There are three measures on this fall's Colorado ballot - Amendments 60 and 61, Proposition 101 - which, if successful, will not only reduce my library's budget by 58%, but will wreak similar havoc on municipalities, counties, schools, special districts, and the state itself. They will also create an economic climate that is positively repellent to business. I don't know who first called the "bad 3" "a voter approved Depression," but that sums it up.
I have been writing newspaper columns for 23 years. Mostly, my thoughts have focused on the issues faced by the library, and a host of various program announcements and policy considerations. A couple of times in the past year, I wrote about federal issues. The lashback from some members of my community was rapid and extreme. They threatened lawsuits, they threatened boycotts and punishment at the ballot box, they actively sought to have me fired by county commissioners and the board.
That's ok by me, by the way. Free speech is free speech, and no one harmed me in the least. The library's lawyer confirmed that opining about things I read is perfectly legal. But I talked about my column's growing controversy with my board, agreed that I would henceforth call my columns "LaRue's Views," and end them with "LaRue's Views are his own." I even asked the newspaper to move the columns off the "library page" in the paper. That's funny, really, because until I started writing my columns, that page didn't exist. But the editors moved me to the editorial page.
My columns were also posted on the library's website, with both the title and disclaimer.
But when I started to write about the "bad 3" I had a problem. Something called the Fair Campaign Practices Act forbids the use of public funds to try to actively campaign for or against some local vote. I write my columns on my own time. I send them out from my own email account. While I have no idea how to calculate the cost of posting and hosting my columns on the library's website (pennies?), I talked it over with our attorney, and decided that it was time for a break. I left all my old columns (from January, 1996 to August, 2010) on the library as a kind of digital archive. You'll see that link to the right of this blog. My columns are still around, but eventually, won't appear on the top page of the library's web site.
Then I created a new blog - and that link is to the right of this blog, too - where I can be as bluntly political as I like. "Newspaper columns - current" can be found at laruesviews.blogspot.com.
No public money is expended. Nothing I say now has any sponsorship by my employer.
And that's really good, because if I can't speak up now, speak against measures that would undo in one year what took 20 years to build, then why speak at all?
Incidentally, our BHAG (Public Library Advocacy effort) is now wrapped up. Its successor effort, a private initiative, can be found here: bad3bad4libraries.blogspot.com/. Check it out.