OCEAN BEACH, CA. As expected, Mayor Jerry Sanders held a press conference this morning in front of the Ocean Beach library. And as expected, Mayor Sanders announced that in his new city budget proposal, no libraries or library services will be cut for this year’s budget.
“We heard you, Ocean Beach,” the Mayor said. “There will be no library cuts.” The crowd applauded. The Friends of the San Diego Library along with their OB affiliate had advertised the press conference and asked library supporters to come out to applaud the Mayor, and they did.
Under gray skies, we gathered and waited and listened to our elected leaders celebrate. We were the ones who had saved the OB Library, and it was a great day for Ocean Beach. We have won – we saved our library – and all the others as well.
There were representatives there from all OB’s civic organizations: the Friends of the OB Library – with Suzi More, its president, very visible in the early days trying to save the OB branch, along with Pat James, head of the OB Historical Society, one of the main organizers last Fall; I was there representing the OB Rag blog – we were also very visible in those early days of being a “hotbed of protest “; George Murphy was there, as a Planning Board member. And there were folks from the OB Town Council, including Jim Musgrove, its president, Mike Akey and Dennie Knox and others from the Mainstreet Association. Stalwarts of the Historical Society showed up including Carol Bowers, Mary Springfield, and Ned Titlow.
Our Councilmember Kevin Faulconer was there, of course, as he had been very receptive to our chants of “Save the library!” back last November. When he spoke he thanked most of the leaders of the OB groups who were there by name.
The Mayor wanted this: he wanted a bevy of community leaders and people to surround him this morning as he made his announcement in front of the cameras. Why?
In his Office press statement – handed out before the event – it read:
Mayor Jerry Sanders was joined by library supporters and community members of the Ocean Beach Branch Library today to lay out the stakes in this afternoon’s labor impasse hearing before City Council.
The “Fact Sheet” went on:
To address a $60 million deficit, the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2010 includes a 6 percent reduction in the overall compensation of the city’s approximately 10,500 employees. This will be achieved through wage reductions as well as decreasing the portion the city covers of employee health care, retirement and other employment benefits.
Without those compensation concessions, however, about $30 million in savings will have to come from job and service cuts.
The last paragraph flatly stated:
The city and the unions reached impasse last week: the City Council is expected to conduct an impasse hearing today at which they can impose the necessary concessions to maintain city services.
So, that’s it. Our Library is saved and no service cuts, but the librarians have to take a 6% cut in pay and benefits. The Unions are balking of course. They’re doing their job.
The Mayor explained: he was expecting an impasse to be declared today, an impasse in contract negotiations with all the five city worker unions. That will allow him and the Council to mandate employee conditions. So, naturally, he wants to show a ‘united front’ of himself and community members holding the line against library cuts facing off with the unions that his negotiators are sitting down with right now.
I mentioned this angle to a number of library supporters milling around before the press conference started. They were in general agreement that we – the community members – did not want to be pitted against the unions. But, we didn’t get a chance to make that point, as once Sanders, Faulconer and Judy Harris of the Library Foundation had spoken, it was over, and Sanders was soon surrounded by media.
You should have seen the media there. There must have been eight television cameras. And of course with each camera, there’s at least 2 or 3 people. There were nearly as many media present as community members. It was great coverage. Today.
Yet, during our couple of rallies in protest of the library closure last Fall, we hardly saw any cameras. The media can be such a fair weather friend.
Come to think about it, we didn’t see some of these community leaders either. I remember people asking months ago after the Historical Society, the Friends of the OB Library and the OB Rag blog had organized a series of rallies in front of the library, where were the merchants? Where is the Mainstreet Association? Individual businesspeople were supportive, like Peoples Food, Falling Sky Pottery, Denny Knox, Dog Beach Dog Wash, the Kleins, but as a group, as a force, as a class – the merchants failed to step up to the plate when it looked like the Mayor was going to close our branch. In contrast, in other communities whose libraries were on the chopping block, merchants had come out and offered material support to the library protesters.
And let’s not forget, either, that it was the mayor who wanted to close our library. I told Gerry Braun – now on the mayor’s staff and formerly a wonderful columnist with the Union-Tribune, – when we crossed paths inside the Library this morning before the press thing, to get a good look around.
It was packed. Thirty small children sat listening to stories in the west wing of the library. In the east wing, the tables were solid, and there were lines for the computers. People were backed up at the counter. Get a good look around. This is a place the mayor wanted to close 6 months ago.
I commented to a library volunteer, that wasn’t it a great day, you know, with the mayor, and the media, and the announcement of no closures or cuts in services. “Yeah,” he muttered, “the day the librarians get a 6% pay cut. A great day.”
It’s true. It’s a great day. And it’s great that you heard us, Mayor Sanders, about not closing the libraries. But you know what, just don’t pit us against the unions who represent our city workers. Don’t pit the communities against the unions. No, we’re better than that.
For the perspective of one of the unions that are bargaining with the City, go here.