Public opposition to the Schmoke administration's plans to shutter eight branch libraries should tell the mayor that constituents want to see him stick to the slogan he embraced in his first term, "Baltimore, the City that Reads." With creativity and civic support, the budgetary reductions that led to the announced closings can be overcome.
A total of $1.3 million is being cut from the Enoch Pratt Free Library's already hard-hit budget. Eight neighborhood reading centers are on the chopping block. Execution date is set for the week of Dec. 2. It is an extreme step that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke should find ways to avoid, especially in light of growing civic concern over the ramifications of closing the door on libraries for many of the city's poorest kids.
One approach already being discussed is taking money out of other municipal activities that are far lower on the priority list than libraries: the $1.3 million spent on the city's cable television channel; the $1 million spent on salaries and other overhead by the Mayor's Commission on Arts and Culture; the $173,000 spent to run the Commission for Women that duplicates work done by several other agencies; the $4.3 million spent on festivals, parades and civic promotions.