by Lori Rivas on Sunday, September 4, 2011
link to original article published in The Signal: http://www.the-signal.com/section/33/article/50563/
Santa Clarita has the dubious distinction of inspiring California bill AB438.
Sponsored by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, this bill aims to protect other communities from the library travesty that occurred here in Santa Clarita. While not eliminating city governments’ ability to contract library services with a private company, the bill would require that certain common sense, practical measures be in place before out-sourcing library services.
It is exactly our City Council’s lack of due diligence, lack of transparency, lack of public notice, lack of public discussion, that informed this bill.
And so it was with great surprise that I read a recent editorial by Mayor Marsha McLean, “Privatize Libraries in their Interest,” in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Pasadena Star News. In her commentary, our mayor claims that Santa Clarita City Council had operated completely above board in outsourcing our libraries to LSSI. (1) (2)
Mayor McLean lays it out like this: the Council conducted extensive research, held a well-attended public hearing, listened to citizens, voted to establish a municipal system, AND THEN went out to bid and contracted with LSSI.
Excuse me? Is there some alternate universe thing going on here?
Because last I checked, and confirmed with City documents, this library thing was a done deal before the public even had a chance to weigh in on the matter.
Mayor McLean stands by her comments, as evidenced by a private email exchange published on SCVtalk.com. (3)
Apparently, chatting up her supporters last summer constitutes public outreach. However, the only documented “extensive research” was performed in 1999 by Arroyo Associates.
Hired by the City, Arroyo Associates determined it was financially wise to remain within the County library system. Plus, their study determined that the Santa Clarita community was overwhelmingly satisfied with County library service. (4) So, there’s that.
Our one and only public hearing on the matter lasted four hours, was standing room only, and included: 49 speakers opposed, 553 comment cards opposed, a petition with thousands of signatures opposed, and over a hundred emails opposed.
Furthermore, that “well-attended” public hearing included lengthy presentations by seven LSSI staff: a sales pitch, pure and simple. (5) It was most decidedly NOT a public hearing, in the sense that the City Council was receptive to the concerns and objections of citizens.
Why was it a sales pitch? Because, ladies and gentlemen, the decision had already been made. City staff had already met with LSSI executives as early as March 3, 2010. (6) City Manager Ken Pulskamp provided councilmembers PR talking points specific to LSSI on July 28, 2010. (7) In fact, the City had already requested, received, evaluated and rated a detailed bid for services from LSSI in early August 2010. (8) (9) (10)
But here is the clincher to Mayor McLean’s editorial timeline: that night, August 24, 2010, after the one and only public hearing, after the sales pitch by LSSI, the Council changed everything with one vote: withdraw from the County System, establish a municipal system and award a 5-year, $20 million contract to LSSI.
One meeting, one vote. (11) (12) Not the careful, methodical, public, reflective, open and transparent process to which McLean alludes in her opinion piece.
Plus, remember that pesky, special $28/annual library tax? Remember how our City attorney assured the Council that the tax could still be collected? And Deputy City Manager Darren Hernández said the special tax would account for 20% of the library funding, to be used for facilities? (13) (14) Yeah, I remember that, too.
Except that the special tax couldn’t be collected, because it was legally tied exclusively to County library services. It was five months later, after the City paid political consulting firm Godbe Reasearch $20,000 to poll the public about “restructuring the existing tax,” (15) and confronted with the County attorney’s opposing opinion, that our City quietly conceded that the special library tax was “no longer needed.”
I guess Mayor McLean doesn’t remember, though, because in her opinion piece she claims that the “fiscally responsible actions” of the City Council eliminated the special tax. Like they planned it all along. That was $20,000 well spent.
Look, our libraries are a done deal. It’s all water under the bridge now. But McLean should not be allowed to publicly manipulate history to suit her political agenda, aka opposing AB438. We citizens are responsible for holding our electeds accountable, for shining the light on the stream of political fiction that is pouring out of City Hall.
Ms. Mayor, it would behoove you to own up to the true sequence of events that lead to our municipal libraries. We were all here. We all know that the deal with LSSI was secretive and rushed. Don’t try and pretend otherwise. Your manipulations of the truth only serve to erode public confidence.
Support AB438, or oppose it, but do not publish some creative writing about how things went down in Santa Clarita.
You got your libraries. Give us our history.
“It’s still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.”— Chief Bromden, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey.
5. 8/24/10 City Council meeting transcription, pp5-15:
6. see page one on this document:
7. see pages 3 and 4 on this document:
9. see pages 4-8 on this document:
10. evaluations here:
11. transcription pages 28, 29 of voting 8/24/10:
12. agenda item 15, which was approved as a single vote, as noted above:
13. transcription, middle of page 4:
14. transcription page 3, last paragraph: