The City of Detroit is facing bankruptcy after decades of mismanagement and political graft. So too one of its departments, the Detroit Public Library, which is looking to close 18 of its 23 neighborhood branches and lay off some 191 or its 333 personnel. Meanwhile, the DPL is spending $2.3 million dollars to renovate the main branch downtown, including the purchase of 20 European-made lounge chairs costing $1092 each. Now, maybe I am just being an old fuddy-duddy, or a buzz-kill, but I have to wonder $2.3 million in new furniture is money well spent given the fiscal crisis in Detroit?

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In addition twenty European-built lounge chairs for $1,092 each, the Library is also buying two phony fireplaces for $5,021 a pop, and 24 light fixtures costing $531 each. The original renovation proposed in 2009 for $300,000 of new furniture quickly ballooned to $624,000 worth of new book shelves and other wood work. Other expenses were rolled into the project, which was funded after voters approved a tax millage increase. These include some $160,000 to several area food vendors whom supply gourmet food and ice cream at events, and a 6% pay increase to union workers costing nearly half of the budget, about $1 million dollars. Most of the city’s union workers have had a pay cut in recent years due to budget deficits.

Even Todd Kelly, president of AFSCME Local 1259, which represents some 125 of the library′s employees thought a 6% pay increase was unusual. “We would have settled for 2% when we saw what the city was dealing with.” Library Commission Chairman Edward Thomas doesn’t think that the renovation is a big issue. “When you have a situation like this, people are looking for someone to blame. I just think some things are being made more of than they are. The root cause is really the decline in property taxes.”

I see! How typical for the Liberal-Progressive mindset, the real problem is a lack of tax revenue, not a spending problem! I suppose the citizens and taxpayers should be blamed for that? Not Detroit Public Library officials spending $1,092 a piece for a bunch of chairs made in Europe? Somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that had they just driven to a Staples, they probably could have purchased some more than adequate chairs and light fixtures for far less money. I don’t know if Staples sells a phony fireplace, but I′m sure Wal-Mart or somebody else has one for much less than $5,000. Considering that the DPL is looking to gut 18 of its 23 neighbor library branches, maybe there might be a few chairs and light fixtures that could have been utilized? At the very least, how about buying some American-made chairs?

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