Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Time to pick up the TeMPO

It has been over nine months since the people of South Euclid and Lyndhurst learned of the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s plan to sell the Telling Mansion and move to a new location on Green Road.  While many have spoken against the plan, the CCPL board has stated in no uncertain terms that they are moving.  South Euclid’s government has very little power to affect the outcome. 

Various officials have claimed wide support for the move.  I’m skeptical of that claim.  I’ve discussed this issue far and wide, in person and online.  Aside from the CCPL board members, I can count the number of people I’ve actually met who support the move on one hand.

I remain opposed to the move for several reasons, most of which have nothing to do with the so-called “sentimental” value of the Telling Mansion.  I feel the proposed location takes the branch too far from the geographical center of South Euclid-Lyndhurst and away from the main public transportation route – in all matters except wheelchair access, the Green Road site would be less accessible; further, the proposed site also removes three valuable properties from the public tax rolls.  I’ve signed and promoted an online petition opposing the move.  I’ve blogged and spoken against the move, as have numerous others.  But the purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of the move – that has already been discussed to death.

There are two groups involved in the Library issue.  There is the Save the Mansion Library group, which is opposed to any move by the Library – end of discussion.  They have been protesting on weekends outside the Library and originated the petition.  The second group is the Telling Mansion Preservation Organization – TeMPO (full disclosure, I am a charter member and serve as the group’s Vice President).

One of the reasons members of the community came together to form TeMPO is because the other group’s efforts have not had any traction.  Truth be told: “likes” on a facebook page and petitions do not carry any legal weight – they are of symbolic importance only.  (Let’s not even get into the fact that, Inc. is a rather shady, for-profit company which does not safeguard signatory information.  If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of spam e-mails in your inbox after signing a petition, there’s a reason.)  Further, the CCPL is not subject to voter referendum and the plans for the new Library cannot be vetoed by South Euclid’s Planning Commission or by the City Council.  If either body tried to take such an action, the city would be subject to a potentially costly lawsuit for which the taxpayers of South Euclid – and those of South Euclid alone – would be on the hook.  Further, nothing is to be gained by demonizing the CCPL board, which has been part of the tack taken by some of the other group’s more extreme members.  Recently, the other group tried to get a court order preventing the sale of the Telling Mansion.  Within three hours, their request was dismissed.  Meanwhile, the CCPL board now has two offers for the Mansion on the table.  (Over the weekend, I heard that the Save the Mansion Library group’s legal help was paid for by one of the wealthiest families in Cleveland – a family which could easily afford to buy the Telling Mansion, donate it to a non-profit, and keep it opened for all to enjoy.)  What was the other group’s response to the dismissal?  Continue pushing the online petition and hold another weekend protest - which has accomplished nothing concrete. 

Einstein referred to repeatedly trying the same methods and expecting different results as a sign of insanity. There comes a time when one must prepare for the inevitable and try to make the best of a bad situation.  Whether one agrees with or opposes the Library’s move, surely we can all agree that the Telling Mansion, South Euclid’s most noteworthy architectural treasure, must be saved and, preferably, remain open to the public.

As I’ve stated before, people of good conscience can have differing points of view, and even believe in different methods to achieve the same, or similar, goals.  So, it’s disappointing when online commentators feel the need to question the sincerity of TeMPO members and accuse us of shilling for this-or-that South Euclid based politician, or try to connect the Library issue with 2011’s Oakwood controversy.   The fact is that TeMPO members come from all over the political spectrum, from members of the Green Party to Democrats to Republicans.  Our treasurer ran against the mayor in the 2011 election.  TeMPO has at least two members who are also in the Save the Mansion Library group. 

It’s easy to sit at a keyboard and complain online.  It’s not so easy to roll up your sleeves, engage, come up with solutions, and try to put those into action.  But it’s more rewarding. 

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