Letter: With libraries (and other projects), start with the people

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I attended the meeting at the Black Mountain Library and was amazed how many people were quite serious — people of all ages, kids included — about keeping their library, about their needs already being met there just fine [“Reading Rooms: Community Debates Buncombe Library Plan,” Sept. 1, Xpress]. When details were shared about the actual location, its ownership and other options in our small city, the consensus seemed to be that moving to a better location in Black Mountain was acceptable. If there are things that can improve, and we still get to keep our library, then fine.

But these things don’t generally start with the people. The democracy of my dreams puts out a feeler to all its residents about what they want first. If someone in government picks up the idea that a library or any facility is in need of improvement, they don’t treat the situation as if it’s a corporation and they’re a private contractor. They do surveys of the citizens. But governments and agencies that run the use of our money, given to us by bigger governments and amassed from our taxes and fees, work with developers who solicit them with ideas from the Radiant City (see Jane Jacobs) like hookers on the boulevard.

OK, I have an attitude toward developers, unless we the people have engaged them for our projects. What’s going on in this would-be metropolis, y’all? Why are we working from this end, from the top down? The people need to think up and re-create ways of doing “business” with our legislatures, departments, overseers and other who administrate our assets.

We share resources and risks, and yet we don’t participate. It’s a bad habit. I know we need inroads to participation, and I don’t know where we should start. I’ll just keep suggesting this approach and applauding it when I hear about it until, maybe, a spark will ignite.

Stop building things from the top down! Start with a foundation! The foundation of a district is its people. Let the people choose; don’t just invite them for their opinions — that is so demoralizing! Let the people choose!

— Arjuna da Silva
Black Mountain


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