Thursday, October 26, 2017

Possible Postcard Question: "Should the money raised through the sale of the Library property be used for water infrastructure and road repair, or moving the Library to the YAC?"

Card source, but hardly Hallmark
Mod: Trying to figure out yesterday where the Library Relocation postcard deal is going, I sent a hopeful email off to a frequent contributor to this site, Sierra Madre City Manager Gabe Engeland. It turned into a rich conversation, one where Gabe even conceded that past outreach efforts in town might not have been as non-partisan as had been promised. However, his faith in the one under consideration now remains rock solid. Despite the source of these postcard questions, who apparently began their work just last night.

The Tattler: Can this question be submitted for Library Relocation postcard consideration? Popular theme on the blog this morning. "Should the money raised through the sale of the Library property be used for water infrastructure and road repair, or moving the Library to the YAC?"

City Manager Gabe Engeland: I would say no. The purpose of selling the current library would be to fund the move to the YAC. The YAC location would need a retrofit, changes to the layout of the site, and potentially an expansion to accommodate library services. If the funds from a potential library sale were dedicated elsewhere, the library would not be able to relocate, as the YAC could not be altered to meet the needs of putting a library at that site.

The Tattler: Right. But isn't it a bit of an assumption to say the money realized through the sale of a public property must be used for that one purpose? Without objection? There are many other things in town that could stand an infusion of cash. It is the peoples' money, after all. They might want to buy new pipes instead.

City Manager Gabe Engeland: If the funds for the sale of the library at its current location were used elsewhere we would effectively be closing the library. If we sell the current location, and don't have the funds to move to a new location, the library would have no place to operate. This may inject revenue into our infrastructure, but it would come at the expense of the Library. It is not something I would recommend.

The Tattler: That is my point. You might be able to convince a lot of people that there is good money to be made in selling that property. But that does not mean people will automatically think the money raised needs to be spent on a different library facility. Some think a library is an antiquated idea, times and ways of communicating information have changed, and there might be far better things to do with the cash. The best way to keep a library in town is to not open that Pandora's Box. Just do the legally required repairs, which can easily be funded by selling the back lot.

City Manager Gabe Engeland: I agree the community needs to decide what types of services it wants from the Library. Further, selling the back lot, making necessary repairs, and leaving the library at its current location, remains a viable and attractive option. I'm positive this specific option will be addressed in the survey. I have heard a lot of feedback from residents on how they want the library to operate, as well as from people who believe the library should not be a priority, or at least a lower priority. I have not yet heard a compelling argument that the community would be better without the library entirely. With that said the idea of a modern library, focused on technology and learning events, versus a traditional library, focused on more static activities, will need to be decided by the community. Both are models commonly deployed in cities, and both can adequately serve their mission.

The Tattler: Here is another idea that made the blog today. What if a portion of the card were left blank so that people could share their thoughts beyond merely checking a box? I think people would be more likely to participate, and something good could come of it. There are a lot of smart people in Sierra Madre.

City Manager Gabe Engeland: The Library Board will be determining the specific questions to be placed on the survey. I believe their first meeting on this topic takes place tonight, but they will craft the questions over the next several weeks. One of the types of questions available to the Board are "open ended" responses, so what you are describing is an option. I agree, we have a lot of smart people here. We have received a ton of good feedback and suggestions on both sides of this issue.

The Tattler: Let's be honest. The purpose of the postcard is to create the impression of public participation, but without letting it get beyond the control of people who already have an agenda they are determined to drive home. That one of the most partisan groups of folks in town on this Library question are also the ones creating these questions and driving the process pretty much proves it. There is a difference between enabling and transparency. What is going on now is not transparency.

City Manager Gabe Engeland: I think this characterization is exceptionally cynical. The Library Board will determine the questions, but they have no control over the responses, and they are not driving the process. They also can't create questions which are leading or are intended to drive people to a specific, preferred response. The survey company will send out the postcards to randomly selected residents and will ensure the questions are asked in an unbiased manner. This company will have no stake in the outcome of the survey, but they will have a keen interest in ensuring the results are reliable, statistically significant, and their reputation as an independent, fair, and non-partisan firm remains intact. The City is not contracting with a public relations firm. The results will be statistically significant and will be demographically representative of Sierra Madre. In addition to this the questions asked will allow for a multitude of responses, as well as levels of support for different ideas or scenarios, to make sure people are able to register their opinions appropriately. I respect people have different opinions and beliefs, and to that end it's okay for people to argue about which outcomes are best for our city and which model of library services are needed in Sierra Madre. However, making an argument that an independent third company is acting in a partisan manner, or a statistically significant survey isn't transparent or public, does little to advance the discussion on the library that is currently taking place. I'm happy to keep the dialogue going as we have several acceptable options for the library moving forward.

The Tattler: There is a lot of cynicism about surveys because of the way they were used in the past. This is a familiar pattern. Third parties are hired for specific purposes. Fairness is not always the top priority.

City Manager Gabe Engeland: That's fair, and in that context, I understand the concern. The idea of the survey is to truly understand what the community desires and supports.  The community will make the decision, and I think a transparent and robust survey, completed by a 3rd party company, will provide good information. We have a lot of acceptable outcomes for the Library, I don't have an agenda to push. I just want to understand the options better.

Mod: So who exactly is this survey company that will keep the rolling pin warm should the Library Board start pressing their tainted love a little too eagerly? They are called the National Research Council Inc., or NRC. While they are headquartered out of Boulder Colorado, the NRC also has an international presence as well. I Googled them in as many different ways as possible, yet I could not access any easy dirt. Funny thing is, there are pages of articles about these guys, but they are almost all entirely written by themselves. The NRC is either as pure as the driven snow, or they have successfully suppressed their Internet critics. It is done, you know. Reputation Maintenance is a big on-line business these days. I did find this following article on a site called Governing. Here it peddles some familiar stereotypes about certain small city residents (link).


Mod: Then there is this disheartening passage:


Mod: It certainly does make you wonder who is going to receive those Library Relocation postcards, or how they know who is what. Maybe the city gives them that information? Remember, not everyone is going to get a postcard. And it might not only be about saving money. Despite what you've heard. 

You can see where we could be going with this project, right? Our pals at the NRC might be attempting to dig up what Richard Nixon used to lovingly refer to as the "silent majority." You know, the people who don't go to meetings, don't pass petitions, speak at public comment, or otherwise worry the wooly heads of the sleeping classes. If this is to be the kind of criteria that is going to be employed when the data retrieved from these selectively distributed postcards is culled and interpreted, then yes, the fix could very well be in. 

After all, the more you know, the less nice you must be. And yes, no postcard for you.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

54 comments:

  1. So why is it not every household is getting a postcard?

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  2. Extremist. How would you put that into a Sierra Madre context? Apt to ask for an extra scoop of ice cream at Mother Moo? Won't pick up your dog's poop?

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  3. Will there be another CC meeting where the public can speak out against the Library move?
    Watching the Dodgers..duh.

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    Replies
    1. There was supposed to be three. There are lots of questions now. The timing would be pretty good for Library II.

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  4. Every household should get a survey.

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    1. Maybe somebody can make copies for those who didn't get one and they could mail those in?

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  5. Great article and feedback Mod, thank you.
    I obtained my answer for Sierra Madreans question of "To be, or Not to be?" Library and or it's relocation.
    The premise that children are moving at a breakneck speed with current technology vs us older folk enjoying the feel and smell of books and the printed words we find within there bindings.
    Kids grow up and move away; too expensive to remain in this sleepy little town.
    Senior's remain, enjoying a slower pace a bit of sunshine while sitting in a comfortable chair while reading. We support the Library functions and participate in the libations of fund raising.
    I have my answer; the Library remains.
    Slap some lipstick on it and call it a day.
    It is a beautifully designed building in a peaceful setting.
    Gets us downtown, where we run an errand or two, thus adding currency to the General Funds.

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    1. Sure. Whatever you say, 8:47.

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  6. Anyone else recall the disaster of having the YAC temporarily located in the old Christian Science Church on Highland ave.?
    The place was destroyed.
    The mixture of having a swimming pool and baseball field in the same location of a newly built technically advanced updated babysitting service, does not go over well with how my additional tax dollars will be further needed for constant repairs and replacements.

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  7. When it comes to saving the library and not selling that property I am an extremist.

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  8. I will bet this destruction will take place with out a vote by the residents of Sierra Madre at all, instead the little 'demigod's' sitting on the cities council will make the vote all by themselves? The Fix Is In..

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  9. This is not an honest survey for the outcome of the true feeling of the people of Sierra Madre who are, ostensibly, all users of the library.

    If I ask only people I want and/or expect to get a yes answer from then I will get the answer I want (no matter the question). This is a fraudulent pretense of the democratic process. A pox upon this process.

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    1. The city manager made a pretty good case for the integrity of the company hired to conduct the survey.

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    2. He said it was a good company. Of course, what city manager hasn't spoken nicely of the consultancies they've hired? I am taking a wait and see on this one.

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  10. We can't afford and we can live without a library. But we must never sell the land. We will surely need it for something in the future. And we will never be able to afford to buy land again.

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    1. True, 7:52.
      We should hold on to our most valuable assets, just like we would as individuals. That lands worth will only increase.

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  11. City Manager Gabe Engeland is such a breath of fresh air. What comes out of today's blog to me is how open the CM is. We would never get this kind of communication from past managers. Having met Mr. Engeland I think he is an educated man that is honest in his approach to our problems, a quick study and will not be corrupted.

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    1. Engeland has done something no other managers have done - he is communicating with the most politically aware part of the community. There are other places to find the city cheerleaders, but it's that Tattler that will connect Engeland to the thinkers.
      Thanks to Crawford.

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    2. Yes, thank you Crawford. Always enjoy reading your exchange of emails with the new CM. Compared with the last crew that ran the City...into the ground... Mr. Engeland has indeed been very impressive, especially considering what he walked into.
      I believe that the best idea is to spend the $1.3 million and renovate/fix the current library. Don't think selling the property is a good idea and we would some day regret it. I agree that technology has changed and that for some, libraries are no longer needed. But for our seniors and our kids it's important to keep the SMPL as a gathering place of learning and social interaction. Update the library to newer technologies and keep it where it is.

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  12. Someone mentioned here ages back that the library is part of the incorporation laws or bylaws or something and must me maintained unless the law is changed. Is this true?

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  13. It is absurd to say these postcards are being sent out randomly, and the reason some people are being left out is to save money. Companies like NRC pride themselves on being able to target desired constituencies and breakthrough what city governments regard as community resistance. Who does Engeland think he is fooling?

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    1. Why don't you ask him directly?
      I'm satisfied by the answer he gave the Tattler, but you clearly want more proof. You can actually talk to this guy.

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  14. There would certainly be an address list of all the library card holders. In the least all of them should get a post card. I have a library card but seldom use it. I like the idea of a library but am sending this via my cell phone, on which I just did medical research, while waiting for a doctor's appointment and I consider the WWW a library in my pocket.

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  15. 8:48am. Interesting question.
    I believe that fully incorporated refers to the health and safety, Police and Fire.
    If these were contracted out, Sierra Madre would no longer be fully incorporated.

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  16. If the only reason the Library requires the 3.9 million dollar price tag for new development, stick to the old and true 1.9 million.
    The budget just passed: 216-212, paving way for tax reform.

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    1. That's the part that confuses me - why is there the big push to pick the more expensive option? Aren't we hurting for money?

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    2. The more expensive option involves selling the property.

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  17. A community room is not necessary to having a Library, what is happening with common sense? Must be drinking this new water in town.

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  18. Why is the City legally bound to keep the sale of the Library dollars for a rebuild?
    Pay off what is needed first, then condense the Library.

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  19. The Library Board had the storage house that sat on that back property torn down. The lot has sat empty for years.
    Sell the lot. Repair the Library. Times are changing in how an individual experiences a Library; use that as a template.
    If the old management had not piggybacked all areas of commission's and combined the recreational with the Library, this need for a community center would not be on the boards wish list.
    Time for the new manager to begin the undoing of damage from past poor decision makers, and not to move forward with additional bad ideas.

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  20. The First Lady will be taking a larger role in fighting the Opiod Epidemic.
    Drug Addition is a disease.

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    Replies
    1. Drug Addition? Like 1+1=3?

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    2. The First Lady is a complete failure.

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  21. Oh snap, city manager called Crawford "exceptionally cynical." That's funny, and sometimes true. It's understandable, though, given the political history in town. There have indeed been terrible manipulations and betrayals in the political realm, and it would be foolhardy to not be suspicious.

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  22. President Trump is addressing the Nation:
    Deaths from gunshots, deaths from motor vehicles, deaths from Opiods. This epidemic is now the number one killer in the United States.
    Prevent abuse and addiction; Fentanyl, a synthetic version of Heroin, will be removed from the market place.
    The Government will be fighting the culture of drug abuse, fighting for a drug free life, fighting this epidemic.

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    1. I wonder how much money Big Pharma has given Trump. I'm sure the OxyContin supply will not be interrupted.

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    2. I'm sure Trump believes fighting the drug epidemic means shooting more black kids.

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  23. I would be curious as to how many people that visit our library are from Sierra Madre and what are the hours of their usage ? An updated library card holder list of those who have visited in the last 5 years would be helpful in determining the needs of the community. There are a lot of questions that should be asked.

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  24. 12:06pm. The needs were mentioned. An updated area for technology. A ADA compliance restroom (bi-gender/family).
    Reconfigure the basement book storage, have volunteers sell gently used books on line and create a "Friends of the Library" book store. If a section can be designated as "Community/Lecture" space; all the better.
    Sell the back lot, keep the iconic Library amongst those treasured Oaks.

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    1. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. You need to be real sure you wan to do this.

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    2. 3.9 million dollars? Outrageous.
      The Woman's Club, just one block from the Library has a beautiful community room available for a fraction of the costs asked by the Library Board of Trustees.

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  25. 12:34pm. I'm sure YOU would think that.

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    1. True. Trump is about as racist as David Duke.

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    2. 12:26, there is not one answer to the questions that 12:06 asked. Obviously you did not mean 12:06 but who were you answering?

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    3. The idiots have arrived!

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    4. It's OK. We saw you coming, 4:30.

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  26. 1:36pm. Ms. Duke; respect your Father!

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    1. You're so outrageous, Milo.

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  27. Community Room? Community Room? I don't need no stinnkin' Community Room! Or why don't we use the City Council Chambers for more lecture and movie presentations. Years ago the library had a program Travelers and xxxxx (I forget the other part of the title) which required them to move tables and chairs into viewing seating. The CC chambers could have been used as well as for other presentations. What a hopeless round of nonsense we are in again.

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