Legislative Update

Legislative Update provided to us by Bruce Guter:

SCA 7, the proposed legislation that would lower the threshold for passing library initiatives from 67% to 55%, cleared its first hurdle.  It passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee last week.

The bill will now be referred to the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, where it can be taken up this year or early next because, as a proposed constitutional amendment, it is not subject to the same timeline as a standard bill.  Once SCA 7 is officially assigned to this committee, there will be a new group of senators to whom we must write letters.

As soon as we have specific senators to write, we will post names and mailing addresses.

Marian Higgins, Coordinator for SOPPL/ Advocacy

Senator announces bill to support local public libraries

Wolk proposes 55 percent voter approval for local library measures

Excerpts from a California State Senator Lois Wolk press release dated 11/30/2012:

“Libraries are a vital resource for our communities. They provide essential services to the state’s education system and to our communities.  But while demand for library services is growing, many libraries are struggling to meet the needs of their users in light of ongoing state and local budget cuts,” Wolk said.  “We’ve seen major reductions in hours and even closings.  Lowering the voter threshold to 55 percent will give more local communities the ability to keep libraries open and serving their needs.”

“In the November elections, two California library parcel tax measures failed despite receiving substantial majorities, with more than 55 percent yes votes from their communities.  The proposed change to 55 percent would still require significant support from local voters,” said Derek Wolfgram, President of the California Library Association. “In order to provide additional opportunities for communities to support the positive actions libraries take to transform the lives of California residents, the California Library Association strongly endorses this legislation.”

More information on bill SCA 7
Read the bill’s text

Please contact your state representatives and urge them to support this bill.

Save Library: Pass X

(Letter from Elizabeth Martinez, Salinas Library and Community Services Director, as published in the October 20, 2012 issue of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

I grew up in Pomona, attended the library programs including the “Gingerbread Social” in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Room, became a librarian, and eventually the executive director of the American Library Association.

Children’s librarian Clara Webber took an interest in me, as I was a reader, and became a friend to my mother, even sitting with me in the hospital waiting room when she had a breast cancer operation. For many years, Ms. Webber, as I knew her, wrote to my mother and she tracked my education and discussed my future.

It seems difficult to comprehend that the Pomona Public Library is reduced to limited hours and programs. I came to Salinas, a city of 150,000 residents and 75 percent Latino, five years ago to restore the library system that the council voted closed in 2005. It became international news, and was documented in the film “The Hollywood Librarian,” because it was the home of Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck, and many people thought it heresy to close the libraries in Steinbeck’s hometown.

Today the three Salinas public libraries are open seven days a week, and every public school student K-12 (39,000) has a library card. We have over 750 public events a year, two homework centers (one at an elementary school), a bookmobile, and over $1.8 million in grants for children’s programs, video-histories, and the first Digital Arts Lab in a library, all for $26 a year per person in sales taxes. The Salinas Public Library is funded by a half-cent sales tax passed in 2005. The library is highly visible, and it would be difficult to close it now, as it has been called “the heart of the community” and “an adventure.” See our annual reports on YouTube.

I trust that the residents of Pomona “save the library” by passing Measure X.

A city without a library is one without a heart.

Library and Community Services Director

Ms. Martinez is one of the most prominent Librarians in the country. She has been the Director of the Orange County Public Library, and the Director of the  Los Angeles Public Library, and served for several years as the Executive Director of the American Library Association. (She was the first Latina to ever hold these positions, and has received numerous honors and awards for her pioneering efforts to provide and improve Library Services to the Spanish speaking community).

She has served on the faculty of several University Library Schools, including UCLA, San Jose State and the University of Arizona. She is renowned for her fundraising efforts to support Libraries. As Director of the Los Angeles Public Library she oversaw its $213 million renovation and reopening in 1993. As ALA Executive Director she helped to  initiate the Gates Foundation’s $200 million program to place 22,000 computers in over 4,000 libraries thoughout the United States. (The Pomona Library’s computer lab began with a grant from the Gates Foundation).

Life or Death of the X-Factor (Measure X)

Life or Death of the X-Factor (Measure X)
By Chau Nguyen

(published in the October 3, 2012 issue of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

“Your library sucks!” A young mother with a four year old muttered as I walked past her with the fluorescent green Save Our Pomona Public Library lawn sign on Holt Blvd. “Excuse me?” I asked curiously.
She glares in disgust, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
“I heard you say, ‘the library sucks.’ Can you tell me why?” I asked.
“Your library is never open!” rolling her eyes.
She’s right.

But the library is open for business
How does a business survive open for a dismal 20 hours a week? Assuming that this woman does not have access to a car, she may get around by walking during daylight hours when it is safest. In warm weather she walks two miles from Holt to Garey with her young son to read at the library and the library she expects to be open is not.
She is one of tens of thousands effected by library hours. Conveniences such as access to computers with internet, printers, and personal libraries may be part of our everyday home environment, but imagine life without those amenities effecting your day to day life. The population benefiting from having more library hours are those who because of their income can not afford those home conveniences.

Taxes over my dead body
Community and business leaders city-wide organized to place Measure X on November’s ballot. The x-factor of Measure X is whether voters will vote to pay $38 for about 38 hours of service. Impose yet another tax? After all, taxes have been compared to death. Ironically, not voting Yes on Measure X, the $38/year parcel tax, will determine the pace of impending death or life support of the library.

The current operating budget of the library is $400,000 until the June 2013 fiscal year ends. The budget prior to the cuts of July 2012 was about $1,500,000. In 2008, it was $2,400,000. How and why did the budget get so low?

The library worked with due diligence to save money during hard times. This proposal shows library cost saving efforts http://goo.gl/EYwnt. Using the city’s site and the published budgets, I calculated the percentages from the budgets available online. From 2007-08 to 2011-12, there’s a noticeable decline even if you dismiss this fiscal year as an anomaly.

2007-08 3.2%
2008-09 2.9%
2009-10 2.4%
2010-11 1.9%
2011-12 1.9%
2012-13 0.8%

A yes vote will create a longer life expectancy to finance the operations of the library. A no vote will be kicking the can down the road. Measure X as written provides that taxes collected will be used solely to fund the library and not go into the City’s General Fund where it can be moved to fund some other task. However, it is written with purposeful flexibility and if under the proper leadership will be spent wisely on behalf of the public.

Measure the burden of the tax on those who pay the parcel taxes
The library may not be frequented by those who are privileged to have what seems to be everyday conveniences at home. According to the 2010 Census 63,952 people (42.9%) of the 149,058 of Pomona residents lived in rental housing units. That means 4 out of 10 people in the city are vulnerable to transiency. With this in mind, I can see why rental owners feel the burden of the parcel tax is on them when they themselves may not live in the city, but own property within the city.

Pomona homeowners may differ in opinion because they have a different view of long tern ownership that is not solely measured in profits. For some, having a better funded library is a quality of life issue. For others, it’s another tax that eats away at the bottom line. The benefits are relative depending on what is important to you at this point and time in your life.

There is a win-win situation here
On the other hand, homeowners who no longer have school aged children may feel it is not beneficial to pay into a public good that does not serve their everyday needs. Fair enough, though looking at the bigger picture, speaking as a credentialed teacher, higher literacy can correlate to better trained leaders in the community who can, if provided with resources, help build build a “stronger, more just, and verdant society.”

The library plaque in front of the only city library reminds us that it was with the intention “Built by the people of Pomona for the preservation and advancement of the intellectual, cultural, and social life of the community.” Looking at dollars allocated to library services show voters what is prized in their city. All taxes are not created equal, but those who believe in what is fair and believe in life will vote YES for the X-factor.