Magazine article American Libraries

Front-Page Headlines Charge Lavishness in Library Budget

Magazine article American Libraries

Front-Page Headlines Charge Lavishness in Library Budget

Article excerpt

"Library chief takes taxpayers for $93,000 ride," read the front-page headline in the Nov. 27 Chcago Sun-Times, a daily tabloid recently purchased by Australian publisher Ruper Murdoch. The subhead charged: "Facing a bare-bones budget and mapping library closings, Amanda S. Rudd spends $78,089 for chauffeur, $11,875 for a car with a $2,950 phone and a $269 alarm."

The story questioned Library Commissioner Rudd's expenditures for automobiles, office furniture, and travel, and minimized her explanations. Near the end of the article, the Sun-Times reported that Rudd said she needed the driver to save time and provide security on her evening visits to community meetings and library branches. Rudd claimed that her appearances had attracted grants and gifts that compensated for the expense. The city driver earned union-based wages of $27,000 a year plus overtime. The sum in the headlines covered two years' expenditures.

A fortnight earlier, when Mayor Harold Washington had presented his 1984 austerity budget to the fractious City Council, his opponents complained that the mayor's "attrition management" gave them little ammunition for the continuing council wars. One alderman had predicted: "People who want a fight are going to dig harder, but the budget hearings should be the best show in town."

The Sun-times story provided the grist the council majority opposition had been seeking. Target: ALA conference attendance

Three days later, the library commissioner made her regular annual appearance before the council Finance Committee. Rudd came under the most intensive grilling of any city official in a budget hearing to date, the Chicago Tribune reported. Finance Committee Chair Edward Burke lashed out at her for spending what he estimated as $56,000 [out of a $35.5 million budget] to hep send 45 staff members to the ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio and 70 to the Annual Conference in Los Angeles last year.

Rudd explained that CPL employees were paid their salaries while attending ALA conferences and some were reimbursed for air fare, registration, and other expenses. The trips were partly funded by a $47,000 travel fund provided by the state, not the city. …

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