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Yes on libraries; no on Measure N

Original post made on Sep 17, 2008

I love libraries. My parents and grandparents used to complain, "She's got her nose in a book again," whenever they wanted me to go out and play.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (49)

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 17, 2008 at 7:54 am

Great Op-ed, Pat. Very well put. You forgot to mention that the council has already funded the repair of the College Terrace branch using a back door maneuver.
I do not trust our city council to manage our money. I do not trust our city council to stand up against the vocal minority that seems to drive decisions in our city (these groups have long ago learned that the squeaky wheel gets greased by the city council that is afraid of conflict and upsetting anyone).
i will be voting no on this bond measure.

Posted by No to N, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:40 am

Our libraries are so subpar it's an embarrassment (check out SC and SJ libraries), yet I'm against this bond measure.

Let the city put its house in order first (bonuses for city managers? present debt? sky-high salaries and crazy retirement commitments?), and then come asking for money with a clear plan for the libraries.

Posted by no on n, too, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 17, 2008 at 9:02 am

Thank you for a very well written article. I am also a library lover, but I am against this bond. Having 5 branches is irresponsible. The residents of PA were never given a true choice by being given the cost to run one great branch or the cost to run 5. Renovating College Terrace (given the state of many of our streets, storm drains, etc.) was an irresponsible use of the city's money - kind of like putting a pool in your backyard when your plumbing and electrical need to be replaced in your house.

Posted by jSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2008 at 9:31 am

I'm so conflicted over this bond, and (as a parent of elementary-school students in PAUSD) regret the unspoken but palpable sense that if you are not a supporter of N, you are not a supporter of children/education in Palo Alto.

I hope our school PTA does not entertain taking an official stand on this bond, and if they do, I'll have to speak against the motion (not necessarily against the bond, as I'm still undecided).

In our modern us-vs-them culture, we're missing many opportunities for compromise and discourse on issues like this. The m.o. seems to be: pick your side early and then defend it/attack the other side vociferously.

Posted by No-Bond-N, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2008 at 12:41 pm

Thanks for the article! I love library, too, but 5 brances for such small town is not necessary. The city budget should be better managed and optimized before asking for more.

Posted by no on N too, me too, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Yup, we don't need to spend any more. A bond is a tax of sorts and we don't need to spend any more at this time.

Thanks, but no thanks!

Posted by YES! on Measure N, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 1:06 pm

As usual, Pat Marriott focuses on only the cost of public services, while paying lip service to benefits. Why is that?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Why doesn't Ms. Marriott talk about what we would LOSE if the branches go away? Why doesn't she talk about how much MORE we're going to have to pay down the road if Measure N fails? Why doesn't she mention that her ideal "Central Library" will cost MORE than the current bond measure, by the time it got approved. Why doesn't Ms. Marriott - who seems obsesses with planning, have a plan of her own regarding how she would convince the VAST MAJORITY of Palo Altans, who LOVE their branch system, to vote for a bond measure that doesn't include the branches? Why? Because Ms. Marriott knows DARNED WELL that Palo Altans would NEVER approve a bond that excludes the branch library system!! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Thus, although Ms. Marriott says she "loves libraries", the real COST of her misguided campaign to bring down our public library is NEVER brought forward.

Instead, we get a stream of disconnected operational numbers that DISTORT the total benefits provided by our library.

Instead, we have the Weekly giving voice to, and taking advice from, certain citizens who carefully line up all their numbers, and COMPLETELY MISS the big picture of what public branch library service means to our city, and other municipal services mean to our city.

Where is the serious, informed editorializing from the Weekly on this issue - editorializing that takes into consideration the BENEFITS of our public library system. Even the Weekly is asleep at the wheel on this one.

If the branches go away we LOSE walkable neighborhoods; we LOSE children's programming, including story times and other programs; we LOSE after school places for kids to study - _safe_ places that they can _walk_ to; we LOSE places for all Palo Altans to drop and pick up books as they're out and about, instead of _driving_ to a single location; we LOSE places that seniors (almost 40% of our population) can get to without a car; we LOSE residential home value; we LOSE coordination between PAUSD and our library homework help system; we LOSE cleaner air, as _more_ carbon load comes into the environment, as people have to _drive_ to libraries; we LOSE 10's of MILLIONS of dollars to inflated construction costs, until the next library bond.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

In fact, the structural flaw in bond passage requirements lets those who obsessively oppose every single bond measure have a pretty easy time in their opposition. What this leads to in Palo Alto - and other cities - is RULE BY MINORITY. Is that what we want here in Palo Alto?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

What Ms. Marriott ALWAYS fails to say is that if Measure N fails, that by the time we get to buuilding her ideal one branch, central library, that ONE library will end uup costing us MORE than the entire rebuild of the branch system does NOW!

In essense, the MINORITY of voters in 2002 (only 36% of Palo Altans voted "no" in 2002) have ALREADY COST OUR CITY NEARLY $35M DOLLARS because of their misguided concern for stating COST, at the expense of realizing the BENEFITS of public library service.

In the face of many polls and 25 _national_ studies that were designed and carried out by expert econometricians and demographers, Ms. Marriott consistently denies that public libraries PAY BACK a POSITIVE RETURN ON TAXPAYER INVESTMENT. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Palo Altans WANT a branch library system; they have said so, over and over again. They KNOW that it costs money, but they WANT IT ANYWAY.

The ONLY reason that our library system is in such poor repair, with no room to expand collections, is because we have to achieve a 2/3 + 1 supermajority to pass a bond.

THIS TIME, WE'RE GOING TO PASS THE LIBRARY BOND! Our school organizations ARE going to get involved - thousands of parents who are tired of their kids attending inferior libraries that are in the WORST shape of any library in our region (as stated in the library audit). Those parents want the best for their kids. They KNOW that this bond is worth it, and that the BENEFITS of the branch library system FAR outweigh the costs.

I predict 72-76% in favor of Measure N. There is good energy and a raw determination to make this happen. Palo Alto deserves to have a decent branch library system, with all the BENEFITS that system brings - BENEFITS that, again, FAR outweigh the small cost involved (less than $120 per household, per year).

Vote YES on Measure N.

Posted by NO! on Measure N, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

"As usual, Pat Marriott focuses on only the cost of public services, while paying lip service to benefits. Why is that?"

This really says it all on this bond and the people supporting it! The attitude of "to hell with the cost" we want you to pay for it while ignoring that we're already paying twice as much as anyone else for a lesser library system is mind-blowing in its ignorance.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 17, 2008 at 1:33 pm

I will vote no on "N". I am firmly in the camp that believes that we need ONE CENTRAL LIBRARY. Additionally, the new police station should be moved across the street from its current location - that would be the current site of the Downtown branch library, with the police cars still parked in the basement of City Hall (as they are now).

I see no net fundamental value, vs deficits, of the current multi-branch system.

Posted by not such a small cost, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 17, 2008 at 1:37 pm

I don't know where that $120 a year per household came from. If the bond passes, I'll be paying $490 a year.

Posted by A lot to pay, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 1:43 pm

As others have pointed out, there are lots of residents with low Prop 13 assessments, who despite living in valuable houses, won't pay more than $100-$200 a year for this bond. For them, why not - seems like a bargain. But for anyone who has bought in PA over the last 10 years, the cost will be much higher.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Twice as much - we pay (almost - really 1.74x) twice as much per capita for libraries as our neighboring towns. The Auditor's report showed this. And, as anyone who has visited knows (and the Auditor's report confirms), our libraries are terrible - poor facilities, poor collections.

The bond would now add millions to the costs, while the collection and staff continues to be spread over 5 sub-scale branches. It is a shame.

Do we really want to be the town that pays 2x for less good libraries? Are we really that far off the curve? I fervently hope that we all rally against this ugly bond and go back, find our political will, and fix what needs to be fixed. We all deserve better than this.

Posted by Alison Cormack, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Pat Marriott and I have met a few times and share an abiding love for books. I deeply regret the us vs. them tone that others are using in this forum when she and I have such a cordial personal relationship. Former Senator George Mitchell likes to say that there are points on which reasonable people can disagree. How many libraries a city has is certainly one of them.

I would like to offer a number and then an opinion. Diane Jennings' editorial on September 3rd in the Weekly provided the figure of $554,000 in operational costs per year for the College Terrace and Downtown libraries together. If they were closed tomorrow, it would take 124 years for the city to save enough money to build a new Mitchell Park library and renovate Main Library. I provide this number to demonstrate that our facilities problem cannot be solved using our operational budget.

I am the chair of the Better Libraries for Palo Alto campaign and can honestly say that a no vote on N will not provide a great 21st century library. The choice on November 4th is between a reasonable proposal to restore and replace 50-year-old buildings or nothing. The City has spent over a million dollars preparing the architectural work required to bring this project to the ballot. By the way, they did not, although they certainly could have, include this money in the $76 million bond. Campaigns in Palo Alto cost about $100,000 to run and require copious amounts of volunteer time. If Measure N fails to achieve the 66.7 percent of votes it needs on November 4th, we are not likely to see any improvements in our libraries for many years.

The opportunity for compromise and discourse one person wishes for began in May of 2006 when this proposal first came before the Council. That period came to a close in July when the Council voted unanimously to place Measure N on the ballot. There was a two year period for people to come to a Library Advisory Commission meeting, speak at a Council meeting, participate in an outreach session at the libraries, or simply write a letter.

The over 900 people who have endorsed Measure N and the almost 1,000 who are proudly displaying our distinctive orange lawn signs understand that we have a very important decision to make on November 4th. I hope that you will join them in supporting Measure N to bring our libraries into the 21st century.

Posted by NO! on Measure N, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Alison, can you explain why it costs twice as much to run Palo Alto libraries as it does those in neighboring cities?

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm

So what a property owner will really pay is a percentage of assessment, so year after year their bill will go up 2% as their assessment increases. It wont stay at the initial level unless the owner bought have a house that has a market value greater than or equal to its tax assessment. It will of course impact renters too, as the property owners pass on their increased costs to the renters.

Personally I think Pat did a good job of explaining what is wrong with this plan and others have explained what they like about this plan. The question is whether the good side outweighs the bad side. I dont think it does so I'll vote no, but clearly some think it does and will vote yes. Blaming the last bond failure on a few outspoken individuals is misguided, clearly they dont represent the 36% that voted no. When trying to ask questions about this bond or expressing your issues with it, resorts in personal attacks and name calling, its no wonder that only a few persist in trying to get their opinions out there or their questions answered.

Tax increases require a 2/3s majority for a good reason, because at 50% it would be too easy for one piece of a society to unfairly burden another. Like the people with low property assessments forcing the people with high assessments to foot the bill for example.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm

The arguments from Pat and the counterarguments from Alison, put the whole thing in the right perspective. There are too many unanswered questions? Why weren't those surveyed given some idea of the costs of the alternatives? What would be the cost now of a single library system with drop off desks at the remaining branches which could be used for other services if books were not stored there? What benefits to having downtown and CT exist for those of us in south palo alto? How many students actually use downtown and CT as afterschool homework hangouts?

For a city to have spent as much as it did on the preparation of this bond, it seems to me that there was very little common sense applied in giving us real alternatives. At present there is no alternative and no compromises. It is this bond or nothing. Why is that? Why couldn't we truly have had a proper referendum showing costs instead of just a yes or no vote on a bond that many of us think is the wrong bond?

Please, can someone answer some of these questions?

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Rather than making this an "either this bond or nothing" proposal (which i understand certain people want--since there is a fear among the 20th century people in the city that we may have to shutter the five branches and actually build a modern single library)-we should have a choice at the ballot box--this measure and another one which would fund a single main library.
We know why this was not done--we all remember what happened to our former library director--she was vilified and run out of town for suggesting that we close branches. there is a small, vocal group that will stop at nothing to maintain our antiquated library system (the 20th century people referred to above). Knowing our city council and their lack of spine and aversion to conflict, there was no way they would cross this group--hence our choice at the ballot box this november.
Another point to ponder is the name of the group that is spearheading the push for this bond. They are called "Better Libraries for Palo Alto". They should be called "Only 5 Branches Constitutes Better Libraries for Palo Alto". Unfortunately this group has not really explored all the options to have better libraries, so there title is a misnomer.

I encourage everyone to vote no on the bond. Let's get a workable bond that will fund a single 21st century library for Palo Alto.

Posted by YES! on Measure N, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:44 pm

"Twice as much - we pay (almost - really 1.74x) twice as much per capita for libraries as our neighboring towns."

This is yet another fallacy, as show in prior analyses that clearly indicated our library staff is 2.5 times MORE efficient than neighboring libraries.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Here's the data

Spending per capita Library Spending Per Capita FY 2005-06, with per capita efficiency ratings for each city based on cumulative library hour service return for per capita investment (i.e. per capita spend[PCS]] **divided by**cumulative service hour [CSH]. PLease note that *the lower the number, the higher the library staff efficiency in terms of total amount of service hour delivery accomplished*)

Palo Alto's $97.01 per capita spend results in 238 cumulative service hours at 5 branches per week PCS/CSH = .41

Santa Clara $57.70 per capita results in 73 hours of cumulative service hours at one branch per week PCS/CSH = .78

Mountain View's $55.19 results in 56 cumulative service hours of library services at one branch per week PCS/CSH = .98

Menlo Park $61.68 per capita results in 57 cumulative service hours of library services at one branch per week PCS/CSH = .92

Sunnyvale $49.97 per capita results in 57 cumulative service hours of library services at one branch per week. PCS/CSH = .88

By this reckoning, Palo Alto library staff is 2-2.5 times *more* efficient than its municipal neighbors.

Posted by YES! on Measure N, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:53 pm


If Measure N fails, the current opponents - who, in spite of their claims to "loving" libraries - know very well the following:

1) that it will be YEARS before we float another bond. This means that our libraries will remain in their current deplorable condition, for YEARS.

2) that the cost of just one, central library will mean that either Mitchell or Main, in addition to both branches, and possible Children's library, might be eliminated. And these people say they "love libraries"? Give me a break!!

3) that any attempt to float a bond in Palo Alto that does NOT include the branches (of which Mitchell is currently one), will FAIL.

Opponents of Measure N, a clear MINORITY of Palo Altans are cherry-picking operations numbers to prove a their misleading assumptions.

I challenge ANY opponent to measure N to speak to the fiscal BENEFITS, and the FACT that our library pays back a POSITIVE RETURN ON TAXPAYER DOLLARS.

Let's see them disprove these FACTS. They won't, and they can't. What they want is nothing more than to gut our library system, with one of the major proponents of defeating Measure N - Wayne Martin - claiming that libraries aren't even necessary!!!

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

YES! on Measure N!

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:54 pm

We don't have all these library hours. It is irrelevant having 5 libraries open at the same time calling them multiple hours. What rubbish!!

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Pat's measurement is valid. Cost per person in a community is a valid measurement to consider. Under that metric, we have a more expensive system than our neighboring towns.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:24 pm

I, too, will vote no on Measure N.

The use of aggregate service hours -- that is, the sum of all hours of service across all five (5) branches [entitled 'CSH' above] -- in the 'spending per service hour' equation is neither logical nor reasonable.

For most, if not all, taxpayers, the clear cost concern is with total costs; whether service is provided at one (1) branch or five (5) branches or five hundred (500) branches is not relevant.

In other words, I do not need a library 'on every block' if, in return, I'm paying an assessment quite a fair bit above that paid in other nearby towns and Cities.

If N fails, perhaps the City will ponder a new course of action; in particular, perhaps it will 'keep a sharp eye peeled' in search of other sources of funds; by way of example, the City of San Mateo used funds from the State of California and from private donors to fund a significant chunck of the cost of San Mateo's main library.

Posted by YES! on Measure N, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:45 pm

"resident": "We don't have all these library hours. It is irrelevant having 5 libraries open at the same time calling them multiple hours."

Really, go tell that to the THOUSANDS of school kids who use our branches EVERY DAY! What other local community can make that claim? Name one. One!

RS: "Cost per person in a community is a valid measurement to consider"

Yes, it is. And so is BENEFIT per person. Why aren't you or Pat Marriott addressing THAT? btw, that number is shown as between $1.30-$4.60 per resident return on every tax dollar spent for public libraries, in 25 studies, nationally. Why isn't that addressed here, instead of just saying "the studies are wrong"?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by NO! on Measure N, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Yes, when you can't even explain why Palo Alto spends twice as much for an inferior library system, there is no reason for anyone to trust your figures.
You obviously don't care about costs and just want to spend more of other people's money. This bond doesn't even provide for a comparable library service to our neighboring cities.
A bond that gives us second rate libraries for $75,000,000 and increases our yearly cost even more. The choice is obvious.

Posted by Bill Glazier, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I am tired of people posting anonymously. If you are unwilling to attribute your name to your opinion, I question whether you should be entitled to share it here on this Forum. Anonymous opinions encourage hostility, and many people here post under multiple aliases in hopes of influencing the perception of the conversation.

I am against the Library Bond, as is my wife. I am a supporter of libraries. My wife and I were contributors to the Children's Library Campaign. The libraries with the exception of Children's are close to abysmal, and the lack of realistic planning on the part of the Library advocates leads me to believe any proposal for more than 1 central library is not affordable. We have many priorities, and libraries are just one of them.

I have watched a small number of very vocal people be strident on this forum now for years about how we must fund their plans at all costs. I would gladly engage thoughtful people on this topic, but it is clear that these partisan advocates are not interested in a thoughtful conversation. We watch them 'virtually' shout us down in the Town Hall Forum. They have not done their homework. This is not a compromise solution.

I recommend a No Vote on Measure N.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2008 at 5:05 pm

I favor the branch library system in Palo Alto and I favor including funding in the city budget for the upkeep of the libraries. I also favor repair of the current branches, branches with safety/health issues first. These small buildings are a very good deal for Palo Alto, given the expense of water and power. It would be good to know what the water/power expenses are for each branch. The many benefits of the neighborhood libraries are priceless. One benefit not yet mentioned is the park land around the libraries.

A very few people would be able to make a lot of money if the branch libraries were torn down and the land developed. It is better to have benefits for the many rather than the few.

Posted by problem solver, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 5:23 pm

These branch libraries currently run as de-facto community centers. They should be converted to actual community centers with internet access. They can still provide for neighborhood needs without the overhead of running them as libraries. It would mean they could stay open longer hours and with less people involved and be moved onto the appropriate budget within Palo Alto. A $76m bond could build a 60,000 square foot modern library with attached community center, which we could still fund within the existing library budget.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2008 at 5:27 pm

"Really, go tell that to the THOUSANDS of school kids who use our branches EVERY DAY!"


Can you cite a source for that claim?

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2008 at 5:30 pm

I will remain anonymous to protect myself and my family from unfair behavior and unfair discussion at unsuitable or inconvenient times. I will remain polite and I do consider my thoughts rational.

I agree that some children (we have never been told how many) may visit downtown and CT after school. I am not sure that it is for homework reasons, checking out books, doing research or any reason that a library offers. They may be there for social reasons or for reasons that they cannot get home until their parents arrive home for work. But, if this is the case, they do not need to visit a fully stocked library with fully fledged librarians. If they need books for homework or research, then they can use school libraries. What they really need is a community center where they can hang out after school with their peers. This does not need to be a library but a community center. We do not need to give them access to online games and YouTube for last night's tv shows - (possibly ones they are not allowed to watch at home).

If we need community centers dotted around town with a library pickup and dropoff desk, then that is very different from a fully stocked and staffed library. Likewise, the elderly who have the ability to walk to a library at present, can also suitably have their needs met by a community center (with a/c on hot days) and a pickup/drop off desk and perhaps laptop rentals. We could even have story times once a week at these community centers. We could also have some classes and a meeting room available for rent for local community events. A coffee shop might also be a nice idea.

All these facilities could occur at downtown and ct without them being libraries.

I do not wish to be rude to any proponent of the bond, but I would like some serious answers as to why these facilities have to be libraries and not something less.

Posted by Craig, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 6:40 pm

I found the article really persuasive. Given the dire economic crisis in this country, I honestly don't think I can afford the additional $400 a year this will cost me. Many of us moved here recently and have assessed home values higher than the median obviously, and while we have the incomes to pay our mortgages and current property tax, there isn't much left. I agree with the idea of upgrading the libraries wholeheartedly, but I just don't think this is the time. I am sorry - I don't view pro-N people as "the enemy!" Its just that my family can't afford it now, and I don't think I'm alone here.
Now is honestly the time locally, nationally and globally to really pinch those pennies and do more with less - its just common sense.

Posted by Louis, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 6:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by concerned mother, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 6:53 pm

YES on Measure N

Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 17, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Where can I get one of those "Yes on N" signs for my front lawn?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2008 at 7:24 pm

I have to agree with Craig. It would be interesting to know how many of those "in the minority" are those who are paying the high property taxes. It is very easy to vote yes on everything when you are not paying "market taxes". Not to mention, if Craig also has kids in public schools, as I do, we are also being asked to contribute $1000+ (PIE plus PTA) per child in the public school system. This cost will only go up, it can only go up as there is no additional funds. I am sure there will be addition local, state and federal increases also.

I will vote no. And is NOT because I am anti-library.

Posted by you must be joking, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2008 at 7:28 pm

$400 a year for something I'll never use.

Posted by me neither, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Craig and all...

You are not the only ones that can't afford this. We bought our house here 15 years ago and presumably our property taxes (and maybe our mortgage payments) are lower than yours.

It does not mean we can afford extra taxes any more than you can. Our income has not kept up at all with the increase in the cost of living and we constantly have to watch our money, especially with children in college and the high cost of it.

We too like libraries. We too think we need to consolidate the libraries. We too have no change to spare for a bad bond measure.

We too will vote N on this measure.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:42 pm

A poster above makes an excellent point - the bond seems to be based on "how much will it take" vs. "how much do we have to spend." There was no thought about "how can we get to spending comparable with other towns" or "how can we get great libraries for $50M instead of $75M plus $5M on CT"?

That strikes a chord with me, especially in these scary and uncertain times, as we all wonder what the next week, year, decade will hold for the economy and our own families. Do we really want to lock in a $75M bond - $400, $500, $600 a year for many families, already stretching to live in PA - on top of already spending 2x what other towns spend? It just seems so wrong.

As so many have said, we love libraries and don't like the state ours are in. But with a potential crisis brewing, now may well be the time to break our old paradigm to make progress. And that begins with a "No" vote on Measure N.

Posted by we want great libraries, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:47 pm

I just spoke with my PTA. We are going to support the bond, and will encourage other PTA's to sign up. By the time November rolls around, every PAUSD school will be supporting the bond.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:50 pm

How dare the PTA speak for me. I am a member of the PTA and I do not remember voting on whether the PTA supports or rejects the bond.

PTAs stay out of this. You do not speak for all your members.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Something I left out from my earlier posting....we owe our children more! All of these "special" measures and additional costs are coming at much bigger costs to our children! We need to think about the burden our children will have - especially given what has happened this week! Look outside your "bubble" - and remember it too is a bubble!

Posted by Huh, mine was different, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:52 pm

I just came from our middle school PTA meeting. Lots of people concerned about the cost of the bond, though some in favor. And some real indignation that the other PTAs had politicized themselves. Conclusion was that we should stay out of it and let people reach their own conclusions.

Posted by pta memeber, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by see you in November, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 17, 2008 at 9:53 pm

One PTA has already signed on, four are about to sign on, and others will follow. Your PTA speaks only for itself, and those who wish to follow its dictates will do so. PTA's understand the value of libraries for schoolchildren, and will act accordingly. Our school officials are also in favor of the bond!

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2008 at 12:35 am

RS is a registered user.

So now that this is locked to registered contributers, maybe we can continue a more constructive discussion. As a tangent, weekly staff, it would be nice to have a watermark after you lock a thread so you can separate the contributions that happened before and after the lock down. thanks

I went in the CT library on the weekend, it was afternoon and there were 4 people in it. This is not exactly the patronage that justifies keeping it open.

Posted by, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2008 at 1:25 am

Try visiting some Saturday when there are HUNDREDS of kids present for a storytime. Try visiting some evening when a bunch of kids are there doing group homework. one time doesn't tell the story. DT and CT are responsible for well over 15% of system circulation. That's almost 200,000 units of circulation

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2008 at 7:54 am

RS is a registered user.


"Hundreds", I kind of doubt. If there were "hundreds", (minimum 200) in that small building, I suspect the fire marshall should be called. The building is too small to support "hundreds" in the area I saw.

I just saying the numbers you give tend to have crediblity problems.

Posted by jim, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 18, 2008 at 9:44 am

jim is a registered user.

Did you know?

1. Palo Alto spends twice as much as other local libraries in a survey by the city auditor.
Palo Alto library budget at $97.01 per capita already far exceeds those of our neighboring cities. The closest is Menlo Park at $61.68 with Sunnyvale only needing to spend $49.97 per capita to offer a superior service.

2. Palo Alto libraries require nearly twice as many staff per 1000 card holders as other local libraries in a survey by the city auditor.
Palo Alto library system needs 0.95 full time employees (FTE) per 1000 card holders. The maximum required by our neighboring cities is 0.59 by Santa Clara with the lowest being Mountain View at 0.55. All neighboring cities require less than 0.60 FTEs per 1000 card holders. Since the audit, the number of Palo Alto libraries employees has increased from 104 to 109.

3. Your cost will be far higher than the $139 per household per year that Beter Libraries for Palo Alto site quotes.
The better libraries for Palo Alto site continues to say that $139 per homeowner as a reasonable average annual cost estimate. This is *not* a parcel tax and the actual cost of the bond is $28.74 per $100,000 of assessed value. There may be a lot of people who will be paying only $20 a year but there will be also be an awful lot of people paying over $400 a year to make up for that.

4. Pro-bond council members wanted to use to city's contingency fund to futher increase the library budget.
Even though Palo Alto requires far more employees and has a far higher budget than those of other local libraries, pro-bond Councilman Greg Schmid wanted to dip into the council's $175,000 contingency fund for general support for libraries. He had to be reminded that the contingency fund is usually needed for unexpected projects or needs that come up during the year.

5. The 2008 bond plan is the result of a special interest group pushing its own objectives.
When the last branch library closed, the Friends of Palo Alto libraries (FOPAL) threatened, in an open letter to councli, to reduce funding to offset any saving made by the closure. This is at odds with the most recent survey showing 58% of Palo Altans agreed that focusing our resources on one or two full-service libraries instead of spending money to upgrade 5 different libraries was a convincing argument. FOPAL failed in its attempt to force the branch to remain open. In a recent PA Weekly article Senior Staff Writer Dan Kazac stated, incorrectly, that Palo Alto had a decades old 5-branch library policy completely forgetting that Palo Alto had only recently closed a branch without any issues.

6. If the bond passes the library budget and annual costs will only further increase.
Diane Jennings stated she would examine staffing but said it would be challenging to staff a larger facility for additional hours with the same number of people.

Posted by Erik Stewart, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Erik Stewart is a registered user.

Is a bond measure funded by a tax based on the valuation of homes in California lawful if it pushes our tax over 1%? If you want to fund library improvements do it equitably. If everyone uses the library, shouldn't everyone pay the same, as we do for our school tax?

PROP 13 SECTION 1. (a) The maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed One percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property. The one percent (1%) tax to be collected by the counties and apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties.

Posted by person2000a, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm

person2000a is a registered user.

It's perfectly legal. If yuo disagree, take it up with the courts. I'll quote another poster on a prior thread

"Again, all citizens profit from library service. Trying to create dissension in the community based on the structural inequities of Proposition 13 is a very dangerous thing to do. Apparently, some in Palo Alto would rather see our library close, rather than fund the improvements necessary to keep it open, operating, and sustainable. Most taxpayers here will have a tax payment less than $120 per year. When you tally the services to the community, students, PAUSD, seniors, business professionals, etc. this is a great deal!
Also, every tax dollar invested in libraries returns a literal profit to the taxpayer. That's been clearly shown by 25 municipal studies.

Yes! on N"

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