MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Joe Cardona: Libraries are essential, they must be preserved

 
 
CARDONA
CARDONA

jccigar@aol.com

As a kid growing up in Hialeah in the 1970s, I cherished my visits to our public library. John F. Kennedy library, which is still located on Hialeah’s bustling 49th street, provided a respite from the mundane. The JFK library was where I first read about Harriet Tubman’s heroic Underground Railroad, Vince Lombardi’s tenacity as a football coach, José Martí’s valiant struggles for Cuba’s freedom and Mark Twain’s humorous chronicles of the South.

When I was in college, I would still periodically duck into the JFK library to cram for a test. It felt good to see grade-school kids milling around the place making discoveries similar to the ones I had made years before. I felt pride and continuity. I felt a great sense of egalitarianism and down-home American fairness — the library afforded everyone the same opportunities to learn, question, process and dream.

As the Miami-Dade County Commission heads into another difficult budget session, there is a $20-million gap that needs to be covered if the county is going to sustain library services as they are today.

“The message from the mayor’s office has been discouraging to say the least,” a veteran librarian in North Dade told me. She asked me not to use her name, for fear that her job would be jeopardized. “After serving the community for so many years, to think that the mayor and some commissioners think so little about our worth knocked the wind right out of my sails.”

A librarian in West Dade, who also did not want to be identified, said that none of her colleagues entered the profession for the money. “My family certainly doesn’t live a lavish lifestyle by any means. After reading about all the controversy over our salaries, my husband kiddingly asked me if I was holding out on him.”

A recent Dade Data report on the county’s budget supports her statement about humble compensation. According to the report, library department employees are among the county’s lowest paid.

The modus operandi for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration, when faced with a pressing issue, seems to be one of four ineffective actions: 1. Gather an advisory committee. 2. Waffle back and forth on whether to fund something (by raising taxes). 3. Call for a non-binding, straw poll (which the mayor and the commission will ignore, as evidenced by the Pets’ Trust fiasco). 4. Ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

The mayor and some commissioners seem fixated on the notion that raising taxes is always bad and that voters will always react adversely to tax hikes. While I have yet to meet a taxpayer who is joyous about tax increases, I also know that they have a bit more common sense than elected officials give them credit for. Recent poll results indicate that county taxpayers were unwilling to pay higher taxes to maintain an adequate library system. But that stands in the face taxpayers’ support at the ballot box for similar quality-of-life initiatives such as the Children’s Trust, the School Board bond issue and the Pets’ Trust.

The reluctance of Gimenez and some commissioners to raise taxes shows that they are preoccupied with their electability rather than governing. When deciding where to trim Miami-Dade County’s multibillion dollar budget, they ought to do less polling and make judiciously sound decisions that will preserve essential services, like our libraries.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

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Tony Lesesne

    STOPPED BY COPS

    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

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Delrish Moss

    STOPPED BY COPS

    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.

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    Bill Diggs: Hurt officer’s feelings

    “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and if I wanted to do nothing else, I wanted to make my mom happy. I was living for my parents, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to go to work and not have to put on steel-toe boots. And here I am in Atlanta, I have finally grown to a particular level of affluence. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was a college kid, wearing a suit, driving a nice BMW going to work everyday. Can’t beat that. I would leave my house, drive up Highway 78, the Stone Mountain area, grab some coffee, go to work. So on this particular morning, there’s a cop who’s rustling up this homeless guy outside the gas station where I was filling up. I’m shaking my head, the cop looks at me. This homeless guy is there every morning. I get in my car and on to the expressway. The police officer comes shooting up behind me. I doing 65, 70. He gets up behind me, I notice he’s following me. I get in one lane, he gets in the lane, I get in another lane, he gets in that lane. He finally flips his lights on, he comes up to the car. I’ve been pulled over for speeding before, I know the drill. Got my hands up here, don’t want to get shot, and I think he’s going to say what I’ve heard before: ‘License and registration, please.’ He says ‘Get out of the car!’ and he reaches in and grabs me by my shirt. He says, ‘So you’re a smart ass, huh?’ Finally he says, ‘License and registration.’ I tell him it’s in the car. He says, ‘Get it for me!’ He goes back to his car, comes back and asks, ‘So where did you get the car from?’ I say ‘It’s a friend of mine’s.” He says, ‘Is it stolen? What are you doing driving your friend’s car?’ I finally asked, ‘Is there a reason you stopped me? You followed me, what’s up, man?’ He says, ‘I’m going to let you go with a warning, but if you see me doing what I’ve got to do for my job, don’t you ever f---ing worry about it.”

Miami Herald

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