Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston didn’t speak up against the proposed Forest Green Library at Wednesday’s capital bond briefing as some thought he might. Though land has already been purchased and replacement of the outdated library in Lake Highlands is currently part of the bond package backed by the Citizen’s Bond Task Force, Kingston, who represents District 14 in Oak Lawn and Lakewood, had tweeted that a new library in Vickery Meadow was the only one he would support.
He did double down on previous criticism of the bond proposal itself and of the staff who put it together.
“These crazy packages are limiting our ability to pass judgement on the value of each of the proposals,” said Kingston. “I’m a politician and you guys are professional managers. It is professionally offensive to me when you guys try to take my power.”
In the end, Forest Green was probably saved, but only because most council members have district projects they also fear will be cut.
“Raise it up,” said Rick Callahan, council member from District 5’s Pleasant Grove. “We have pent-up needs and we don’t have enough money. We’ve played this game a million times saying, ‘We’ll put this in the next bond’ then going back to say, ‘You didn’t make the cut.’”
By the end of the day, the council had agreed to bump the bond total to $1.025 billion, more than the $825 million of the morning but less than the city’s $1.2 billion borrowing capacity. The staff will work on spending details, and the council will vote on the amended proposal June 28th. Council members will present the new plan to the public at town hall meetings in July, including one with District 10’s Adam McGough at Lake Highlands North Recreation Center at 6:30 p.m. on July 20th. The council will call the election August 9th, and voters will go to the polls November 7th.
Though the additional funds give Forest Green some breathing room, library advocates – waiting 11 years for this day – warn it’s too early to celebrate.
The process to replace Forest Green, the smallest in Dallas’ public library system, began long before the citizens of Dallas voted in 2006 to use bond funds to purchase land on Greenville Avenue, site of the former North Dallas Day School. First, there were months of planning meetings, town halls, public input, site searches and design discussions.
Then came the financial meltdown of 2008.
In years past, says Karen Blumenthal, president of Friends of the Dallas Public Library and District 10’s rep on the Municipal Library Board, each bond included money to build, replace or refurbish 5 libraries in Dallas. The bond after 2008 was strictly streets and sewage.
“It was time to tighten our belt,” she says, but now it’s time to finish Forest Green.
Lake Highlands resident Suzanne Massey agrees.
Both women spoke to the council Wednesday, with Massey pleading for them to keep the library’s $8 million in the $1 billion total.
“You may not be aware, but the Forest Green library serves many different constituencies,” she told them, “school children from multiple schools, elderly, disabled and neighborhood moms and dads.
“A few weeks ago I attended the summer reading kick-off at Forest Green library. One person noted with great appreciation that there were people and families in attendance from multiple ethnicities and cultures. The librarian mentioned that 90 people were in attendance. There was not enough room for everyone in the auditorium. The air conditioning wasn’t working so there were multiple fans going. There is an obvious need for the replacement of the Forest Green library.
“The rebuild of Forest Green library is an essential part of the bond and will fulfill the promise made over 10 years ago by your predecessors. It is past time to fulfill this commitment and I hope the council will work together in unity and agreement that a replacement Forest Green library as well as a new library for Vickery Meadows will be to the benefit of Dallas as a whole.”
Massey has created a social media advocacy event she’s calling “Envisioning a Forest Green Replacement Library.” She’s inviting library supporters to bring their families (especially children holding books) to meet at the Greenville Avenue Braum’s Sunday, June 25th at 2 p.m. for a poster-making session then a walk to Forest Green for social media pics and Facebook Live remarks. Afterward, because social media is hard work, everyone will enjoy Braum’s ice cream.
You can find details on Facebook here.