This should be a crime: holding remodeling of the Salem Public Library's Children's Room hostage to a crazy plan to convert the entire library into a police facility while putting the library... somewhere else.
Or maybe City officals will conclude Salem just doesn't need a central library.
Crime or not, it's happening.
City Manager Linda Norris and her co-conspirators at City Hall have told the library administrator that the planned $250,000 worth of renovations to the Children's Room -- paid for from privately-raised funds -- has to be put on hold pending the outcome of City Council deliberations about whether to turn the Salem Public Library into a police facility.
Yesterday I talked with a woman who is a member of library and police advisory committees. She also is a mother of two young children. She's aghast at what City officials are doing. More: really, really angry.
As she should be.
I was told that currently it is common for 100 people to take part in the Storytime sessions at the current overcrowded Children's Room. Elementary school field trips to the library can only happen on one day, when the regular Storytime isn't happening in the Children's Room.
The remodeling, which was all ready to go before City Manager Norris put up a stop sign, would add another Storytime room -- thereby allowing school field trips to come on any day of the week.
This person felt that City officials are trying to kill Storytime by leaving the Children's Room so crowded with 80, 90, or even 100 people in the room, that children and parents won't come back. Then City staff can say, "Look, fewer people are using the library; so let's convert the Children's Room into holding cells."
Outrageous. A word that is being used increasingly often to describe City Hall goings-on. For sure, not just by me.
Think about it: the City of Salem has never had a public hearing of any sort about the plan to convert the Salem Public Library into a police facility. I reported on this nine days ago, but I'm pretty sure the Statesman Journal, our so-called "paper of record" hasn't done a story on the notion so far.
So once again, secretive back-room deal making is the modus operandi for Mayor Peterson, City Manager Norris, and the City Council. But this is an especially outrageous outrage.
Geez... stopping renovations to the Children's Room from going forward because it would look bad if these much-needed improvements are ripped out when the entire Salem Public Library is evicted from its building and forced to move elsewhere -- heartless.
Plus, I was told that City officials have been regularly raiding the library budget to pay for other city services.
This is tragic.
But just as with the needless U.S. Bank tree killings, there is a certain tragicomic feel to what the City of Salem is doing this time. Adding the "comic" doesn't make the outrageous actions of Norris, Peterson, et. al. any less so. It just illustrates how farcical this new episode in "City Officials Gone Wild" is.
See my post, "Salem's US Bank tree cutting needs to be featured on The Daily Show."
Maybe it makes sense to have a two-subject Daily Show special report now, the US Bank tree cutting and the Children's Room into holding cells (or whatever) proposal.
I could see a bunch of children sitting on the floor, enjoying Storytime. Then a SWAT team bursts in, body armor on, brandishing batons. "Exit the room! Hands up!" they yell at the startled children, parents, and library staff. "The library is now a police facility, per order of the Salem City Council!"
The kids are escorted out; a tough-guy construction crew marches in. They start cutting up the Storytime posters, shelves, and books with chainsaws, demolishing the walls with sledgehammers. The pieces of a jail cell start to be assembled in what used to be the Children's Room.
Funny? Yeah, sure could be. However, this is no joke. It really is what City officials are seriously considering, albeit in a less dramatic fashion than my Daily Show bit.
Tell them, no way. I've been told that Councilor Bednarz is especially big on converting the library into a police facility. You might want to give him an especially large piece of your mind.
Let the Children's Room remodeling go forward. Storytime shouldn't be held hostage to a crazy idea of making the Salem Public Library into a police facility that easily could be built elsewhere for much less money.
This is no joke. The City is really, truly set on a course where the library could be converted into a police facility. Here's what city staffer Courtney Knox Busch said in an email message recently:
May 27, 2014 Update: Police Facility, Civic Center Seismic
City Council held a Work Session on May 21, 2014 to discuss the need for a new Police facility and seismic strengthening of the Civic Center buildings, including the Main Branch of the Salem Public Library.
The Work Session gave Council an opportunity to talk to one another and staff a better understanding of information Council would like to see to inform decisions for next steps. While no decisions can be made in a work session setting, several Councilors raised ideas for possible locations for a new Police Facility, including City-owned facilities like the Library. To further explore this possibility, Council requested information concerning:
1) whether the Library could be reconfigured to meet the Police Department’s needs and at what cost and
2) what City-owned properties are available (e.g. Marion Parkade, leased properties downtown, Windows to the West) that might work for a new Police or Library facility.
Staff anticipates returning to Council in late June with a report on what it would take (staff time, schedule and cost) to provide the requested information. At that point, Council will review the schedule and determine if the costs are an appropriate investment.
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