Letter: Pequot brings revenue to town
Published 9:55 am, Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Over July 13 and 14, 1637, the last engagement of the Pequot Indian wars was a bloody struggle between English settlers and native Americans. Along the banks of the Mill River English muskets silenced stone age arrowheads bringing the "Great Swamp Massacre" to its violent conclusion.
Taking the long view of events, the tides of time teach us that "those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." And that cyclical nature of history was demonstrated last week when Fairfield's Board of Finance acted with wanton thoughtlessness and an ill-advised recklessness. The board actually damaged our town's financial status as a consequence in its own raid: The Great Tuesday Night Culture Massacre. By cutting the library's budget, it essentially erased the significant economic benefits of having such a respected cultural landmark in our midst. One step forward, three steps backwards!
In one swoop of its budget axe, the board voted 5-4 to eliminate the town's commitment to the Pequot Library. Without prior notice or of a reasonable compromise for a prorated reduction, a cultural institution with a distinguished 125 years of service to the community found its very survival at risk.
Even more alarming, reflecting an out-of-touch awareness of the value of arts and cultural institutions within strong and vibrant towns, the board's action damaged our local economy with its false hopes of cost containment. Surely, for every child who won't attend a storytime session or adult library user who will be denied access to an extraordinary lending collection or access to its historic archives, there is a downside. But the Pequot Library's greatest asset is its prominence as a nationally recognized cultural landmark offering an endless cycle of concerts, readings and art exhibits bringing honor and distinction.
In the board's myopic view, the town's $350,000 subsidy of the Pequot Library's budget was a drag on town tax revenues. The board members displayed ignorance of how arts dollars ripple into the community. In a nationally sponsored report focusing on our arts economy, "Arts & Economic Prosperity in the State of Connecticut" [http://www.cultureandtourism/cct/lib/cct/CT_AEP4_Impact_Final_Report.pdf], we see convincing evidence that for every visitor to Fairfield coming to a book sale, concert, art exhibit, or literary program at the Pequot Library, each non-resident spent more than $35 at our local restaurants, stores, hotels and other businesses.
Imagine the consequence of forfeiting those extra tourism dollars the next time you see thousands of visitors flocking to the library's colossal book sale from all over the northeast. First Selectman Mike Tetreau is prominently quoted in this report: "Fairfield has become a destination community, our merchants and restaurants have this appreciation of the benefits of arts to our future growth." Now we are hoping that the RTM will see the wisdom of supporting the Pequot Library by over-turning the Board of Finance's gross foolishness, thereby restoring the Pequot Library's ability to continue its valuable services.
Professor of Art History