In one of the most bizarre votes in recent memory, Framingham Town Meeting tonight narrowly passed an article to buy land for a new Christa McAuliffe branch library -- only to turn turn around and narrowly defeat an article that would appropriate money to actually build the library.
The move puts a more than $1 million state grant to help fund the project in deep jeopardy. As Library Director Tom Gilchrist said afterwards, while the project isn't dead, it's on life support. Unless another vote can be taken and certified on this before May 15, the grant is gone for at least 4 years.
Opponents ignored an outpouring of public support for the project, deciding that this investment in Saxonville -- creating this great anchor destination and community center -- wasn't worth spending our money on, even though HUNDREDS of taxpayers signed petitions supporting the project, and dozens showed up tonight. Instead, apparently, library patrons should all drive downtown if they need services. If we need to see a newspaper more than 2 weeks old, or want to sit and have a place to read, or to conduct research; if our students want a place to do their homework, they can all jump in their cars, clog the already overly congested north-south roads further, and try to find a place to park.
Hey, I've got an idea -- let's close every grocery store in town except for Super Stop & Shop in Saxonville, and have everyone who needs to buy food on the South Side drive up Rte. 126 and back. What's that, you say? People don't want to drive 12 miles roundtrip just to pick up a loaf of bread? Well, guess what? They don't want to have to cross town every time they want a reasonable level of library service either.
Two-thirds votes were needed to pass the articles. The first vote on buying the land was 101-45 in favor; I think the second was 94-51 in favor, but am not sure; once I saw that the yes votes fell under 97, I stopped writing. Actually, I thought it was 94-45, which would have been passed. I'm crushed.
Tonight's vote was a roll call. I'll be seeking a listing of who voted how, to link to or publish.
No more for tonight, as I'm so upset I'm likely to write some things I'll regret later. (Once you're Googled, it lives, cached, forever.) Suffice it to say that I think this was extraordinarily shortsighted. The way to keep Framingham "affordable" is NOT by delivering services so crappy in comparison to surrounding towns that nobody wants to buy here. We're not talking extravagence here. Somerville has TWO branch libraries with a smaller population than Framingham, and it's only 8 square miles large, compared to Framingham's 25 square miles. Offering neighborhood community libraries is a basic government service, that those of us who live in neighborhoods besides downtown have a right to have funded with our tax dollars. I don't begrudge the South Side our best library; all we were asking is to give us a good one.