to shop at Walgreens will have to struggle to get in and out of that parking lot.
Perhaps things will settle down after a while, when commuters discover the delays, seek alternate routes, and find a way to avoid passing through. But for now, beginning next Monday morning, local drivers can expect long delays there every day – morning, noon, and evenings.