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March 8 election: Arguments for and against directing more money to libraries via Measure L

Library Among the many measures on the March 8 city election ballot, Measure L -- which would direct a higher percentage of property tax revenue to libraries -- seems closest to people’s hearts. Writing on our Facebook page, a reader reminded us of the wonderful Walter Cronkite quote: "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation."

Author Susan Patron took a similar view in an Op-Ed on the subject. Her reasons for voting yes on Measure L include:

--"The library's budget is only 2% of the total city budget. In the past two years, the library force has been reduced by 28%. The book budget has shrunk to $1.70 per capita, versus a national average of $4.20. This is shameful. Measure L can change it."

--"The measure doesn't call for a tax increase. It calls for a change in city priorities, a change in how we allocate the funds Los Angeles already collects."

--"Children have little say in their quality of life; they entrust that to us. I'm voting yes on Measure L -- yes on open doors, yes on big ideas, yes on a welcoming refuge at their branch library for every kid in every neighborhood."

The editorial board, however, urges Angelenos to vote no on Measure L. In this difficult decision, the board argued:

We love libraries too, and consider them a core part of a city's responsibility. They help make literate Americans out of rich residents as well as poor ones. In L.A., they are the largest provider of after-school programs, keeping kids off the streets and providing computers and Internet access to those who cannot afford them. We would like to see them well funded and open as close to 24/7 as possible.

The problem with Measure L, though, is that it asks the question about library funding in artificial isolation. Dedicating more money to the library system without increasing overall city revenues means that other functions of city government will have to receive less. In the abstract, cutting library hours seems hard to defend. But what if the alternative is to hire fewer police officers, or to cut gang-intervention efforts, or to make new businesses wait longer for permits, or to close down graffiti-removal programs?

The voters elect a mayor and City Council to make those kinds of choices through a comprehensive annual budget process, adapting their allocations to the city's ever-changing needs and circumstances. Mandatory funding proposals such as Measure L ask voters to make choices about particular programs without knowing how those choices will affect the rest of the budget. That is why The Times opposes them.

 



RELATED:

Los Angeles Times Endorsements

Voter guide: March 8 Los Angeles Election

Decoding the ballot: Think measure L for Libraries, M for Marijuana and N for No-good-reason

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: The Studio City Branch Library. Credit: George Wilhelm / Los Angeles Times

 

Comments () | Archives (21)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Victoria Miller

Having worked for the state and knowing people who work for the city and how uninformed is much of the decision making that goes on by our elected officials, I'd prefer to make my own decisions whenever possible. Let's face it, if our elected officials were good decision makers and knew how to compromise we wouldn't be in the financial mess we are in from the federal government on down to local governments -- more and more the reins for reasonable governance seems to be drifting to the hands of the people. And, really, with our winner-take-all electorate system, how much say do we have in who gets elected? How often is whoever you vote for only seeming the less of two evils? Incidentally, it's a real breath of fresh air seeing Governor Jerry Brown go in and do things that should have been done decades ago. If only other governing officials would get serious about really dealing with the problems, instead of political grandstanding and caring mainly about getting elected again.

h.r.

The LA Times has taken the stance that the legislature knows what is best for us, and that they need to make these kind of budgeting choices. While for the most part I detest "ballot box budgeting," this time I think it is necessary.

If we vote against Measure L, we are effectively declaring open season on the library. The legislature will take that as the people's choice - not that we want them to do the right thing on their own, but instead that we care nothing for the library and all of the benefits that it provides for the public.

LAPL has already suffered cuts disproportional to other departments while being more heavily used than ever. Library services become more beneficial during down economies, not less!

Gerald S.

"...Writing on our Facebook page, a reader reminded us of the wonderful Walter Cronkite quote:

"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation...."

This quotation by the late and much lamented, American broadcast journalist and news anchor, Walter Cronkite (1916-2009), says its all! A great thank you and appreciation to the reader on Facebook who alerted the L.A. Times to Mr. Cronkite's wonderful quotation and the L.A. Times for providing this online Opinion Poll to express our continued and vital support for Measure L's successful and very much needed passage!

Sincerely,
Gerald S.

Roy Stone

The L.A. Times Editorial Board has overlooked a few things:

1. The pennies that the change in the City Charter will dedicate to the Library Department are, in reality, the most efficient crime prevention money utilized.

2. There is no money for the City Council to add to the library budget for the next year or two, so that is not an option, combined with the statement that the Mayor and CAO will be cutting the Library's budget next fiscal year.

3. The City leaders put the Library Department and the Recreation and Parks Department into the City Charter so that they would always be funded and provided to the residents of our great City.

4. Our only hope to continue to have a great City is to dedicate these pennies to provide library services to every neighborhood in Los Angeles.

5. Please listen to Walter Cronkite and Susan Patron and save our libraries by voting on March 8.....YES ON MEASURE L.

Daniel Dupill

The Times' position (as reflected in the wording of the poll) is simply wrong-headed. No-one is suggesting that libraries must be funded at "whatever cost" to the rest of City services. Although the success of Measure L will be significant for library services, the incremental adjustment over four years is tiny in terms of the total budget. The reality is that if Measure L fails to pass, the Council will not conclude that the voters think libraries are important - but we want them to make the decision - they will conclude that it is ok to continue to decimate the Library. The transition of "indirect" costs to the Library budget continues whether or not the Measure passes.

cliff w.

I like Walter Cronkite, but he is 20th century old school... way before blogs and social media, like is his view relevant any more?

I like libraries, but let's face reality they are obsolete like bookstores and even
books, newspapers. It is now the 21st and everything is on-line. Why pour scarce money into beautiful buildings that often do have enough money to even open at reasonable hours? Many libraries buildings are being misused as free after school "baby sitting" service until parents get off work to pick them up. Students are often seen playing internet games on libary internet services instead of doing legitimate reading/research. Libraries continue to face internet privacy, filtering and censorship public policy issues.

Why does the taxpayer have to pay for all this ? ? ? Like public transportation, public libraries need to charge a small fee to keep rift-raft out, or libraries need to be private libraries.

jay

I like BOOKs

Maria Considine

I read that the measure will raise library funding from just barely under 2% to just slightly over 2% of the total budget. It is a drop in the bucket compared to the 70% that police and fire receive. I think another commenter is right when he says that keeping the library open (and strong) is actually another important crime deterrent. Bernard Parks himself made the same comment at a local candidates' forum in my neighborhood. So I hope he will support the library department whether or not this measure passes. I for one though am definitely voting YES.

publicus

Amazing how many misconceptions could be packed into 150 word comment by 21st century Cliff. First libraries are far from obsolete since they are more popular today that at any time in the last 50 years for many reasons. Libraries represent the hopes and dreams of community, that is people working and sharing ideas together. Those minds sharing could be William Shakespeare, Bach or Albert Einstein. Everything is NOT on-line nor is even the smallest fraction of what is available in libraries digitized. It is a great disservice to the public to spread such disingenuous fertilizer. With school performance at the very bottom of 25 developed nations the library is a lifeline to students who actually want to learn in a safe, clean atmosphere. Most students come to the library to satisfy their curiousity, not to play games on-line. Libraries do not face censoreship, privacy issues since the American Library Association stands firm against censoreship. The library is the people's university and offers the lamp of learning to all in society, including the 30% of the population who does not have the internet and the 40% who do not have broadband internet which would render graphic interface difficult and make research almost impossible in all but text searches. Lastly, we should pay for libraries as institutions because they simply hold onto the best that humanity has to offer and gives it away free to every single member of society because that make society better in every single way. Libraries and librarians will never be obsolete as long as people thirst for the truth and knowledge.

publicus

Amazing how many misconceptions could be packed into 150 word comment by 21st century Cliff. First libraries are far from obsolete since they are more popular today that at any time in the last 50 years for many reasons. Libraries represent the hopes and dreams of community, that is people working and sharing ideas together. Those minds sharing could be William Shakespeare, Bach or Albert Einstein. Everything is NOT on-line nor is even the smallest fraction of what is available in libraries digitized. It is a great disservice to the public to spread such disingenuous fertilizer. With school performance at the very bottom of 25 developed nations the library is a lifeline to students who actually want to learn in a safe, clean atmosphere. Most students come to the library to satisfy their curiousity, not to play games on-line. Libraries do not face censoreship, privacy issues since the American Library Association stands firm against censoreship. The library is the people's university and offers the lamp of learning to all in society, including the 30% of the population who does not have the internet and the 40% who do not have broadband internet which would render graphic interface difficult and make research almost impossible in all but text searches. Lastly, we should pay for libraries as institutions because they simply hold onto the best that humanity has to offer and gives it away free to every single member of society because that make society better in every single way. Libraries and librarians will never be obsolete as long as people thirst for the truth and knowledge.

LiberalReason

What is the LA Times playing at? You won't ever be considered anything less than a communist stronghold by the conservatives, so might as well stop offering them concessions they'll never appreciate. Stop playing politics - libraries are vital to our city, vote YES on L!

no hope

Leave it to the Mayor and City Council?? Is that a joke?

PIL

Libraries should be privatized, run them like bookstores, sell food and cofee, rent or sell books, show movies and charge admission, why the hell should the taxpayer subsidize the habits of the few? There's no right to read.

SCHULTZ WANTS YOU TO STOP SAYING "OBAMACARE"
http://libertarians4freedom.blogspot.com/2011/02/debbie-schultz-wants-you-to-shup-up-and.html

Melvin H. Rosenberg

It's the children, the young people, the jobless adults, and seriously lonely seniors who suffer when libraries aren't open at least six days a week. Every day would be an ideal we obviously can't afford, that's what we're told, but I often wonder if, like some very smart rich folk, we cry poor when we aren't actually. Has America's fabled decently gone into hiding for good. If the LA Times editorial board doesn't believe in America's fabled decency, that doesn't mean you don't. Please vote for Measure L and watch a miracle happen. Mel Rosenberg, believer in people and libraries.

sandra m

The LA Weekly's "Battle Over Library Measure L" (feb. 25-Mar 3) specifies several expenditures-starting with the L.A. City Council's outsized personal staffs-that could be cut. The article makes clear that there's plenty of fat in the budget. So, budget cutbacks don't have to touch either the library system or the police department.

tortiequeen

No matter how you look at it, we need to find the money to help the libraries. I know that the LA TImes, with some twisted logic, seems to think the Mayor and his buds will do the right thing, i just do not get the logic there. Libraries are now, and have been always vastly underfunded. Sure a bond issue was passed to rebuild and build libraries in the City of LA, as a result we have had a few new pocket libraries built. We have buildings. It does no one any good if the doors cannot open or we can not afford to buy books.
Libraries are more than just a book station, Cliff and privatizing them only removes them from the people who need and use them the most. Think about it.

What do people do at libraries?
They look for jobs
They learn english
They find out how to fix their faucet
They learn to read
They meet and interact with other people
They write books, screenplays, letters, homework.
They read newspapers, magazines, books they can not afford to buy.
They look for information for job interviews, investments or to be politicall savvy.
They still welcome the kids for storytime.or after school.
They have taxforms.
They answer even the stupidest question

With the DWP spending $350,000.00 to rent a $35,000.00 water pump(today's news) The city should be ashamed of pinching pennies on one of the most important services a city can provide. Prop L is not going to solve the problem either but it is a way to keep the doors open.

Rob Tippin

Sorry, LA Times. Real democracy is when you let "all the people" decide. Your assumption that the electorate is too ignorant to understand the ramifications of a particular issue is laughable, as is your assumption that readers missunderstand your motives. The readership is well aware of the history of your owners, their political views and political influence in real terms. Give it a rest, staff.

California Rush

Unfortunately the Mayor and the City Council cannot be trusted to make the right decision or we would not be left to decide. The times is right about who should be responsible to make this decision, but being right doesn't account for a weak minded administration that will dodge the tough decisions, and chase any money some greedy billionaire waves in their faces. The actions of the administration have already shown what we can expect from them. We should not avoid the opportunity to take it out of their hands. Vote yes on measure L.

namenderkrieg

There may be many arguments for cutting funding to public libraries, but any argument that mentions the internet or e-books or any of that clap-trap is so much blabber.

Nobody wants to read their literature off a screen; people like the feel of books, and the ability to physically flip to the next page every couple of minutes. Sure, bookstores are going out of business, but that's because everyone nowadays wants to be a hip jet-setter with a tablet. So annoying!

Sylva Natalie Manoogian

It's ironic that the LA Times editorial board, who loves libraries, fails to recognize the value of investing in cultural capital by supporting a YES vote on MEASURE L!!

Carey Ann Strelecki

Unbelievable. How is it possible the LA Times could take such a shallow and short-sighted stance on such an essential issue? Libraries must be defended always and at all costs for the same reasons we must defend the good reporting of our precious newspapers: we must vigilantly protect the institutions that enable the liberation of information so that all people have the chance to to rise above ignorance and become informed and empowered citizens.

The weak reasoning set forth in this editorial is unworthy of this newspaper. By only citing secondary side benefits of libraries, like the fact that they are the "largest provider of after-school programs" or because they "keep kids off the street" is a sad and unsuccessful attempt to denigrate the essential role libraries play in our society. I'm glad libraries accomplish these things, if they do. But that's not the main reason they exist.

The authors then go on to invent the exaggerated and unsupported hypothetical that restoring library funding will mean cutting police staff and make business permits take longer... what evidence do you provide that any of these things would happen? And to mention graffiti removal programs in the same sentence or even the same editorial is astonishing to me. Really, LA Times, I'm shocked.


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