Showing posts with label library. Show all posts
Showing posts with label library. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seat with a privileged view

The view from my seat at Tuesday's LSU-North Carolina game at the College World Series was stellar.

The game? Not so much.

In my humble opinion, my town -- Omaha -- is becoming America's next great city. Officials in other towns like to say things like that; Omaha just does it.

MY HOPE, and my expectation, is that the old cow town on the banks of the muddy Mo will just keep up the good work, surviving even the ideological idiocy of its new Republican mayor, Jean Stothert, who as a councilwoman last year took the lead in negotiating a new fire-union contract that broke the city budget and who now vows to balance it without raising taxes or diminishing essential city services.

That's an easy task if you believe in magic.

Unfortunately, we're now starting to get an idea of how Her Honor defines "essential city services." Public libraries would not be among them, according to the Omaha World-Herald. 
Omaha Public Library branches could close and other service cuts could be made in light of budget cuts proposed by Mayor Jean Stothert, the head of the city’s Library Board said.

The Omaha Public Library Board will discuss the potential cuts today, board President Stuart Chittenden said in a Tuesday memo to the mayor.

Chittenden said a $13.1 million library budget suggested by Stothert for 2014 “will require reductions in both services and resources.”

According to Chittenden’s letter, the library is facing a potential cut of nearly $393,000 for the rest of 2013 and all of 2014.

Last week, Stothert said city department directors had submitted 2014 budget proposals that exceed forecast revenue by roughly $20 million. The city also faces a revenue shortfall of about $13.5 million in its 2013 budget.

Stothert asked the directors last week to cut their 2014 budget requests to certain targets, although she declined to identify the specific numbers for each department.

Department directors were to submit their trims to the Mayor’s Office by the end of business Wednesday, Stothert said.
LIKE THE I-got-mine right wing of her party (And is there any other wing in the GOP anymore?), Stothert is happy to give a free ride to those who don't need one while balancing the municipal ledger on the backs of those who can't afford a beautiful view from the ol' ballgame . . . or regular cybertrips to

The genius of Omaha is an engaged citizenry and a civic elite fiercely protective of the family jewels -- the city's economy and its quality of life. Pray God that Omaha's own Marie Antoinette shortly will be put in her place by her betters -- an expansive group here in River City, as it turns out.

Now back to your regularly scheduled ballgame.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Skippyjon schools tots in Mayhem 101

It's celebrity story time at the library.

The guest of honor is a popular literary cat with an oversized head.

The room is full of little kids.

What could go wrong?

The downtown branch of the Omaha Public Library was about to find out, says the Omaha World Herald's Josefina Loza:

Children love Skippyjon Jones because he's adventurous and has a knack for getting in and out of trouble. And at the library, Skippyjon lived up to his reputation, giving a few dozen children an unforgettable eyeful.

Parents, teachers and nannies guided children to a carpeted area on the fourth floor of the library. They anxiously awaited the grayish-brown kitten's arrival.

Minutes before story time, Skippyjon finally walked out of a back room to greet the kids.

Many of the little boys and girls inched closer to the costumed cat, who sat near a librarian who was reading one of his books. In between readings, Skippyjon gave hugs and handshakes.

As Omahan Joanna Ziemba, a downtown child care instructor, stepped closer to the cat, she noticed something was wrong. His oversized eyeball had started to dangle from its socket.

Another child care provider tried to warn Skippyjon about his droopy eye.

"Oh, no, Skippy," she said. "Your eye is about to fall out.

Here, let me put it back in."

READ the whole thing to find out what happened next.

I ain't telling you any more because, frankly, I don't want you spewing your damn coffee all over my perfectly clean blog.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Speak American! (wink)

You know how folks are always saying "This is America. Speak English"?

We don't mean it.

Sunday, the
Omaha World-Herald gave lie to our dirty little secret with this story:

A small-town Nebraska librarian who won national recognition for teaching immigrants how to read has resigned in a dispute over expanding her literacy work.

Karla Shafer, who was awarded two national grants to teach literacy to immigrants and given an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., resigned her part-time post as director of the Hooper Public Library last month after she was confronted by a City Council member.

Shafer had planned to teach English to immigrants at Nickerson, about nine miles from Hooper, as part of a second $5,000 American Dream grant from the American Library Association.

But she quit her 28-hour-a-week, $10.64-an-hour job, she said, after City Council President Gene Meyer told her she shouldn't do that because it would appear that the village of Hooper approved of the classes.

“I told him, ‘You can't stop me. It's my own vehicle, on my own day off, with my own energy,'” Shafer said. “You can't tell me what I'm doing on my time off.”

When reached, Meyer disputed that description of events.

“I just said it was pretty unusual that we paid the librarian to go to Nickerson,” Meyer said. “She could do that (literacy class) in town.

“She doesn't work there anymore, and I'm not going to go any further on it,” he added.
NO, WHAT WE really mean when we say that if people want to live in America, they ought to learn English is "Get your damn Mexican butt back to Mexico where you belong. America for Americans!"

And if they habla'd that lingo better, towns like Hooper still would be blissfully all-white, and troublesome free-thinking weirdos like Karla Shafer -- what with all her fancy books and pinko ideas -- wouldn't have half the chance to make mischief like she ended up doing with all them socialist "grants" she was getting.

Don't touch
that dial! According to the newspaper, this gets even better.
After she resigned, Shafer said, she went to the library to retrieve her personal items, including many decorations and displays she bought with her own funds.

She said the city clerk and police chief not only blocked her from retrieving her personal items but also began questioning her about how the grant funds were used and whether any went to her personally.

Shafer said she started crying.

“I felt like a criminal,” she said.

Police Chief Matt Schott and Hooper Mayor Larry Klahn said it ultimately was determined that nothing improper had been done with the grant money.

“We had a few questions. She answered them,” Klahn said.

He said city officials had been concerned that city property and Shafer's personal possessions were intermixed.

Shafer was allowed into the library Friday to get her personal belongings. That came after she hired a lawyer, on the advice of friends and library colleagues, to provide help in answering the allegations about the money and in getting back her things.

Shafer said she had to sell a family recreational vehicle to afford the attorney fees. She has suspended teaching English at the library to two Hispanic families that she said are legal residents.
THE MORAL of this tale is a familiar one: Good deeds never go unpunished.

And that goes double in woebegone little burgs like Hooper, Neb.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

You can book it . . . Omaha comes through

When politicians and cranks are losing their heads and hardening their hearts all around you, sometimes good people will step up and do the right thing.

And when city council members are desperate to avoid hard choices -- and when the sort of taxpayer who likes to call into talk-radio programs is railing against the possibility of paying $26 more in property tax a year so the city might be saved -- some people will dig deep for the common good.

I LOVE OMAHA because this is the kind of place where somebody usually steps up. According to the World-Herald, it has happened again, and the city's libraries are saved . . . for now:

You could see the signs for blocks along the stretch of 30th Street that leads to the Florence Library.

“Save the Florence Library.”

“Please help save the library.”

Omaha did.

The bucks rolled in Friday for Omaha Public Library services, and it looks like the Florence Library will remain open.

Library leaders weren’t sure of the exact amount raised by Friday evening but said they had raised more than enough to keep the library open and fund other library programs and initiatives.

“We’re ecstatic about how the private sector has responded,” said library board President Kevin Thompson. “It’s been a good day, in my opinion, for the city and for the Omaha Public Library.”

Donations ranging from a Millard patron’s $50 check to $75,000 from a pair of Florence natives were triggered by a challenge grant announced Thursday.

The $200,000 challenge grant, from donors who wanted to remain anonymous, was contingent upon Omahans raising an additional $100,000 by Sept. 1

With pledges that poured in early Friday, it appeared as though the goal had been reached and the operating hours, staff and programming at other library branches would not be sliced after all.

The e-mails, phone calls and messages from contributors moved Carolyn Rooker to tears.

The chief executive officer of the Omaha Public Library Foundation took a call from the two Florence natives, who also asked to be anonymous, and one told her: “I consider the Florence Library an important part of my education and who I am today.”

The news sparked a celebration in front of the library branch Friday evening. It had been planned as a community protest to keep the library open.

“This is what you call a community. You guys did it!” Sherry Grayson said as she held a bullhorn she didn’t need. “This is called self-initiating.”

Thompson said the $300,000 would be enough to keep the Florence branch from closing and to stop other cost-cutting moves, such as the layoffs of about 50 library employees citywide.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cutboigy! Budgetboigy! No library! Kindle!

Councilman Sigerson! The people have no books!

Well, let them buy Kindles, then.

Tune in again same time next week for another thrilling installment of Chuck Sigerson: City Councilman. Our next high-voltage episode . . .
"They Shoot Red Robins, Don't They?"

COME TO THINK of it -- given a certain council member's alleged weakness for a gal in plush -- perhaps former Omaha Public Library chief Rivkah Sass might have gotten farther with the council if she had shown up for this month's budget hearing in a bird suit. The I-wish-I-didn't-believe-this-but-I-do details are in the latest edition of The Reader:
Every year the city council holds budget meetings where department heads present financial needs and answer questions. This year Sass was the only director asked to defend the existence of her department. Councilman Chuck Sigerson said the Internet and devices such as Amazon’s Kindle might eliminate the need for libraries.

“Sure we can all download books on a Kindle, but who’s going to buy the Kindle for us?” Sass said. “There’s an assumption people can afford these devices and then there’s the thing that chills me to the bone … when the book 1984 disappeared from the Kindle. Talk about the ultimate irony.”

Sass said libraries are changing with the times, beyond e-books and DVDs to involve more people in more ways. For instance OPL now offers etiquette classes, baby classes and parenting classes.

“Information isn’t just something you find in a book; information is about satisfying a need, whether it’s curiosity, educational or informational,” she said.
IT'S TOO EASY to merely label right-wing pols like Chuck Sigerson a civic embarrassment and leave it there. That wouldn't do justice to the fundamental disconnect at the core of the "conservative, family-values" governing philosophy of the American right.

What we have here is a credo that favors decimating the civic infrastructure of a community -- indeed, of a nation -- above the possibility of modest tax hikes for even those citizens who can most afford it. In Sigerson's case, the Republican stalwart of the Omaha council would rather raise the specter of a city without libraries than raise the property tax on a $100,000 home by $25 or $52 a year.

Put it this way: To Sigerson and his anti-tax constituents, all the municipal services that make a city a livable place -- those services that give small comfort to the afflicted and provide nice things for the masses for little or no fee -- are not worth the cost of an Old Market dinner for two (with drinks) on a Saturday night.

Or burgers and booze at Red Robin.

COPS AND JAILS, they'll pony up for. Books and thin slivers of hope? No way.

In the moral and political universe of Chuck Sigerson, when fiscal times get tough, it's those who depend most on municipal services who receive the call for sacrifice. And it's those with enough money to live in nice suburban homes who get off scot-free.

This philosophy, frankly, is anything but "conservative," and it turns the raison d'être for democratic governance -- fostering the common good and protection of the weak from the strong -- on its head. This is radical stuff . . . just as radical as any mad schema cooked up by Lenin or Marx.

What it does is destroy the very notion of collective responsibility for the community's well-being and turn government into a protection racket for society's most well-heeled. And it does this at the expense of -- in the instance of public libraries, for example -- the opportunity of Omaha's poorest and most vulnerable to have something approaching the educational and informational resources of those, like Sigerson, who think nothing of going online to purchase a $299 Kindle.

Or purchase $9.99 E-books to load onto the thing.

LIKEWISE, "conservative" radicals think absolutely nothing of denying low-income youth well-maintained city parks . . . or pools . . . or recreational programs . . . or after-school programs. This for the fiscal sake of people who ostensibly can't shell out a few bucks more in property tax but damn well have the scratch to pay for dance lessons, soccer leagues and iPods for their middle-class progeny.

Oh . . . I forgot Kindles.

This isn't conservatism, it's radicalism. It's government-sanctioned social Darwinism.

And it's a moral outrage.