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Your Local Public Library is Closed Today and Tomorrow—Here's What You Can Do About It

Measure L Aims to Increase City Funding for Libraries

The city's budget woes have hurt its public libraries with staff cutbacks and closed doors, but Measure L on Tuesday's ballot aims to give libraries more support by increasing city funding for libraries to a projected $130 million dollars each year.

The Public Library Funding Charter Amendment would give libraries a bigger share of property tax revenues through an amendment to the City Charter.

Libraries, in return, would be gradually required to pay a bigger share of expenses like salaries, pensions, equipment and building maintenance, so called "direct and indirect" costs, now coming from the city's General Fund.

Libraries, like many institutions, are having a tough time.

Last summer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council voted to limit libraries to a five-day-a-week service on Tuesdays through Saturdays. (Editor’s note: It must have been a tough choice—or else an extremely cynical one—for the mayor, who spent much of his youth reading books and studying in public libraries.)

The decision was historic, given that in its 139-year-history, the Los Angeles Public Library system has always remained open at least six days a week.

Morning and evening hours were also trimmed, and 328 staff positions—more than 25 percent of employees—were eliminated through attrition, layoffs and early retirements.

Then in January Governor Jerry Brown proposed a statewide budget to eliminate all state funding for public libraries—a total of $30.4 million.

All this turmoil has some wondering if it's the beginning of the end for free access to Internet, computers and printers as well as tutoring, literacy programs and, of course, books.

Over the last few weeks a great deal of statistics have been bandied about when it comes to what Measure L means, but none explain what the cuts have really meant to the libraries and their patrons. Some influential organizations, including the League of Women Voters, are urging people to vote no on Measure L, arguing that funds that would be earmarked for the libraries are needed to support police and fire services.

"I love the libraries, but what concerns me is that the city says it won't raise taxes [and] it is not talking about where the money will come from," said James O'Sullivan, President of Miracle Mile Association and an opponent of Measure L.

Sullivan was invited to convene with The Los Angeles Times before the paper published a recent editorial opposing the measure. "It's making a decision in the dark," he said of the measure. The Los Angeles Daily News also published an editorial opposing the measure, citing concerns over public safety.

"The measure could mean cuts to police, fire, parks and recreation, and street services," said Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul Weber in a statement. "Measure L simply mandates the movement of money from one pot to another and restricts its use."

Although the LAPD denied a request to comment, it is publicly known that Chief of Police Charlie Beck personally supports Measure L. So do all 15 L.A. City Council members.

The LAPL has responded strongly to the criticism that supporting Measure L could jeopardize public safety if less money is available for police. Library officials have said that the libraries play an intrinsic part in helping prevent crime by offering the city’s largest after-school program, providing children alternatives to gangs and drugs, assisting teens in preparing for college and helping adults and children learn to read. As many as 90,000 children visit the city’s libraries every week.

Susan R March 06, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Someone came to the Greater Cypress Park Neighborhood council to ask for support of this measure. The person said there would be no new taxes. When asked where the money comes from the person said, "it will come from the general fund". Someone else said, "is that the same general fund that is broke?" The person had no answer. How can the public ask for money for something when the city is broke and has no money. If more money is taken out of the general fund for libraries or any other issue money will have to be further cut from somewhere else. So, where would people like to cut? Police, firefighters, ect. Where? Where? No one wants to answer that question.
Kim Cooper March 06, 2011 at 06:55 PM
The confusion about how Measure L might impact taxes stems from a misunderstanding of a budgetary trick. Under no prior Mayor has LAPL been expected to pay to maintain 73 buildings. LAPL's budget is adequate for basic library services. It is not enough to pay to keep the lights on & water running at 73 separate facilities. Over the past 3 years, Mayor Villaraigosa has forced LAPL to use its limited funds to pay costs rightly those of the General Fund--and each year the bill has grown alarmingly. In FY 2008-09, the Mayor charged $3 Million to LAPL for maintenance. In '09-10, the bill rose to $11.7M. In '10-11, the Mayor clawed back $22M to top up a General Fund that had been depleted by waste and mismanagement. With this brutal cut, LAPL couldn't provide the services the community expects. This was the immediate cause of the Sun/Mon closures. Unless something is done to protect the libraries, next year will be worse. Measure L simply restores funds that have been allocated by the city's voters and ensures that this and future mayors can not use this politically powerless department as a piggy bank when more powerful departments blow through their budgets and leave L.A. broke. Measure L does the job that City Council has been afraid to do: say no to a Mayor who does not value the things that make Los Angeles a place we want to live. Please vote yes on Measure L and help fix a huge hole in our cultural life. Kim Cooper SaveLAPL http://www.savelapl.org
martin j vasquez jr March 07, 2011 at 05:10 AM
just let me tell all of you LOS ANGELES HAVE NO MORE MONEY thanks to all this crooks in city hall , who ever tell you another song is a crook and a liar , they have waste taxpayers money on there special interest and there GOD the unions ,sad times coming to los angeles GO TO VOTE and send this crooks in city hall to jail .

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