Library system takes to the stars
The Manatee County Public Library System never slows down in its pursuit of innovative and appealing projects that serve the diverse interests of the public. That comes as no surprise for an overachieving county asset named as the state’s Library of the Year by the Florida Library Association early this year, besting all the academic, public, special and school libraries around the state.
The latest in a long line of creative services and programs features telescopes and binoculars. Who would look to a library for such instruments? Since education is the foundation of every library, why not reach for the stars?
The era of books alone passed decades ago with the addition of vinyl records, tapes and movies. Our library graduated to much more: an annual award-winning and wildly popular Mana-Con Comics Convention and the annual Teen Recycled Fashion Show, which won this year’s Betty Davis Youth Services Award from the library association; a new and free business database and an incubator for entrepreneurs, both among its growing business resources; all these among other enhancements.
The Manatee County Library Foundation knows how to attract A-list celebrity authors, too, with Stephen King and John Grisham sharing the stage this year for a very successful fund-raiser.
So now library patrons can soon borrow a telescope or binoculars for up to four weeks, stare into the universe and expand their minds. The stars and planets come closer than a spec in the sky, and the moon becomes more than a bright orb.
The 13 table-top telescopes and 13 pairs of binoculars will become available very soon. Thanks to a $3,000 donation from the foundation, the library will join others around the nation with these educational tools.
Close to Earth, the library high-tech offerings allow youths hand-on experience in electronics, robotics, digital media, website design and other skills so vital to an ever-changing career landscape.
Big cheers to the Manatee County Library System; Ava Ehde, the county’s manager of library services; and county and foundation support for the system. And to the assistance of Jeff Rogers of the South Florida Museum and his expansive knowledge of celestial bodies.
Denial of voting rights deplorable
If you’re a felon freed from prison, one of your basic constitutional rights will not be restored likely for years and years — the right to cast a ballot in an election. Florida has “one of the harshest laws in the nation” that is “radically out of step with the rest of the country,” a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice states.
There are 1.6 million Floridians denied voting rights under this uncompromising and punitive law. That figure represents more than 10 percent of the state’s voting-age population. And a third are black.
“Florida’s criminal disenfranchisement law is rooted in some of our country’s most discriminatory voting practices, and it continues to have its intended effects today,” one of the report’s authors states. “The right to vote should not be used as a tool for lifetime punishment.”
But it is. Gov. Rick Scott has shown no sign of relenting either since he instituted the harsh process upon taking office five years ago.
Felons must petition the state’s clemency board, which consists of the governor, who has the power to draft rules, and Cabinet. Under Scott’s rules, felons have to wait at least five years upon finishing their sentences before even applying. Scott rejects the vast majority of appeals and delays clemency board hearings on those appeals for years.
Under former Gov. Charlie Crist, nonviolent offenders automatically won the right to vote upon release, the just path.
Two campaigns are being waged to place a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot to automatically restore most — not all — felons’ right to vote. Cheers to those efforts.
The prevailing view of Scott’s stand on this is patently partisan: The Republican governor does not want more Democrats voting, since that is the perceived political bent of most felons.
Scott voted to approve just 52 applications in 2011. His predecessor, Charlie Crist, also a Republican then, restored voting rights to almost 25,000 people in 2009. Since 2011, the state has only averaged less than 500 application approvals.
Jeers to Scott and Florida’s ruthless denial of a basic civil right to individuals who have paid their debt to society.
Quote of the Week
“I think there is definitely some racism in the school district because it exists everywhere, so it would be fool-hearty to think it doesn’t exist in the school district. But the other end of it is the black community has some parenting issues. The kids aren’t going to school prepared, and they are going to school with discipline issues.”
— Rodney Jones, president of the Manatee County branch of the NAACP, commenting on school district records that show black students were more than three times likely to be suspended than their white classmates during the 2015-16 school year.