Lousiana’s Lafourche Parish is gearing up to vote on a ballot measure that would redirect funds from local libraries towards the construction of a new jail, claiming up to $800,000 per year from libraries in order to fund the new building. The proposed measure has been a divisive issue in the parish, with 1,200 people submitting early votes on the ballot proposal, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday.
Lindel Toups, a Democrat (shout out to The Hayride for being the only site that listed it) and chair of the Lafourche Parish Council, strongly supports diverting the government funds away from local libraries and towards the new detention center. His reasoning, however, does not stem from any evidence that library attendance is low and jail attendance is high, or that it would have any significant effect on the Parish budget. In fact, he wants to redirect the funds simply because people are using the libraries in ways that he does not find advantageous to his political outlook.
Speaking about the libraries to local publication Tri-Parish Times, Toups candidly said the following: “They’re teaching Mexicans how to speak English. Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico. There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with. ... Them junkies and hippies and food stamps and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps. I see them do it.”
While this may seem like the opinion of an outsider, Toups does hold political weight due to his position on the Council. Others, however, view the redirection of funds in a more logical manner. The new jail is reported to cost $25 million, and if the funds are taken from library budgets, parish citizens can avoid higher taxation.
According to the LA Times, the new measure would cause Lafourche Parish libraries to lose “11% of its $6.4-million budget” as soon as next year, with the libraries “operating at a deficit” three years from now, which would jump to a deficit of $2.7 million by the following year.
Despite the perceived declining role of libraries throughout the United States, 53% of Lafourche Parish residents have library cards, and several of the Parish’s citizens use the libraries as their primary source of Internet access (43% of Lafourche Parish homes do not have Internet access).
Although the libraries are to remain open no matter the outcome of Saturday’s vote, if the measure passes they are certain to face increased difficulties in remaining operational.