Vote NO on proposition 2. Basically, a yes vote would absolutely gut the library budget. The library has until 2021 before the existing millage expires, so we can fix the funding issue. This proposition, however, would gut the libraries for 20 years.
Many of our library directors know first hand how these cuts will put a strain on available resources. This will allow our property taxes that we pay to fund our libraries to be used in areas that we have not consented to. As voters, we are being asked to approve a 40 percent reduction in revenue with no clear roadmap for budget directors to adequately adjust their budget before their existing reserves run out. Also, we don’t know where the money is going directly, and we don’t know why the city is campaigning so hard for it. We do know that Peter Bowen from Sonder now oversees economic development, and that a lot of money from the libraries will go to “economic development.” Why give money to a Sonder executive with no level of oversight?
Libraries are invaluable to our communities and a lack of library resources disproportionately hurts people of color who often depend on library resources to have equal access to educational materials. In 2019, the president of the American Library Association, Loida Garcia-Febo expressed concern over President Trump’s FY2020 budget that proposed substantial cut to funding to our libraries, stating “Cutting federal support for programs like the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) comes at the cost of early literacy, often in the most underserved areas of our nation. In addition, the White House budget proposal undermines public education for all students, penalizes librarians striving to improve their professional skills, and makes careers in public service out of reach for many.” Progressives were adamantly opposed to cuts to funding under Trump, and New Orleans’ progressives should be furious we are allowing this to happen in a progressive city.
Our children will be the ones who are mostly affected by a yes vote. It’s goes against the basic fabric of equal access to educational resources. Often, we criticize conservatives for cuts like this and not being “pro-life” in terms of ensuring all of our children across socioeconomic and racial lines have adequate access to the same educational resources that everyone enjoys. Libraries nurture our brains and its resources enrich our lives. We need to be pro-life by making sure we don’t deprive our children of the resources they need to ensure cognitively healthy lives. An educated society is a richer society.
Libraries are essential to enriching our literary experiences. They are a cornerstone to the education of our people and essential to an informed democracy. They are the last areas we need to cut in the age of bigotry, conspiracy theories, and unsubstantiated assaults on our scientific community.
If they want to divert our taxes to fund programs that are already adequately funded relative to what our libraries would be, then they should cut our property taxes and raise the property taxes on corporate entities that pollute our environment, and deprive our communities of public goods. Vote no on proposition two. Our democracy commands it.
Soon on Big Easy Magazine, you will be able to hear from New Orleanians who would be directly impacted by this proposition. Election Day is December 5. Early voting is Nov. 20-28 from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (excluding Sunday, Nov. 22, Thursday, Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving) and Friday, Nov. 27 (Acadian Day); early voting is advanced one day because of the holidays).
Big Easy Magazine’s editorial board contributed to this opinion piece.