I was all set to write that Woodstockers should vote to approve the Library budget, following a carefully crafted campaign to separate that election from whatever misgivings the public may have over the Library board’s annex proposal.
But all of that came crashing down at the August 21 board meeting as several trustees engaged in mortal combat seeking to force the resignation, impeachment or to ethically censure another over letters to the paper that other people had written in support of him.
So bitter was the train wreck of a confrontation (available to all through the magic of YouTube) that the library board managed, in these eyes, to turn all the attention back on itself, making it almost impossible for a citizen to vote on its fashioned not-to-offend budget without considering the way the entire Annex saga has come about.
So bewildered was the board that President Stuart Auchincloss declared the Geoff Hanowitz motion to investigate impeachment of trustee Jesse Jones a winner with four votes in favor, one against and four abstentions. But library board rules declare that a majority of those present is needed to carry a motion. Auchincloss has since acknowledged that the vote failed, but that he will carry out its intention anyway (though without spending any money) despite lacking board approval.
The timing of the blowup was, shall we say, impolitic, because Jones is a candidate for reelection. In another week, in a quiet, low-turnout election, he could have been unseated. The budget may have been poised to squeak by. Those two things could still happen, but it won’t be quiet and there will likely be a larger than expected turnout now due to these events.
I still think the budget is OK. But that may be beside the point now. The election may fill a need the public has to express itself about a project that grew exponentially in scope and cost after it had received a pass from the town on going through the planning process; about a board that has seemed to dig itself further into a hole with nearly every utterance and that can blow up bitterly on the eve of an election it very well could have won.
And I still love the library. After the 2007 budget debacle (a 991-196 defeat of a proposal that would have raised taxes more than 140 percent for a renovation) the institution worked hard and successfully to restore confidence in itself in the eyes of townspeople. Its programs are an essential jewel; its Library Director, Amy Raff, is universally respected.
Its survival is not at stake. But how it grows to meet its needs is certainly under scrutiny and in question. As is the leadership that’s trying to take it there.