Letter to the Central Portland Library, March 5, 2023

If the roof at Central were damaged and leaking, I could understand closing the central Portland library for 9 months beginning March 11, 2023!

The library is more than a library; the library is a community center and a precious public space where people can interact and learn from one another. The library is also an anchor for the thousands of tent and houseless persons displaced in our expensive and over-priced housing economy. Education is the great transformer, said economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Swords should become plowshares! Libraries shouldn’t become furniture stores!

Please reconsider this terrible “remodeling” decision! Expanding the restrooms and adding a “teen center” do not warrant a closure for 9 months! At the very least, this should be a democratic decision, not a top-down decision. You could postpone the closure until May or June and ask patrons to vote on the proposal on the library website and in the library. This would give the decision some legitimacy and prevent the collapse of public spirit and trust between the generations.

No one knows the effect of a 9 month closure on children, students, houseless persons and the disabled. The library isn’t like the travel agency industry that was replaced by online communication. “Without vision, the people perish,” we are warned in Proverbs. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and hypocrisy! The state shouldn’t steal away from its responsibilities to feed and house its people; corporations shouldn’t steal away from paying fair taxes and funding public services. The library shouldn’t be using part of the 2020 $380 billion bond to close Central and replace the oak tables and chairs! Resist the beginnings of faceless and irresponsible corporate rule, boundless privatization, atomization and commodification! Remember the warnings of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Martin Luther King!

Admitting a mistake is often difficult. The old downtown post office could be a village of SROs providing housing and near vital social services. Instead of this incremental step, this space could become another Portland boondoggle (like O’Bryant Square and the 600-room Ritz-Carlton hotel). The homeless are ignored and made invisible. The ghost boutique hotels and condos – largely vacant since the 2020 Covid-19 – are repressed and written off as bad decisions.

Don’t let Central become a vacant building in a fly-over boarded-up city that was once friendly and affordable!

Are the librarians given a “closure salary” for the 9 months or told to “fend for themselves”? Massive tech layoffs are occurring all over the US. Cities and states find themselves in a financing crunch since corporations transfer their profits to tax havens, make themselves outwardly profitable through stock buybacks. The financial markets made themselves independent and take necessary revenue from the real economy. In the 1960s, 40% of federal revenue came from corporations. Now it is 7 or 8%!

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