Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Library Referendum - Fact and Fiction - Part 4

In 1999, when the PPD was selling the concept of the RiverPlex, ranking park officials said that the RiverPlex was located in the “center of the city”. They also said that anyone could reach any part of the City of Peoria within 15 minutes. Now we are told by ranking library officials that Lakeview Library is in the center of the city (it is more than five miles northwest of the RiverPlex) and it is now too far for people living within 3 ½ miles of the Lakeview Library to drive. How is 3 ½ miles relevant to the hard sell to get the voters to yes to an advisory referendum, that if approved by a majority of voters could become a permanent property tax and $35,000,000.00? Because it is 7 miles from Lakeview Library to the new expanded Dunlap Library. So anyone with a Peoria library card, would drive no more than 3 ½ miles to the Dunlap or 3 ½ miles to the Lakeview Library. Those living northeast from say, Wilhelm road would only need to drive to Chillicothe and their $4 million dollar new library or drive to Peoria Heights and visit their relatively new library.

Let’s talk more about mobility. People all over the area drive to downtown Peoria because, whether the center of the city or not, the downtown is anchored by Caterpillar, the rapidly growing major medical centers, City and County Government, the Civic Center and the Riverfront. Bradley University is close at hand and Illinois Central College is just on the other side of the river as is the fast growing community of East Peoria. Peoria has shrunk in population by about 8,000 people since 1980 yet its land space has quadrupled in approximately 50 years. It is inconceivable that services can be provided to everyone without dramatically raising property taxes. That is what is happening and this is just the beginning.

When one hires an expensive consultant, the consultant is wise enough to know what answers those doing the hiring wish to see and hear. We have a new library Director from the “big cities” staying at the Twin Towers. Do you believe he would want these consultants to say “all you need is to perhaps expand Lakeview, put self check out machines (that work) in all libraries, add a couple more employees at Lakeview, retire thousands of books, many of them hard and soft porn, many books not ever read or not read for years, take down a couple of bays of book shelving at Lakeview and add another battery of computers? Not for $65,000.00 no matter who pays for it.

Don’t be misled by thinking that all the people you see using computers are studying or taking self improvement courses. Don’t believe the Library Directors when they say all porn has been blocked out. The four guys looking at naked women on a computer screen, women in “not for public poses” and these guys didn’t appear to be medical students. Hey, watch porn all you like, but not on my tax dollar.

As to the systems used to compute the number of visitors to the libraries each year? Figures lie, liars figure and counting machines malfunction, just like the self-check out machines at Lakeview.. There is no way to accurately count the number of visitors to any library and the fact that people check out books, tapes, ect., is no proof they used them. Approximately 50% of all the books I check out I find not worth my time to read. The cover and the story looks interesting so I check the book out but the author often cannot hold my interest so I return it unread.

This community has a past history of promising more than it can produce. After seeing the results of the RiverPlex that to this day has not been able even to meet the principle and interest on it’s bond, a ball park that after 13 years has yet to turn a profit, a current zoo that loses between $300,000.00 and $400,000.00 a year, a zoo expansion that so far, has had to borrow $12,000,000.00 to start construction on a projected $32 million dollar expansion. Add in an “iffy” roughly $60,000,000.00 Civic Center expansion, a library trustee who says “if we can maintain yearly 4% property tax rise in evaluations, we should be okay”, approximately $100,000,000.00 of museum building in the possible offing, $60,000,000.00 plus of new schools listed as priorities, a sagging infrastructure of streets, sidewalks and curbs, people demanding more guaranteed safe neigh hoods, a new fire station being requested, pensions payments that in the next seven years could reach epic proportions in the public sector and all the library wants is just another measly $35,000,000.00 up 500% from the last time they appeared before the city council asking to build a new $6.9 million dollar library out north and $450,000.00 plus to renovate a library on the south end; a library now scheduled to be torn down to make way for the new Harrison Schools. In four years this library went from “bursting at the seams” to “underutilized”. Oh yes, it’s now Lakeview that’s “bursting at the seams”. Wow.

A library worker I will not name told me that they didn’t need expanded libraries; they just could use some more help. I’ll support that.

I’ve said before, be careful what you ask for, you might just get it. As for local ranking politicians lending their support? When was the last time you met a politician who did not approve what the “movers and shakers” want? To be reelected every two years or so, politicians know you must promise something for everyone. And after all, who can say no to a library? Didn’t we use them when we were kids? But when was the last time you saw a ranking politician in a local library unless is was for a news release or a photo-op?

Consider also that if we hadn’t spent approximately $150,000,000.00 to date on a suspect riverfront, the taxpayer might not feel so bad about another $35 million.

But at some point, maybe not with this new non-priority, the taxpayer already moving by their feet will finally find it is time to “draw a line in the sand”.


Anonymous said...

I am not familiar with Lakeview Library or others, but I am familiar with the downtown library. Everytime I go there I see homeless street people using it for shelter. I see people using the computers and what I see on the screens as I pass is not information that one would seek to better themselves. I see gangs hanging around in the lobby or out on the sidewalk against the building or sitting on the planters. Its a scary place to visit. If I had children of school age I would not allow them to go to this library for anything. Libraries are great institutions, if run properly. With today's computer systems they are becoming less and less needed. I don't see putting in another $35,000,000.00 to expand the system that is not monitoring itself well. Do we need another Recplex debacle?

Merle Widmer said...

Thanks for your comments. We need to get the word out to the mostly unspecting voters who have been misled by half-truths from our community leaders who bought into to the hype. Many can not say no; they've said yes so many times to non-priority projects that will drown Peoria City dwellers in future property taxes when more bills start coming due. Who could say no without being asked "So, are you against libraries"? I have not been afraid to say no or yes if I have the facts. I am not against libraries, just against half-truths and change of direction by what appears motivated by envy of Dunlap, Chillicothe and Peoria Heights who did spend a maximun of $4 million each for their libraries.

$35,000,000.00 for a city with a shrinking population and major tax collecting projects in process or on the drawing boards? I want to be on record as opposing this illusion.

For those who have put this drive into an emotional appeal to our generosity, meet me at Lakeview or the Downtown Libray and show me the overcrowding. I'm in the phone book. Maybe some of these users should be holding their meeting elsewhere or looking over the shoulders of the computer users and see show many of these users are really useing these computers as intended. You can, it's a public tax supported library.