Frankly, it would be superfluous and fairly gratuitous to comment any length on this sad screed (I've already dismantled the hopelessly under-equipped Mr. Kenitz a few years back over his dismal understanding of the Wal-Mart economy), except to note that our slide into rec-room culture is hastened by such short-sighted drivel.
Federal Conservatives and Local Liberals
By Community Columnist Dan Kenitz
Hartford is located in conservative Washington County. So it's a low-taxing, low-spending utopia, right?
Not exactly. Many Hartford conservatives stop being conservatives when it comes to projects within a five-mile radius of themselves. One such project is the new library, currently under construction. On March 13, Hartford officials broke ground on the Jack Russell Memorial Library, a 35,000-square-foot building that is estimated to cost more than $10 million.
The library is funded by an initial $2 million donation by Russell's widow, the late Geraldine Russell, $1 million from library trust fund savings, $2.2 million from local supporter donations and the remaining $5 million earmarked in the city 2012 capital improvement budget. Taxpayers are being forced to spend $5 million without so much as the courtesy of a referendum.
Many Hartford locals will tell you the new library has been needed for a while. After all, says the Jack Russell Memorial Library Web site, the Hartford library's circulation sank from 196,103 in 2001 to 170,724 in 2008. Egad! We have a library crisis on our hands.
[NOTE TO MR. KENITZ: The population of Hartford, Wisconsin increased 27% from 2000 to 2008.]
Of course, on the same Web site - on the same page, no less - the library notes that the circulation increase to 170,724 since 1985 is a reason the library needs more space.
On then one hand, having a circulation of 170,724 is too low, so we need a new library. On the other hand, having a circulation of 170,724 is too high, so we need a new library.
Supposedly, limited space is making the Hartford library less competitive with neighboring libraries. The Web site will tell you that more than 17,000 items were borrowed by Hartford residents at different libraries across Washington County in 2008, libraries that likely include those of neighboring Slinger and West Bend.
I always thought competition was something a restaurant needs to worry about, not a library supported by property taxes. But never mind that. To compete with neighboring libraries - the ones taking all of our valuable, non-paying library traffic away - doesn't it make sense that Hartford should drop $10 million on a two-story, 35,500-square foot behemoth?
Well, no. Not when the Slinger Community Library already manages to take Hartford library checkouts away with just 7,200 square feet.
I have that number because I called the Slinger library, asked and was answered. To be sure, West Bend's library is massive - more than 60,000 square feet. But when I called it and posed the same question, I was redirected twice and ended up at someone's voicemail. Weeks later, I still haven't been called back. Is that what millions of library dollars buy?
I ended up finding West Bend's square footage online, using a free worldwide indexing service known as Google.
Speaking of modern technology: With $10 million, couldn't we just buy everyone in Hartford an iPad? With the money left over, we could have each iPad personally engraved. The problem, of course, is that such a strategy doesn't accomplish the nobler task of having a library as cool as West Bend's.
Although $5 million in city tax money will go to the library, taxpayers were never allowed to vote on it in the form of a referendum. That's a failure of government. When Hartford voters recently had a chance to vote in Ald. Tim Michalak as mayor - the candidate who supported a referendum and said simply, "I want to ask the voters about this" - they didn't vote him in. That's a failure of self-government.
The library will be built, but you can still learn from Hartford's mistakes: If you consider yourself a fiscal conservative, make sure that your principles also apply within a five-mile radius of your house.
To help you find that radius, don't call a library. I suggest Google Maps.