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Palo Alto City Council Candidate Views on Library Issues

Four of the nine seats on the Palo City Council are to be filled in the November 4, 2003 election.  Since the City Council determines our library system's direction and budget, we asked the ten candidates for their views on the downtown library closure and other library matters.  Here are the questions and their responses.  Candidates are listed alphabetically by last name and no attempt was made to correct typographical errors.  Some candidates didn't answer the two questions specifically, so their responses are in both columns.

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1) Do you favor, oppose, or feel otherwise regarding the Library Advisory Commission’s proposal to close the Downtown Library?

2) What specific changes, if any, would you make to the Palo Alto Library system and to its budget?

Ronny Bar-Gadda I am strongly opposed to closing the Downtown Library. I am so strong about libraries that I put that in my position statement on the ballot. I will do whatever I can, if elected to oppose any decrease in the library budget Shouldn't we shut down our failed $500,000 public relations department and use that money for keeping our libraries open? I would actually increase the library budget. The money will come from cutting programs that are wasteful.

Our citizens are not aware that we have a higher per capita government employee to population ratio than the entire Federal Government, the State Government or any local government in the Bay area. Just the administrative overhead rose over 44% in the last five years! I strongly believe we can save our libraries if the City Council maintained fiscal integrity and responsibility. If elected, I will be vigilant in maintaining and preserving our libraries. Our library system needs upgrading. I will increase the budget for library books and other materials acquisitions.
Bern Beecham
I believe the Council made a commitment to the SOFA 1 area to keep the downtown library. I do not support closing the library. I made the motion to direct the City Manager to hire a new Director before the end of this year.
LaDoris Cordell
I oppose the recommendation of the Library Advisory Commission to close the Downtown Library. Palo Alto has 6 libraries, none of which should be closed. Quite the contrary, they should be enhanced. Our libraries should be available to all residents, even those who are unable to travel. With respect to the budget, I would first seek to locate existing funds which could be utilized to support our libraries. For example, the city spends money to hire outside consultants. Recently, the city spent $250,000 for a consultant on fiber optics. Unfortunately, I am unable to determine the amounts that the city has expended for other consultants, since those numbers do not seem to appear in the published budget. That information needs to be made available to the public immediately. We could likely save substantial sums of money if we were able to secure volunteer consultants from our community. This is not unprecedented. After the flood of 1998, one of the neighborhood associations put together a team of consultants, pro bono. This team devised a plan which was adopted and utilized by the city to respond to the flood.

Additionally, I would consult with the city manager and the city auditor, as well as other staff knowledgeable about the budget, to explore other avenues of budget savings. Finally, I would consider putting forth another, albeit less ambitious, library bond measure.
John Fredrich I support maintaining the downtown library at current hours and staffing, at the very least I would prefer it only be closed two days a week, but I agree that budget constaints are serious at this time. I would support it as a priority item and fund it with general fund revenues unless grant money from a private foundation could be located. I have a prejudice in this area. My mother was a teacher and librarian and I am a high school teacher. I value books and learning, but libraries are so much more ... they are repositories of knowledge, history, and culture, and have done much to make the human community what it is. To have callously torn down the beautiful old Birge Clark Library on Hamilton to build City Hall and now come back 30 years or so later and say we don't even need a downtown library shows a poverty of spirit as well as a lack of intelligence. You can count on my support.
Victor Frost There are going to be changes on you board....  Your organization is a big mess.....As a fucher city counceal member I will fix this issue in one week....Then start of remodeling of the old bulding down town...with a coumper room with 20 high end coumputers and a aid..both mac and PC...The down town libary will a stat of the art show case for everone to use.....9am to 9pm monday through satday...one library at a time will be done...ataff....staff changes maybe....magment yes..

No more close the down town library games to pull people in....the magment games are over...and so is some of the people on the board.

Palo alto is my home town....the palo alto librarys have a speal place in my hart....
Skip Justman
I oppose the closure of the Downtown Library. I would reduce the Planning Department budget to fund library services.
Judy Kleinberg


I oppose the proposal to close the Downtown Library. I believe the Commissioners did their best job to reallocate the reduced resources reflected in the adopted Budget, as they were asked to do. However, faced with their recommendation to close that branch to public use, my feeling is that this is not a solution we can approve.

I believe libraries are as fundamental to Palo Alto as trees, and having neighborhood libraries lends a unique experience to our residents that other communities can only envy. With the adopted Comprehensive Plan goal of creating walkable neighborhoods, and with the already annoying level of cross-town traffic, there really can't be any other outcome but to look at the budget constraints again and see what kind of service, albeit diminished for the time being, can be made available downtown so the neighborhood still has access to a community meeting place for reading and connecting.

Especially with all the new residents that will be moving into the downtown area and with the increased likelihood of more seniors taking up residence in the smaller condos and apartments that are available downtown, the circulation and demand will certainly rise exponentially in just a couple of years. We should anticipate this greater demand and tackle the budget issues now.
I believe the Library Advisory Commission and the FOPAL have each made a number of constructive and creative suggestions for improving the library system which are worthy of evaluation. My sense is that we need to adopt a variety of strategies -- there's no one magic fix. In no particular order, these are some of the possible strategies that I believe are most practical and would yield the greatest cost benefit: improved technology (to reduce cataloguing, check-in and check-out staff time, and to provide more on-line access to archived materials to gain the possibility of reducing hours and staffing), greater coordination with other library systems (to reduce number of purchased, stocked books/periodicals), hire a volunteer coordinator who can recruit and supervise a greater number of volunteers (with all the folks out of work, and I know many, there are highly talented folks who might be very willing to spend some time helping), look at the consultant's staffing report for opportunities to reorganize staff in most cost effective way that also utilizes our staff in more professional manner (staff is spread too thin now and is not being supervised properly, acc.to the report). As a priority matter, ahead of even these ideas, is the need to hire a visionary professional to lead our library system. If the right Director is hired, I believe all sorts of strategies will become more achievable.

Beyond the budget, there remains the possibility of going back to the voters with a reduced bond package. I will propose again, as I did nearly two years ago, that we develop a Children's Bond that would fund specific improvements to children's facilities at Children's Library, Mitchell Park, the Art Center, the Junior Museum and Zoo, and Mitchell Community Center. I believe very strongly that such a bond, well thought out and focused, would garner the necessary 66% vote. But improving the facilities is only part of the solution since we will still have to tackle the challenge of staffing these improved and expanded facilities. I believe the Library Foundation should, and will, become a major partner in helping our community achieve these critical outcomes.
Nancy Lytle
I oppose closing any neighborhood libraries, including Downtown, Terman, and College Terrace. I would immediately shift funding toward improvements to our libraries, both operational and capital improvements. I agree with the Library Commission that our libraries are an emabarrassement and need immediate attention due to years of "neglect." Libraries are ranked very high in community priority. I would immediately shift funding in the operational and capital budgets to fund them according to community priority. I can identify several budget line items that could be shifted immediately, without controversy, to improve our library inadequacies.
Dena Mossar
I appreciate the willingness of the Library Advisory Commission (LAC) to take on difficult and highly political topics—such as the closing of the Downtown Library. The LAC correctly notes that there is not enough money available in the foreseeable future to implement the council-approved and adopted Library Master Plan.

After reading the LAC recommendations, listening to their thoughtful presentation and the comments of the public, I believe we need to re-evaluate the Master Plan and make necessary adjustments so that we can continue to move forward to improve our library system. I support a plan that includes a strong neighborhood-based library system.

I am interested in exploring a possible plan which might retain existing neighborhood libraries and build one new resource library at Mitchell Park. Though the collections at neighborhood libraries may of necessity be limited, the neighborhood libraries would still provide a neighborhood meeting space and access to computers. Now that library systems are interconnected, we can use our neighborhood libraries to request library materials from other branches, communities, colleges and universities.

I do not favor closing the Downtown Library, especially in light of plans to increase housing and density in the downtown area. We need to make sure that people can walk and bike to their local library and not have to drive across town.
As noted above [ed note: on the left], I am interested in exploring a strong neighborhood-based library system with one resource library at Mitchell Park.

I believe that the public/private partnership to raise money to renovate and expand the Children’s Library will be successful and will serve as a model for garnering public support for a future bond initiative to pay for a new resource library. I have personally traveled to Washington, D.C. to successfully lobby for federal funding for the Children’s Library and will continue to pursue additional federal funding.

I also support continued, dedicated efforts to qualify our library plans for State bond funding. Additionally, current efforts by the City Auditor to audit the Community Services Division, and the City Manager’s ongoing efforts to restructure the City organization should identify cost-savings that could be transferred to support library operations. As soon as additional operating revenues are identified, we should increase library hours at Main, Downtown and College Terrace libraries. Efforts to leverage volunteer support should also be pursued.
Ed Power

- no response -

Friends of the Palo Alto Library (FOPAL) is a non-profit 501(c)3 public benefit corporation, dedicated to helping Palo Alto's Public Libraries.  Contact us at info@friendspaloaltolib.org or PO Box 41, Palo Alto, CA 94302-0041.  Privacy Policy

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