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.
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.
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.