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Measure L's profiles in courageous governing. Not.

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.
 

Comments () | Archives (5)

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California Rush

Yes it is pretty pathetic! Add to this the willingness to go into to debt for hundreds of millions of dollars for the personal enrichment of a greedy billionaire (to build a football stadium with no team) and it becomes absolutely insane. AEG did the same thing in Kansas City, and five years later they still don't have a team. Kansas City is paying tens of millions of dollars (per year) for their stupidity.

A city council and mayor with no cojones is always going to look for a way to dodge issues rather than confront them. They already gave away the parking for the downtown library. Stupid is as stupid does! Maybe if they went to the library themselves they wouldn't be so stupid! They would meet the people they have been hurting by denying them the use of a facility that can help all of us out of the economic downtown.

The old saying is that we are only as fast (or smart) as the slowest amongst us, and it seems they now inhabit city hall!

Davod

A fair debate is called for on Measure L but knowingly using incorrect information is just wrong. As Mr. Healey is aware, the Los Angeles Public Library system has had a charter gauranteed funding stream since the 1800's. It is one of two departments that has ALWAYS BEEN protected from the political budget process because our city founders knew some instritutions in a society should be sacred. When Mr. Healey writes that Measure L is, "rewriting the City Charter," he is utterly mistaken or knowingly deceptive. Measure L simply asks voters to restore Library funding to 2008 levels in accordance witht the intent of this 139 year old law. The alternative is an unsure future for Libraries and the children, parents, seniors and communities they serve. On March 8th the choice is a gaurantee or a possibility. The latter is unacceptable.

Jon Healey

@Davod -- Measure L is a charter amendment. It is literally an attempt to rewrite the city charter. There is a longstanding provision in the charter guaranteeing a small percentage of the general-fund tax base to library system; Measure L would increase that percentage.

The reason library supporters favor giving it more money is that the city has been forcing the system to cover all the cost of operating the libraries -- including utilities and associated benefit costs. It makes sense, budget-wise, to assign costs on a department-by-department basis. Doing so without giving the libraries more money, however, was just another way for the mayor and city council to pare library operations.

That wasn't a surprising result of the council's actions. It was deliberate. Which is why it strikes me as disingenuous at best for council members to be endorsing Measure L en masse. If they feel so strongly about libraries, they don't need Measure L to provide them more money. Nor will Measure L make the trade-offs easier to manage.

Taxpaying Citizen

I think that Mr. Healey fails to understand that Measure L is a referendum. It is a chance for the voters in the City of Los Angeles to show the Mayor and City Council how much they care about the library system. Yes, in an ideal world, Measure L would not be needed. Unfortunately, if you look at the recent history of our city government, the Library Department and the Department of Parks and Recreation have been politically vulnerable when funding decisions are made. LAPL branches are now open only five days a week and could have their hours reduced further. Let's force the hand of the Mayor and City Council instead of settling for more library closures, which will negatively effect the quality of life in the City of Los Angeles.

Gerald S.

The Final Rally to Save the Library!
Sunday, March 6th from 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

"Keep the Magic of Libraries Alive" Measure L Rally and Magic Show.
Where: LA High Memorial Park (in front of Memorial Branch Library)
4625 W. Olympic Blvd. LA, CA 90019.

Authors, speakers, musicians, and more! Fun for the whole family!

(Shared by Save the Los Angeles Public Library! Facebook page)
http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10150194892257837&set=pu.370130757836


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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