What is Michelle Obama Library? Nanette Barragan wants $250K for expansion, billions sought for community projects
Lawmakers have requested nearly $6 billion in additional funding for community projects ahead of the federal budget. This has drawn attention, particularly towards the Michelle Obama Library in Long Beach, California
Past Presidents are known for their libraries, usually built from donations by well-wishers. Former first lady Michelle Obama broke tradition a bit when she became the only FLOTUS to have a library in her name. What's even more interesting is, now a Congresswoman wants to use taxpayer money to fund an expansion of the library.
Located in Long Beach, California, the Michelle Obama Library opened in September 2016. It was largely raised by donations but could be set for a massive expansion if Rep Nanette Diaz Barragán has her way. The Democratic Rep from California has requested Congress to allocate $250,000 through Community Funding Projects to expand the library.
The request is just one of the many odd ones that have been made by lawmakers ahead of the upcoming federal budget. Fox News, who broke the story reported that lawmakers have requested nearly $6 billion in additional funding for community projects. The story has drawn a lot of attention, particularly towards the community library in Long Beach.
What is the Michelle Obama Library?
The library isn't an entirely new building. It was formerly known as the North Library, which opened in January 1926. The library was closed in 2016, before being remodeled and rebranded in the name of the former first lady. It is now a state-of-the-art 24,655-square-foot space featuring community meeting spaces, public computers, study rooms, a family learning center, and a small garden.
The library is run by Long Beach Public Library Foundation, largely supported by donations. A 2017 report from the foundation's website says it "raised over $1 million with the support of the library’s Founding Donors". The venue has also had an instant and massive impact on the local community. "In its first six months of operation, the library’s visits increased by 70% and program and class participation increased by 90% compared to the previous North Long Beach Library," the foundation reported.
The building was constructed by Vanir based on a design by LPA Design Studios. Located on the site of the Atlantic Theater, LPA paid homage to the past by "featuring the original theater spire on top of the new building". The library was named by the community, who voted twice to review the name. Eventually, it passed, after persistent efforts by Councilman Rex Richardson.
It's unclear why exactly Barragán wants to expand the facility. The Fox News report doesn't dive into any specifics, but the library isn't the oddest request to come from lawmakers.
Taxpayer funds sought by lawmakers
Ahead of the federal budget, various lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, have made requests for community projects. Some are more obvious, like the $3.75 million Rep Brad Schneider wants to restore the Waukegan Carnegie Museum or the $1.5 million to provide free public Wi-Fi in a California city. Others though are not so obvious. One request was for $2 million for a Pickleball and Fitness Circuit in Orange, California, and $166,000 for the development of an equity program at Lincoln University.
According to Fox News, 326 members of the House made the requests, but only 106 of those were Republican. The remaining 220 were all from Democrats, perhaps encouraged by President Biden's willingness to fund large-scale projects through the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan, and other initiatives. Of course, this isn't something new. Lawmakers have frequently pushed for community projects through taxpayer funds, but as usual, the Trumps found a way to break from tradition.
According to reports, while Donald Trump was busy ranting about the election being stolen from him, Melania was digging into ways she could use taxpayer money. A CNN report from December 2020 found that Trump had discretely asked White House staff "whether there were taxpayer funds allocated to former first ladies". She reportedly wanted the cash to run a post-presidential office. Melania was also suspected of using taxpayer funds to redesign the Rose Garden, but officials said it was funded by private donations.
That's not the only place Melania, or the Trump family, has leveraged taxpayer funds. In 2018, she reportedly spent $64,600 on a "vacation" at Mar-a-Lago. In fact, taxpayers are still footing the bill for Secret Service protection for the Trump children, which is a break from federal law.