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Louisiana residents choose libraries over jail to receive funds

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Ann Hermes

(Read caption) Libraries in Louisiana's Lafourche Parish will continue to receive funding after a proposal to divert money from the libraries to build a new jail did not pass. Here, various titles are on display in a New York library.

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Residents of a Louisiana parish recently voted to keep funding going to local libraries rather than use the library funds to build a new jail.

In Lafourche Parish, a measure suggesting that property tax money that had been used to fund public libraries should be diverted to construct a new prison was put to vote last weekend.

Voters in the parish decided the libraries should keep the money, with 56 percent rejecting the measure, according to Lafourche Parish newspaper The Daily Comet (Only 15 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot on the issue).

Library director Laura Sanders told the Daily Comet she and other library workers are “very happy with the results.”

“We tried very hard to get the word out that losing this funding would affect the libraries and our daily operations,” Sanders said. If the libraries had lost the funding from the tax, the library system would have lost 11 percent of its total funding, according to Daily Comet writer Jacob Batte.

The debate over this regional vote ended up making national headlines when Lafourche Paris Council Chair Lindel Toups, a proponent of diverting the funding to a new prison, told the Tri-Parish Times newspaper that he believed libraries didn’t need all the funding they received and that “they’re teaching Mexicans how to speak English," referring to a Spanish-language area in one of the branches. According to the Daily Comet, Toups has since recanted the statement.

Despite the election results, many in the area do agree that something needs to be done about the current prison. According to Batte, an unnamed consultant who looked at the parish jail said it is “in the worst condition of any jail he's seen.” Lafourche Parish president Charlotte Randolph said the poor state of the prison means the federal government may soon take action.


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