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Library cuts restored: whose victory?

Mayor Emanuel wants to declare “victory” in his decision to partially rescind library layoffs and reductions in hours. Maybe he’s channelling George Aiken.

Don’t tell the Sun-Times, but it looks a lot more like a (partial) victory for the library workers and their union, AFSCME, which has pushed the city to find funds to keep the libraries open and the library workers at their jobs.

Library workers haven’t given up pushing for full restoration, either – which is why they’re going ahead with plans to join with library patrons for “People’s Library Hours” Monday morning at 10 a.m. in front of shuttered libraries in Beverly (1962 W. 95th), Bucktown (1701 N. Milwaukee), and Little Village (2311 S. Kedzie).

Emanuel now says of the cuts, “I didn’t support this and I don’t want this,” and “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

It’s a comical performance. Emanuel originally proposed the cuts. Now he says they were wrong.

In October Emanuel proposed cutting library spending by $10 million, laying off a third of the library system’s employees, and closing libraries two mornings a week.

It was under pressure from outraged aldermen – reflecting widespread upset among their constitutents – that he restored $3.3 million and 110 positions. Now, under continuing pressure and embarrassment, he’s found another $2 million and brought back 65 workers who were laid off January 1.

His actions prove that the cuts don’t stem from financial necessity but from budgetary priorities. It starts to look like, while he may not hate libraries, he doesn’t value them very highly – and his real priority is busting the union.

Last week Emanuel asked the City Council to approve a $3.7 million TIF subsidy for an animal testing laboratory that was moved out of the Michael Reese site. That company has 26 jobs.

It does appear that, job-wise, libraries get you a bigger bang for your buck.

And, of course, it’s hard to take Emanuel’s pleas of poverty seriously while he’s holding open a $15 million TIF subsidy to CME to renovate its offices, in case the hugely profitable corporation should ever deign to take the money.

On Saturday, protestors forced Emanuel to agree to continue discussions on keeping open the six mental health clinics he has said he wants to close (savings: $2.3 million). The Mental Health Movement is dogging the mayor – Wednesday they interrupted his appearance at high-profile panel with David Axelrod and others at the University of Chicago.

These guys are starting to look like the nurses who dogged Arnold Schwarzenegger a few years ago – and ultimately defeated his agenda.

Perhaps Emanuel has more “victories” to look forward to.

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Category: city budget, libraries

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  1. [...] which Alter claims shows how flexible and magnanimous he is. As the progressive Chicago journalist Curtis Black points out, it’s instructive to compare that $7 million in precious, precious budget savings to some of the [...]

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