Councilmember Grabs at Straws for Measure N
City Hall insiders who lust after an architectural showpiece for a new main library are feeling the heat of voter skepticism about Measure N, the $148 million tax and bond measure.
Specifically, councilmember Quan issued a broadcast email about the bond proposal for a palace library, Measure N. She offers these reasons in favor of Measure N:
I suspect the people who oppose Measure N (as demonstrated by their ballot argument) don't address the measure itself because:
* The Laurel needs a library, the Laurel lost its library after Prop 13 and the surrounding neighborhoods constitute the largest area not currently served by a neighborhood library
* Many of our branches need more room, just go into the Dimond Library after school
* Libraries should all have public bathrooms and updated electrical systems
* Libraries play a key role for the 40% of our students who come from households with no English adult speakers or materials
* Libraries are the most reliable source of internet access for 40% of our residents
* A modern Main Library will not only serve the growing downtown community, preserve the valuable historical materials, will meet state and safety standards, will be more efficient to run.... but is critical to serving the branches, it is the heart of the system and keeps resources and circulation going for the branches.
All of Quan's reasons except the last one are statements of need or desire. They have nothing to do with whether Measure N would satisfy those needs. In fact, for every dollar Measure N spends on a new palace library downtown, it gives an average of two or three cents to each of the branch libraries around town.
As for the advantages of a new main library, Measure N's palace is not about efficiency nor about preserving historical materials. It wastes a pile of dollars on a multi-story atrium – giving up floor space and holding no materials whatsoever – in a vain effort to have an "architecturally striking landmark" (Master Plan PowerPoint presentation, July 28, 2004, slide 59) Spending $733 per square foot for palace architecture does nothing for books and the patrons who would like to access them.
Councilmember Quan goes on to quote advocacy statements from a library administrator, deputy director Garzon. (Is he providing information or campaigning?) Most significantly, he repeats a frequent campaign line from the advocates of Measure N: "What is unique is that for Oakland, the last time it asked the voters to pass a bond for libraries was in 1945."
Bonds or not, the City has opened and renovated many branches steadily over the years. For example, take just a few entries from the Library's own historical timeline:
- Brookfield Branch Library is established, 1957
- The Latin American Branch (now César E. Chávez Branch) Library, 1966
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch is established, 1970
- Asian Branch Library is established, 1976
- New West Oakland Branch Library opens, 1977
- New Brookfield Branch Library opens, 1992
- The African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) is created, 1994
- New Asian Branch Library opens, 1995
- New Rockridge Branch Library opens, 1996
- New Eastmont Branch Library opens, 1998
- New César Chávez Branch Library opens in Fruitvale Transit Village, 2004
Of course, taxpayers provided the money for these projects down through the years – so please do not try to guilt trip us by saying we haven't given you a bond issue since 1945.
The more that councilmember Quan tries to argue for Measure N, the more people see that it is a wasteful proposal. It is not good for the branch libraries, not good for Oakland, and a huge waste of scarce dollars when we have real priorities to address.
– Oct. 19, 2006
Councilmember Issues More Misleading Statements
Councilmember Quan, leader of the campaign for a palace library, felt the need to respond to a constituent who asked about some money details. She replied,
"Measure N is a bond. It can only be spent on capital costs of repairing or building libraries. There is a citizen oversight committee and annual audit. While you may not trust me, I have heard no criticism of the Library Commission's oversight of Library funds. There is a list of the projects and a 500-plus page master plan citing the needs and scope of work. The library staff held over twenty meetings on the plan, if you really have questions about how the money is going to be spent, the library staff is available for any community meeting to answer questions."
"While you may not trust me" – let no one say the councilmember is not a perceptive person. However, Measure N is not the master plan. It is not bound by the master plan. In fact, when councilmembers wrote Measure N last July, they mangled the plan's integrated list of projects, favoring the palace library downtown and cutting the neighborhood branches. For example, they slashed Temescal from $1,100,000 to $306,000. That is all Temescal would get for the next 30 years as these bonds are repaid. The Brookfield, Elmhurst, Golden Gate, Melrose, Rockridge and other branches were dealt similar major reductions.
The councilmembers appoint an oversight committee, a frequently used toothless device. Measure Y has such a committee. When is the last time you heard that committee intervening against any of the several violations and misappropriations of Measure Y money?
Quan went on to quote from library deputy director Garzon answering a question about one branch library, "The 81st Avenue Library received $6.5 million in state funding toward construction and this has allowed us to proceed with a design contract." That is correct. Garzon did not tell readers that the design contract was awarded without bid to the same architect firm that provided the propaganda for the palace library at Kaiser Center, the same firm that has donated thousands of dollars to councilmember Quan's Yes on N committee.
While the constituent's question led councilmember Quan to make specific misleading statements, she spoke differently to a reporter for The Montclarion newspaper. Quan merely gave readers irrelevant sentimentalities:
"Passage of the bond would show we value education, young people and equity. Libraries are safe for young people, old people. It bridges the digital divide. It's common ground where groups are getting together."
Perhaps that is a good speech for a character in an opera to sing, but it gives not one fact about Measure N, not one reason to vote for its colossal waste of money and its misdirected priority.
– Oct. 21, 2006