Thursday, May 26, 2011

WHENEVER! somebody sends you AN EMAIL with LOTS and LOTS!!! of words and numerals CAPITALIZED in a message bubble-gum smacked with excited punctuation!!!!! you wonder if it is worth your  eyes’ time — or whether it is just eye-rolling.

We’ve all seen the emails — sent from eccentric cousins or British people we’ve never met — telling us: “END OF THE WORLD!!! THE DAY OF RECKONING is here!!!!!” “President Obama is NOT an American, PROOF revealed for FIRST TIME here!!!!” “MOON LANDING FAKED!!!” “SOAP STAR’s lovechild EXPOSED!”

Most people are smart enough to hit delete.

The arguments and numbers used in the regular Taxpayers for a Realistic Library Expansion Plan attack ads running in this newspaper against the volunteer organizations seeking to privately finance much of a new public library are riddled with such teen texting techniques — the generous use of EXCLAMATION points!!! and THE ALL-CAPPING OF SENTENCES.

Typically, such hyping is used in place of well-sourced and vetted facts.

What’s more, there are personal barbs in the ads. Which makes it fair to question the motivation of Taxpayers for a Realistic Library Expansion Plan, which lists R.W. Collison as secretary.

Is this anti-library organization a vehicle for true advancement of public dialogue or a plaything of a former city council member seeking to attack Mayor Jim Pedelty personally for failing on some unrelated front? Perhaps for abandoning efforts early in his mayorship to fire City Manager Gerald Clausen?

Is this group, Taxpayers for a Realistic Library Expansion Plan, even about the library at all? Or is it about unrelated political scores? Or just having fun tossing wrenches in the wheels of public progress for the simple reason that it can be done?

The anti-library group terms the proposed project “The Mayor’s Plan” — seeking to tether it to Pedelty as if he hatched it and is leading the effort for its passage. The ads couch the potential killing of   the new library as some denial of achievement for Pedelty.

 Which it wouldn’t be, not by a canyon leap.

Mayor Pedelty recently announced he’s not seeking re-election because of health reasons, and he’s acknowledged that those issues have prevented him from being as aggressive as he’d like on the library — and with other pursuits if you want to be downright honest.

Pedelty supports the library plan, to be sure, but the concept emerged from a consensus of citizen volunteers, elected officials (most of whom you voted into office with no opposition and little turnout at the polls) and others. More directly, the planned new Carroll Public Library is hardly “the mayor’s library.” The historical timeline for the building project includes September 2005 forums with Ames-based library consultant George Lawson, who has worked with about 400 libraries across the nation. Pedelty wasn’t elected mayor until 2007, and while we’ve spotted him in a sleek Lexus, we’ve failed to catch our mayor in a time machine with 2005 on his dial.

The planed Carroll Public Library is a product of multiple city councils, which for the last two years ranked a new library as Carroll’s No. 1 priority.

It is a product of the Site Selection Committee.

After studying 20 potential options, the Carroll Public Library Site Selection Committee recommended that the city purchase the historic Heider Manufacturing building and some adjoining property for a new library.

Twelve of the 13 members of the Site Selection Committee ranked the Heider site No. 1 — with one person ranking it No. 2.

The following people served on the Site Selection Committee: Pat Hartley, Lois Neu, Tom Louis, Marilyn Setzler, Jana Bogue, Greg Siemann, John Brocklesby, Robyn Greteman, Mayor Jim Pedelty, City Public Works director Randy Krauel, Carroll Chamber of Commerce and Carroll Area Development Corp. director Jim Gossett, Ella Mueggenberg, Carol Gronstal, Carol Blincow, library director Kelly Fischbach, Gary Schroeder, and former Mayor Ed Smith.

The library Board of Trustees, past and present members, and private, not-for-profit Carroll Public Library Foundation and the Carroll Public Library Capital Campaign pacesetters team have some ownership of the plan, too.

The current Library Board of Trustees consists of Pat Hartley, Marilyn Setzler, Tom Louis, Gary Schroeder, Jana Bogue, Robyn Greteman, Ian Granstra, Lois Neu and John Brockelsby.

The Library Foundation members are Kathi Milligan, Mitch Hiscocks, Mike Riddle, Fran Pedelty, Gary Schroeder, Ed Smith, Carol Blincow, Carol Gronstal, Pat Hartley, Kelly Fischbach and Douglas Burns.

For my part, I was not involved with selection of the location or related deliberations.

Because of my family’s four-generations-deep roots in the community and my own coverage over 15 years of hundreds of people with Carroll-area ties who have gone on to great success, I was asked to assist with fund-raising from sources outside of Carroll.

Recently, for example, Merle Wilberding, a Notre Dame University-educated St. Bernard Catholic High School alum from Breda who now lives in Dayton, Ohio, where he practices law, came through with a meaningful contribution to the library.

That’s money coming back to Carroll County (from Ohio where they arguably need it more these days as the manufacturing base of this nation isn’t faring as well as the farm economy).

Advocates have collected money from other non-Carroll County sources for a new library as well.

The motivation: to make Carroll a more vibrant community that attracts young families — our key demographic going forward — and serve everyone in search of empowering knowledge.

Period.

Advocates have presented information on the library as developed and vetted by library professional George Lawson, FEH & Associates, the Des Moines and Sioux City firm that designed our Recreation Center, and Carroll City Council. The numbers have been raised and discussed in public forums where sourcing is required.

At the end of the day, the proposed Carroll Public Library is a project that demands debate.

What we get, too often, though, from Taxpayers for a Realistic Library Expansion Plan is personal vitriol.

The organization attacks Councilman Phil Phillips’ intelligence in an ad Wednesday in this newspaper — saying “he didn’t learn that in Economics 101.” Staging the project as Phillips discussed is debatable, but he doesn’t deserve an insult, a suggestion that he couldn’t pass Economics 101.

In fact, Phillips oversees the Carroll County Social Security Office, one of the more important institutions for the day-to-day economy of Carroll. If he doesn’t do his job, many seniors can’t buy bananas or bread. Phillips is doing his job. I’d take my chances looking over his shoulder on an economics test.

Stay mindful of one more fact as you mull over this library project: It’s a private-public partnership. Advocates aren’t coming to the city council and taxpayers empty-handed, on bended knee. The Carroll Public Library Foundation has raised more than $750,000 so far from private sources and outside organizations toward a goal of $2.6 million for an estimated $7.4 million project.

Even if you are less than wild about the library plan as conceived, you have an interest in seeing the private-public model work — because the next project for which this selfless (and conservative) strategy is employed may be for something you care passionately about in Carroll.

My uncle, James B. Wilson, the publisher of this paper, told me something years ago about how Carroll moves forward: we find good reasons in this county to support other people’s projects, even if we don’t always think they’re perfect or exactly what we’d do. We’re not picking out drapes. We’re building one of the best small cities in Iowa.

AND he told Me THAT!!!! face to face, not in a STATEMENT full of EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!