Budget reports are bringing bad and worse news for the Philadelphia region. Recent news articles have chronicled the growing difficulties for museums and historical buildings as they lose funding from the commonwealth.
Public-access television and radio is taking just as many hits, seeing drop-offs in support from the public and from the state. Just as bad, corporate giving is down, as companies begin to worry about their own survival more than their civic commitments.
Perhaps most notably, Philadelphia libraries are in the midst of a struggle between outraged citizens and a constricting city budget. Currently, the libraries are in limbo, with the mayor (and a judge) saying they will not be closed, yet with no one quite certain how many hours the libraries will be open each week.
Many people are turning to the government for answers. And the government may have brought the attention on itself by giving away upward of $1 trillion to bank and mega-corporations with few strings attached. If banks can get hundreds of billions of dollars without a plan for how to use it responsibly, why can’t a library get $10,000, the thinking goes.
This is a good question, but the truth is, libraries don’t immediately employ the number of people that factories do.
So, even though libraries may help students and adults search for jobs and increase their employability, they don’t actually give them jobs, and hence, get cut from the stimulus plans.
This is why libraries will depend on those they help. If Philadelphians really want their libraries, they will have to keep them open themselves and not by chewing the mayor’s ear off every chance they get.
If libraries are really that important, and we believe they are, why can’t Philadelphia pay a tax to support the libraries? The tax money could help keep the libraries open longer.
Not only could this save the libraries, but public support for such a tax would send a message to City Hall and the mayor that Philadelphians care about its youth and their futures, and won’t let a recession affect them.
We know this may not be the most popular suggestion. Building public support for higher taxes in the midst of a recession is never going to be easy. But offering money up to back up the city’s demands for its libraries would bolster its argument more than boisterous town hall meetings ever could.