Crumbs for the Neighborhood Libraries
If Measure N, the $148 million bond measure passes, two-thirds of the proceeds would go to a new main library at Kaiser Center.
All the neighborhood libraries together would share just one-third of the money. For every $100 of bond money – and thus every $100 you pay in property taxes to repay these bonds – here's how much each library branch would get:
(Council's July 25, 2006 resolution)
Get a printable version of the chart here
Not one neighborhood library would get even close to 10 percent of the money. That's what happens when you propose to build a palace at Kaiser Center costing $733 per square foot.
Most branches would get trivial amounts. Temescal, for example, would get $306,000 for a "service upgrade," which means some things from this list: shelves, air conditioning, public restrooms, or lights. What folly, spending $306,000 as long-term bond money, repaid with interest over 30-some years, for shelves and such!
"More people walk to their library than drive!"|
That's what the draft Master Facilities Plan for the library system emphasized in July 2004, before City Hall got hooked on Kaiser Center. The bond proposal should have kept the neighborhood library enhancements instead of spending two-thirds of the money for a palace downtown.
Why would some neighborhood libraries get more than others? In several cases, fairly new branches do not have the same needs as older ones. However, the unequal treatment has two other sources.
First, City Hall wants to make a sharp distinction between "Community Libraries" and ordinary neighborhood libraries. Branches chosen to become community libraries will get more books, more meeting rooms, and more computer labs, while ordinary neighborhood libraries will simply suggest to visitors that they go to the nearest "Community Library" for these things. This is a long-term scheme to reduce the number of neighborhood libraries.
Second, the city council played politics. Councilmembers saw that a bond issue for their complete wish list in the Master Facilities Plan would not pass, so they made cuts at the last minute, and they made them unevenly. To give a few examples:
- The Asian branch was cut from $3.6 million to $2.1 million.
- Temescal was slashed from $1.1 million to only $306,000.
- The Melrose branch was chopped from $1.9 million to $645,000.
- Elmhurst was cut from $1.3 million to $375,000.
- A new Eastmont library at $15 million was dropped, leaving a few "service upgrades" at the existing branch for only $750,000.
Of course, nearly every branch suffered some pain. Although councilmember Quan still has her Dimond branch slated to become a major "Community Library," adding at least 60% more floor space, she graciously accepted a reduction from $11.9 million to $10.2 million for the branch.
But most $$$ for a downtown palace
Nonetheless, the council made sure that every branch would get a nickel. That's why the Chavez branch would get $79,000, or five cents out of every $100 of bond money. With such insulting quantities, the council could arrange for a nice picture of smiling children. We doubt that anyone reviewed the percentages with them.
Vote No on Measure N!
– Aug. 12, 2006
And Don't Even Count on the Crumbs
(The following letter from a member of ORPN appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet, Oct. 13, 2006.)
Editors, Daily Planet:
You wrote of Oakland's Measure N, the $148 million bond issue, "The rest of the bond money not expended on the main library move would go to expansion and upgrades of several existing branch library facilities. Voters should check the actual ballot language to see which branch facilities will be upgraded."
Sorry, the "actual ballot language" is not binding. There is a list of projects appended, and it is bad enough, showing that the palace library would suck up two dollars for every dollar split among all the neighborhood libraries. But nothing commits the City to the precise breakdown shown. The palace project is almost sure to go over budget, at which time the council will "postpone" neighborhood items of its selection. Of all the state and local bond issues on the ballot for Oakland voters, Measure N is by far the most expensive per capita, the most wasteful, and the worst choice of priorities.