Opposition to the proposed South Shore Cultural Center and Museum – the proposed use for the closed and shuttered Gary main library branch – has steadily gained steam since late last year. That strength has culminated in the replacement of a Gary Public Library Board member and the ultimate vote Thursday by the board to suspend the project. Opposition leader and former library board President Ben Coleman has argued the brakes were applied because of a lack of transparency in the project.
We’re all for transparency in government projects, but that doesn’t change the library system’s finances or the need for a viable use of a shuttered building in Gary. Aside from flexing their newly found political muscle, opponents of converting the library into a museum are now obligated to put forth a plan that will make sense.
After financial analysis, the library board previously concluded it did not have enough money to keep the main library branch building afloat. That reality hasn’t changed as we haven’t seen any miraculous infusions of cash.
Opponents of the closure and repurposing of the building into a potentially revenue-generating museum want it to remain a library branch. But if they’re going to be in the driver’s seat, they’re going to need a plan that goes beyond a mere desire to maintain a financially untenable status quo. If it’s not going to be a museum and cultural center, then these high-powered opponents of that plan owe it to everyone involved to devise a workable, financially sustainable alternative.
Coleman said he wants to see a library re-opened in the now gutted building -- one that would operate with a downsized staff from previous levels.
It’s time to use the energy that powered their fight against the project toward devising a new, practical plan. Saying and wishing doesn't make it so.