Library supporters and public park advocates alike oppose the Herald’s Yes recommendation to allow libraries in parks by amending Article 7 of the county charter. The amendment violates the spirit of that provision and the man who championed it.
Article 7, referred to as the “Dan Paul” provision after the noted naturalist, public advocate and architect of our home-rule charter, expresses the public policy of preservation of park land for “park purposes” exclusively. Variances from this public policy are to be by exception only for specifically defined circumstances and locations approved by the voters.
In fact, the Nov. 4 ballot contains three such items where, based on specific circumstances at specific locations, the voters will decide on amendments to Article 7 to allow exceptions to the general rule of using park lands for park purposes only. They are:
▪ A regional soccer park at Northwest 58th Street.
▪ Construction of campgrounds and cabins/lodges at Camp Matecumbe.
▪ Expansion of FIU on up to 64 acres of Tamiami Park.
This is the way amendments to Article 7 should be presented to the voters and not in the open-ended way that the “libraries in parks” amendment is crafted.
The concept of libraries near parks for the convenience of the public has its merits. In fact, under its 2001 capital expansion plan, the Miami-Dade Library System identified acquired sites and planned for the co-location of new libraries adjacent to several parks; but the libraries are not in the parks. The co-location of parks and libraries in these situations was the product of foresight, good planning and will not require an amendment to Article 7.
If there is a unique situation where the location of a library in a park is warranted, then let us identify, study and vote on that item.
Amending the charter to provide a sweeping exception, without limitations to allow undefined libraries in parks violates the spirit and integrity of Article 7. On the heels of the recent grassroots campaign to restore funding to our libraries, there are legitimate concerns that future library-district revenues may be diverted to support other county components.
Inflated long-term land leases and other budget shenanigans are not hard to imagine. Voters should protect precious public parks and libraries from potential exploitation. These core values are as important now as ever.
Vote No on the ballot item to allow libraries in parks.
John J. Quick, president, Friends of Miami-Dade Public Library, Miami
Barbara Falsey, retired chief, Miami-Dade Parks Planning and Research, Miami