Other election-date alternatives included November 2007, which would have required the city to move faster than some officials wanted, and April 2008, which would be much costlier. A November or June election costs $163,000, while an April election costs more than $530,000, according to City Clerk Donna Rogers. Money to pay for elections comes from the city's reserves.
Currently, two separate city committees (the Library Advisory Commission and the Police Building Blue Ribbon Task Force) are working on specific recommendations about the city's libraries and police headquarters. The council is scheduled to consider proposals from both groups on June 26.
The council shifted gears in voting for the June 2008 election date. On March 6, some council members said they hoped to put the two items on the ballot in November 2007, after City Attorney Gary Baum advised such votes needed to be conducted in a November general election. Baum later found that such measures could be voted upon in a special election, in April or June.
Councilman Larry Klein said the error was "regrettable" and "got us off on the wrong track.
"If you don't know the answer, say so," he said. "That would have been a lot better."
The Library Advisory Commission is planning to present draft recommendations to the council in May about its plan for the future of the city's five-branch library system. Alternatives include a parcel tax to expand the library's collection or a bond measure to expand and improve buildings.
A recent city-sponsored survey found that 85 percent of residents said they wanted more books, media and other materials. However, some of the city's five branches — especially the Mitchell Park Library — are crowded and shabby.
Councilman Jack Morton called that branch "so substandard we should be embarrassed" and questioned why the city wasn't considering a measure on the ballot similar to a $49.1 million bond that the city attempted to pass in November 2002.
That bond measure would have expanded the Mitchell Park Library, the adjacent community center and the Children's Library. The existing Mitchell community center is "sort of like a Nazi bunker" and "a concrete atrocity," Morton said.
After the election failed, private groups raised money, matched by the city, to refurbish and expand the Children's Library, which is now under construction.
Meanwhile, the police-building task force is scheduled to submit recommendations to the council in June. The group has yet to decide how or where it would like to construct a new building. The current outdated facility — which city officials say is too small for their needs and doesn't meet current earthquake codes for an essential-services building — is located on Forest Avenue, behind the Civic Center.
A bond measure is the likely method to pay for a new structure, estimated to cost $40 to $50 million.
The task force will meet again Thursday to discuss locations for the new building. Two options it is currently favoring are the block on which the Downtown Library is located, which would be rebuilt elsewhere, and on city-owned parking lots near California Avenue.
City officials had earlier considered both sites, but rejected them in the face of opposition from downtown-area residents and California Avenue businesses. Similar resistance is expected to surface Thursday. Residents near the Downtown Library are organizing while California Avenue businesses are circulating petitions against the proposal.
City Manager Frank Benest said in a memo that the disadvantages of aiming for November 2007 as opposed to either date in 2008 include "limited time for council deliberations and community feedback" and "very limited time for voter polling."
Advantages include maintaining "the momentum currently behind these projects" and keeping them "in the public spotlight," as well as minimizing "construction cost increases due to inflation," Benest said.
Former Councilwoman and Mayor Lanie Wheeler, co-chair of the police-building task force, emphasized the importance in allowing adequate time for community outreach. She recalled voting for and working on the failed library bond measure. Having a few extra weeks to inform the public on the issue could lead to "a much happier result," she said.
Going for June 2008 would allow the council to poll voters twice about the possible tax measures, providing they want to spend the $70,000 for each survey. Klein expressed doubts about the usefulness of such a tool.
But aiming for a November election would increase the likelihood the city would beat the school district to the polls. The school board is considering a large bond measure to improve numerous school facilities.
Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell and others expressed misgivings about competing with the school district. Klein, who serves as chair of the City-School Liaison Committee, said he would welcome a discussion about how to avoid or minimize competition, if possible.
"Do we really believe we can beat the school district?" Morton asked. "It seems to me that history is such that they get theirs out in 10 months. If they know we're going for ours, they'll have their gyms on the ballot before that."
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