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Tammy Messina: On trust, revenue and the city’s new library system

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: November 11, 2010 7:44 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2010 4:55 a.m.

We have yet another lawsuit filed against the city. By people who are speculating that the city will deliver substandard library services and suspecting a Brown Act violation occurred.

For those who perhaps have been sleeping under a rock since August, the city of Santa Clarita voted to withdraw from the Los Angeles County Public Library system.

Property owners in Santa Clarita pay into the county’s library system through their property taxes. On average, the county library collects from Santa Clarita residents $400,000 more per year than they spend to service the libraries in Santa Clarita.

The city has requested the county use the excess collected to improve our local libraries in various ways. These requests have been denied by the county. The county used that money to fund libraries in other areas of the county.

The L.A. County Public Library system has recently undergone budget cuts and is having to make hard choices about where to cut services, hours and, potentially, branches. With the state of our state, it only stands to reason that more cuts will be coming.

To think that these cuts will not eventually impact our city (with its three county library branches) is naïve.

I know this issue is hotly contested. I know there is a comfort in knowing what we currently have.

But is it wrong to strive toward improving the current system? Especially when making the improvements will actually save money?

It seems to me that the issue comes down to one of two things, or maybe a combination of both:

1. Lack of trust that the city will handle our tax money properly and run an additional city department (the libraries) correctly.

2. Lost revenue to the county and lost union jobs.

Regarding point No. 1: If we can’t trust our City Council, then why did we just re-elect three incumbent City Council members? There were plenty of others to choose from. Reason dictates that we elect those we trust most to act in our best interests.

Judging from the current state of the city — balanced budget, no deficit, beautiful area, low crime rate — our City Council is running a fiscally sound and well-run operation. This doesn’t sound like a City Council that can’t be trusted.

Regarding point No. 2: Given the current state of the county, if I were the county I would be concerned about losing
Santa Clarita’s revenues as well, and it’s understandable that the county will mount opposition to the city’s withdrawal.

Could the concern really be loss of union jobs? I find this hard to believe as it is only impacting three libraries. How many jobs are we actually talking about here? But one of the lawsuits is filed by Save Our Library Inc., a nonprofit organization comprised of Santa Clarita library users and members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Yes, there are other things to consider, such as the alleged Brown Act violation. But that also comes down to this: Do you trust your elected officials to do the job you elected them to do and to do it legally? If you don’t, why did you elect them?

While I know that it is right for us as citizens to keep our elected officials in check — and filing lawsuits is one way to do that — I am saddened to see one lawsuit after another piled onto this issue when it seems a very logical and pragmatic solution to improving upon what we already have.

Our city officials are working to protect taxpayer investment into the library system and get us the biggest bang for our buck. Their goal is to improve services and facilities, increase the annual book budget and potentially save taxpayer money. These sound like good things to me.

Data Source:

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita and a local business owner. She can be reached at [email protected] Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Right Here, Right Now!” runs Fridays and rotates among local Republicans.


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