Monday morning in Bridgeport Superior Court lawyers for the Liberate Libraries Committee and the city will duke it out over the following question: “Shall a one (1) mill tax be levied to establish and maintain a free public library and reading room?”
Liberate Libraries Committee, comprised of Bridgeport Library Board members and supporters, says state law allows such a question in a referendum decided by city voters. City officials are against the referendum and will argue why LLC has no legal standing to bring the court action. For one thing they may cite a different section of state statute that gives the city’s legislative body, the City Council, power to regulate libraries. If that’s the case no referendum. There’s no appetite on the council to support it. See below:
Sec. 11-32. City council may establish and maintain a public library. The city council of any city may establish and maintain a public library and reading room, together with such kindred apartments and facilities as the council approves; and may levy a tax annually on all taxable property of the city. Such tax shall be levied and collected as other taxes, and shall be known as the “library fund”. Such library and reading room shall be free to the use of the inhabitants of the city, subject to such reasonable rules and regulations as the board of trustees may adopt in order to render the use of the library and reading room of the greatest benefit. Such board may exclude from the use of such library and reading room any person who wilfully violates such rules, and may extend its privileges to persons residing in this state outside the city upon such terms and conditions as it may prescribe.
LLC filed suit after Town Clerk Alma Maya, at the direction of City Attorney Mark Anastasi, did not certify the petition signatures to place the question on the ballot in November.
Library supporters say the economic, research and educational value the library system brings to the city is not fully appreciated by the Finch administration. They want voters to decide a tax levy that would provide roughly $2 million additional dollars over the amount approved by the City Council and Bill Finch.
In doing so library leaders are going where they’ve never gone before — submitting themselves to the meat grinder of the Bridgeport political process. The city will try to kill this thing through legal arguments, but if a judge says it must go to the voters library supporters will be put to the test by politicians who don’t want to budget library dollars at the point of a bayonet.
This one could get messy as city leaders will pit city employees and taxpayers against the library. “If this passes cuts will be required to other departments and taxes raised.”
Library supporters must make a compelling case why voters should support this. They will need to run a citywide campaign explaining why additional dollars must be invested in the library. “The city budget is $500 million. We’re asking one percent of that be invested in the library. One percent to serve our community.”
Small towns have library referenda, but not the state’s largest city. Another OIB moment.
Civil Service update: Friday afternoon the Civil Service Commission fired Personnel Director Ralph Jacobs. See additional details at www.onlyinbridgeport.com)