Friday, June 29, 2007

Head, Meet Desk
James Opens up a Can

This town never seems to stop amazing me. They tout that they are the first state capitol (you can’t miss it. The bloody signs are everywhere. They even have a plaque on the court house proclaiming that the stone it refers to was from the first capitol building) and want to be considered a great and wonderful place, but they refuse to do anything to make that happen.

The local newspaper (yes, the town of about 25,000 people only has one paper) has a web board on its site where you can discuss the news stories. So many of the people who use it make my head hurt, and the frightening thing is that they really are indicative of the general population.

Two of the mind-numbing issues follow.

First Issue – The Library

There’s a 0.49 mil levy on the ballot in November to support expanding the library (that means that, for a house appraised at $100,000 the tax increase would be $49/year). It’s not a bad little library as it stands, but in a town of this size, I’d really expect a little more.

The plans are for, among other things, a nice connector from the main building to a now-closed school that they purchased next door for extra space and the addition of a café and a small used book store so they can divest themselves of less frequently read books year round without having to wait for the yearly book sale.

I think this is a positive thing. Unlike what most of the people who responded seem to think, a library is more than just a place to walk in, get a book, and walk out of again. It’s an integral part of the community and serves not only for the dissemination of information, but also as a gathering point and culture center.

The best libraries I have ever been in have had not only books, but displays of art and discussion rooms. Hell, the library at my alma mater (which has about the same number of people as this town) had art displays on almost every floor except in the general stacks on the top two floors and even had a rock and water garden on the first floor (Asian Studies).

This is something that the people here don’t seem to understand, because most of the comments were of the “why do we possibly need that? It’s a waste of money. Just walk in and get a book” variety. To top it off, they were downright violently opposed to the people who advocated the expansion and started arguments of the “well, *I* never use the library, so why should *I* have to pay for it??” and “Since the city is wanting taxpayers to pay to expand the library, I think they should have taxpayers pay to expand my house!” sort.

No, I’m not kidding about the house expansion comment. Someone on there honestly made it.

The really frightening thing in my opinion, though, was not the fact that someone made the comment that the city should pay to improve their house or even that some people are opposed to expanding the library. The thing that made my jaw drop was just how many people said they never used the library and seemed proud of that fact. To top it off, they were not only proud of the fact that they never use it, but think that it should not be a public resource, but instead that you should have to pay to use it!

Yes, people there actually said that you should have to pay if you wanted to use the library.

Folks, the library is there as a public resource for all to use – young or old, rich or poor. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a coin in your pocket, you can walk into that building and learn something or find a book to pass the time. To say that it shouldn’t be that way is an insult to all of the people that clawed their way up the ladder from practically nothing, because that proposition means that they would never be able to do that.

It’s disgusting that these fools think that way. That’s the only way I can think to put it, though I admit that I may be a bit more adamant in that view because I have known people who really have pulled themselves up out of poverty through effort and public resources like the library.

Issue the Second – Historic Theater

The Majestic Theater, a historic theater and one of the local cultural draws is looking at doing renovations. It’s run by a non-profit organization much like the local art gallery (which, though small, is nice. If you’re in town, stop by and wander through. It’s in the park and it’s free) and derives its budget from grants, donations, and box office sales.

Keep the sources of funding in mind. It’s important later.

First, however, a quick word about the theater:

As I said above, it’s a historic theater. From what I gather, it’s been around since before the Civil War and was even turned into an emergency hospital during said war.

The inside is a wealth of period architecture and artwork. Outside, the sign for the theater (which spans the street) is the last arch from Columbus’ old Arch District and, it must be said, looks darned spiffy at night when it’s lit up. Even if it weren’t for the artwork and history, it runs a number of performances each year (for extremely reasonable prices – we’re talking like $5). It’s even been named a National Geographic travel site.

The bottom line is that it’s a very nice place and could serve as a wonderful anchor for the revitalization of the historic downtown.

However, when the paper ran an article that the Majestic was looking for funding to do improvements, the locals started griping about the possibility of another levy when the truth is that there wouldn’t *be* a levy. They’re looking for grant money and charitable contributions.

When that was repeatedly pointed out, they started saying how there was no way they could get grant money for that. I know better, but that’s because I spent four years working for a non-profit who, among other things, acquired grants for those sorts of projects.

The discussion went on from there about how it would be wasted money and that nobody should bother. That’s right. We shouldn’t ever try anything because nobody cares or we might fail.

Sorry, people, but the world doesn’t work that way. If you want something, you have to fight for it. Personally, I hope that the library’s levy passes (and the money is used properly) and that the Majestic gets the funding it needs for improvements.

The thing that these people really don’t seem to understand is that those improvements pay off for the city as a whole. They help bring not only tourism dollars in, but can also make it a more desirable place to move both families and businesses to (which this town really needs).

To the residents of Chillicothe, and indeed the residents of all other towns and cities in this country that feel the way these people do, I have the following to say to you – you disappoint the hell out of me. Try doing something for people other than yourself once in a while. You might find that you’re doing yourself a favor in the process.

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Van Halen – Right Now

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