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2003 November 25
Mr. David W. Hamstead, Board Chairman
Allegheny Regional Asset District
Dear Mr. Hamstead:
First, I want to thank you for graciously receiving the public comments, of Hazelwood residents and me, at the most recent public meetings and hearing of the Allegheny Regional Asset District.
It was good talking to you on Saturday, at the grand reopening of the historic Homewood Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. This grand reopening clearly illustrated how well a historic library building can be rehabilitated, when there is the will.
As I told you on Saturday, I fear that the Homewood Branch will be the one token renovation, of a historic library building, by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Carnegie Library officials have already stated publicly, including at Regional Asset District Board meetings, that they are interested in leaving the historic branch library buildings in Hazelwood, Lawrenceville, Mount Washington, West End, and even the Allegheny Regional Branch next to Buhl Planetarium on the North Side, which was very special to Andrew Carnegie as he grew up in that neighborhood!
As I also related to you on Saturday, a new problem has been revealed, with the assumption, of the historic City and County responsibilities for funding public libraries, by the Allegheny Regional Asset District.
Until 1995, the City of
This changed in 1995. The City continues (even in their current financial crisis) to provide The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh $40,000 per year, to honor their historic agreement made with Andrew Carnegie in 1890. However, this is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the $16,063,000 provided this year by the Allegheny Regional Asset District.
While the City still represents their residents’ interests, the City no longer holds the “power of the purse.” Hence, the City is no longer able to wield a major influence, in support of their residents’ interests, with the management of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
This “power of
the purse” is now held by the Board of Directors of the Allegheny Regional
Asset District. You and your fellow Board members are the only ones who can now
significantly influence, on behalf of the residents of
I understand your statement that the RAD Board is not the Library Board. However, when the residents have no other realistic recourse, I do believe it is necessary for the RAD Board to assume the responsibility for representing all of the citizens’ interests, not just their financial interests.
Of course, I do understand that you have a legal contract (which, I might add, will soon be up for renewal) with The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, mandating that you provide them with a certain amount of annual funding. However, your “power of the purse” can be wielded with the funding you have provided to Carnegie Library in excess of this contracted amount, as well as the Library’s annual request for an increase in funding that has become almost routine. And, the renewal of the Library’s contract gives the RAD Board even greater leverage.
Mr. David W. Hamstead 2003 November 25 Page 2 of 2
In two public meetings (neighborhood meeting of September 9 and City Council public hearing of November 5), both widely publicized and well attended, the majority of attendees opposed the abandonment of the historic Hazelwood Branch Library building and the move of the library to a second floor rental unit, three blocks away. Yet, Carnegie Library officials ignore these sentiments and continue to plan for the library move. In fact, it was reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Library signed a lease for the new library space just a week-and-a-half before the public hearing—when they knew the hearing before City Council would take place!
Further, I want to remind you that Carnegie Library Director Herb Elish told you and the RAD Board, at the Carnegie Library Budget Hearing on August 27, that the move of the Hazelwood Branch Library would “probably” take place, but not until after the neighborhood had been consulted. Yet, at the neighborhood meeting on September 9, Mr. Elish told the audience that the decision had already been made—the library was going to move! There was no other option for the neighborhood to consider. How can this, truly, be considered “consulting with the neighborhood”?
It is this type of arrogance, by the officials of Carnegie Library, that needs to be checked by a body that represents the people. As the City can no longer, realistically, perform this function, I do ask that the Allegheny Regional Asset District take-on this responsibility.
Otherwise, Carnegie Library will be able to continue making changes, while operating with taxpayer money, with no real public accountability.
The Hazelwood residents, and I, continue to try to hold Carnegie Library officials accountable for their actions. Enclosed is a letter I mailed to Carnegie Library President Ellsworth Brown, last week, in which I seek Carnegie Library’s compliance with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act and the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law. In the letter, I explain, legally, how State-funded public libraries, as legal agencies of municipal government, are required to comply with these laws, as are all other units or agencies of municipal government.
However, we still do need
your help, to convince Carnegie Library officials that they should actually
comply with the wishes of the
Glenn A. Walsh
Copy: Members, Board of Directors, Allegheny Regional Asset District:
Joyce A. Baskins
Wesley E. Blaha
Karen Farmer White
Daniel J. Griffin
Gerald J. Voros
Constance L. Yarris
David Donahoe, Executive Director, Allegheny Regional Asset District
Supporters of the Historic Hazelwood Branch Library