Mayor Sanders Changes his Position on Libraries! Seriously?

by on December 1, 2009 · 11 comments

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

Mayor Sanders Kris Michell

Mayor Jerry Sanders and Chief of Staff Kris Michell. 2006. Photo: San Diego County Taxpayers' Assoc.

Mayor Sanders is rethinking the draconian cuts he has proposed to our libraries! I attended a Library Commission Meeting on 12/1. Kris Michell, Sander’s Chief of Staff addressed the commission and said the Mayor values and has listened to the feedback he has been receiving on the library issue. Good work everyone! Each of you who took the time to respond through emails and phone calls and postings to the OB Rag made a difference!

Sanders is now proposing a 36 hour schedule throughout the whole system, and no staff layoffs. This new proposal reflects a $1.5 Million change in the Mayor’s current budget according to Michell who left the meeting after delivering her remarks.

The commissioners continued their budget discussion, asking Library Director Deborah Barrow if this meant that the Library Department cuts were reduced by that $1.5 M. She was not sure. This should concern us. There is an old saying that you can slice it thick or you can slice it thin, but it’s still baloney. We need to make sure that the Mayor’s new recommendation does indeed reduce the library cuts to an equitable level. No baloney.

Barrow also responded that a 36 hour week would probably mean that libraries would be open 5 days a week, typically from Tuesday through Saturday. She was not willing to say there would not be any Sunday hours under this proposal. We should remain concerned about Sunday hours. Keep in mind that no other City department is being forced to reduce hours.

In addition, we were reminded by the Commission chair that whatever budget is adopted will be for 18 months, according to the Mayor’s intent. Please think about that. This came as a surprise to me and I’m not sure that is even legal, according to our City Charter. I thought we had an annual review. Can anyone address that issue?

I presented remarks to the commission in opposition to the proposed cuts,  which are as we speak undergoing new changes by the Mayor. It appears that the Mayor is “making it up” as he goes along. Is that ok? The first public hearing before the City Council is a mere week away on Dec. 7. What do we really know? When will we ultimately receive all of the facts?

The Library Commission is to be commended for “supporting the concept that libraries hours will be equitably reduced to a 36 hour weekly schedule, entailing no staff layoffs, with (their) final approval pending upon the details of this plan.” I am commending them for tying their final approval to the details. Two of the commissioners referred to the Obrag posting about the library issue in a positive way. It is encouraging to know that our voices here are recognized and make a difference. We need to be working with the Library Commission.

I will present testimony on Dec 2 at the combined Budget and Finance Committee/City Council Meeting at 9:00 am. I will ask what does it mean when we learn more from the OB Rag and the voiceofsandiego about our Mayor’s proposed budget cuts than in the public report itself which he released to the City Council on Nov. 24. What does it mean to learn that that the Mayor is poised to release a different budget seven days later from his initial release date? Will the real budget please stand up?

Where does this budget process leave you and me, ordinary citizens who care about their City services (and pay taxes)? The Mayor is playing fast and loose with the whole concept of transparency in government- the citizens’ right to know. He is playing fast and loose with the democratic process- the citizens’ ability to participate in their government.

The process has become so incomprehensible that I am calling for a time out at this meeting. The Mayor has been neither clear, concise nor consistent. The citizens are being jerked around. I will request that the City Council impose a continuance on the budget debate until we are all adequately informed. As it stands now, the first City Council hearing on the budget is on Dec. 7 and the final reading is Dec.14. There is no legal reason that I am aware of that the Council must hear the matter within that time frame. The budget is not cooked.

We need more time.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Molly December 1, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Anna, thanks – again – for being our conscience on the library issue. While some progressives and leftists are slinging gripes and grimaces at each other, you’re out there hunting down the perimeters of this issue. Good job. (Did you see the room nomination in OB Flashes?)

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avatar OB Joe December 1, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Molly – golly. You just congratulated Anna on not slinging anything at others, then you go to another post on this blog and give Monty grief. WTF!? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

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avatar Molly December 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm

OB Joe – busted me! Okay I admit it. But it’s so easy giving Monty grief. He leaves himself so wide open at times and he so deserves it, but you’re right, you moron!

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avatar annagrace December 1, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Molly-thank you. My motto is “Don’t tell me what you think. Show me what you do.” I’m in the third act of my life and don’t have time to be disenchanted for more than 2 minutes. Thanks again!

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avatar Erin December 2, 2009 at 12:09 am

Hey Anna! Good job! Now, do you know anything about a special budget meeting tomorrow? I was trying to have someone get an official poster about the proposed cuts, but, well… you know how that went. I was told that we could post the information about the upcoming council hearings, but it’s unclear to me when those are.

luv ya lots!
erin

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avatar annagrace December 2, 2009 at 7:03 am

Erin- the budget hearing is Dec 2, 9:00am in the Council Chambers. I’ll be there. I’ll also post the rest of the meeting dates coming up. Thanks!

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avatar lane tobias December 2, 2009 at 9:11 am

seriously Anna, y0u are the rock star on the library scene. I recently completed my fifth book in less than a month, taken out of the library, as well as two movies and a cd. i dont have the extra cash to buy these things, so the library provides these services they are essential to self-education and creative indulgences.

I do not, however, think some sort of fee would be such a bad thing. maybe a yearly membership fee, that would give members a little extra oomph in the pecking order or something….i may be in the minority, but considering how often i use the library, i would not be opposed. I don’t think a small fee to use the internet is outrageous either. maybe a quarter or something….has that been discussed further or was that just a passing idea?

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avatar Shawn Conrad December 2, 2009 at 10:49 am

I had a semi-bright idea.

Would it be possible to combine libraries with another more profitable public service to leverage the costs? For example, house (public_service_01)’s billing or customer care into an available room in the library to offset utility costs, etc.

Does that sound ridiculous?

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avatar Danny Morales December 3, 2009 at 9:05 am

Shawn, you’re semi-bright idea sounds somewhat ridiculous but below the surface I’ll raise you one semi-ridiculous and bid an impossible; a city tax on all DOD transactions to pay for the transition.- Es sea rad, no?

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avatar annagrace December 2, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Update: We won the battle but lost the war on this one. The good news is that there will be no pairing of libraries, and there will be no staff layoffs. I attended the budget committee meeting 12/2. The Mayor submitted his revised library budget with the above changes. All branch libraries will be open 5 days a week. Their hours will be reduced from 41 to 36 hours a week. Central library will be open 6 days, with hours reduced from 52 to 44 hours a week.

I stated in my initial posting that “you can slice it thick or you can slice it thin, but it’s still baloney.” We ended up with baloney. Sanders did not reduce his initial proposed cut from the library budget- still disproportionate to every other General Fund department. He’s boiling that lobster year after year, a few degrees at a time and will continue to do so unless we are unified and say “enough. ” We are obviously not there yet.

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avatar Lisa December 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Equitable – fair – was I dreaming when I heard these words used in the initial budget process? If this proposal goes forward, the 8th largest city in these United Hates (whoops) will not have a single City Library open on Saturdays after 3:00pm. That, my friends is an abomination.

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