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Response to Mayors’ letter on library vote
In the August 6 Mercer Island Reporter, Mayors Bassett and Grausz criticized Concerned Citizens Committee’s (CCC) initiative to stop what we believe is a deplorable financial waste and year-long shutdown of our library by the King County Library System (KCLS). We wish to rebut their statements.
Mayors’ Point: ‘… suggestion has been made our city attorney is improperly preventing a vote by Islanders on whether or not to create a new library system. (See www.mi-reporter.com/opinion/letters/268805611.html.) That is absolutely incorrect. Instead, our city attorney is working to ensure we do not race to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a vote before we know if it would be meaningful or meaningless.’
CCC’s Response: We submitted a petition of 175 signatures on July 15 to establish a MI city library. Speed being critical for timely validation, the city attorney took the maximum time before forwarding it to King County. Our city attorney sent us a letter on July 18 stating, “There are a number of legal ambiguities created by seeking to establish a new city library. The city is seeking a Washington state attorney general (AG) opinion on these ambiguities.” But as we’ve learned, the AG only renders opinions on state-level issues, not local. Some could label this legal foot-dragging. When we asked for a copy of the letter sent to the AG, she informed us no such letter existed! Our conclusion? Whether purposeful or not, her actions are obstructing our legitimate efforts to seek a popular vote on an important local matter.
Mayors’ Point: “With each vote estimated to cost $40,000 to $80,000 of taxpayers’ money we believe all Islanders deserve sound legal advice before money is spent in this matter.”
CCC’s Response: According to the county, the cost would be roughly half that; $20,000 to $30,000. But we must put this cost in perspective: Islanders pay $5 million annually for KCLS services. According to their estimates, the cost of running our library is $2.4 million. MI taxpayers would save roughly $2.6 million annually were we to withdraw from KCLS. Islanders have paid an estimated $60 million to KCLS since its annexation and received roughly $20 million in service. Many of us are progressive enough to allow $40 million to be re-directed to other KCLS libraries, but if we are not even given the courtesy of redesigning the library according to our needs, then we are indeed being taxed without representation.
When KCLS no longer listens to its patrons, perhaps it’s time to buy back our library. Our research shows it is feasible, and we may actually provide service. CCC has urged city council to put the issue to a vote.
None of us are against change. We want thoughtful improvements made to our library. But unlike the current KCLS plan, it must incorporate our needs and opinions. With diminishing finances and governmental deficits, all citizens and leaders should strive to avoid unnecessary and unwanted expenditures. Why is the city council not supporting us in putting this issue to a vote? We believe we deserve better from KCLS and our city council.
Eric R. Swenson, MD
For the CCC