Once again library supporters provided the majority of citizen input regarding the proposed budget, and once again, Mayor Sanders was dismissive of them. The mayor is holding two community budget hearings to explain the budget. The first one was held at Kearny High School. The fifty or so citizens who showed up were not given an opportunity to provide public testimony. We were handed a note card and told that we could ask the mayor a question about the budget.
Library supporters from Clairmont, Linda Vista, University Heights, Pacific Beach and City Heights asked the same question- “Why is our library system chronically and disproportionately underfunded?” He joked that we must be copying from each other, and dismissed the question that thirteen of us had asked him. The only library question that he deemed worth considering was the impact of the cuts on our libraries’ designation as “cool zones” during the summer months. Elderly and the poor who are without air conditioning may need safe cool places to escape the heat and our libraries provide that very humane service. Perhaps the mayor will offer his own office to these individuals.
Year after year library supporters show up at all of these meetings. Year after year, along with park and rec supporters they comprise the majority of attendees on general fund budget issues. Look what we get in return- the constant erosion of our library services. We must ask our elected representatives why that is happening. We clearly believe, affluent and poor alike, that our core city services are not only public safety, street maintenance and trash disposal, but also library and park and recreation services. Library and Park and Recreation services are not given any less prominence in our City Charter. Nowhere does it say that if we have a budget shortfall, those two departments can be ignored.
I encourage you all to attend the mayor’s next community budget hearing on Thursday, April 28 from 6-7pm at the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center at 404 Euclid Ave. Friends of the OB Library chairman George Murphy will be there. Bring your kids, too. And signs! I think we are all aware that these latest proposed library budget cuts target our kids and the elderly.
Perhaps the question we should write on our note cards is “What have you got against our kids and old people and the poor?” We should ask “Does our Library Department provide a core city service?” And of course we should ask “Why are our libraries chronically and disproportionately underfunded?”