Imagine that your local library district, or whichever of your taxing entities funds the library, asked for 0.7% tax increase. Imagine next that a group of concerned taxpayers (the dreaded Tea Party) formed a coalition to defeat said tax increase. And further imagine that the pro-tax hike crowd (oh, excuse me, I mean the “pro-library” crowd) staged a book-burning party in protest.
It happened in Troy, Michigan. I realize this is so far removed from Texas as to be a mythical place, and as such this story may seem merely apocryphal. But there are people who think the idea was so brilliant they gave the people who staged it an award. There was no real book-burning, because apparently that would have been too extreme.
The economy has been tough on local governments, and libraries by extension. Libraries are, whether you accept the idea or not, a “nice-to-have” when crafting a budget reliant on taxes and fees. Libraries are wonderful places for communities and I’m all for them. But I’m also practical enough to realize that when times are lean and governments, like the people whose taxes pay for government to operate, must make tough choices.
The response from the tax-hike supporters in Troy was abominable, not just in the symbolism itself, but what it implies. I can’t speak for the Tea Party organization that opposed the tax hike, however I can make a safe assumption that not one of them was anti-literacy, anti-book, or in any way resembles a goose-stepping book burner. They simply realize that as taxpayers, they have their limits. In this economy especially, as the state of Michigan has an 8.5% unemployment rate (that’s higher than the national average). Libraries, or food on the table?
Political theater certainly has it’s place, and I’m not one to disapprove on those grounds. Simply that, the correlation here shows an ignorance about the economic reality that our local governments, and taxpayers, are facing. Let’s hope we don’t see this same kind of rhetoric in Texas any time soon.