A recent comment stated how difficult it is to figure out the City budget situation. And I agree with that. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the Mayor’s mid year budget adjustment on the 22nd of November. Remember last year? We were fighting for libraries and parks. In reality, it has been an ongoing battle for the activists among us for 4 straight years now.
I am convinced that our strong mayor doesn’t much care for City government- he went in with the expressed intent of downsizing the workforce, which he has been doing all along, and outsourcing City functions. He cannot distinguish between “special interests” and citizens, which should tell us something. He referred to the hundreds and hundreds of people who protested the closure of libraries as “special interests.” Hmmmmm. The local economy, as well as the national economy, are in the tank and that bad news has given him an out to do what he has wanted to do all along.
The plan for a new Central Library is an easy target, but I think it is misplaced anger and frustration for us to think that our neighborhood libraries are being ignored because of a desperately needed, THIRTY-FIVE-YEARS in the planning and promised new Central library that serves all of the neighborhoods and the region.
I sat in the City Council meeting a few weeks ago in support of that library. I worked at the old, cramped Central library at 8th&E downtown for over 24 years and we served in myriad, significant ways not only the Ocean Beach library, but the other thirty four branches within a City that spans 127 miles.
Central supports the branch libraries not only with the most obvious thing- it’s extensive collection of books and CD’s and DVD’s- but with technology, in depth professional expertise and unique collections like patents, San Diego History, and research materials that must be used on site.
A NEW CENTRAL LIBRARY SHOULD HAVE OPENED IN 2007. It was the only significant PUBLIC infrastructure in the Ballpark Redevelopment Area. Dear reader-, you and I and all the other tax payers are carrying the load on Petco Park and it is a damn heavy load. We are responsible for the debt service on the bonds to build Petco Park. I believe that is around $10 Million a year. That’s a serious chunk of change. What a give away to a private business, and we don’t have the library we were promised.
I assure you that when happy times are here again, there’s a better likelihood that there will be a new Chargers stadium- serious talks are underway to drop it downtown to the East of Petco Park (and wipe out the beautiful, historical Wonderbread Factory, whose owner had no idea this plan was in the works) and a new Convention Center. And no, neither one of those will do a thing for your branch library or anyone else’s.
I support both a new City Hall because the existing one is a scary, claustrophobic piece of crap and I support a new Central library. They are public infrastructure and they belong to the people. I’ll bet you a “hern”to see what gets built first and what doesn’t get built at all.
I worked long and hard last year organizing residents throughout the City to mobilize against their branch closures. When we won- Ocean Beach and the other 6 libraries are still open today- another activist, Sandy Lippe from University Community and I continued to advocate within City Hall for adequate funding of the library system- branches and central. Our library budget is chronically underfunded and disproportionately underfunded compared to other departments. Park and Rec isn’t far behind.
People use and value their libraries and parks and beaches and open spaces. They want more. More than a lack of revenue, there is a lack of political will and a lack of a commitment to serving the citizens.
Check out the Office of Independent Management’s (IBA) web page. They have a citizen’s guide to the budget and they do a boatload of budget reviews. That office works for the City Council, the legislative branch of our City government.
When you speak before the council, or at a committee, you generally have only two minutes. I have come to think of myself as the Two Minute Citizen. My posting was obviously much longer than the two minute limitation. Another reason I love blogs…
IBA link http://www.sandiego.gov/iba/