If you are not at the table you are on the menu.
Tomorrow, Thursday May 5th, the San Diego City Council will listen to public testimony about the library budget. This hearing, at 10:30 am in the commission chambers, will be the only opportunity to provide input solely on the library issue. Even if you signed a petition, attended a rally or called your councilmember, it is important to attend this hearing!
Mayor Sanders has proposed gutting the branch libraries by reducing branch hours to 18.5 hours a week. That means branches would be open two short days and alternate Saturdays. At last week’s rally in OB, Obceans clearly saw this as an attempt to close their library and they were not buying it.
Five council votes are needed to veto the mayor’s budget. Five council votes are needed to carry an alternative library budget plan. Two council members have publicly committed to restoring the full library budget. As you know, Councilman Kevin Faulconer took the lead this past Saturday at the OB library. Councilman Todd Gloria held a press conference on Tuesday May 3 to not only express his own commitment to restoring those funds, but to discuss the revenue sources to do so.
What appeared to be a straightforward thumbs up or down to the mayor’s proposed budget became more complicated after the office of Independent Budget Analysis (IBA) released its own review of the mayor’s budget this past Friday. The IBA was established as a result of the strong mayor form of government. It provides independent financial analysis as opposed to policy analysis, to the city council, the legislative branch of our city government.
Library supporters were shocked to find out that the IBA released three library budget options for the council to consider. They are not, it is important to note, the handiwork of the IBA or council. The first option was to restore the full $7.4M to the library budget. The second option was to partially restore the budget by forgoing the pairing of branches and creating eight express libraries.
These express libraries are virtually the same libraries, including OB, that had been slated for closure two years ago. Instead of simply locking the doors and closing the lights forever, this option is a slow and cruel bleeding to death of small unique libraries that are firmly rooted in their local communities. No new materials would be bought for these branches. No materials would be re-shelved. There would be no programs for kids, no community partnerships. These libraries would no longer exist as vibrant centers integral to the sense of community which citizens clearly value.
Library supporter Lowell Waxman wrote this to Councilman Gloria:
I encourage you to be strong in your support of full library funding with no IBA wretched compromises being satisfactory alternatives to the Mayor’s devastating original budget proposal. No express branch libraries and no pairing libraries with minimal mystery public hours.
These crackpot proposals are totally unsatisfactory and should not be put on the table as genuine last minute library department organization plans. Besides being bad plans they have not even been discussed in neighborhood budget meetings. I consider these radical proposals, particularly the Express Branch proposal which dresses up the old discredited plan to close branches in each district, to be back door attempts to circumvent the democratic process and too late to meet the transparency test for good governance. Folks can’t debate and discuss midnight proposals…. That is no substitute for orderly and informed due process that gives affected neighborhoods time to digest the impact of proposals such as those coming from the IBA.
We need full funding for full service libraries and your vote to reject the Mayor’s plan for the Library. Surely the Mayor’s proposal was not gamesmanship to make the bad but less drastic proposals look acceptable. People are tired of being played for fools.
The lack of transparency and the radical proposals make great budget kabuki theater, but as Lowell notes they do not constitute good governance.
City Council Library Budget Hearing
Thursday May 5th, 10:30-noon
202 C Street, San Diego
12th floor Council Chambers