Libraries gagged by new election law ask for relief


The American Library Association commends Gov. Rick Snyder’s willingness to work with the Michigan Legislature to clarify language on Senate Bill 571.

Librarians are devoted to the democratic process. Free access to information — ensuring that every member of our communities, regardless of race, age, sex or income, can have opportunities to become informed, active participants in our great democracy — is a core value of our profession.

As voter turnout declines and people are increasingly challenged to learn about voter issues, they turn to their library for accurate and unbiased information. Engaging citizens in the electoral process is a critical role for libraries.

The provision in question is Item 3, Section 57, which states: “A public body, or a person acting for a public body, shall not, during the period 60 days before an election in which a local ballot question appears on a ballot, use public funds or resources for a communication by means of radio, television, mass mailing, or prerecorded telephone message if that communication references a local ballot question and is targeted to the relevant electorate where the local ballot question appears on the ballot.” In addition, public employees violating this ruling could be fined anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 and could be imprisoned.

While Snyder’s intent and the intent of the Michigan Legislature may be to ensure that government employees are proper stewards of public funding, as it stands, SB571 shuts down free access to information around the local electoral process by prohibiting one of Michigan’s public bodies — the library — from doing one of its main jobs: providing the voters of Michigan unbiased access to information, including factual information about local campaigns and ballot measures.

True democracy extends beyond campaign reform; it is about a citizen’s right to know. If not the library, then where in a community can people go to exchange ideas? On behalf of the 58,000 librarians across the nation in public, school, academic and special libraries, I urge Michigan officials to focus in particular on the language that would exclude librarians from this law.

Sari Feldman, American Library Association

Foie gras product of cruelty

Re: Melody Baetens’ Jan. 14 article “What does a $55 burger taste like?”: I am a foodie who has enjoyed many of Baetens’ articles. In my opinion she is the best food writer of the Detroit newspapers.

However, I was very disappointed that she chose to write about foie gras without a truthful description of how it is produced. She described foie gras as a “controversial food” without detailing the reasons. Are you aware that ducks and geese have pipes rammed down their throats two to three times per day so that 2 to 4 pounds of fat can be pumped into their stomachs, in order to create a fat saturated liver?

Please see the PETA.org website for information and photos. The images of this sick and cruel practice should be enough to spoil your memory of the “extremely rich, super savory” flavor of the $55 burger.

Like many other animal advocates, I refuse to patronize any establishment that serves foie gras, and hope you will consider joining us in doing the same. In the future, please provide your readers with more balanced information.

Dr. Barbara J. Cingel, Royal Oak