Wells to the street to protest closing of MLK Library (but Mayor Gray finally found his Mayoral-ness)
Not everyone is taking the Sunday closing of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library sitting down. This Sunday, the first that MLK will be closed, Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-6) will speak at a rally outside the downtown library at 901 G Street NW at 1 PM.
While local media has cited the empathy deficit and inconsistency by the Mayor and City Council to the plight of the libraries, Wells, is nonetheless optimistic. “I find that most of my colleagues are sympathetic to the need, and I’ll continue to push to find the funds needed.”
In a vacuum of organized opposition to the library’s closing the rally is being convened by the DC Library Renaissance Project. “Budget hearing testimony from every ward was not enough to make clear to this particular government that residents want their libraries open more hours, not fewer—especially in difficult economic times,” says Robin Deiner, Executive Director of the Renaissance Project. “Sunday’s rally has become necessary to achieve that understanding with our officials.”
Though supporting funding for libraries might seem as wholesome as apple pie, some library advocates point to reasons why it’s not a top priority for city leaders. At a campaign forum last fall, former Washington City Paper and Washington Post reporter Elissa Silverman asked candidates if they supported restoring money for Sunday hours at MLK as well as to show the audience their DC library cards. Not one candidate—including now At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange—had a borrower’s card in their wallet
Library hours back and forth
Under Mayor Fenty, in the fall of 2009 Sunday hours at all 24 branch libraries were eliminated while MLK Library would stay open on Sunday, because of its accessibility to metro.
According to internal figures from the library, costs of keeping MLK open on Sundays and branch libraries during the school year are manageable. The cost of keeping MLK open Sunday, from 1pm to 5pm, all year is $316,000. To keep 11 of the 24 branch libraries open on Sunday, May to September, would cost $365,853. Included in the 11 libraries are one in each ward plus one additional library in wards 7 and 3.
All neighborhood libraries were open Sunday, September through May from October 2007 to October 2009. The city’s fiscal year begins October 1st. To keep all neighborhood libraries open Sundays, from September to May would cost $713,215 and to keep 11 neighborhood libraries open Sundays all year would cost an estimated $487,804.
Furthermore, the capital budget has provided for not only brand new or renovated libraries across the city to open – that are then not open on Sundays – but for a RFP to“complete the Interior Improvements to the Business Science and Technology Reading Room and the Great Hall” to hit the street. The renovation of MLK is historic and laudable, but at the apparent cost of public access is legitimately questionable and ineffectual.
Sunday’s Last Hour
Last Sunday’s fateful final hour passed slowly. Many of the people I spoke with had only just learned the library would be closed on Sundays.
“It’s terrible we have to go through this,” Iman Shabazz said as she used a public computer on the first floor. “What are we supposed to do? Go over the bridge into Virginia?
In the Washingtoniana division two UDC nursing students, Gallen Rodes and Demetria Byrd, were reviewing for an upcoming test. “We came here originally for the free internet access.” UDC, the city’s public university, does not maintain Sunday library hours. “It’s hard schedule-wise. Working, kids, full-time student,” said Byrd. “They don’t care.”
The second floor’s teen space was active with students studying, chatting, and digging through their friends newly uploaded photos on Facebook. Coolly leaning against a wall just outside the door was 17 year-old “D.” Although he frequents MLK with his friends, he hadn’t heard the library would be closing on Sundays. “I’m like jah mad,” D said to his friend nearby. “The Mayor, son, he’s gonna have to see me.”
“In five minutes the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library will be closing. Please have all books and materials checked out,” announced a DC Library Police officer over the building’s loud speaker.
“This is a really great and progressive place to go just for pleasure sake,” said David McCullough, a high school student aware he shares a name with a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Along with his girlfriend, McCullough self-checked out seven graphic and manga novels a couple minutes after 5pm. With Love Sick by Jake Coburn the last book checked out, the commodious lobby of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library was abandoned.
According the press release announcing that Sunday hours at MLK have now been restored, it appears Gray will make a ceremonial appearance at the opening of the library. I wonder if Gray has a library card?
Who do we give credit too for hours being restored? Does it matter? Maybe Gray or his people realized, they really shouldn’t close the one library open in the entire city. Gray might not be as tone deaf as we thought, but he still needs to deal with the Bellevue situation and other matters of running a big city. We give credit where it’s due, but credit for something that you should already be doing is not deserved.
Last evening Yvette Alexander held her 3rd annual Ward 7 Townhall Community Meeting and Crime Summit with 6th District MPD, 6D Citizen Advisory Council, and Superior Court of the District of Columbia Community Courts. Tyrone Parker was seen in attendance along with Police Chief Lanier.
There were two senior citizens welcoming visitors to Kelly Miller and asking them to sign a petition in support of Gray. Lapel stickers were available alongside campaign literature. There were no signs of Fenty or his trademark Green.
Meanwhile around 5:00pm, Thursday, 5/20 Mayor Fenty was observed by The Syndicate in the 1400 block of Alabama Avenue SE.
According to a campaign email last night the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO endorses Count Orlok. They boost more than 150,000 members – many of the AFSCME fashion.
The Syndicate must note its being surprised by Gray’s campaign in small battle alleys to-date, but he is still fighting a larger war theatre that is unfavorable.
Below is courtesy of MWC’s FL-CIO website..
METRO COUNCIL ENDORSES
GRAY FOR DC MAYOR
Calling him “A leader of, by and for the people,” the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO last night unanimously voted to endorse DC City Council Chairman Vince Gray’s candidacy for the mayor of the District of Columbia. “In the challenging times that lie ahead, Vince’s broad vision and deep community roots are just what the District needs to come together around a common agenda,” said Metro Council President Jos Williams. Gray (l) welcomed the endorsement and promised that “Labor will have an integral role in a Gray administration,” adding that “Union members are the life’s blood of our communities and our economy. They deserve equal access and equal opportunity to development and the jobs created by development in our city.”
As the weather heats up and people are out and about in the city you can feel something special in the air and see the signs to prove it ; a good old Mayoral throw down.
With Vincent Gray aka Count Orlok finally throwing his hat in the ring last month, becoming the 2010 version of Linda Cropp, I wondered if he was sincere in his ambitions. Travelling through East Washington, Gray’s base, I’ve seen a prominent presence of Gray’s blue campaign signs. But I’ve also seen Fenty signs and Fenty people hitting the streets.
Fenty has been spotted stumping on Wheeler Road SE and throughout all parts of the city. As Gray holds hearings, sitting on his Council Chair tree stump, he is watching time go by. Time he does not have.
Gray’s website here. (More interactive and impressive than the current Mayor’s site. By visiting Gray’s site you can sign-up to be a member of wide range of coalitions from all 8 Wards, to Cab Driver for Gray, Lawyers for Gray, Students for Gray, Seniors for Gray, etc.)
Saw this on why.i.hate.dc. The Syndicate feels (as we all apparently should when seeing a woman in a wheelchair shoveling out a bus stop) bad, but then again the woman goes harder than our Mayor so shovel on with your bad go-hard self. We ain’t mad at ya. Does Ms. Wheelchair DC now have an issue in which to launch her Mayoral campaign?
The New Snow Removal Plan for the Nation’s Capital:
Legions of elderly women in wheelchairs will be deployed during the next major snowfall to hit the Nation’s Capital. Here is a quick look at a beta version of this new snow removal system. Armed with their two-foot long shovels and orange safety vests, these intrepid ladies will clear out your neighborhood in no time!
Just took this today – two weeks after the snow began to fall. Wouldn’t it be nice if a wheelchair-bound elderly woman wouldn’t have to shovel through two feet of snow to get on a bus? I know the Washington, DC Government and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority had their hands full with the past blizzard, but this is ridiculous. I filmed her for six seconds then put the camera down to go help her out…but her bus came seconds later. She had to wheel herself out through a driveway.
A piece in yesterday’s Outlook section said Councilmember Fenty would be calling out Mayor Fenty. Yep.
“Fenty the Council member wouldn’t have been cowed by a couple of feet of snow. If he didn’t commandeer a plow and run it himself, I would have at least expected him to call a news conference, climb atop one of those grimy, gray snow mounds and give voice to the frustrations of his constituents who are outraged that it has taken the city too long to get to the many streets and sidewalks that remain wholly or partially clogged with snow and ice.
That’s essentially what he did in February 2003, when residents criticized Mayor Williams for not clearing roughly a foot and a half of snow quickly enough. To be fair, that year’s snowstorm wasn’t in the same class as this winter’s blizzards. But the bow-tie-wearing Williams didn’t even get credit for cutting short a Caribbean vacation and coming back to the city in the midst of the storm. Council member Fenty certainly didn’t cut him any slack, lobbing this snowball, as reported in The Washington Post: “The [mayor] for some reason thinks it’s helpful to come on television and announce they’ve done a good job. That doesn’t make residents feel any better when their individual streets haven’t been plowed, and it doesn’t leave me the impression they are measuring this objectively.”
Fast forward to this month, and this is what Mayor Fenty said in response to residents’ complaints: “Our residential plows have been doing a good job, but this is a historic snowfall in many ways. . . . They literally could not have worked any harder.”
Lastly, The Syndicate must give Greater Greater Washington its due respect and props for going hard, as well. When chatter arises about the utility of blogs/social media/etc in shaping the evolution or devolution of our historic sense of community, please look no further than what GGW organized for the benefit of our city to see where and how our keyboards and community can MOB up and MOB together. GGW for Mayor?
In the spring and summer of 2006 anyone who left the house saw for their own eyes that Adrian Fenty was as ubiquitous in the city street’s as 992s (now and always “legendary”). Then Ward 4 Councilmember was “beating his feet” everywhere in the city, at all hours.
From being one of the first to arrive on the scene of late night / early morning Uptown shootings to taking time to meet with the DC Youth Advisory Council this man was everywhere.
Any Washingtonian native, generational or working on their second week in town, could see Fenty was winning wear it mattered. As they say in the clichéd currency of campaign managers and politicians, Fenty was winning “hearts and minds”.
Before The Washington Post released polls indicating Fenty’s approval ratings were in decline, anyone on the street could tell you the chatter within the peasantry for Fenty is not all love.
Although the powers that be are strongly urging City Council Chair Vince Gray to oppose Fenty he has been at best non-committal. So we are now left with current At-Large City Council Member Michael Brown, former broadcaster Leo Alexander, and some other random people?
Unfortunately, only Brown, whose late father Ron Brown was Commerce Secretary under Pres. Clinton, has the pedigree to one day be considered old guard. So we are missing this year’s Linda Cropp. Or even Carol Schwartz, who ran for Mayor and lost four times; 1986, 1994, 1998, and 2002, for that matter.
We need some fireworks in the 2010 race.
Mr. Marion Barry, The Washington Syndicate formally asks you to run.
You are the only one beloved enough by the old guard to be this year’s Linda Cropp.
I know you can make this thing interesting. You still have time. C’mon Son!