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City should not lose control of its public library | Letter
Note: the following is in response to a letter (Courier-Herald, March 7) submitted by Richard Elfers.
Really Mr. Elfers? Close our 94-year-old library after city residents paid off a $1 million bond for the library building? Who says the alternative to library annexation is library closure? Certainly not the citizens who approved this bond. Nowhere in the proposition for library annexation does it say that if it fails, the alternative is library closure. City Resolution 1396, the document authorizing City Council to “explore the possibility of annexation to the King County Library System (KCLS),” does not say it’s either annexation or library closure. Instead, it mandates council evaluate other funding alternatives in a “public process,” something council refused to do.
Council instead created a breakdown in the democratic process and failed in its fiduciary responsibility to the public. Regardless of countless citizen “no to KCLS annexation” statements made before council, you and others on City Council steadfastly resisted compliance with Resolution 1396. You never considered alternative funding options.
April 20, 2011 – the mayor and city administrator promised to have staff draw up a 10-year library budget and create a working group to investigate alternative funding options. This was never done and council barred the Library Board from all discussions with KCLS and even tried to strong arm the board to prevent them from voicing opinions contrary to “city desires.”
Even the former library director was kept quiet and kept out of the city’s decision process on annexation to KCLS.
And now you and some still on council are threatening residents with the statement that if they turn down the proposition to annex, the library will close. It seems like the city council simply wants to be done with it and wash their hands of the library. And interestingly, some council members have never been seen in the library and they know not what they do.
Like a box of chocolates, once KCLS annexes our library, you never know what you’re going to get. There is no guarantee how much of the new KCLS tax levy of 50 cents per $1,000 will return to our library, a library KCLS identifies as a “small district library.” There’s no guarantee there may not be an increase in that levy tax. The city of Renton KCLS library annexation caused a huge unexpected tax levy increase when after annexation, KCLS decided the current library building was inadequate and then mandated Renton residents pay for two new library buildings in addition to their 50 cents/$1,000 levy tax. And don’t forget the fiasco with Enumclaw’s fire department annexation to District 28 and the recent discussions to raise those taxes. Do citizens really expect they won’t see the same thing happen with the KCLS library tax?
There already is an agreement between libraries that gives us full access to all KCLS libraries, assets and website. Why pay more for something we already have (our city-run library with funding and taxation under our control and rights as KCLS members) when there are sound alternatives for funding our library besides annexation to KCLS?
You say the budget is tight, yet council is spending $25,000 for this premature vote before alternatives to annexation have been reviewed. In May 2011, council seriously proposed spending $296,000 for a vacant lot downtown to build a park for children so their parents can shop nearby – and this when there is an existing city park 1 ½ blocks away. Totaled together, these amounts are well over half the library’s annual budget.
There are adequate city funds available for the library. From its beginnings as a tiny city surrounded by its farming community, the citizens of Enumclaw have for 94 years strongly supported its library, making it a “jewel in the crown,” giving countless residents joy and support in their lives, both as children and as adults.
We will have to see on April 17 if residents agree with you Mr. Elfers, that they are willing to deed over control of their unique and wonderful library to the larger KCLS that does not have in its mind-set our kind of community library.
Keep Enumclaw Library ours! Vote no on Proposition 1 April 17 and demand City Council review all alternatives to Enumclaw library funding. KCLS annexation is not the best solution.
Editors Note – Una Waldron is a former City Council member. JoAn McKinlay and Charles Sansone are Library Board members for the past two years, but submitted this letter as private citizens.