In a dramatic reversal of fortunes, Dyersville officials wisely voiced their support for a small increase in funding for the James Kennedy Public Library, after Dyersville mayor Al Haas had initially called for the library to cut its budget by 5 percent.
Amongst the more than 30 people who came to the Feb. 9 work session, almost all supported strong library funding. Barb Heitzman hit upon the emotional touchstone of the evening when she said, “People only volunteer for things they really believe in.” Her statement captured not just the passion of volunteers but the depth of support for this popular community institution.
We couldn’t help but think that Haas was fighting a losing battle (or a losing war) when he set out his initial request. Dyersville citizens are awfully proud of their library, and its services aren’t an easy political target.
If you value education, movie nights, community safe space, knowledge—and you believe that these services are being efficiently delivered—you win. Maybe it’s easy for us to cheerlead library services because they’re trying to deliver the same things we are: information, sometimes a little entertainment and a forum that enriches the community of which we’re a part.
Haas did have one valid point: out-of-town, especially Dubuque County residents, disproportionately use the Dyersville (and Dubuque) libraries because “their” Dubuque County library system—intended to serve rural constituents—is grossly underfunded. Recent legal opinions mean the county library’s form will evolve, and we hope this eventually results in a more equitable funding system that provides valuable library services to all of our readers.
Haas was also wise to abandon any inclinations he might have had to not allow public comment at last week’s work session. Doing so would have only embittered and escalated the conflict. Those who aren’t allowed a public voice still have the private choice of a voting booth, and they do not tend to support those who have denied them earlier input.
What is popular is not always right, but ideally, a politician listens to his or her constituents, weighs this input alongside personal convictions, and acts accordingly.
It is our loss that, as constituents, we do not more often strongly voice our opinion on a variety of issues, before we walk into the voting booth on election day.
Our opinion is the consensus of the Dyersville Commercial editorial board.