What a shame.
In a current economic climate that promotes myriad entitlement programs for more Americans to an unprecedented degree, it is both baffling and yet understandable that voters in the Kanawha Valley chose to overwhelmingly defeat the Nov. 9 educational levy.
While it is clear that Americans feel that they are being overtaxed, to project their disillusionment in the form of setting into motion the reduction of library services, particularly to youth who do not have access to the much-needed services and equipment offered through their respective library branches, is actually beyond baffling -- it's disturbing.
As a result of this defeat, layoffs throughout the library system will add to taxpayers' bottom line in the form of unemployment support. The levy, had it passed, would have increased property taxes for a resident with a $100,000 home and a $15,000 car by about $125 a year. Educational opportunities cost money. The cost of ignorance is a behemoth whose potential for growth results in a much higher premium than $125 a year.
As a result of this defeat, six of the Kanawha County Public Library's nine branches may close -- an atrocity that will have long-term negative effects, particularly on the youth. As Catherine White, a West Virginia library commissioner stated, "One in four West Virginias are without Internet in their homes. Libraries provide free access to the World Wide Web and high speed Internet."
To even think of risking the elimination of these services, especially to children, is not only baffling and disturbing, but just may touch on the borders of cruelty. No, that's not a stretch.
As a result of this defeat, libraries will need to closely scrutinize their operating hours, available services, and salaries. While taxpayers may be exerting their power to say, "No more taxes," they are, as Michael Albert, president of the KCPL board of directors has predicted, "going to be surprised by the impact this is going to have."
While the majority of Americans have reached their tolerance level when it comes to being hit with more taxes, and their shouts of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore" are echoed throughout the hills and valleys, to target a rock-solid institution that has historically often been the center of a community's -- any community's -- source of cultural, social, and intellectual reserves, is as absurd as it is potentially catastrophic.
To be angry at the sheer number of entitlement programs currently in place is one thing, but to inflict that anger at educational opportunities is quite another. To impede the growth of American minds, especially children's, hinders on the very strong possibility of a future replete with an ignorant citizenry.
What a shame.
Jacobs, a freelance writer, lives in Charleston.