Congratulations to the Columbia Heights City Council for taking the first step – the first reading – toward the $7 million bonding provision that will build a new city library.
The second reading takes place June 23 and will require 4 of 5 votes to pass. Assuming it passes, a little more than 1,000 residents signing a petition would put the matter up to a referendum (putting it on the November ballot).
We urge the council to do what’s needed to move the library forward now.
What’s wrong with a referendum? It’s perhaps unheard-of for a newspaper to take a stand against something that would measure the will of the people. That’s the problem, is it really the will of the people? These days, there are companies that can be hired to defeat referendums.
The everyday hard-working well-intentioned volunteers involved in whatever effort, whether it be public schools in one town, or the library in another, are no match for professionals whose scare tactics work against truth. It’s not assumed that the detractors of funding a new library would stoop this low, but it’s a possibility. The issue has been in the air for decades already.
There’s also an argument to be made for building sooner than later, as prices and availability of contractors will be better now as they gear up to service post-recession demand.
Now, on to the site. What puts Columbia Heights on the map? In terms of regional draw and good will, the Heights Theater is right up there. Aside from that, with the signature dandelion fountain gone from Wargo Park, the Rainbow grocery store gone from the hollow, Central Avenue in Heights has little to distinguish itself from other older suburbs.
Central IS the main street. If the new library locates next to the theater on the former Burger King site, the two make a strong gateway statement. And there’s still land available for another development next door on the former Mady’s site; potential to return more in tax base from the follow-on development. It becomes an attractive area, with the bank and the Anoka County license center, a handful of restaurants nearby.
It’s a site the residents and businesses can rally around, and we hope they will. Contact your council members and mayor now to tell them you support the bond and the Central site.
Originally published in the June 18, 2014 Northeaster