Yesterday, I expressed the hope that the Internet will help people to remember public figures’ statements and behavior as the circumstances change around them. Over time, if we see the same people insisting that X is absolutely critical only to demand that X must be forbidden a few years down the line when political fortunes shift, we may learn not to allow the destructive ratchet to keep working.
The same sort of record is important for specific statements and promises, too. Once, it would have been a major research project to look back into the political debates of the past, so government operatives were able to draw us along. Nowadays, not so much.
Specifically, I have in mind the budget of Tiverton’s library, about which I’ve written on Tiverton Fact Check:
Tiverton residents should go back and read the headlines of some of the articles that the library put on its Web site supporting the bond to build a new library, such as: “Library Costs Will Increase Only Slightly” in the Sakonnet Times on October 17, 2011.
Based on historical data from the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services (OLIS), if the library gets the budget that it wants for next year, it will represent a 35% increase over the operating budget from that year. Families that haven’t seen much of an income increase (if any) in the past six years may not see that as “slight.”
The library board is threatening that it may not be able to maintain the state’s minimum for services and that the town may therefore lose state aid for both the library and the bond that paid its construction, which may require us to shut the whole thing down. Threats to shut things down, by the way, are another theme repeating throughout history.
Meanwhile, if staffing costs hadn’t exploded over the past few years, the library’s budget wouldn’t even have to be as big as it is, let alone as big as the library wants it. I’m sure this is a familiar story across Rhode Island. What’s needed are groups in every city and town keeping an eye on the record and building up statewide awareness of the game.