An Open Letter to our Misguided Elected Officials: Do NOT Close our Libraries and Firehouses

To those who would shut down our libraries and further disable our fire services:

As a lifetime resident of South Florida, I am appalled at the prospect of this proposed budget cut that would render our library system embarrassingly close to nonexistent and contribute to the further dismantling of our already feebly funded fire department.

When did it become commonplace to construct superfluous stadiums while allowing our educational and preventative infrastructures to fall into disarray? How far down the rabbit hole of misappropriated priorities must we plummet before we look around and realize our world has become unrecognizable because of fiscal policies set in place solely for purposes of reelection? Mayor Gimenez’s proposed – and subsequently reneged – 4.34 percent rate hike in property tax (reduced from the original 5.37 percent rate increase) to keep our basic services and our libraries open is a pittance, as far as I’m concerned, compared to the ultimate cost of the certain decline in property value and intellectual acumen that would result in doing away with two of the most critical services a society could bestow its citizenry.

How can closing 22 libraries – nearly half of the Miami-Dade County’s 49 remaining branches – be justified while, according to the County’s own website, only ten library employees make more than $100 thousand while 112 in corrections do? In regards to our fire stations, what is being done about the 100 members of the fire department who are allowing their resources to be gutted while they and 408 members of our police force line their pockets with six figure salaries?

It is not an issue of affordability. It never was. If anyone argues it is so, dismiss them from your company because their advisement will surely lead you down the wrong path inevitably. A society has never been improved through declining literacy programs and neighborhoods on fire. How this can be argued any other way is beyond me.

One could suggest that the future is up on the web and that libraries are an antiquated commodity, however every informational source is, inevitably, traceable back to its book-based roots. There is something powerful in the unalterable, unchanging and ever-present content of a book, its pages subject to transformation only by fire, decay and use. Wikipedia, the go-to encyclopedia for the internet, can be changed by anyone. Anything posted online – on any website – can be modified by those with computing capabilities deft enough to do so. Think about that.

History is written – in books – about those brave enough to stand their ground for what is undeniably right, no matter the hardship endured. There is no bravery, nor exertive difficulty, in allowing this to pass. We must cherish and defend our resources, those both intellectual and infrastructure-protective, and you, our elected officials, must make it clear that, when it comes to cutting costs, libraries, firehouses and other social services of the like are off the table for good.

Thank you for your time and please, make the right – and just – decision.

Sincerely,

Jesse H. Scheckner

Here’s how you can help-

First thing’s first, sign the official petition:

Contact the Miami representatives voting on the item:

Mayor Carlos Gimenez– First proposed saving the libraries and fire houses and has since run screaming in the other direction.

(I also implore you to bombard this man’s Twitter account <@MayorGimenez>)

EMAIL- mayor@miamidade.gov

CALL- 305-375-5071

County Commissioner Suarez (District 7)-  Railed against “1% salaries” in our county government and yet is now slashing “99% jobs” that he has stated “are not the problem”.

 EMAIL- xaviersuarezesq@aol.com

CALL- 305-496-8484

County Commissioner Diaz (District 12)-  Served ice cream to 300 first-response firefighters on May 3rd, AKA “International Firefighter’s Day” – and is now putting many of them out of a job.

EMAIL- district12@miamidade.gov

CALL- 305-599-1200

County Commissioner Souto (District 10)- Said this past Tuesday that “closing libraries is like closing churches” and then proceeded to vote to close libraries.

EMAIL- district10@miamidade.gov

CALL- 305-375-4835

County Commissioner Lynda Bell (District 8)- Is threatening the safety of her own constituents by shutting down Cutler Bay’s firehouse.

EMAIL- district8@miamidade.gov

CALL- 305-375-5218 or 305-378-6677

County Commissioner Bovo (District 13)- Has publicized, at length, food programs existing at the libraries subject to closure.

EMAIL- District13@miamidade.gov

CALL- 305-820-8424

UPDATE! Commissioner Suarez has Responded!

Subject: FW: Message from Commissioner Xavier Suarez
Like you, I consider libraries to be of the highest priority for funding.  For that reason, my proposal on cutting costs was based on the bloated bureaucracy in the Fire Department, for which the Mayor had initially proposed an allocation of an extra $15 million in budget plus a corresponding tax increase.  For your information, I am attaching my press release and the list of supervisory personnel with the rank of “Chief” who are earning (I think you will agree) an exorbitant amount of money.

As for our public libraries, I am equally concerned with closing any libraries that can probably be kept open with minor expense.  Among these are “store-front” libraries in commercial establishments which could be adopted by major shopping centers, saving in rent and utilities.  Then we would budget enough so that all neighbors can have access to the Web – This is important in that approximately 25% of County residents do not have Internet access, many residing in my District.

In District 7, there is only one proposed library closing, and that is for Virrick Park.  This same library was previously targeted, and we managed to save it.  I am beginning conversations now with the City of Miami to find a revenue-neutral solution so that this library will not have to be closed.  After all, the Virrick Park Library renders a valuable service to a family-oriented community.

Personally, I have always felt that libraries serve as the backbone of our neighborhoods.  My aim is to keep them open and serving our community.

Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez
District 7

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(Slider photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

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Jesse Scheckner

A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a former semi-serious musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest performance in film has yet to come. He is TuffGnarl.com's editor-in-chief, a feature staff writer for MMASucka.com and the 2014 MMA Media Correspondent winner at the Florida MMA Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner to talk about the stuff he writes about with him.

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