Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Citizens Defending Libraries Main Page

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . .  fund 'em, don't plunder 'em 

SIGN OUR PETITION TO SUPPORT LIBRARIES:  Sign our new updated petition here:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
You can also stay informed by following us on Twitter (@DefendLibraries) and by liking our Citizens Defending Libraries Facebook page. And we post videos on our Citizens Defending Libraries YouTube Channel.
When We Started and Why

Citizens Defending Libraries was founded in February of 2013 in response to then breaking headlines about how, across the city, our public libraries were proposed to be sold and shrunk at great public loss, with libraries being intentionally underfunded, their books and librarians eliminated.  Citizens Defending Libraries was first to point out how the the real estate industry's interest in turning libraries into real estate deals was driving such sales and the reduction of funding and library resources.

Achievements

Citizens Defending Libraries has had a number of significant successes fending off and preventing library sale and shrinkages and there has been some progress towards restoration of the funding of libraries to a proper pre-library-sales plan level of proper funding.  These successes include: 
    •    The sale of Mid-Manhattan, the most used circulating library in Manhattan, was prevented with the help of two lawsuits in which Citizens Defending Libraries was first in the list of named plaintiffs.  That sale was prevented as Citizens Defending Libraries joined with others to successfully derail the New York Public Library’s ill-conceived consolidating shrinkage of major Manhattan libraries known as the Central Library Plan.  Citizens Defending Libraries accurately predicted this sell-off and shrinkage of libraries was likely to cost over $500 million, far more than the $300 advertised by the NYPL as it promoted its real estate deals.  Unfortunately, work remains to be done as aspects of the Central Library Plan still ominously survive:
    •        The NYPL still plans to sell and close the largest science library in New York City, SIBL, the Science Industry and Business Library, eliminating its collection of science books just when they are needed most,
    •        Millions of additional books are still missing from and need to be brought back to the 42nd Street Central Reference Library at Fifth Avenue (yes that's the building with the lions, Patience and Fortitude).
    •        The NYPL still plans to subject the Mid-Manhattan Library to a consolidating shrinkage with a concomitantly vast reduction in available books.
    •    The sale and closing of another beloved central destination in Manhattan, the 5-story Donnell Library is now widely understood to have been a mistake. Library administration officials now apologize acknowledging it was a significant mistake, but that is only so long as we keep reminding the public what was lost and how the library was sold for a pittance, while real estate industry insiders like Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner benefitted from this first “shrink-and-sink” deal by replacing it with luxury tower, a tiny underground and largely bookless library in its base.
    •    Working with others in the community, we have so far prevented the sale the Pacific Branch Library, the first Carnegie in Brooklyn, next to Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards megadevelopment (now aka “Pacific Park”), which in 2013 the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced was one of its two highest priorities to sell as it launched a program of real estate deal sell-offs.
    •    For almost four years, from 2013 to 2017, we delayed and fended off the sale and destruction of Brooklyn’s second biggest library, the central destination Brooklyn Heights Library, which included the central Business Career and Education Library and a now shuttered Federal Depository Library making federal documents, records, and history available to the public.  This was another “shrink-and-sink” sale of property, also next to (and involving) Forest City Ratner property was the BPL’s other first announced highest priority.  Again, a luxury tower will stand where an important central destination library once stood.  Garnering over 2,000 testimonies from the community we surprised everybody by causing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to come out against the project after it was launched.  It was also reportedly the subject of a “play-to-play” investigation with respect to the development team that was an inferior bidder channeling funds to Mayor de Blasio.  That investigation appears to have been dropped immediately after Donald Trump stunned the public by firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
    •    We alerted the public and Red Hook community about “Spaceworks,” a real estate company formed Mayor Bloomberg’s administration to shrink libraries viewing library space as being under utilized we helped to prevent the already woefully small 7,500 square foot Red Hook library from being shrunk down to just 5,500 square feet.  Brooklyn Community Board 6 helped kill the shrinkage.  (While we also worked to get the word out to the Williamsburg community about a proposed shrinkage there with Spaceworks being handed the second floor of the Williamsburg Library, we were not able to act fast enough and Councilman Steve Levin and Brooklyn Community Board 1 were supporting the scheme.)
     •    We alerted the Sunset Park community about long-secret plans to sell the Sunset Park Library and redevelop it into a mixed used project.  We believe that because we were on the scene to shine this spotlight, and also because the BPL wanted to overcome our opposition to the Brooklyn Heights Library sale, Sunset park is the first time the BPL actually proposed to enlarge one of the the libraries it was targeting for sale.  That will be a sort of victory if there is no subsequent bait-and-switch.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect victory.  Our sense is that for good and valid reasons the informed Sunset Park community was still largely, perhaps 90%, opposed to the library replacement plan they were not involved in developing and from which they will suffer while the library is closed for many years before it is replaced.  Unfortunately, those who were in place to fight for the Sunset Park community’s interests did not ultimately defend them.  That includes Brooklyn Community Board 7 and City Councilman Carlos Menchaca.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries was also on the scene to shine a spotlight and help put things quickly in perspective for the Inwood Community when the NYPL announced it wanted to turn the Inwood Library into a real estate deal, likely also as a part of an effort to help push through a upzoning of the area.
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries similarly sounded the alarm before word was out publicly about a proposal for a consolidating shrinkage of the Brower Park Library with the Prospect Heights Children’s Museum (reversing a previous expansion).
     •    Citizens Defending Libraries has been engaged in an education and publicity campaign.  It included:
     •        Forums, including a mayor forum during the 2013 election with most of the candidates endorsing our proposals that libraries be properly funded, not sold and shrunk.  Mayor de Blasio, whose position we changed during the campaign, joined with us in July to proclaim that our libraries should not be sold saying: “It's public land and public facilities and public value under threat. . . and once again we see, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”  Unfortunately, by October he was taking money from developers behind the curtain.
        •    As a result of our activism there have been hearings about the sale and shrinkage of libraries starting with a very important June 27, 2013 New York State Assembly hearing that embarrassed city library administration officials. 
       •    A letter of support signed by multiple community organizations, electeds and candidates running for office.
        •   In May of 2016 Citizens Dfending Libraries was honored to be a recipient of the Historic Districts Council's Grassroots Preservation Award.
Despite our battles won, our NYC libraries are still besieged by a major war and the threat of such plans.

What libraries are affected?
Library officials said early on that they wanted to sell the most valuable NYC libraries first.  And indeed, that is exactly what the NYPL did when its first move was to sell the central destination Donnell Library, a library that was documented to be on most valuable block in Manhattan at the time.  Similarly, the concurrently launched Central Library Plan with its proposed sale of the Mid-Manhattan Library focused on the choicest real estate.  The BPL did the same thing prioritizing two prime site libraries adjacent to Forest City Ratner property for probable luxury towers, the Brooklyn Heights Library and the Pacific Branch library.  Unfortunately, the libraries that are most valuable to real estate developers are also the most valuable to the public for very similar reasons, including central accessible locations.

The most valuable libraries may be at the top of this list, but all libraries in the New York City system are currently under siege.  All libraries are under siege because of the deliberate, unprecedented and absolutely unnecessary underfunding of NYC libraries that is being presented as an excuse to sell libraries affects all libraries in all our city's boroughs.

All libraries in the New York City system should also be considered currently under siege because each and every library sale becomes precedent and a model for the next.  The shrink-and-sink sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library replicates the shrink-and-sink Donnell Library (in fact it was conceived at the same time with the same people in the background).  Moreover, BPL president Linda Johnson told the City Council when it was approving the shrink-and-sink Brooklyn Heights Library sale that it would be a model for future library deals by all three city library systems, the BPL, which she heads, the NYPL and the Queens Library.  Johnson has referred to herself as head of the Brooklyn Library system as having "over 1,000,000 square feet of real estate" at her disposal.

While Library officials are attracted to seizing for conversion the most valuable libraries first, they are also usually tactically coy about their plans. At this point they openly acknowledge going after only a few libraries at a time.  They go after the very valuable ones they want and they also go after the libraries where they believe they have ascertained that they can overcome community opposition and expect that they can, at the same time, perhaps achieve another objective that attracts them, like laying the groundwork for an upzoning in Inwood or establish and entrench a principle of reduction as with Spaceworks in Red Hook and Williamsburg.

For more details about affected libraries click here:  What Libraries Are Affected By City Strategy Of Defunding, Shrinking, Selling Off Libraries?

Are The Libraries Being Shrunk, Pushed Underground, Books and Librarians Eliminated Because the World Is "Going Digital"?

Although the people promoting library sales and elimination of books would like to use as an excuse that the world is going digital, that is not the case.  New York City libraries are more used than ever.  Although use was up 40% programmatically, most of the recent increased use is in terms of circulation, 59%, and almost all of that circulation is physical books.  That is despite an effort by NYC library administration officials to steer people into the use of digital books (which, maybe surprisingly, are actually more expensive for the libraries) and away from what they derisively refer to as "old-fashioned analogue books."

While digital books sometimes have some advantages the general population tends to prefer physical books.  Further, there are advantages with physical books related to the way people learn and think and there are problems and concerns about digital books that need to be considered.  See:  Physical Books vs. Digital Books.

At the same time, libraries do need to address digital needs and provide access to the internet; they need to help bridge the so-called "digital divide" between those who have ready access to computers and the internet and those who don't.  For that reason libraries should actually be growing to address these expanded needs rather than shrinking.  In this regard it is, indefensible and inexplicable that two top-notch libraries with some of the most advanced and robust support of computer and internet libraries, SIBL the 34th Street Science, Industry and Business Library and the downtown Brooklyn Heights Library with its Business, Career and Education Library, were both targeted for simultaneous elimination.

Are Libraries Just Too Expensive a Luxury to Pay For?

In the overall scheme of things, New York City libraries cost virtually nothing.  When it comes to libraries, no matter how you slice and dice it, we are dealing with total funding figures that come to fractions of a percentage point, this despite the fact that, economically, libraries more than pay for themselves, and: “More people visited public libraries in New York than every major sports team and every major cultural institution combined.”

Notwithstanding, subsidies to sports venues like the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” arena dwarf what we spend on libraries. In 8 years when we spent at least $620 million on just three sports arenas, (the Ratner/Prokhorov "Barclays" included) that amount was 1.37 times the amount spent on libraries serving seven times as many users.

The underfunding of libraries is notwithstanding that libraries are one of the public's top priorities. The city’s 59 community boards ranked library services as their“third highest budget concern” and“Brooklyn’s community boards ranked libraries their top priority.”  In 2013 when the NYC Comptroller polled the public about its priorities for "The People's Budget" libraries were again one of the very top priorities.

Valuable in so many ways in their own right, libraries must also be considered an essential adjunct to schools and ensuring proper education and literacy of the population.  One thing that a recurring trope in science fiction scripts gets right is that there is a high correspondence, if not quite one-to-one correlation, between the demise of great libraries and the collapse of once great civilizations.

NYC Libraries Are Being Sold For Huge Losses And For Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

People ask whether the public is at least getting good deals or "value" when we sell our libraries.  We absolutely are not.  We are selling our libraries for far less than their worth and far less than we have invested in them.  The losses are actually profoundly embarrassing notwithstanding the proclivity of library officials to deceptively characterize proceeds from sales as "profits," and as "hefty" rather than "paltry."  That's been true since the beginning. . .

. . .  The first library sold, the Donnell Library, the central destination, 97,000-square foot, five-story central destination library on what was documented to be the most valuable block in Manhattan at the time, was sold to net the NYPL less than $25,000 million.  The penthouse in the luxury tower that replaced it in the 50-story luxury tower replacing Donnell went on the market for $60 million.  Another single lower-level condo unit in the luxury building, 43A, sold for $20,110,437.50.  There is also a 114 guest room luxury hotel in the tower.  according to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese investors made that hotel,“the most highly valued hotel in the U.S.” after agreeing to buy it for “more than $230 million. . .  .more than $2 million a room.”

. . . The central destination Brooklyn Heights Library in Downtown Brooklyn, expanded and fully upgraded in 1993, one of the most modern and up-to-date libraries in the system would cost more than $120 million to replace.  The city sold it for less than its tear-down value, for less than its value as a vacant lot, and because it was sold to a developer who's inferior bid was not the highest bid, it's sale became the subject of one of the pay-to-play investigations of the de Blasio administration.  When costs are finally calculated it is likely the city and library administration officials will have netted less than $25 million from this library's ruination.

. . . In two suspicious real estate deals the NYPL has sold the 34th Street SIBL library, the city's biggest science library . . . . .

TO READ MORE- Click:  TO READ MORE- Click: Libraries Being Sold For Huge Losses And Minuscule Fractions of Their Value

Who Is Selling Our Libraries?

The plans to sell our libraries were announced under the Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and it appears that they go back to at least 2005 and probably at least 2004.  Prior to the Bloomberg administration, NYC libraries were being expanded significantly under the Giuliani administration.  During the 2013 mayoral race, candidate Bill de Blasio said that the library sales should be halted, but in short order Mr. de Blasio was taking money from real estate developers "behind the curtain  . .very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”

Once in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued with the library sales he decried as a candidate, although, to give the devil his due, de Blasio did not proceed with the full-blown NYPL Central Library Plan.  While the Mid-Manhattan library is now being subjected to a consolidating shrinkage it is no longer being sold straight out, but, under Mayor de Blasio we are still selling SIBL the city's biggest science library.  We are also still exiling research books off premises from where they were once readily and quickly retrievable at the 42nd Street Library.


There are other elected officials that are avidly taking the lead pushing these city library sales.  Foremost among them is city council member Brad Lander.  Also clearly conspicuous in his enthusiastic and unrelenting support for these plans is Jimmy Van Bramer head of the City Council Cultural Committee of which the city council's library subcommittee is a sub-component he domainates in leading.  .  .

 . .  Each particular local city council member must also be held responsible for what happens to the libraries in their districts, but revelations are that many of them, like Councilman Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg libraries), Ydanis Rodriguez (Inwood Library) and Carlos Manchacca (Sunset Park Library), were brought on board behind the scenes in advance to  . . .

TO READ MORE (including about the involvement of a Trump presidential son-in-law, Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman, the library boards of trustees, law enforcing officials standing idly by the sidelines and what are supposed to be charitable organizations serving the public) - Click:  WHO Is Selling Our Libraries?

When Did The Plans To Sell Libraries (Plus The Launching of The Concomitant Underfunding of Libraries) Begin?
Chart from Center From an Urban Future report showing sharp decline in funding (coinciding with plans to sell off/"leverage" libraries) against escalating use.  
As noted, although plans to sell NYC libraries were not announced by the Mayor Michael Bloomberg administration until much later, those plans actually to go back to at least 2005 or probably 2004David Offensend was hired by the NYPL in June of 2004 and, though he is imprecise, he says that he started working on library deals not long after his arrival there.  Janet Offensend, his wife, who helped launch BPL library sales started haunting the BPL and its board in 2005.  Other city development officials were being positioned by Mayor Bloomberg on the BPL board around that time.  (The Bloomberg administration took office January 1, 2002, shortly after 9/11.  By contrast, the Giuliani administration implemented library expansion plans that carried over into the early Bloomberg years.)

The BPL's minutes for 2005 show that in January a developer, perhaps jumping the gun based on inside knowledge, was angling to buy the 12,200 square-foot Midwood Library.  In November 2006 the New York Times ran a little noticed article about tearing down “obsolete” branch libraries to produce “new,” "better" library space in multi-use developments saying that a study had produced "an inventory of nearly every branch library in New York City" to identify "candidates for redevelopment" (like the "Red Hook, Sunset Park and Brower Park" libraries and the "Clinton Hill Library," which involves pushing through an accompanying rezoning.)  The article mentions "deferred maintenance" as a reason to redevelop the libraries.

In May of 2006 it was revealed that four Connecticut librarians had won a fight, secret because of a gag order since it began in July 2005, to resist broad federal surveillance of their library patrons.

Although the public did not know what it needed to know in order to see it happening, 2007 and 2008 were extremely eventful years in terms of furthering the plans to sell NYC libraries: 
2007 
    •    In January 2007, Booz Allen Hamilton (known principally as a private surveillance firm, the "colossus" in the industry, working for the federal government) was hired to assist the NYPL trustees with their strategy of the sale and reformulating of libraries.
    •    In the Summer of 2007 the Mayor Bloomberg and First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris expressed enthusiasm for the NYPL’s plans to sell and redevelop major central destination Manhattan Libraries.
         •    In November The Donnell Library sale was announced . . . .

TO READ MORE (a complete timeline of library sale events and maneuvers in 2007, 2008 and right through to to the formation of Citizens Defending Libraries) - Click: When Did Library Selling and Underfunding Begin?

It's Not Just The Real Estate Industry Threatening Libraries


While most New Yorkers are attuned to the power and excesses of the city real estate industry and therefore easily understand its role as a key motivator in the assault on libraries, it's unfortunately naive to believe that only the real estate industry has an agenda that is adverse to the tradition of continuing libraries as the democratic commons we have known them to be.

This gets us into some other big questions. TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats

Control of Information

Does dumbing down the public make sense, is it truly workable if you want an effective democracy?  The availability and control of information, including in libraries as copious storehouses of information, has always long disconcerted authoritarians.  For instance, is it surprising to know that Senator Joseph McCarthy exercised his influence to ban from U.S. controlled libraries the music and scores of the "Fanfare For The Common Man" composer Aaron Copeland, because McCarthy believed  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats 
No doubt there are those for whom it would be preferable if information in libraries was tidily circumscribed so that it just slipstreams comfortably behind the limited thinking and reporting of the corporate conglomerate controlled national media.  That's a corporate media which among other things and by example underreports the climate change crisis, and  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
 While the tradition has been to protect and preserve the information entrusted to libraries, information on the internet can be startlingly evanescent, its continued existence subject to decisions made by whim or out of wrath about what the public should see. . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
The Internet And Digital as Business

As the world speeds into digital, it is important to recognize the pull and tugs of what the internet corporations would like, including reasons for wanting things to go digital.  There are reasons why, when just five or six (as of 2017) people control as much wealth as half of the rest of the world's population, that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon (and Washington Post) owner Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft's Bill Gates are three for them (with another Carlos Slim Helu incidentally, as part of his media holdings, being the largest shareholder of the New York Times.  Those reasons coincide with the reasons Apple, Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are all vying (along with Exxon Mobile) for the spot as largest U.S. company.

 . . . Think where all this money comes from.  There is, of course, the ubiquitous advertising, as the pop-up ads that saturate far-flung corners of the internet will remind you, just as advertising saturates the monopolistically owned TV and radio airwaves.  There is also the data-scraping.  As the "old internet saw" was quoted when Google was wiring all of NYC's streets for wireless internet "for free": "If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product."  What the private internet companies know about you helps target you . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats (or start by reading some of the snippets in different categories below.)
Privatized Political Advantage

Among those buying the data are political parties and their campaign operations looking to control the elected seats of government. Now with unprecedented insight into your preferences, those actors and operatives use the data to decide, with tools like gerrymandering, how much your vote should or should not be allowed to count.  With "voter preference files" that contain tens of thousands of "sets of data points" they have graduated from "microtargeting specific groups" to "nanotargeting" with different kinds of messages (whether true or not) designed elicit particular `emotional responses' from voters.  "Pay to sway" services supply a smorgasbord of  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Owning Ideas and Culture to Charge For Them

The content industry has its wants as well.  Its purveyors desire, for instance, to get the public out to the very latest movie you see touted on billboards, simultaneously on the sides of city buses, via the ads on Comedy Central and other channels, perhaps also boosted by a "sponsorship" mention on your local public radio station as it does featurette reporting . . . 
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
A Reduction to Dollar$ Sense

. . Traditional libraries have always stood as models opposite to the concept that everything in the world, plus everything that ought to be prioritized and perpetually pushed to the fore should exist in stripped-down monetizable dimensions.  To evaluate the world exclusively in the very limited terms of seeing things in terms of just numbers or only following the money is, in an of itself, impoverishing.  A 2015 report published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review studied how  . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Surveillance

The last big subject to mention bears a relationship to the first topic.  When the government, whoever is in charge, isn't actually preventing citizens from reading certain books it might proscribe, it can, nevertheless, be interested in surveiling what books and information members of the public are reading.  In theory, this could allow the government to  . . . .
TO READ MORE- Click: Examining The Panoply of Threats
Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled? The Poor, The Racially  Discriminated Against, Scholars, Future Leaders

Defunding and dismantling our libraries hurts society broadly, probably more broadly than many may have considered.

It is, of course, usually recognized that cutting back on library services significantly impacts low-income neighborhoods relying on them.  A PowerPoint presentation to the Queens Library board told it that library service is most important to low-income users: 2/3rds visit at least weekly, & almost 30% visit every/most days.  A recent Pew research Center report says "Low-income Americans, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than others to say that a library closing would impact their lives and communities," see them as community anchors, and use them to pursue jobs.  And it's been astutely commented that wherever it happens the loss of libraries is "another surefire way to entrench inequality."
 
Researchers and students also use the libraries.  Arguing to destroy libraries, the NYPL tried a divide-and-conquer-the-community approach suggesting that the research library was elitist and not sufficiently populist when in any given year the researchers and students at its 42nd Street central reference library consult "only 6% of print sources."  The same argument was being used to thin out collections at neighborhood libraries and move books off-site from those locations too.  That "6%" consultation rate was referred to by Ada Louise Huxtable in her very last column, published just weeks before her death (Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, December 3, 2012), in which she lambasted the NYPL's Central Library Plan including its stingy thinking that books should not be kept on hand if they are consulted infrequently:
If we could estimate how many ways in which the world has been changed by that 6%, the number would be far more meaningful than the traffic through its lion-guarded doors. The library's own releases, while short on details, consistently offer a rosy picture of a lively and popular "People's Palace." But a research library is a timeless repository of treasures, not a popularity contest measured by head counts, the current arbiter of success. This is already the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all. Democracy and populism seem to have become hopelessly confused.
Among other things, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and SIBL are the libraries for the graduate students at CUNY, the City University of New York, who  . . . .

TO READ MORE (about how the benefits of libraries are transmitted throughout society, the racial discrimination in selling libraries and divide and divide-and-conquer-the-community ploys) - Click: Who Is Hurt Most When Libraries Are Defunded and Dismantled?

How Many Books Are Disappearing?


Venturing into a library to witness scads of empty book shelves is a disorientating experience.  The empty shelves constitute early warning signs: Empty shelves at Mid-Manhattan Library, SIBL, the Brooklyn Heights Library, the Grand Army Plaza Library, the 42nd Street Central Reference Library have meant that these libraries have been targeted to be involved in library sale and shrinkage plans.

It is stunning how many books have disappeared and become unavailable, multiple millions overall.  (Library administration officials have done their best to obscure true counts of the reductions.)  If the books disappear from targeted libraries far enough in advance library administration officials can deceptively promise that there will be as many books after the shrinkage of the library as before.  Another deception is for library officials to claim that if books are exiled to be consolidated elsewhere in a "deduping" center there will actually be "more" books as a result.  ("Deduping" is euphemism for book elimination, the idea being the more books you consolidate in a central location the more books you have that are "duplicates" to be eliminated.)

Amazingly, despite the increasing difficulty in obtaining books NYC book circulation is going up and circulation increases are mainly the physical books that patrons generally prefer.  The idea that because some books (not all- for instance, Robert Caro's "The Power Broker") are available digitally we no longer need libraries to supply physical books is a myth.  That library administration officials disparage physical books as "old-fashioned analogue books" or just "artifactual originals" or that those officials will spend more money to push people in to digital reading than what spending on physical books costs does not make that myth any more true.

When library officials solicit contributions from the general public they will jive about how they are asking for that money in order to buy more books because they know that is a vision the public will support and respond favorably to, but at the same time library officials are less than transparent about how they are actually removing books from library premises and from the system entirely.

For more information about how many millions of books have disappeared from which libraries . .

TO READ MORE- Click: How Many Books Are Disappearing From New York City Libraries?

Why Turning Libraries Into Real Estate Deals Isn't The Good Deal Library and City Development Officials Describe

At first blush, many people have accepted what city development and library officials have regularly asserted about the deals launching this city-wide program of converting libraries into real estate deals (or, similarly, "redeveloping" our schools for that matter), that by "unlocking" library real estate development rights with multi-use developments it is a "win-win" proposition that benefits the libraries as well as the developers and real estate industry.

The offer of a free lunch is a tempting thing to hope for, but it doesn't bear scrutiny.  The math, when you do it, simply doesn't work out: It is expensive to tear down existing, frequently recently renovated libraries that the public has already invested substantially in.  When these development ideas are promoted the math goes from initial wishful fantasies, to deliberately obfuscated lack of transparency, to outright mendacious misrepresentation.  If library officials had insisted that the Donnell Library or the Brooklyn Heights Library be fully and completely replaced when they were sold (irrespective or their spaces being shoved underground), the sales would have to be calculated showing deep and obviously absurd public losses. . .

There is also the disruption that affects the public. And, although library and city officials try to skip over the point, when library assets are being divested, the libraries are, in the process, shedding their opportunities for future expansion and to keep pace as the city grows.

Moreover and probably most important, such multi-use development schemes force the libraries to "partner" with powerful private real estate interests that ultimately wind up in the drivers seat, setting the priorities with big checkbooks that bankroll false and misleading PR.  With the moneyed interests throwing their weight around, the public is exposed to bait-and-switch variations.  The Donnell Library sale deal that was described to the press and public when it was announced in no way resembled the deal that was consummated.

Selling Libraries And The Broader Issue of Private Sector Plunder of Public Property

Libraries are not our only public commons that are undemocratically under attack.  The attacks on libraries reflect a much wider scourge of plundering our public assets with the selling off and privatizing of schools, hospitals, public housing, parks, and even the privatization of our streets and sidewalks.  Accordingly, instead of just fighting the library fight, Citizens Defending Libraries (and you can join us) has reached out to other activists to hold a series of forums on the selling off of public assets and help engender and understanding of the commonalty of the threats and tactics an subterfuges we see.  For instance, as Noam Chomsky has explained one such "standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.". .  (In other words, when the door is open to privatization and sell-off there is an inducement to underfund.)  And then, with the transfer to private ownership, the result for public gets even worse.

Some of The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For 

City and library officials working with real estate developers trot out a standard set of misleading falsehoods and ploys to promote library sales.  If you think they sound good, watch out, often what they are saying is pretty much opposite to the real truth.

Want to know what lies to watch out for? . .

TO READ MORE- Click: The Biggest Lies To Watch Out For When Official Sell Libraries

(Read about: lies about public process * Lies about how to oppose a sale * Lies that "replacement" libraries will be as big or bigger *  Lies that libraries are too "dilapidated" to fix * The "same number of books" lie)

Where Does It Go From Here?  What Can You do?

One thing you can do is consider this a worthy cause and inform yourself and others about it.  Protection and preservation of our libraries is something that most people instantly and automatically understand.  As one member of our group observed early on: "If you can't stop them at libraries, where can you stop them?"  That's why we must stop them.. .

 . .  But also, because people do understand what it means to protect libraries, because they understand it in their very bones, the protection of libraries is an issue and a cause that can be used as a fulcrum to push back on the many other issues that relate to it, the impoverishing privatizations of public assets in general, abuses of the real estate industry, the corrupting influence of money in politics, inequality of power and wealth and the abuses of power by the wealthy. 

What Can We Do Next?

TO READ MORE- Click: How to Defend Our Libraries.

(Read about: Altering the law * Insisting on transparency * defending library buttons * Our Letter of Support * Our petition * Our mailing List * Testimony at public hearings *  Birddogging elected officials  *  Contacting the press *  Social media * Having us speak to yous community organization * Letters to the editor/comment on web articles * Research help * FOIL assistance * Singing the marvelous Judy Gorman library song )



The morning crowd waiting for the Brooklyn Heights downtown library to open
The Petition Being Put Forth By Citizens Defending Libraries

The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed).   On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now:
Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction
CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email MDDWhite (at) aol.com.

The archive of our previous web page (used into December 2017) can be found by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The 2018 Race For NYS Attorney General Could Be Absolutely Critical To Saving NYC’s Libraries From Sale And Plunder

Two rallies, at one Zephyr Teachout and at the other Tish James, each speaking against selling our libraries and each now a name on people's tongues as candidates for NYS Attorney General
With the extraordinarily abrupt resignation of Eric T. Schneiderman as New York State Attorney General, there are already three very well known names already on people's tongues as the likely candidates to replace him: Zephyr Teachout (who ran a surprisingly strong race for governor against Andre Cuomo), Tish James (current NYC Public Advocate), and Preet Bharara (fired by Trump from the position of U.S. Attorney and current WNYC podcast host).

Who holds the office of NYS Attorney General is important to libraries for two important reasons:
1.)  The NYS Attorney General  regulates charities, thus the libraries, and is charged with preventing the kinds of abuse that are now ongoing.

2.)  The NYS Attorney General has the power and duty to investigate fraud and abuse generally.
The issue of the sale of NYC libraries and the need to investigate is already charged as the names of several potential candidates involve prior history.  It is also charged because Eric Schneiderman, the NYS Attorney General did not step up to meet these obligations when Citizens Defending Libraries requested that he do so and informed him about what he needed to take action on.  See:
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Open Letter to US Attorney Preet Bharara, NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, et al: Use Your Staggering Powers as Law Enforcers & Public Guardians To Immediately Halt the Corrupt Sale & Shrinking of  Brooklyn Heights Library
All the possibilities are going to require greater reflection in the days going forward.  Among other things, candidates cannot always be counted upon to keep their campaign promises when elected.  An example in point: When first running for NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made strong statements with respecting his intention to investigate the Atlantic Yards mega-project and abuses of eminent domain.  When elected, he didn't. . . .

Similarly, when Bill de Blasio was first running for mayor he stood with Citizens Defending Libraries in July on the steps of the 42nd Street Central Reference opposing the sale of libraries, but by October was taking money coming from the development team to whom he would soon give the second biggest library in Brooklyn. 

As for the libraries and the candidates in this race, we should note that Zephyr Teachout did a campaign event with us (Citizens Defending Libraries) when she was running for governor.  See:
Saturday, September 6, 2014, PHOTO & VIDEO GALLERY: September 6, 2014 Halt Library Sales Rally (42nd Central Reference Library) With Zephyr Teachout/Tim Wu Campaign- Barry C. Lynn Speaks on Amazon

Citizens Defending Libraries put huge effort into helping Tish James get elected as Public Advocate when she campaigned that she would use that office to oppose NYC library sales.  We even forced Senator Daniel Squadron, her main opposing candidate in the election to change his position to keep up with her.  We are, however, still waiting for Public Advocate James to take the truly significant action she could use the office of Public Advocate for in fulfilling her promises.  As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District it was understood that Preet Bharara was understood to be investigating Mayor Bill de Blasio's sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library (Once Brooklyn's second biggest) amongst other pay-to-play deals.  We still don't know what it means that de Blasio got off the hook days after Trump fired Mr. Bharara.  See:
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Open Letter to US Attorney Preet Bharara, NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, et al: Use Your Staggering Powers as Law Enforcers & Public Guardians To Immediately Halt the Corrupt Sale & Shrinking of Brooklyn Heights Library
Stay tuned. . . And when you run into the candidates, think about donating to them, ask them about what they intend to do to save our libraries from plunder and be ready to document what they say.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Where Will You get Your News When There Is A Mass-Dismantling of Outlets Like The Denver Post By Wall Street Vulture Capital Funds?

May 8th there was a demonstration outside the “Lipstick Building” in Manhattan, people flying 3,000 miles to participate, protesting the New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital for dismantling local newspapers such as: the Oakland Tribune, The San Jose Mercury News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Denver Post.  The editorial board of that last paper, the Denver Post is now in open revolt against its hedge fund ownership engaged in such dismantling including with an op-ed titled “When a hedge fund tries to kill the newspapers it owns, journalists must fight back.”

The morning of the demonstration Democracy Now covered what’s in issue here:
Journalists Rise Up Against Wall Street Hedge Fund Decimating Newsrooms Across the CountryStory, May 08, 2018

Previously covered here:

Denver Post Revolts Against Its “Vulture” Hedge-Fund Owner & Demands 126-Year-Old Newspaper Be Saved, April 10, 2018
Democracy Now May 9th headlines
The next morning Democracy Now included footage (10 minutes in) and coverage of the demonstration in its opening headlines.

Investigative reporter Julie Reynolds explained on Democracy Now that when she investigated the hedge-fund owners she `shockingly’ found they:
no real experience in the media. They had invested for a little while, oddly enough, in Sinclair media, about maybe five, six years ago.
Sinclair media is a mega-conglomerate that, buying up local media outlets around the country is commanding them to adopt and sell, in a virtually absurdist fashion, an ultra-conservative, Trump supporting national narrative.

Reynolds explained that these hedge-fund owners, operating what is known on Wall Street as “vulture hedge fund” have gone on to do something a bit different; they:
basically extract all the resources and money they can from it, all the profit, sell off the real estate, get what they can and leave the bones out in the desert to dry, if anything remains at all.
Question is: Isn’t that really just about the same thing; two ways of getting to the same ultimate destination of an uninformed public, the proper, necessary and essential foundations for democracy removed?  Could that even be what is intended?  There is no window into the actual intent, no SEC filings that would provide any transparency.

We bring up these concerns at the same time that our libraries are being destroyed with the books we need for democracy disappearing.

So, “Where will you get your news?”  It’s a critical matter for discussion.  Come to our June 1st forum to participate in that discussion.  See:
Coming June 1st - Forum (The second) Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?





Monday, May 7, 2018

Coming June 1st - Forum (The second) Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?

The first forum was great so we are having the second Friday June 1st.  Citizens Defending Libraries is all about people getting the information they need and should have.  (Use the links below to listen to a high quality recording of the first forum.)
Forum (The Second): Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?

Friday, June 1, 2018, 7:00 PM to 8:45 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation Chapel
119-121 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Join a discussion to exchange information and ideas about how you get your information about important events in the world.  Where do you go to seek reliable news and complete information?  Should the country’s main stream media have reported the recent succession of unprecedentedly calamitous weather events without mentioning climate change?  Does a media drumbeat for war seem off-base? Do we hear about its cost?  Picking up newspapers, do you feel like you are reading compiled corporate press releases? As much of media ownership is consolidated in fewer corporations and when a wealthy few with disinformation agendas like the Kochs buy up ownership of outlets like Time magazine, where does truth take refuge to be found?  If your media literacy tells you that the most important part of narratives you are being served is what has been edited out how do you find what fills in the blanks?  Let’s identify what kinds of critical stories go unreported and how can we find out about them.

Conversely, when things need to become news, need to be known by the general public, what channels are there to transmit that information?  When structural reforms need to be made in our society they cannot be made unless we are able to exchange information about the changes that are needed: Serviceable channels for circulating information may be our threshold basic need.  How reliable is social media as an avenue for transmitting information and in what ways is it deceptively not?
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Facebook Event Pages To Share and Say You Are Coming

There is Facebook Event page posted for this event that you can share:
•        One Facebook Event Page is posted by Citizens Defending Libraries (if you click on "see all posts" on the event page there are postings of relevant articles for discussion).
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A Grist For Thought Sheet For the Forum

See if the sheet below helps you think about and prepare for the forum.

Grist for thought.  (Click to enlarge- You can also print it.  Or you can save the image to zoom in on it.)
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Here are links you can use to listen to a high quality recording of the first forum held March 4th.*
(* The discussion was moderated by Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michal D. D. White.)

You can listen to a recording of the forum (one hour twenty minutes): Where Do You Get Your News? (audio via Dropbox) or Where Do You Get Your News (audio via Soundcloud) or
Where Do You Get Your News (audio via Chirbit).

Audio on Soundcloud below.


Audio on Chirbit below


Check this out on Chirbit  

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Here is a link to listen to a very relevant recent speech by Mickey Huff of Project Censored about the present state of the mainstream news media in the United States:
Fake News and the Truth Emergency - A Speech by Mickey Huff
Another recent spellbinding speech listen to that is also quite relevant to potential discussions is by Peter Phillips, who has also been involved in Project Censored, discussing the central topic of his soon to be published new book, the concentration of power and increasing unequal distribution of resources that is affecting messages that are being disseminated to the world’s public.  (Do you know how much total wealth in the world and who has most of it and in what proportions?)
Giants - The Global Power Elite
What do you know about the six conglomerate companies that own almost all the media?  Here is a link to read about them (National Amusements, Disney, TimeWarner, Comcast, Newscorp, SONY): The 6 Companies That Own (almost) All Media.


Do you know which of these which of these conglomerates have what ties to military, industrial surveillance complex investments?

Here from the above article are the media holdings just of Comcast:

Do you know what the alternative media is if you want to turn to sources other than the mainstream media conglomerates.  Are they the sources of news that Google has not been censoring?

Here is a list of outlets that recently suffered, became more obscure and harder to find when Google implemented new algorithms (its "Project Owl") to direct people away from them and to more mainstream outlets typically owned by the conglomerates:

Sites that Google is suppressing (Project Owl):
   •    DemocracyNow!
   •    Alternet
   •    Naked Capitalism
   •    Counterpunch
   •    TruthOut!
   •    Truthdig
   •    Consortium News
   •    World Socialist Web Site
   •    The Socialist Worker
   •    Common Dreams
   •    Wikileaks
   •    The Intercept
   •    Media Matters (Media watchdog site)
   •    Black Agenda Report
   •    Russia Today (and particularly its 9/11 and Operation Gladio coverage)
   •    International Viewpoint
   •    Global Research
Project Censored has another longer list of alternative media sites: Project Censored List of Independent News Outlets.

Here are sites that have been outlets to publish work that has won Winners of the Izzy Award (The Izzy Award from- Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College is named after maverick journalist I. F. Stone. Presented annually for "special achievement in independent media," the Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist, or producer for contributions to our culture, politics, or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.)-
    •    2017- Mother Jones &The Nation
    •    2016-  INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS, and the Invisible Institute, Democracy Now!
    •    2015- The Nation and The Guardian
    •    2014- Independent journalists JOHN CARLOS FREY (for reporting on U.S./ Mexico border deaths) and NICK TURSE (for reporting on civilian casualties of U.S. wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan). And the first members of the newly-established I.F. Stone Hall of Fame were inducted: GLENN GREENWALD and JEREMY SCAHILL.
    •    2013- Mother Jones
    •    2012- Democracy Now,  Center for Media and Democracy
    •    2011- Truthdig.com and City Limits
    •    2010- The Intercept, The Nation and Democracy Now!.”       
    •    2009- Democracy Now!
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An advertisement run in New York Magazine by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization  (UNESCO) honoring World Press Freedom Day, a day to remind a reminder people of the countries around the world where the press and the news are censored: “Don’t just read New York, Read. .” and the list it gives is The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Economist, USA Today, National Review, BBC News, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, because “It all starts with a free press.”  But how representative of a truly free uncensored free press is this list of corporately owned, mostly mainstream, mostly legacy publications?
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A Banned Segment from Saturday Night Live (click through for best viewing)

The 1998 Robert Smigel animated short film "Conspiracy Theory Rock," part of a March 1998 "TV Funhouse" segment, has been removed from all subsequent airings of the Saturday Night Live episode where it originally appeared. SNL producer Lorne Michaels claimed the edit was done because it "wasn't funny". The film is a scathing critique of corporate media ownership, including NBC's ownership by General Electric/Westinghouse.

SNL Banned Episode ~ Media Controlled Conspiracy Theory Rock ~ from DianeDi on Vimeo.

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List of journalists fired or self-exiled from mainstream media outlets because they expressed or wanted to express views unacceptable to the outlets they were working for:

•        Phil Donahue- Legendary television host fired from his top-rated program by the “supposedly liberal” MSNC in 2003 during the run up to the Iraq War because he was expressing anti-war views.

    •    Bill Maher- Fired by ABC from his “Politically Incorrect” program for not saying exactly the right things about 9/11 in its aftermath.  He said that terrorists “staying in the airplane” that was to hit a building could not described as “cowardly.”  Since that time Maher has been has been doing Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO where he has always been careful not to be anti-corporate and has, as well, been careful about what he says about 9/11.

    •    James Risen- Risen was a reporter for the New York Times.  He and another Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, wrote a story about the  secret illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of the American public by the George W. Bush administration that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, but the Times originally suppressed that story.  Risen now works for the Intercept.

    •    Robert Parry- An award-wining American investigative journalist (and finalist for the 1985 Pulitzer Prize) best known for his role in covering the Iran-Contra affair for the Associated Press (AP) and Newsweek.  In 1995, Parry self-exiled himself from mainstream media to found Consortium News (the Consortium for Independent Journalism Inc.)

    •    Ed Schultz- Fired from the position if MSNBC in the spring of 2014 host after bridling about things such as directions he received from MSNBC management concerning what to cover and not to cover, including directions not to cover the Bernie Sanders campaign, including Sanders’ announcement that he was going to run for president.  Schultz now works for RT where he says he has far more freedom to cover what he wants how he wants.

•        Gary Webb- A journalist forced to resign from the San Jose Mercury News in 1997 and subsequently railroaded out of journalism with the CIA working at it in the background after Webb wrote a 1996 series uncovering the CIA's role in importing cocaine into the U.S. to secretly fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels through the manufacture and sale of drugs in the U.S.  Pressured to drop pursuit of his story Webb published his evidence in the series "Dark Alliance" for which the national Society of Professional Journalists voted Webb "Journalist of the Year" for 1996.  Webb had earlier contributed Pulitzer Prize winning work at the paper.   He subsequently experienced a vicious smear campaign during which he found himself defending his integrity, his career, his family that ended in his unfortunate death.  Later revelations about CIA involvement in illegal drugs coming into the United States validated and amplified what Webb was the first to report.

    •    Seymour Hersh- It is observed that Hersh has been “increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated” although he once worked for the New York Times Washington Bureau to report such stories as the Watergate scandal, and exposed the My Lai Massacre and the US military’s abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  Hersh has been forced from one outlet to another, each outlet more remote from where U.S. citizens are likely to learn what he is reporting: Publication of Hersh's work has moved from the New Yorker, to the London Review of Books to the German publication, Welt am Sonntag.  Thus the American public is unlikely to learn about Hersh's most recent reporting that although a sarin gas chemical weapons attack in Syria was used as an excuse for Trump's recent order of a “retaliatory” strike against the country, there was zero evidence of such an attack.  Similarly, previously reporting, based on what Hersh's contacts within the security and intelligence establishments, revealed that Assad's alleged use of sarin gas in Ghouta, outside Damascus in 2013 also failed to stand up to scrutiny.  In between the Hersh's reporting on these alleged sarin attacks mainstream media reacted in a suspectly ostracizing way to Hersh's scoop about ways in which the public was misled respecting the reported killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.  Even in the London Review of Books the bin laden story immediately attracted so much attention it reportedly crashed the LRB servers. (In the fascinating Netflix "Wormwood" documentary by Errol Morris, which is about the still mysterious 1953 death, subsequent coverup and probable assassination by our government of an American scientist and Central Intelligence Agency employee participating in a secret government biological warfare program, Mr. Hersh explains what he is and isn't willing to report about events within the very secret intelligence community without sufficient sourcing.)

    •    Peter Arnett (and Producers April Oliver & Jack Smith)- Arnet, a Pulitzer Price who worked for CNN for 18 years and was famous for reporting from Baghdad during the Gulf War was, he said “muzzled,” and then fired by CNN, like his producers April Oliver and Jack Smith they did entitled "Valley of Death," (and a more senior producer resigned), because of an investigative report (a joint production of CNN and Time magazine), presenting evidence about how Army special forces venturing into Laos in September of 1970 used sarin gas in an operation to kill American soldiers who had defected into Laos from Vietnam.

•        Dan Rather (and his producer Mary Mapes)-  Dan Rather and others including his "60 Minutes" program producer Mary Mapes were fired by CBS (Rather's was a slow-burn firing) when covering the 2004 presidential election campaign they were subject to criticism for alleged liberal bias in reporting a basically true story about preferential treatment of George W. Bush in the National Guard (1968 to 1973 during which time Bush did not show up for a medical exam and stopped fulfilling his flying commitments).  The criticism leading up to the firing focused on the fact that documents with which the newspeople had been supplied to support their story were likely faked in whole or in part by somebody, possibly in a dirty trick intended to sucker them.  When a 2015 feature film, "Truth," starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford was made dramatizing the issues and events with respect to the firing CBS refused to run advertisements for it.

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Do you know about these media watchdog sites?:
    •    Project Censored
    •    FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) and Counterspin
    •    Media Matters
    •    On The Media (? WNYC)
    •    OffGuardian (watches the Guardian.)
    •    Jimmy Dore Show (also on YouTube)
    •    Atlantic Yards Report (Former Times Report and now Atlantic Yards Pacific Park Report- Watches New York City real estate reporting and started by watching the New York Times slanted reporting of the Atlantic Yards Project)  
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Maybe you would like to get involved in the discussion early?  In the comment section to this page you may want to supply information about where you go to get your news and why.  Or maybe you'd like to post about what you think are the biggest issues that mainstream media is not reporting on?  Climate change?  The cost of war?  Voting irregularities in the last election?

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