Mary Dempsey resigns as library commissioner
Wed Jan 25 2012
Well, I suppose this was inevitable. Longtime Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey has resigned, just a few weeks after Mayor Rahm Emanuel slashed the library budget, and just a week after he agreed to reinstate staff to allow branches to open six days a week. For her part, Dempsey says her resignation has little to do with the strife, and while it may seem like she's being polite, it's believable. Rahm must have known about this for a while in order to land a replacement. However, to put it as grandiloqently as possible, this is a huge bummer. Dempsey has been commissioner since 1994, and in that time more than 40 libraries have been constructed in addition to other renovations. The Library opened its innovate YouMedia program for teens, and has largely done well to exceed fulfillment of its duties during lean fiscal years. Those achievements can be credited to Daley, of course, but Dempsey has been a strong and eloquent voice for libraries. (My wife works for the libraries, but I've only met Dempsey once, and hey, have little to gain from praising my wife's outgoing boss.)
Eighteen years is a long time, so it's no surprise that with Daley gone Dempsey would soon follow. New commish Brian Bannon seems more than qualified for the job, and one can only hope that Rahm allows him to execute his own vision, since Rahm is so unable to create one of his own. We all knew Rahm liked to move and talk fast, but it's been distressing just how by-the-seat-of-his-expensive-pants his governing style has been. Shortly before the beginning of the school year, he announced he wanted a longer school day, but had no plan for it and limited funds to incentivize schools. Now a little over halfway through the year, he's released a somewhat more comprehensive plan that is still mostly notable for how not-comprehensive it is. He cut the library's budget, then expressed shock and dismay that the union wouldn't "become a partner" in rolling back 80-plus years of labor history and chuck the five-day work week in favor of six. And in a city that has something of a history of mishandling crowds, he was unable to learn any lessons and way overreacted to the Occupy movement.
Dempsey was a strong and stable voice, and I think Chicagoans will miss that in our erratic mayor's office.