I wrote the County Executive.Â I e-mailed the library.Â After today’s announcement, I want to address this one more time.Â Sometimes we have to protect things with which we disagree in order to protect ourselves.Â The Rochester Library will spend the next sixty days looking over its internet policy because Maggie Brooks and News 10 want to scare us into believing that if something isn’t done, the Central Branch will turn into a modern version of a pre-Disney Times Square.Â In spite of Brooks statements to the contrary, this is a free speech issue, and public access to information is on the line.
We know that County Executive Brooks is predicting a $100 million budget gap over the next two years.Â Â Today’s Democrat and Chronicle article makes it clear that Brooks is asking the library to put itself in violation of a Supreme Court ruling or face loosing 6.6 million in county funding.Â This should be a decision for our legislature, of course, but since there is a Republican majority, Brooks’ threats are probably all too real.Â So is Brooks really looking to de-fund the library to cut the budget gap by $12 million over two years, and use the ACLU and the Supreme Court as scapegoats?
The politics beneath this are ugly, and Brooks is acting like a bully and a thug.Â This is a fabricated crisis of which she is taking full political advantage.Â If the library fights her, she gains some state and national exposure in the ensuing media coverage, adds to her “conservative” credentials, and narrows the coming budget gap.Â If the library submits to her will, she wins a political fight and makes it harder for her next political target.
Either course this takes hurts the residents of Monroe County, especially the urban poor, many of whom rely on the library for vital information about government, health issues, education, and other subjects.Â The citizens of Rochester and Monroe County face a choice of loosing the library altogether (the D&C article says it is “a cut that would likely force it to close”) or retain a library where the County Executive is allowed to decide what constitutes “appropriate” information.
I urge County residents to contact their legislators, regardless of whether you agree with me or not.