The agenda and staff reports for next Tuesday's City Council meeting are now available on the City of Sierra Madre website, and one of the items that really jumps out deals with whatever it is the city wants done with the Library. The other big deal involves wrapping up the refinancing of Sierra Madre's water bonds, which we are going to gamely try and tackle in the next couple of days.
Here is that Library question:
Listed as the fourth out of five agenda items, it is naturally rather succinct. After all, an agenda is only a list of the evening's events. When you turn to the actual staff report itself there is quite a bit more detail. Some of it troubling. With the subject line being "Information on Library Survey and Ballot Question for Residents," this report reads as follows (link).
Here is something that jumps out for me. A big concern for many would appear to be saving the Library building itself, along with not selling the property it stands on. Once that property is sold, it is gone forever. At $1.3 million, doing whatever repairs are necessary to salvage the Library building would seem to be the priority here. So why would it be necessary to spend "up to $3.9 million" for something called "adequate community space?"
Can "community space" really be considered an adequate reason for razing the Library and putting all of its books into the Youth Activities Center? Along with (if I am reading this not very clearly written staff report correctly) spending an additional $2 million dollars?
Repairing the building and creating community space are two very different things. And with two very different cost levels. How were they lumped in together like this?
As far as that resident survey goes, the questions remain who gets to write the postcard, and who gets to interpret the resulting information. Unlike with a vote, the real power in this case goes to those who get to decide what the questions are going to be, and then determine what the gathered information means.
The line between finding out what residents really want on a matter as important as this, and push poll style marketing, is a thin one. In my opinion that line is robustly crossed here:
So why must that line now be considered crossed? Listed as an alternative choice, this staff report then identifies a possible ballot question. The ballot question proposal (which, as shown below, is absurdly slanted in my opinion), reveals that the Board of Library Trustees, which would craft and curate the postcard survey questions, already unanimously favors a demolition and relocation route.
The Library Board of Trustees has obviously already made up its mind, and unanimously wants to go with the demolition and relocation option. So can these unelected folks really be depended upon to put together postcard survey questions that will be both non-partisan and concerned only with finding out what the residents are thinking? And not pushing their own personal agendas?
And why is it so partisan a group gets to decide what these questions are going to be? Shouldn't that be something done by the City Council and staff? With input from the residents themselves perhaps?
Why is that important responsibility being shunted off elsewhere?
Based on this agenda report, it certainly does look like the fix is in.