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Controversy over the D.C. Public Library Board of Trustee’s decision to attach Jeff Bezos’ name to the main auditorium of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library continues this week.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen has called the decision “ridiculous,” and an unnamed DCPL employee suggested instead to honor the activists whose contributions to the District can’t be bought, DCist reports.
The issue came up during Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s press briefing yesterday, though the Council has no pending legislative action involving DCPL. Political analyst and reporter Tom Sherwood suggested that the $2.7 million contribution from Bezos, whose estimated net worth is about $170 billion, was akin to Sherwood contributing a nickel.
“My first reaction was kind of along the lines of what you just said,” Mendelson responded. “That $2.7 million, that’s a lot for a lot of people. But it’s not a lot for some other people.”
An email campaign encourages residents to send fiery messages to the board and to testify at next week’s DCPL oversight hearing. Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White will referee that meeting, scheduled for Feb. 9 at noon.
Some critics compare Bezos’ contribution to the overall cost of modernizing the MLK Jr. Library, which came to about $211 million. Others take issue with Bezos’ reported legal evasion of federal income taxes. For still others, Bezos’ name does not belong in a library named after a Black civil rights icon (King advocated for economic parity as well as racial equity). Bezos may have understood this last point to some degree: As part of a $100 million donation Bezos made to the Obama Foundation in November 2021, he had asked that the Obama Presidential Center Plaza be named after the late civil rights champion and congressman John Lewis.
Giving to public libraries is a long time coming for Bezos. In June 2017, the billionaire had tweeted an open call for philanthropy ideas: “I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time—working on the long term.”
Bezos’ donation to the DCPL Foundation late last month is larger than any the library has received. It will fund the Beyond the Book program. The initiative targets young children in D.C. in neighborhoods with large percentages of low-income households and neighborhoods near schools with low achievement levels, according to a D.C. Public Library Foundation statement.
When pressed yesterday for his thoughts on the DCPL trustees’ decision, Mendelson said he thinks “the library system oughta hold out for a higher price.”
—Ambar Castillo (tips? email@example.com)
- To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
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- City officials are investigating and warning the public after recent fatal incidents involving fentanyl. [Post]
- D.C. teacher Kathy Thorne and community groups such as Sunrise D.C. are collecting masks and other supplies in efforts to make schools safer. [WTOP]
By Ambar Castillo (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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By Alex Koma (tips? email@example.com)
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By Laura Hayes (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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- GALA Hispanic Theatre isn’t going anywhere. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
By Sarah Marloff (tips? email@example.com)
- The Washington Spirit added Nicole Barnhart to its roster on a one-year deal. The 40-year-old goalkeeper is a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. Women’s National Team. [Black & Red United]
- The Washington Football Team officially unveils its new name and logo tomorrow, but there is plenty of speculation that it has already been leaked. [Yahoo]
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By Kelyn Soong (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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