Last year I sent a letter to city council imploring them to revisit the city's annual commitment to the Carnegie Library system in light of potential closings in several neighborhoods. This is an ongoing issue, but many of us have spoken up in regards to it and at the very least, the branches that were to close are temporarily saved. Today I received the following e-mail from councilman Bill Peduto:
Thank you for contacting me about the Carnegie Library system. Please see the attached letter that details the commitment City Council and state leaders have made to fund the libraries. Today, Council will take a preliminary vote on legislation that will give $640,000 to the Carnegie Library to keep branches open. Mayor Ravenstahl is not in support of this legislation. (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_680649.html)
Please take a moment to contact your Council Member to ask for his or her support. (http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/council/)
Attached to the e-mail was the following letter:
May 12, 2010
Chair and Members of the Board of Trustees
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Dear Ms. Lazo and Members of the Board of Trustees:
As Pittsburgh City Council’s Chair of the Committee on Finance and Law, I am writing to you to clarify the history of the City of Pittsburgh’s financial commitment to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The following is a timeline of the events since October 2009 regarding the Library’s budget, proposed closings, and Council’s involvement.
- October 5, 2009 Carnegie Library Board votes to close branches.
- October 20, 2009 state leaders led by Representative Chelsa Wagner and Senator Jay Costa meet with Carnegie Library leadership to push for a plan to keep branches open for 2010.
- October 29, 2009 Council President Doug Shields, in consultation with Senator Costa and Representative Wagner, announces plans to seek a $600,000 grant for the Library from the 2009 Operating Budget and an additional $600,000 grant from the 2010 Capital Budget in order to keep the branches open.
- November 9, 2009 Mayor proposes 2010 Budget to City Council with $1,000,000 line item for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
- November 23, 2009 Library leaders and elected officials meet at the Regional Enterprise Tower and agree that if City Council can pass the “Shields-Wagner-Costa Bill” no libraries will be closed in 2009/2010.
- December 1, 2009 City Council unanimously gives final approval to “Shields-Wagner-Costa Bill” providing a $600,000 grant to Carnegie Library from the 2009 Operating Budget to keep branches open.
- December 14, 2009 Library Board votes to reverse closings due to $1.2 million commitment from Pittsburgh City Council and State leader’s commitment.
- December 16, 2009 City Council amends the 2010 Budget to remove the Tuition Tax revenue from the Budget, but leaves in the $1,000,000 for the library to keep our commitment of the needed $600,000. These technical corrections are attached.
- December 21, 2009 City Council gives final approval to 2010 Budget including a $1,000,000 line item for Carnegie Library to keep our commitment of the needed $600,000.
- December 31, 2010 Mayor approves final 2010 Budget with $1,000,000 line item to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in the budget. Mayor does not veto or amend as would be required by law.
- January 7, 2010 SB 711 (table games) is signed by Governor Rendell including the Wagner-Costa library funding per the City Council agreement.
- January 8, 2010 City’s financial system shows $1,000,000 put into Carnegie Library line item account per 2010 Budget (Resolution 768 of 2009).
- January 22, 2010 Finance Department deletes $1,000,000 line item without Council resolution. This is not legal per City Code, as only City Council can amend the budget.
- May 7, 2010 City Council learns that the $1,000,000 line item has been deleted and pledges that the original $600,000 commitment will be met.
- May 10, 2010 Carnegie Library board chair Jacqui Fiske Lazo writes letter to the Mayor stating that the Carnegie Library understood the $1,000,000 for 2010 was only going to be granted if the Tuition tax passed. This is factually incorrect information.
- May 11, 2010 at Carnegie Library board meeting, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak inquires about the status of the City commitment to the Carnegie Library, discrepancies within that commitment, and expectations from both entities. It is determined that $600,000 from 2009 is in the process of being transferred, but that the additional $640,000 from 2010 is outstanding.
- May 12, 2010 press reports indicate Carnegie Library 2010 budget includes the $1.24 million from the City of Pittsburgh needed to keep libraries open.
This timeline clearly outlines the past year’s events and demonstrates City Council’s unanimous and unequivocal support for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Furthermore, it clearly shows that Carnegie Library anticipated at least $1.24 million from the City of Pittsburgh for the 2010 budget and that City Council on numerous times voted to allocate at a minimum that amount. The budget passed by City Council and signed by the Mayor was done with full knowledge and support for the $600,000 commitment to the Carnegie Library out of the 2009 and 2010 budget. The budget passed was not conditioned on any other revenue sources, it was balanced, and it was done through the proper procedures. It is my intention to honor City Council’s commitment and to continue to work with the Carnegie Library on both short and long term financial solutions.
Please contact my office to schedule a meeting between yourself, President Barbara Mistick, Council Budget Director Bill Urbanic, and myself if you should need any further information. I hope this letter clarifies the City’s commitment to our libraries.
Cc: President and All Members, Pittsburgh City Council
Barbara Mistick, President, Carnegie Library
I replied to Mr. Peduto with the following e-mail:
Thanks for sending this along. It is my feeling that Mayor Ravenstahl has betrayed every shred of promise he had to revitalize Pittsburgh and has demonstrated himself to be nothing more than a slave to "Business as Usual" Harrisburg politics, with his ridiculous proposals of taxes on college students and sugary drinks and his clear lack of concern for the normal working people of this town. This letter's timeline, with its illustration of the surreptitious and illegal deletion of the $1,000,000 line item for library support, is only further example of his corrupt and shady practices. His attitudes and programs, if allowed to succeed, will accomplish nothing but urban decay as young people come here to study in our excellent University systems, and then leave for greener pastures rather than remaining to grow Pittsburgh to its true potential as a leader amongst U.S. cities. Indeed, I find myself wondering if the illegal deletion of the million dollar funding is cause for impeachment of the mayor, who has more than once overstepped his bounds and powers in clear disregard for the rest of the city's governing body.
I have been sorely disappointed in Mayor Ravenstahl, as a one-time supporter of his, and feel nothing short of betrayed by his "let them eat cake" attitude towards the people of this city. It is my sincere hope that city council can unite to keep him in check and push this legislation through. Mayor Ravenstahl does not comprehend (and as essentially a kid can't be expected to comprehend) the severe impact that losing our Public Library systems will have on local communities. I can only hope that next election someone will publicly call him on his efforts to implement unfair and ridiculous taxes on the community and his legacy as a lapdog of Ed Rendell's Harrisburg machine.
Yes, the Carnegie system has been mismanaged and this is something that needs to be corrected. However, letting it spiral into closure is not the answer, and as I'm sure you'll agree if you look back over the history of the agreement between the city and the library system, even $640,000 isn't quite enough to cover the city's commitment when inflation is accounted for. However, it's certainly a huge step in the right direction and must succeed.
Thank you again for taking the time to send this letter to us.
I should clarify that I am not some nut-job Democrat-hating right winger. Indeed, I am neither Republican nor Democrat. My dislike for the PA political democrat machine has nothing to do with Democrat ideals--it has everything to do with corrupt Harrisburg politics. I think Ed Rendell is one of the biggest criminals ever to sit in the governor's chair, and I think Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl are nothing but lapdogs to Uncle Eddie's policies. But the illegal deletion of a million dollar line item to support local libraries after it was previously signed and approved is nothing short of appalling. There are no words for how horrific Ravenstahl's disregard for the people of this city has become, and this guy has to be stopped. So I call upon the people of this city to protest, write letters, file court cases against him if you can--do anything you can (within the law, of course) to ensure that Luke Ravenstahl is properly censured and leashed until we can get the Boy King out of office once and for all. If he was in any way directly involved with this line item deletion, I can't believe he cannot be impeached for it. And if he can be...he should be.