Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Letter to Miami-Dade County Commission on plans to close nearly all public libraries

13 July 2013

Greetings, Commissioner Sally A. Heyman. My name is Michael Deibert, and I am a journalist and author who currently resides in your district - Distirct 4 - in Miami Beach. I am the author of three books, In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Rise and Fall of the Gulf Cartel (Lyons Press, 2014), The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair (Zed Books, 2013) and Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti (Seven Stories Press, 2005), and my writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Miami Herald, Le Monde diplomatique, Folha de Sao Paulo and the World Policy Journal, among other venues.

I have just become aware via an article in the Miami Herald of the county's plans to close nearly all of its public libraries, potentially shuttering 42 locations and laying off 260 employees. It is hard for me to envision, after the millions of dollars that the county was willing to advance towards the new Marlins Stadium, a more short-sighted or destructive move than for the Commission to deprive the citizens of Miami-Dade of one of the few free sources of information and education left in the city today.

The library remains among our most precious democratic institutions. When I first moved to Miami in 1997 I was quite poor indeed, and access to the books at the Miami-Dade Public Library branch on Washington Avenue in South Beach was an essential part of my being able to make through those difficult months, with the free access to books providing me with important spiritual and intellectual sustenance. I honestly don't know what I would have done without it. As the American author Kurt Vonnegut once wrote "the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."

I couldn't agree with that sentiment more. I know that many of my fellow Miamians involved in the arts and simply ordinary citizens are just as outraged as I am at the thought of depriving our city of this essential facet of our democracy. I am urging them to contact you, as well, and I urge you to reconsider a move that would be so disempowering and wantonly harmful to the city that we all call home.

I have cc'd Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez on this email, as well.

Best regards from Miami Beach,



Note: Commissioner Sally Heyman was the only person to respond to this email. Her response was as follows.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: District4
Date: Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 10:37 AM
Subject: RE: Hello Commissioner Heyman regarding potential library closures in Miami-Dade County

Sent on behalf of Commissioner Sally Heyman:

Thank you for your email RE: shutting fire stations and libraries. 

I voted NO to keeping mileage "flat," as it meant limiting negotiations regarding the budget, AND cuts in services as we started the budget discussions.  UNACCEPTABLE!

OUR FIRE STATIONS are essential to public safety, both person and property.  Restoring FIRE SERVICES to the current level in the budget does NOT mean raising taxes; it means we need to reduce costs, frills, duplicity and waste in our budget.   

I am also committed to keeping more of our libraries open, for the value it has to our communities.   Closing 22 of our 49 libraries is way too many, especially for our children and seniors.

Please continue to reach out to our MAYOR and County Commissioners; especially those that voted to accept this terrible proposal: Commissioners Barreiro, Bell, Bovo, Diaz, Suarez, Sosa, Soto, Zapata.  They all need to hear we need to keep valued services in place.... That does not mean raising taxes.

Thank you,

Commissioner Sally Heyman

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