Nutter of the year nomination
I am nominating someone for the ThinkingShift 2009 idiot of the year award. And this person has an apt name – Mayor Michael Nutter. And a nutter this dude appears to be. He is the Mayor of Philadelphia and wants to contribute to the dumbing-down of contemporary society. He (wait for it) wants to close libraries in Philadelphia to save money.
He wants to close 11 of the city’s 54 branch libraries at an estimated savings of $8 million a year. Nutter is also planning to deactivate seven fire department engine and ladder companies and close scores of city swimming pools. Tough luck if the city suffers a major fire!
Now, I’m not familiar with this city although I visited it once to deliver a workshop. But seems to me that any city that shuts libraries (and swimming pools) is closing off educational and social opportunities for children and adults. Don’t know about your local library but mine is used by young kids to improve their reading skills; older people as a recreational place to meet and borrow resources they can ill-afford; young mothers who participate in a book club whilst their young children listen to stories being read to them. Libraries contribute to the social fabric and provide a sense of community. Particularly in poorer areas, libraries provide a safe haven for at-risk kids. I could provide a very long list to this Nutter dude of what libraries do. But I won’t reinvent the wheel – Nutter can go here and find out all the ways libraries contribute to society, education and ciitizenship.
And swimming pools? Well, not everyone can afford a sparkling backyard pool and having one is not environmentally responsible anyway. So if you close community swimming pools, where do the kids and parents go on hot summer days? I guess Nutter will be happy when he finds kids scrawling graffiti on public buildings or participating in petty crime because the libraries and swimming pools have been slammed shut in their faces.
Thankfully, this ridiculous proposal of Nutter’s is turning into a fur fight that I will be watching with interest. A group of private citizens and some City Council members have filed a suit to stop this nutter. And a sensible judge has ruled in the plaintiff’s favour. But in an astonishing display of hubris, Nutter responded that the ruling hampers his Executive power to run the city, which apparently includes some scheme to “re-purpose” the libraries into “knowledge centers” by turning over public libraries to private sources. And we all know what that could mean: fewer services, reduced hours, less staff – all in the name of profit seeking.
I’m no Mayor but wouldn’t it be a smarter move to examine let’s say the number of motor cars clogging up the city’s roadways and perhaps tax those who bring their cars into the city. London hits its citizens with a congestion charge so why not consider this? Or what about conducting an energy audit of city buildings and schools and implementing energy saving techniques such as occupancy sensors, energy efficient fluorescent lighting and so on. Nutter could also have a look at highly paid city officials’ salaries, including his own, and perhaps give them all a haircut. And he could check out all the contractors the city is hiring and terminate those for non-essential services. He could also ask all city departments to examine their own spending and nominate three ways they could cut back. Heck, Philadelphia ask me to be your Mayor – I could come up with dozens of ways to prune the city budget without slashing libraries and swimming pools!