Last week's issue of the Port News contained an advertisement urging taxpayers to vote against the library's proposed 1998/99 budget this April 7. The people behind this ad are hoping to create a groundswell of support to convince the board to postpone the decision to demolish the 120-year-old Baker House, adjacent to the library on Main Street. The land will be used for additional library parking. Although I have always supported renovation of the Baker House rather than the demolition that was decided upon 20 months ago, I feel that it would be a mistake to vote down the budget. We have a great library, staffed by truly exceptional people who deserve our support. Please support your library and vote "yes" to the budget on April 7. It will provide operating funds for the 1998-99 fiscal year. It is not concerned with the library's space redesign/expansion and parking augmentation plans.
A few years ago, our board, director, staff and a group of dedicated volunteers ran the extra mile to find out exactly what our community liked and expected from its library. This proactive effort took the form of a telephone survey (1,000 residents called) as well as a print user survey handed to patrons entering the library over a period of a few weeks. In light of poorly attended board meetings combined with miserable turnout for trustee/budget votes, this was innovative as well as the right thing to do.
I believe that the decision on the fate of the Baker House requires similar effort on our part. To many, downtown Main Street is hallowed ground, an important link with the past. Before we destroy part of it, we need to make sure that everyone has had a chance to be heard, not just the ones who speak out at board meetings or forums. I urge our director and my fellow trustees to run the extra mile once again. To get our community behind us, we must do a better job of finding out what the people truly want downtown Port to look like in the future, a parking lot or an historic village. In a nation with so many differences of opinion, the pain of not getting one's way has always been lessened by a time honored tradition, i.e., majority rules. Having attended the last few parking forums, I must publicly state, we did not have a quorum present to help us decide on what to do with the Baker property.
Vote yes on April 7, run the extra mile!