Monday, April 12, 2010

You Wouldn't Happen to Have $3.3 Million You Could Spare?

Times are tough, municipal budgets are shrinking, and our wonderful Boston Public Library is in trouble. With a budget shortfall of $3.3 million, the trustees have decided to lay off a bunch of people and to close three branches.

It's times like this that I miss Billy Bulger. As President of the Senate in the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Bulger kept things running the way he wanted them run. If a political operative's brother-in-law needed a cushy job, it was done. The construction project somehow gets awarded to one of his old neighborhood guys. It was old fashioned Boston politics, and he was the master. What the President wanted, the President pretty much got.

And one thing the President wanted was a world class library. In Bulger's day the BPL always got the funding it needed. Say what you will about him, the man believed that literacy and education was an essential public good.

Billy Bulger left politics about a decade and a half ago. When he stepped down I knew that this day would come. Sooner or later we'd feel a pinch, politicians would see the library budget as a source of money, and there would be no one to stand in the way.

The good old days, the era when marginally corrupt politicians would take care of us, is over. Today we need someone else to take care of us. This column in the Globe says that we now need the private sector to come to the rescue. True enough.

While I'm not sure how many billionaire philanthropists or institutional donors read the Globe these days, I'm fairly certain that this blog is tremendously popular among incredibly wealthy people. Therefore, as a public service, I would now like to make the following plea:

Hello there rich people and people responsible for giving away large piles of money. If you're planning on giving away some money today, why not give it to the Boston Public Library? It is a very nice library. It is a clean, well lighted place. Well, pretty clean. Some of the old carpeting is a bit troubling, but other than that it is lovely. If you choose to preserve the library in our town I'm sure it will be of some benefit to you. Think of the good press. I'll be the trustees would be willing to sell naming rights. Imagine your name over the door at one of the beloved neighborhood branches. You can't buy that sort of good will. Or can you? Yes, you can.

So Mr Rich Person. Now is your chance to be a major patron of the arts, literature, and education in our fair city. It would be a very good thing to do, and I'm betting that having a library named after you would be a major chick magnet. Just something to think about.

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