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May 6, 2014

Baldwin Public Library bond defeated

$21.5 million proposal fails by large margin

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Baldwin Public Library bond defeated
Kurt and Noelle Cassel, of Birmingham, leave City Hall after voting in the special election May 6.

After weeks of campaigning, residents made their voices heard on the $21.5 million bond proposal to renovate Baldwin Public Library — and their voices overwhelmingly said, “No, thanks.”

Advocates on both sides of the issue had been vocal on whether the 0.77-mill tax increase for the project — on top of the 1.1 mills each household pays yearly for operating expenses — should be approved. The project would’ve cost residents an average of $124.36 per year for 20 years.

Just before 9 p.m. May 6, the polls reported that 3,775 residents voted against the bond, while 1,167 residents — or 26.3 percent — voted to approve the proposal. It’s not known yet how many of those votes were submitted via absentee ballot.

Stuart Jeffares is one of the leaders of Birmingham Strong, which supported the bond. He was disappointed when he learned the election did not end as his group would’ve hoped.

“I would just really like to thank the people who had the foresight and courage to vote for the library and think of our community as a progressive one,” said Jeffares.

He went on to claim that in the days leading up to the election, the bond attempt went beyond city politics and became a national partisan issue, with outside groups from out of state calling Birmingham residents to encourage them to vote against the measure.

“I think we entered a very slippery slope because of the involvement of partisan entities that are thousands of miles away that are now involved and shaping our community, (and) they don’t have any idea about our community,” he said, claiming Tea Party members from North Dakota and other places were calling residents. “It became something that wasn’t citizen to citizen. I think it’s a very sad day for Birmingham politics and Birmingham as a city.”

Brad Coulter, from Birmingham Citizens for Responsible Spending, said he was pleased with the results of the election. 

“This was a grassroots victory for common sense and fiscal responsibility. We look forward to working with the Library Board and City Commission on developing a better plan in investing in the library,” said Coulter while out celebrating the victory. “I think there is a large undercurrent of people frustrated with ever-growing taxes and cost of living, and they came out to vote.”

Members of the Birmingham City Commission could not be reached for comment immediately after the election results were reported.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.