'There go the piano lessons....'

Dateline: Thu 08 Apr 2010

That's the punch line of a old, sick joke, about the neurosurgeon who was cutting away on a patient's brain, made a slip and uttered the above sentence.

Alas, it's what comes to mind re: the Star's story about the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, which is now contemplating eliminating six branches from its fleet. On the hit list: Glendale, Fountain Square, Brightwood, Flanner House, Spades Park and West Indianapolis. Ouch. Plus, 55 employees stand to lose their jobs.

This is the result of reduced property taxes, which will slash revenue to the library by $3.2 million. Public meetings will be held in May to discuss the proposals.

I'd like to see a cost-calculation if we had not built the new Downtown library -- a Taj Mahal architecturally, to be sure, but now, in retrospect, an awful boondoggle.

The Star backed that project, under former editorial writer Larry MacIntyre; I also columnized in favor of it....sadly, no crystal ball was available...and here we are today, with an increasingly struggling "old city," and it looks as if the urban poor won't even have the neighborhood library as a refuge.

Again, sad.




Melyssa [unverified] said:

Ruth, As the gal that led the 2007 property tax protests and tea parties, I'm going to state the obvious.

Maybe property taxes would not have gone up so much if it wasn't for that major boondoggle library construction project that went years and $100 million over budget!

I'd rather have all those branches open than that abomination addition to the classic downtown library.

This is why we need to eliminate every single unelected person in government who spends our money.

Doncha think that $100 million wasted downtown would keep those libraries open?

2010-04-08 15:01:29

ruthholl [Member] said:

Yes, I agree with you -- in hindsight, the massive Downtown library was a very silly expenditure. Then throw in all the lawsuits over construction issues, etc.
BUT, having just gotten my property tax bill today -- did you get yours? -- I'm struck by how little is taken out this time around.
It's often noted that other cities collect far more in taxes than Indy; we reamain relatively inexpensive....not sure we are getting all we deserve, though. What I am trying to say is: I guess I would be willing to pay a bit more to keep those 6 branches open. Whether the issue is overspending on the Downtown Central Library or the recent cap, I don't know....I do know it is a service that I think will be sorely missed....

2010-04-08 15:41:50

Rose [unverified] said:

It is more constructive to think about what to do going forward, than to try to have 20-20 hindsight and complain about mistakes that have already been made. Time only moves in one direction.

You don't get to have nice government services like libraries without the tax money from somewhere to pay for it, but it says a lot about Indy that there's always plenty of money for a new stadium. People can use library computers for job hunting, and there's story time and a lot of childrens' programs at the public library, but what do most people really use a new stadium for?

2010-04-08 16:00:52

hendy [Member] said:

Sell the new library and lease it back.

2010-04-08 16:03:17

librarian [unverified] said:

Read the IBJ story it is much better and gives more details - imagine that.

2010-04-08 16:03:37

John Howard [unverified] said:

It's particularly disheartening that the Fountain Square area, which is seeing the return of families with children, has it's branch on the closure list.

2010-04-08 16:40:45

Roberta X [unverified] said:

"Hindsight:" I wept at the time. Ripping out the old stacks was like tearing the heart out of that library. The new/remolded main library doesn't even *smell* like a library. ...Kinda smells like tax money burning, now that you mention it.

Blame thing is an eyesore, which is one thing; and now it's an eyesore at the expense of branch libraries in ares where there are more residences than businesses -- unlike downtown. That's another thing: Ooops.

2010-04-08 17:41:06

ruthholl [Member] said:

Just got home from meetings. I'm checking out the IBJ story. Thanks, all. More to come...

2010-04-08 20:32:45

ruthholl [Member] said:

Roberta X -- you have wisdom. Wish the rest of us had been that smart. Ed Szynaka was hell-bent on building the Palace, and we all blithely drank the sweet warm liquid (not allowed to say K---aid....they don't like it).
Your comments are appreciated. Thank you for saying it...

2010-04-08 20:38:39

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

$5 for a cancelled hold? Seems like they want to eliminate requests for books!

2010-04-08 20:41:04

Write Man [Member] said:

I'm with you here Ruth, I'd be willing to pay MORE in taxes to keep the branches open (and am guessing there are many others who feel the same).

As I've ranted here before, the decline in our collective educational attainment (in central Indiana and beyond) is a slow-motion train wreck that's going to affect us all.

The libraries are an important, affordable opportunity for increasing educational attainment, or at least stemming some of the decline.

While I'm here, how do you feel about designers in the newsroom?

Happy Friday...

2010-04-09 06:08:17

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Now, the library board is seeing branches as a target to save money. Amazing.

Stand back and get ready for the bombs, library board. Clearly this has been under consideration for months. Why the hell didn't you ask the public first, then ask staff? Bassackwards. As usual.

Who in their right mind would suggest closing a branch that saw huge increases in users?

This is starting to look amazingly like IPS. Money down a rathole.

And lots of innocent casualties in the wake. (Sigh)

Still, Roberta, that new addition is not an eyesore...it's a wonderful anchor in the neighborhood. If only it couldd've been accomplished with competent engineers, architects, contractors. We'd be about $50 million ahead of the game. But that alone is not the reason for this:

Property tax caps have amazing consequences. Be careful what you wish for. Libraries are not alone.

Thanks, Mitch.

2010-04-09 06:20:17

ruthholl [Member] said:

Write Man -- designers in news rooms? Are you talking about the people who put the pages together? indispensable...talented...not nearly the turnover in their ranks as with reporters.
I am curious: why? Wazzup?
And TTT, your prophecy is scary...schools closing, libraries shutting their doors. This is no way to run a city.
Oh, yeah, Mitch does not live in Indy -- he boogied out to Hamilton County. (I think that's his new joint's locale...am I right?)
I am very concerned worried frightened for Indianapolis, the old city.

2010-04-09 07:13:12

Write Man [Member] said:

I'm just having fun from one of the other posts and threds (the Star's ill-thought illustration of Duke's Coach K). I would have dropped in on the other conversation but didn't have the time. So a sort of non-sequitur I reckon. Really though, that series of posts was like a bad episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, or an Andy Kaufman bit that wouldn't end.

Back to this topic: I think there are plenty of reasons to worry about Indianapolis. The downtown library isn't on of them -- it's a great facility and (perhaps) a relic of when we had a bit more emphasis on learning, access and social justice.

As others have noted, we always find money for sports, and often refer to the "character building" aspects in demonstration of their value to our children. The truth is, organized sports in high school (since that's where most of us play/ed, including me) end in high school. Studies indicate students who are involved in school government and the arts tend to be more civically-engaged, and involved in their communities. Years ago I read a report that said it was nearly impossible to find a phone listing for the teacher in charge of a high school's student government, or drama program (now there's a relic). On the other hand, finding an athletic director couldn't be easier.

Anyway, forgive me for crossing over from the Coach K/Star issue. Just couldn't resist.


2010-04-09 09:51:46

hendy [Member] said:

Beautiful buildings aren't the answer. Strong media distribution that's convenient, is the answer. Libraries become the Internet, where we tend to take for granted, the veracity of content. Indeed it's good, and indeed it's also riddled with lies, revisionist history, and plenty of fabrication.

Electronic consumption of materials must come. I want to get from the library, the latest NYT best sellers on my laptop reading device. Paper isn't needed, and you don't need a big beautiful glass-faced building to do that. Instead, you need sufficient nerve to go up against the publishers and media distribution sources and do what's right: fair use, electronic distribution.

And stop charging us for the glass buildings, and start charging us for the data center storage infrastructure.

Ok. Enough bile against the library for now. I defend their purpose, but I cannot defend their distribution methods, gilded-in-gold as they are.

2010-04-09 11:41:39

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I suspect you're right, hendy. But we've got a beautiful building. Might as well enjoy it. Tearing it down won't bring back our money. Better library governance would've stopped the skid into checkbook oblivion.

Ruthie, dear heart, a majority of Indiana's governmental units rely on property taxes for most of their income. In case you weren't watching, this governor and legislature did the following in the last two sessions:

1. Removed one-third, give or take, of that income, depending on the govt. entity and your local tax base/Assessed Valuation;

2. Took control of most of the schools' General Fund income;

3. Capped property taxes at 1% of assessed value (after the referendum this fall which will be wildly successful)...as a Constitutional mandate. Good Lord. Buck, meet pass.

And in the prior few legislative sessions, they:

1. Ignored Tax Court Judge Fisher's mandate to realign property taxes/school funding, and the attendant assessment system--until the last possible moment;

2. Completely effed up what was a reasonable solution available to them.

We can and should value property on its best equalizer: real sales, value and comps. We were shifting to that system amid the tax court mandate. A perfect storm hit: the beginning of our worst recession since the 1920s, and crashing home values, as well as a few decades or wretchedly inconsistent and inaccurate township assessors doing their "job." Old political hacks try to defend that system, but in this county, it was horrendous.

And, the legislature used Judge Fisher's ruling as an excuse to shift a portion of the property tax ratio, vis-a-vis commercial vs. residential. Just FYI, a 2% hift meant tens of millions in revenue county-wide.

In a few years, the assessment side has come full-circle. We now have much better consistency. The system still has a few bugs, but the unsung hero here is retiring County Assessor Greg Bowes, who wants to be prosecutor but probably can't. He took the assessor thing seriously, and combined nine inefficient township assessors into one county-wide model. It has kinks, but with a couple hundred thousand tax parcels, the consistency and efficiency are now in place and should get better annually.

Perfect storm. Then we get a governor who wants to go along with this idiotic idea of Constitutionally capping property taxes, without a solid income-replacement vehicle in place. Yeah, local govts. wasted some money...maybe a lot. But they can't go cold-turkey on a chunk of income that quickly.

And one or two school systems around the (old) airport lost a ton of property value when the airport, and its support systems, shifted west. An already-bad school system, Wayne, will get worse as a result of the lost income without proper replacement. Axes will fall. Hell, their student body is probably the county's second-most-needy, and their income drops. Shit storms abound.

Sorry for the long rant.

2010-04-09 15:57:34

Ellen McKinney [unverified] said:

i wholeheartedly concur in being willing to have my library taxes doubled or tripled if it would save glendale branch.

here's another thought: SELL NAMING RIGHTS to the branch libraries! if a company name on a stadium is good for lucas oil or conseco, why not ice miller glendale branch or lilly fountain square branch?

i think closing ANY library branch is a sin, but glendale is the biggest or second-biggest branch, serves a large area, is one of the few open on sundays, had a big gain in users last year, has great facilities for kids AND a "quiet room" for reading.

its high rent is cited as an issue. might it not pay to ask the owner, kite, to reduce its rent? kite has a strong interest in keeping the library as a tenant, inasmuch as it attracts many people who otherwise might go to castleton.

i'm sure i'm not the only person who regularly shops the glendale target or grabs a snack at taco bell or visits walgreens after stopping at the library to get books or tapes. and as gasoline prices and environmental consciousness creep back up again (and hard-pressed families look for low-cost entertainment), this is likely to become even more true.

2010-04-09 19:42:57

Rose [unverified] said:

Maybe it's all for the best for us to see this sort of impact of reduced property taxes, before it gets set in stone in the Indiana constitution. Closing the Glendale library will hurt a lot of people and I think we don't want our universities and the like to turn out like California's. Things are bad, sure, but things could be on the verge of getting much much worse.

2010-04-09 22:13:21

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Rose, honey, you're two years too late. The roar you just heard is the rush to 80% approval rate on this fall's ballot. Case closed.

We ought to string-up every legislator who refused to do via statute, what they now want to pass on to voters via referenda. We are not like California, where each ballot has 15-20 initiatives. And thank God for it.

It is a chicken-crap way to deal with a real problem. Pass the buck. Gutless.

'Nary a statesman among the Gang of 150, sadly. As far as I know, not even Rep. Day, who can smell a pandering initiative a mile away. (I'll check the voting record...I hope I'm wrong)

This same crew of neocons who guided through the PropTax Amendment, want badly to place a Constitutional Amendment in place, which bars gay marriage. Even though statute staute already raps the knuckles on that score, we nee doverkill! Now!

Let's amend that glorious document for every single important issue!

2010-04-10 11:59:13

Sean Shepard [unverified] said:

Governments make choices when they spend money. Sometimes the choices they make are not evident until in the future.

When they build sports stadiums instead of fixing the city sewer systems, they made a choice.

When they spend $5 million on "crime prevention grants" to private entities like IDI and various church organizations as political payoffs instead of cutting taxes (or funding the library system) they make a choice.

When they built that monstrosity downtown, they made a choice.

Someday soon they may choose to subsidize the private sports business of some wealthy individual by another $15 million a year. A choice at the expense of other concerns.

To quote James Ostrowski, 'By its nature, the state is the means by which some people can impose the costs of achieving their goals onto unwilling others. As Frédéric Bastiat put it, “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” The desire to impose costs on others is virtually limitless. Thus, governments tend to grow over time. '

And as government grows, so does the taxpayer expense of supporting it.

2010-04-12 10:34:20

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Generally, I'd agree, Sean, but you ignore a basic truth: the downtown convention center is a huge eocnomic engine, that eats dollars for lunch.

The tax impact of its construction is spread among a six-county area, which seems appropriate. For the first time ever, I think, surrounding counties had to help pay for something which benefits them.

But I get your overall point, and it's prudent.

2010-04-12 13:26:46

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2010-04-13 20:53:01

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