Saturday, February 6, 2016

Libraries Staying Open Through June

So it sounds like the Nutter administration is changing their tune on library closures. Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity Don Schwartz said today that the administration has "backed off from an approach to closing libraries," and is instead looking at "trimming library services across the city." Schwartz made the remarks at a PhillyStat data session on the city budget, where top officials discussed how to make cuts to close a $1 billion shortfall over the next five years. To help close a previous $1 billion shortfall, announced last fall, the city planned to shut 11 of the city's 54 libraries. The closures became the most controversial part of the mayor's cost-cutting plan and opponents fought the decision in court, successfully stalling the closures. We asked Schwartz to clarify his statement as he was leaving the meeting. "We are going to do everything in our power not to close library branches, but I make no guarantees," he said. The mayor's Chief of Staff Clay Armbrister provided a little more explanation. He said that Nutter wants all the library branches to stay open -- although their schedules may vary -- until June 30th, when this budget cycle concludes. After that, it will depend on the financial options presented during the budget process. "Going forward we're going to take a look at what the options are," Armbrister said. The city has appealed the Common Pleas court ruling, requiring the libraries to stay open. Armbrister said that court battle isn't just about the libraries, but also goes to mayoral authority. "The court case for us, it's much bigger than the libraries," Armbrister said.

Libraries Staying Open Through June

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The Charles Durham Branch Library in Mantua is one of the libraries that will remain open after the Nutter administration reversed course this afternoon. (Sarah J. Glover/Staff Photographer)
The Charles Durham Branch Library in Mantua is one of the libraries that will remain open after the Nutter administration reversed course this afternoon. (Sarah J. Glover/Staff Photographer)

So it sounds like the Nutter administration is changing their tune on library closures.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity Don Schwartz said today that the administration has "backed off from an approach to closing libraries," and is instead looking at "trimming library services across the city."

Schwartz made the remarks at a PhillyStat data session on the city budget, where top officials discussed how to make cuts to close a $1 billion shortfall over the next five years. To help close a previous $1 billion shortfall, announced last fall, the city planned to shut 11 of the city's 54 libraries. The closures became the most controversial part of the mayor's cost-cutting plan and  opponents fought the decision in court, successfully stalling the closures.

We asked Schwartz to clarify his statement as he was leaving the meeting. "We are going to do everything in our power not to close library branches, but I make no guarantees," he said.

The mayor's Chief of Staff Clay Armbrister provided a little more explanation. He said that Nutter wants all the library branches to stay open -- although their schedules may vary -- until June 30th, when this budget cycle concludes. After that, it will depend on the financial options presented during the budget process.

"Going forward we're going to take a look at what the options are," Armbrister said.

The city has appealed the Common Pleas court ruling, requiring the libraries to stay open. Armbrister said that court battle isn't just about the libraries, but also goes to mayoral authority.

"The court case for us, it's much bigger than the libraries," Armbrister said.

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William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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