Mayor Sanders is Gunning for our Libraries – Again!

by on November 28, 2009 · 26 comments

in Economy, Education, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego

library11-09

Yes- it is “déjà vu all over again.” This time last year Mayor Sanders proposed closing 7 branch libraries, including Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach responded immediately. Ocean Beach responded unequivocally- DO NOT CLOSE OUR LIBRARY! A number of you were even willing to participate in non-violent civil disobedience by forming a human chain around your library in the event of closure.

Your response so inspired and encouraged me personally that I became involved with a city-wide effort to rally all of the communities against the closure of the other 6 branch libraries. We mobilized quickly, acted in unity and we won. Read about it here and feel very, very good. Just don’t feel so good that you think you should bow your collective heads to this year’s proposed library cuts. That would be so not-OB.

We all agree that the economy is in the tank. The city’s revenues do not cover the budgeted expenditures. The mayor is once again proposing budget adjustments to lessen the impact of the shortfall on next year’s budget. I am not criticizing him for that.

I am criticizing our mayor for submitting a budget amendment that violates his own “guiding principles.” While he states that he would “distribute the ‘pain’ equally” among all of the General Fund departments, his proposed cuts for our libraries are excessive.  Think a number 10 on the pain chart. The U-T broke down the ‘pain’ by General Fund department in a series of charts.

What is the Library department’s share of the pain? How about a 10% cut of its operating budget. How equitable is that? It is so disproportionate that it should have you emailing the mayor right now. The budgets of Police, Park & Rec and Environmental Services (Trash) are reduced 3%. Planning is 5%. General Services (Street Repairs) and Fire are cut 7%. The Library’s budget is cut a whopping 10%.

Staff reductions are also a part of the budget adjustment. The Library department is being asked to cut staff by 14%. How equitable is that? General Services is 1%, Environmental Services is 2.6%, Park&Rec is 3.7%, Fire is 5.1%, Planning is 5.6% and Police is 9.5%. The Library cut is so disproportionate that you should be emailing the mayor and your council rep right now. 14%! This is on top of all the other staff cuts in prior years- 37.6 in 2007 alone. Evidently all animals are equal and some animals are more equal, as George Orwell noted in Animal Farm.

The disproportionate cuts to our library system should be enough to get our shorts in a bunch. But there is more. As they say the devil-and I would add the mayor- is in the details. Here’s the language used to describe the “pairing of 16 branches” in the mayor’s proposal. “The pairing of branches will create a 36-hour, Tuesday through Saturday schedule, reducing the number of open days from six per week to five per week.”

Do you understand what that means? I don’t. Suzi More, OB Library Friends president, translated this utterly incomprehensible statement for us, based on her prior meeting with the mayor. “Unfortunately, the only way that the 27% cut will be able to be made will be to “pair” libraries and keep each open three days a week, sharing staff. All libraries would close on Sundays except the ones that have special private funding (Pt. Loma is one of them).”

Why is the mayor singling out our libraries, which are so valued, so heavily used, and so woven into the life of our unique communities? Because he thinks he can pull it off! He is trying to pull it off with misleading, confusing language that the public cannot understand. He is counting on this female dominated profession to quietly submit to onerous cuts because they and what they do are of lesser value in the big scheme of things. He is counting on the neediest among us to remain voiceless, invisible and outside of the democratic process.

So OB and all of the other paired locations will be open 3 days every week sometime between Tuesday and Saturday. Is that acceptable to you? Do you think the mayor is providing us with the full budget implications? Uppity women, freaks and politicos- are you going to be silent and invisible? I say “Hell no!”

What can we do?

  1. Ask that a sign be posted on EVERY library location, this week, that clearly states the proposed schedule changes- how many days the library will be open and how many hours. The sign should provide information on the upcoming public hearings and how to contact city officials.
  2. Advocate against any reduction of hours and against any staff layoffs. Hours will not be added back when times get better. Once the staff is gone and the positions eliminated, there will be no additional hours on Jerry’s watch. Libraries cannot operate without staff. It is as simple as that.
  3. Think about a reasonable compromise that is in line with the percentage of reductions in the other departments. The library currently has 29.26 vacant positions. I would reluctantly agree to the elimination of those positions. It will decimate the department’s ability to provide a core city service if any more positions are eliminated.

Contact your councilmember and Library Director Deborah Barrow and of course our mayor. The City Council will hold a hearing on December 14 at 2:00 pm.

The Ocean Beach library has not had a permanent librarian for a number of months. Many of the same libraries up for closure last year are in this same situation. Interesting, isn’t it… Substitute librarians and other library staff are rotating through. I am cynical enough to believe that this is being purposely done so that the current staff cannot establish itself within a community, get to know teachers, your kid’s name and your reading tastes. Our libraries are being undermined in their seminal community role because the mayor sees strong, informed communities as a political threat.

We are not powerless. Ocean Beach. University Community. Mission Hills. Kensington. Paradise Hills. Oak Park. Scripps Ranch. Clairemont. Allied Gardens. North Clairemont. University Heights. Skyline Hills. Beckwourth. Carmel Mountain. Linda Vista. Tierrasanta.

We are not powerless. We know what to do. NO REDUCTION OF LIBRARY HOURS. NO STAFF LAYOFFS.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar OBSteven November 28, 2009 at 1:48 pm

This is very upsetting. I love the library. It is crucial for our community and it’s taxpayers.

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avatar Danny Morales November 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

It appears as though a coalition of community interests is in the making. The preservation of infrastructure, community based policing and rational community planning all being of importance to the Ragamuffins. I’m not going commit to the mistakes of the past when I let an individual or group of individuals declare themselves a “coalition” and then run a mass movement (into the ground) based upon individuality and the cult of personality. I instead will support real leaders like Anna Daniels and strive for unity within. So what else do you need from me? I’m with Ya!

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avatar annagrace November 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Danny- if we can agree on what to do, and and do it quickly, I know we can keep our communities intact. Big thanks for the support!

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avatar Danny Morales November 28, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I’m going to follow your lead and contact my councilmember, the library director and the mayor with the 3 point program laid out in your post. Then I plan on attending the city council meeting on Monday 12/14 at 2P to speak my mind in a coordinated effort with others. Please keep in touch w/me and others so as to present the maximum amount of unity regarding this issue. You may get my personal contact information off the record from the editors or if you wish you may provide me with yours and I’ll respond.

Sincerely,
Dan

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avatar Editor November 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Anna Daniels, the author of this post, also had a mention recently in the online voiceofsandiego.com here: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/this_just_in/#blurb3

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avatar Stephen D November 28, 2009 at 5:37 pm

The figures in this proposed cut are stunning. Thank you Anna for highlighting the Sign On SD visuals, for providing the needed interpretation, and for exposing the utter hypocrisy of Sanders. Your observation on the substitute librarians is particularly sharp and is indicative of the ongoing occult motives of this cynical administration. This crazy plan seeks to establish a “permanent nomadic substitute librarian” situation, the final disassociation of the library from the community. It’s such an ill-conceived and shapeless plan that it can’t even be publicly posted (as it should) at our branch libraries. How convenient.

The library budget is getting a double cut: twice the average general fund cut. Sanders’ plan achieves this by making a proportionally abnormal cut to staff. This proposal is now in the laps of the City Council, so let’s make sure they hear our rejection of the slanted Sanders plan.

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avatar University City Library Advocate November 28, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Anna Daniels is to San Diego libraries what Kate Sessions was to parks. When Central’s built, let’s name a room after Anna. As for the mayor, he needs to know the peasants are not going to be apathetic over his decision. This is a heart breaker, folks, but as James Reston said decades ago in The New York Times: “All politics are based on the indifference of the majority.” Mayor Sanders needs to review the facts, not the factions that sit in cubicles and base decisions from a distance. Libraries are the life blood of the community. Come visit O.B’s library or U.C’s library. I would expect Mayor Sanders and City Council to stand up for literacy for the little ones who frequent sacred libraries and big ones who use the facilities for job hunting, quiet reading, and computers.

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avatar annagrace November 28, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Library supporters from across the city have started to contact me. Here’s a letter to Mayor Sanders from Clairemont-one of the libraries that the mayor wanted to close last year.
“Dear Mayor Sanders:
I would like to request that you reconsider your budget proposal to reduce library services to the Clairemont community by cutting the number of days of service to three and implementing shared library staffing. Your mid-year reductions are not distributed uniformly; asking the library program to reduce services by 10% and staff by 14% is not “sharing the pain equally.” No other department is being asked to reduce costs by this much.

The Union Tribune featured a print article on November 25, “Local Libraries Booked Solid.” (The article can be read now on SignOnSanDiego.com.) The article reported:
” ‘Tough economic times’ cited as driving factor behind increase in traffic at county branches.” With the citizens of San Diego turning to their libraries more and more because of economic factors, why is reducing library services in the best interests of the community?

The Clairemont Branch Library has finally, after 18 months of rotating managers, been staffed by a full-time manager and a part-time youth services librarian. In less than a month, these two women have created a vibrant and exciting library program that is increasing use by the community. To reduce this library service to three days a week would decimate the program and make the community feel as if they have been part of a “bait and switch” scam.

Please support our communities and the people of San Diego by keeping our libraries open at their current levels of support.”

Marian ended her email with this question- Do you think we’ll ever see the day when someone proposes increasing the funding for libraries???

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avatar annagrace November 29, 2009 at 12:11 pm

A new question was added to the Library Poll at the request of a reader: “Do we really need two libraries within a mile and a half of each other?” I am glad this issue was raised, because this was one of the justifications for closing OB and the 6 other libraries last year.

My question to the 4 people who checked this response- DO YOU HAVE A CAR?

We heard last year from people all over the city, even in the higher income areas, that proximately is a completely bogus issue if you don’t have a car. A mile and a half walk can be an insurmountable obstacle if you don’t have a car.

Who doesn’t have cars? Young school kids. Branches were purposely built close to elementary schools to enable children to walk to a library. This was an important issue for parents who came out to protest closures.

Many seniors do not have cars and walk to their branch. Seniors came out in droves last year because of this issue.

Many individuals with disabilities- confined to wheel chairs, or visually impaired who do not drive, came out in protest.

And of course the poor, who cannot afford cars and are hard pressed to pay the ever rising bus fares also came out.

It goes back to “equitable” cuts again. How equitable is it reduce access to city facilities because an individual is without a car? This issue should be DOA. We covered this ground last year, and clearly heard the community voices and needs.

Of course we can schedule a People’s March from the OB Library to Point Loma and let the citizens see for themselves and invite Mayor Sanders and Kevin Faulconer to join us.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Annagrace – doesn’t the mayor want to couple the OB Library with the Mission Hills branch?

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avatar annagrace November 29, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Yes- libraries will “paired.” Ocean Beach and Mission Hills will “share” staff. That is a significant point. Shared branch managers and shared youth services librarian will not be able to provide the same level of outreach into a community’s schools, senior centers and social organizations. Nor will they be able to spend the same amount of time with you and your family on site.
Point Loma would remain the closest library geographically to OB, and it is not clear how many days Point Loma will be open. They are currently open 7 days a week, but it appears that their hours will be cut too- maybe only open 5 or 6 days.

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avatar Brian November 29, 2009 at 6:10 pm

So, are you in favor of adding branches and distributing them such that no San Diego senior, disabled person, and/or elementary school is more than 1.5 miles from the nearest branch?

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avatar annagrace November 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm

The distribution of branches is done on the basis of how many people live in an area and in a way that maximizes access of certain groups of people- seniors, kids, poor, etc. So with few exceptions, libraries are built within walking distance of elementary schools and senior/disabled and subsidized housing. Most of our branches are within 1.5 / 2 miles of some other library, which means that yes, libraries are distributed so that ALL residents fall within this radius.

I am questioning the assumption that 1.5 miles is “insignificant” to most library users.

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avatar Brian November 30, 2009 at 7:29 am

I don’t know that I assumed 1.5 miles is insignificant. I did assume, wrongly it would seem, that the distribution was not organized as you’ve described.

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avatar Shawn Conrad November 30, 2009 at 8:36 am

If they close a library they should have to close a police station or a military base.

Who in their rights mind could possibly think closing a library is a good idea in any way? I know it has expenses, but if the city took a day to realign all the sprinklers that water the road ways instead of plants they might find cost savings.

It is all so disgusting to me. It’s like we need to breed and groom politicians from birth, and stop letting these rich families screw up their common sense.

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avatar Rob November 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm

“If they close a library they should have to close a police station or a military base.”

Sorry, but that’s one of the most ignorant statements I’ve read in a while.

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avatar Shawn Conrad November 30, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Rob,

Closing a public book depository is ignorant (both in present and future terms). I see no difference in closing a facility that assists with educating the public over closing war mongering staging areas, and citizen brutalization squads.

They are dummying us down, can’t you smell it? Less books, more police, and more military support. Go America!

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avatar Catherine November 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I love the library and I go there all the time, but these are difficult budget times. I’m not at all happy with the mayor’s “plan” which is only short-term, but budgets will have to be cut (and revenues raised). While an equitable distribution of cuts across departments sounds reasonable at first, I’m not sure it is really. It assumes all departments are currently at equal staffing/resources and have equal demand for services.

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avatar scott andrews November 30, 2009 at 2:40 pm

About this “no money for branches” hokum…
…how about diverting some of the $30 million a year in TOT taxes Faulconer
and the mayor voted to give the Hotel/Motel Assn.!
We didn’t elect these excuse-makers to close essential services like libraries
while voting for convention centers and new offices for themselves.

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avatar annagrace November 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

A recent posting to the voiceofsandiego clarifies the discrepancy about Sunday hours at the 12 branch locations currently open that day. Suze More, OB Friends of the Library President reported that the Mayor had told her that only 3 libraries with privately funded Sunday hours and the Central library downtown would remain open that day under his proposed cuts. The public document which the Mayor released to the Council and Citizens states that Sunday hours would be maintained at those 12 locations.

The Mayor’s public budge release is incorrect according to the voiceofsandiego. What else isn’t right?
http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/this_just_in/

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avatar Monty Kroopkin November 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm

The whole campaign to destroy public services under the excuse of reduced public revenues from taxes and fees is a fraud.

Shut down all the American Empire military bases (over 800 of them) in over 40 other countries. Big cost savings. Reduce domestic military bases and spending to what is truly needed to defend against any military invasion or bombing. Adopt universal adult defense training and abolish the standing army. Big big money saved.

Restore the principle of progressive taxation. Heavily tax the rich. Stop taxing the poor.

This is still the richest country on the planet. The problem is which people are getting all the wealth (less than 1% of us are getting most of it). The problem is not the bad economy. All this public sector budget crisis is manufactured by stupid and corrupt politicians and citizens who accept a kind of treason against humanity instead of reason.

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avatar Brian November 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Admittedly, I haven’t read the whole of the San Diego city budget, but I’m fairly confident it doesn’t include funding for overseas military bases.

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avatar Danny Morales December 1, 2009 at 9:26 am

The city’s budget is concerned with the demand side of the public funding equation. What Shawn, Monty et. al are referencing is the supply side of the municipal equation. But you already knew that.-Phil DeGrave-30-

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avatar Brian December 1, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Are you suggesting that if the federal government spent less on military, that money would be re-directed to the city of San Diego?

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avatar Shawn Conrad December 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I just think if the public takes a hit, the government should as well, dollar for dollar.
Every dollar removed from public amenities (parks, libraries, welfare, unemployment, government assisted living) should be matched by a Federal dollar cut from one of their amenities (pensions, kickbacks, or some of the few legal things they do).
Take a dollar from the library, take a dollar from Miramar. How is that not fair? How about fly the fighter jets in the same frequency as we are allowed to water our lawns or wash our cars.
Picketing is not working. They figure out how to use dissuasion tactics and misinformation to make that nonsense ineffective back in the early 1970s.

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avatar Frustrated about the future literacy in SD December 1, 2009 at 6:55 am

The dumbing down of San Diego is designed by the political budget brains who choose to close ANY library. This move will have a generational impact on children who should be entitled to go to the library daily, to experience storytelling for toddlers, to talk about books with adults, to do research that involves another person, not a hit on the computer isolated at home. Adults who pay taxes should get BASIC services like a neighborhood library. Who would move into a community where libraries are shut down half the time?
A public servant should serve the public, right? Is it easy? No. Did someone force politicians to sign on for the arduous task? No. Instead, public servants serve themselves if they use each office as a steppingstone to the next one and getting re-elected is the goal, if they don’t provide basic services to a community. San Diego has a shadow government that does not involve saving local libraries, which do not generate income. It is all about the bottom line. Think of libraries as investments in literacy. Do we want a city of literate people?
What impact did libraries have on current politicians when they were children? Why are some branch libraries with wealthy donors more important than those who don’t have the same opportunity to financial backing?
Thank you, Anna Daniels, for starting a conversation that involves community members across the city. I hope those who are in charge of budget decisions are truly listening, especially the mayor and his large, well paid staff.
When La Jolla Library links up with Pacific Beach Library to be open only three days a week, then the rest of the nominated branch libraries will consider your proposal, Mr. Mayor.

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