To The Daily Sun,
Recently, two letter writers, supporters of Gilmanton Year-Round Library town funding, both suggested to me that it's "better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness." Meaning, that I should help find solutions to problems, rather than just complain about them. It took me a few minutes, but I began to realize that these two individuals have no idea what the problem is. They believe the problem is how to fund a library. However, I see the problem differently. I thought then, a candle-lighting demonstration, as they suggested, would be the perfect way to demonstrate what, in fact, the problem really is.
So let's begin. Let's light that candle. With that candle, we'll enter a dark room. As we enter that room, we'll step closer to the walls. We'll hold the candle high, and examine the walls carefully. Understand that what we see on these walls, we have not brought into the room with us. We are simply holding a light to them, and describing what we see.
On the nearest wall, we see a document. I move the light across it. It's familiar to me. It's drawn up almost as a contract would be. I hold the candle closer, and begin reading. The meaning of the words are clear: "give us your money, and we will build you a library and run it on an endowment." It's a fundraising brochure.
I move the candle to the right. Another document comes into view. It's a transcript from a PBS broadcast. The host is reading from the same brochure, "raise an endowment to support the operation of the library." A guest on the broadcast speaks up, suggesting that, in fact, a contract has been broken, that people who gave money, and time, were misled.
We step further to our right. We move back. I hold the candle above my head, moving it slowly from left to right. Newspaper clippings. Everywhere. I move closer. The light from the candle is just enough to see that they all seem to say the same thing: "No cost to the town — no taxpayer's money." There are many.
On the next wall, letters, and what appear to be minutes from public meetings. There are quotes from local papers. One person apologizes to her friends for involving them. She feels cheated. Lied to, even. Another person shares that he and his whole family were involved, giving money and time — and now they regret it. Another, a major contributor, writes, "I was assured the taxpayers would never be burdened, they are breaking their word." Another stands at a selectmen's meeting, "we could have raised that endowment; could have found a benefactor; they stopped us — they should be held accountable." Another, speaking at town meeting, shares, "the only reason my wife and I gave and helped out, was that we were told that no taxes would ever be involved." Another, a selectman: "You're going to have a hard time convincing people you didn't make a promise." And then others, so many others, all seeming to say the same thing: "I was there. In the beginning. They told us that no taxes would ever be involved ... ever ... I was there!"
We've seen enough. Let's leave this room. It's time to blow out the candle. Let's see the problem, as it truly is: that it isn't a library, or any institution, for that matter, that holds a community together. It is values. The values of trust and integrity. That it's okay to make mistakes, but when we do, we must be accountable for them. The problem for Gilmanton is not funding the GYRL — that was accomplished last year, easily, without taxes. The problem is, that when a trust is broken, it causes a division. A division in Gilmanton, not contrived or imagined, as these letter-writers suggest, but very real.
Gilmanton taxpayers: Vote "No" on Article 23. Allow the GYRL board an opportunity to return to serious fundraising, and heal that division ... not make it worse.