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Measure L's profiles in courageous governing. Not.

February 28, 2011 |  8:00 am

LibraryWhen The Times' editorial board came out against Measure L  -- the proposal to dedicate more of the city's revenues to its public library system -- the readers who commented were united in their derision. How could a newspaper that relied on literacy oppose a measure to spend more money on libraries, they asked?

The simple answer to that is that we're not opposed to spending more on libraries. We rather like the idea, in fact. We're just opposed to rewriting the City Charter to dedicate money to any department or function. Such measures take funding decisions out of context, and they give elected officials less flexibility to make the decisions they're paid to make.

But it seems that Los Angeles' elected officials would rather have their hands tied. Consider this line from my colleague Kate Linthicum's recent news story on the debate over Measure L:

Supporters, who include Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck and all 15 members of the City Council, say it would help restore service and shield the library from future cuts.

Let's consider that for a moment, shall we? The mayor, who proposes the city's budget, and every member of the City Council, which adopts it, back Measure L. But they already have all the power needed to give more money to the library system. The only thing Measure L would do is force them to use that power, at the expense of some other, unspecified programs.

It's like a scene from a domestic dispute, where irrational anger drives someone to threaten a loved one: "Stop us before we cut the library system again!"

Oh, please. If the mayor and the council truly value libraries, they'll fully fund them without the need for ballot-box budget gimmickry like Measure L.

RELATED:

Los Angeles Times Endorsements

Voter guide: March 8 Los Angeles Election

Arguments for and against directing more money to libraries via Measure L

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

-- Jon Healey

Photo: Wei Quan Huang reads to her daughter Annie Yao at the Chinatown branch library last March. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Administrators of the pension funds typically compel state and local governments to increase their contributions when the funds don’t have enough money to cover their long-term liabilities.
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