Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Public libraries closed

"Salinas, population 150,000, has always been the working-class soul of Steinbeck country. The author of The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men and other classics grew up here and is buried here. His roots in the fertile Salinas Valley, nicknamed the nation's salad bowl, spawned characters and settings for many of his stories."

Now Salinas is closing all three branches of the public library in order to save $3 million per year in an attempt to help balance the budget. Salinas has also been "forced to close a recreation center, curtail police hiring, cut off paramedic funding, slash maintenance, consolidate services and lay off department heads. It sold a public golf course, and city workers made $1 million in wage concessions. Since 2002, the City Council has cut $15 million, a quarter of the budget."

Citizens could have voted to raise sales taxes half a cent or increase utility taxes on the 60 largest companies in Salinas back in November, but the options failed to receive two-thirds of the votes as state law requires.

Nationally, more than 1,100 libraries have cut hours or laid off workers, the American Library Association reports. Salinas is the only reported case of a city deciding to close all libraries. (USA Today)

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