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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 1, 2011 9:47 AM. The previous post in this blog was Disconnecting the Mount Tabor reservoirs. The next post in this blog is The few, the proud -- the Portland water guards. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Library tax pitch changes key

The pitch that Multnomah County Library supporters made for last fall's ballot measure on a new taxing district for the library was disgracefully misleading. But it passed, and so now the truth can be told: Forget going back to the public every five years for more tax money (which it always gets) -- the library wants a permanent tax that voters don't get a regular say about:

With the current library levy, accounting for 66 percent of the library budget, set to expire in July 2012, the library continues to explore the pros and cons of forming a library district or renewing the levy. This process comes on the heels of the landslide approval in November of Measure 26-114 by Multnomah County voters, giving the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners the ability to forward a measure to a future election to create a library district.

Many library supporters view the current model of temporary funding, renewed every five years, to be unsustainable for the long-term health of Multnomah County Library.

If the library's doing a good job -- and there's no reason to think that it won't be -- going back to the voters every five years or so shouldn't be scary at all. But someone out there in the bureaucracy wants the freedom to do away with the periodic review by the public. Then the library can be like the sweethearts at Tri-Met, who have a permanent tax base and do as they please, the customer be darned.

It's a bad idea -- even when you tell the truth about it, which these folks definitely didn't do last fall.

Comments (16)

After the arrangement worked out between the PPS and the mayor's office, who could trust that any such revenue would only go towards libraries?

It really sullies them to have to ask for money. We are just supposed to fork it over and never ask questions.

You really should learn to deal with the political royalty here.

This was the trial balloon for PPR doing the same.

They've been exploring forming a district for a couple years so they can become a revenue collecting agency where they won't rely on general funds.

In anticipation they've increase capital expenditures and obligations so when it comes to pass, they can levy the necessary taxes to cover those.

All those general revenue $s they were allocated, now would going to other bureaus and agencies, with new taxes added on much like those for replacing essential items such as fire trucks.

Now that this bond passed you can expect much more of the same.

TriMet does what it wants, when it wants...if it doesn't get it from the voters, it'll just go to the Governor, the Legislature, and the Feds.

Go by Streetcar! (Good luck if you have to ride a bus.)

If the library's doing a good job -- and there's no reason to think that it won't be -- going back to the voters every five years or so shouldn't be scary at all.

You would think that, but with the teabaggers and others, you never know when public access to books and information will be on the hit list.

"continues to explore the pros and cons of forming a library district"

Yeah, I'm sure it's a real rigorous "debate". They made this call a long time ago. Now it is time to put some phony "public process" together and then ram it through.

with the teabaggers and others

In Multnomah County? You are kidding. If that's your best boogeyman for this tax, it's pretty weak.

I'm not advocating for the tax. Just keeping in mind that we are through the looking glass when it comes to political sanity in this country.

You must have more ethical people involved politics than we're forced to suffer up here. Also, smaller communities generally have a certain level of built-in accountabilty.

Multnomah Cnty has 18 branches and could very easily be taken over by LSSI, be run much better and save many millions.

Some of which could go instead to homeless programs, schools and other essential services.

Ben, talk like that just galvanizes the tax proponents. It doesn't help. Multnomah County is going to have a public library. The question is how it gets paid for.

'you never know when public access to books and information will be on the hit list."

What exactly does that have to do with funding? In 2007 funding for schools went up 20% and there wasn't any diff in the classroom.

Huh?
I'm missing something.
Jackson County has a public library.
A very good one. What's the rub?

Sure Multnomah County is going to have a public library too.

And yes the question is how it gets paid for.

But if it can be operated well at less cost isn't that question more easily answered?

That testimony I had up was excellent.

http://tinyurl.com/JCLibrary

And obviously many of their tax proponents are e glad their public library is now successful.

Why don't we just break up all of our municipal services into special districts like in the 'burbs? We could have a library district, a parks district, a public safety district, a transportation district, a water and sewer district, etc. Government seems to be the only going concern in this city anymore lately, so adding more layers would be economic development, of sorts.

Do we still need public libraries in the internet age?

Will we after 10 more years of internet progress?

Thanks
JK

I don't think it's fair to compare the library system with Tri-Met. The dollar amounts are much smaller and while I don't agree with everything the library bureaucracy has done over the years, on the whole they have managed pretty well. Giving them some insulation from the whims of voters (and thereby allowing for long-range planning) merits consideration. And it's not quite true that the library *always* gets its way at the ballot box -- the spring 2002 levy measure did fail due to the turnout requirement (it passed that fall, when the rule didn't apply). In the current economic climate I, too, fear the spread of the tea-party mentality that prizes short-term tax relief over essential public investment, even among putative "liberals." Of course there has to be some kind of accountability mechanism, but I find the basic concept appealing.


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