In what I will simply call a bizarre move, Mayor Kevin Romick is pushing forward a plan on behalf of the Friends of the Oakley Library that will approve a Special Mail-In Ballot for May 7, 2013. If passed, would move the library into the CentroMart Building. This item was placed on Tuesdays City Council Agenda which should be rejected at this time because the process has not even been property vetted.
Over the last few months, the City and public has been provided with information about what the Library would like to do, but nothing concrete in terms of a plan or specifics. There has also not been a true forum to discuss this plan or specifics that have been provided for public review.
What should happen is the Friends of the Oakley Library share their results, present a plan, potential timeline, and whatever other information they want to share and the council asks questions. Then a public forum is held to further discuss this issue outside of a council meeting. Then it should be on the agenda for a council vote on whether or not to spend the $92,000 for a Mail-in Vote.
Instead, all of a sudden there could be a vote on really pushing this forward to a ballot without open dialogue or true public review? This is a fraud of a process.
Hell the polling isn’t even legitimate, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
In what they are calling a “Library Improvement Parcel Tax”, it would require a 2/3 majority vote to pass which would create an annual $52 parcel tax in place for 30-years to fund a library which also increases its hours of operations. On top of that, there is a 2% inflator to assist with cost of living increase.
The sad part in this, it comes at a cost of $92,000 out of our General Fund for the Mail-in Ballot which offers no protection to the residents of Oakley. This process is being rushed, there is no transparency in the process, and Mail-in Ballot highlights how desperate the City Staff and the Friends of the Oakley Library are.
You see, vote by mail is the only way this thing could potentially fly because it’s a way to ensure supporters vote, but those opposed may or may not vote—it increases their odds of passage. When people actually go to the polls, this thing is likely killed and $92,000 is cleaned out of our general fund.
In retrospect, the staff report is claiming that the $92,000 or a portion of it will be paid back by the Friends of the Oakley Library only if it passes. Okay, prove this by releasing the Friends of the Oakley Library Financials to show they have a track record of funds available and could raise that type of money. If it fails, the City will cover the cost—this is not responsible government.
If the Friends of the Oakley Library really want to do this, let them pay for it. Not the city! The Council should only agree to move forward if the Friends of the Oakley Library fund no-less than 66% of the cost win or lose to coincide with the 2/3 majority needed to pass.
Let me say that a Library is a great idea, but not this plan and not funded through a parcel tax. There has to be a better way or a better solution. I have nothing against library’s, but an honest debate has to occur before even thinking of pushing this forward.
So let’s go through what the City is trying to pull on Tuesday at its upcoming City Council Meeting as this item was placed on an agenda yesterday in which the City Offices were closed. They are also closed on Monday so no real questions could be asked prior to the meeting.
Biased Survey & Results Remain Hidden
In what I would call the most biased survey I’ve seen in a long time, they are claiming wide spread support while they have not released the entire results of the survey. This survey should have been released in full on this staff report—it was not. The council should actually remove this item from the agenda due to this oversight.
According to the Staff Report, the Friends of the Oakley Library sent out 500 surveys and received 160 responses—it should be noted, it’s not broken down by returned survey or via online survey. However, they claim 73% of responses support the library.
Sounds great doesn’t it? However, the survey did not allow residents to flat out reject the library proposal—meaning the results are not a true representation of people’s feelings.
Instead, we get to read the following statement:
The Friends of the Library will be available at the meeting to discuss the survey results further, but of the over 160 responses, 73% of those responding indicated support for a $3, $4, or $5 per month parcel tax to pay for the relocation and expansion the Oakley Library to the former CentroMart building. Certainly, more education regarding the proposal is needed; however, the support for the project is significant.
First of all, the only options available were to select $3, $4, or $5. Survey takers were not allowed to select $0 or I do not support the funding of this project through a parcel tax. Second, 160 survey takers out of 36,000 Oakley residents is not wide spread support—this is a lazy effort by both City Staff and the Friends of the Oakley Library to gauge support.
The survey should have been released in full, not a minor overview with skewed results presented to improve the appearance.
CentroMart is Biased Selection
The City is running with the analysis done by the Friends of the Oakley Library which they concluded CentroMart is the best choice. They looked at three locations:
- Sherriff’s Delta Sub Station
- Moura Property (South of O’Hara Park Middle School)
The problem is, the City never got a second, or even third, opinion entered into the debate. They received one biased opinion and are running with it. Just because the Friends of the Oakley Library want CentroMart, it doesn’t make it a good idea.
Downtown Library is a Liability
Let me first start off this section by stating Kevin Romick will be breaking a campaign promise if he pushes this forward. He promised economic development for Oakley. A library is not economic development as it costs Oakley jobs, reduces potential tax revenue, and increases liability for the City.
A library now takes prime retail space downtown which is an asset to the city (whoever ends up there), and turns it into a liability because you now have lost potential revenue in tax dollars. This idea of driving traffic to downtown because of a library is flawed. Library attendance has decreased over the years thanks to the internet.
Simply put, CentroMart should only be reserved for retail which could make the city money through tax dollars.
Re-Bid the Building
The City of Oakley has only put the CentroMart building up for bid once. In the many months since the DG Market fiasco, the building has sat idle as City Manager Bryan Montgomery and Mayor Romick have worked behind the scenes to push forward this library boondoggle.
Note to city staff, we already have a library! Sure, we may not like the size or location. But the reality is we don’t have enough tax revenue and we need retail.
If the City was on the ball, they would have already put this facility up for bid a second time to coincide with the RDA sell off. More to the point, has anyone actually been on the other side of Main Street standing at Carpaccios entryway? It’s a different world over there full of potential.
My bet is that if this was put back to bid with some real effort and not a lazy effort by city staff, you would probably get 6-10 solid bids for the building.
We have seen what City has done with the Carpaccios and La Costa buildings and how they are behind schedule. We have seen the Main Street Construction Project behind schedule. I can continue to go on but you get the point.
Do you really think a library will be completed with whatever timeline they present? I doubt it. The bid will probably be given to Ascent Builders (as usual) with no timeline restrictions.
Public Safety First
I am not saying a new library is a bad thing, I am saying this library plan is a bad one. I would much prefer to see a parcel tax dedicated to public safety first because without appropriate public safety, it puts the entire community at risk. Was $197 a little much? Probably But there is no reason why a $50-80 parcel tax for fire service could not be passed.
As ECCFPD President, Kevin Romick should know better than to play both sides of fire and a library. I would encourage voters to encourage him to pick one because he can’t have both—one will pass or both will fail because that is just the economic environment we live in. My guess is since he is dropping from ECCFPD in April, he is full steam ahead on a library.
Campaign Against a Library Parcel Tax
So while the Friends of the Oakley Library state they will begin a extensive advocacy campaign on behalf of this parcel tax for library, I will do the same to defeat it. After all, they need 66.6%, I only will need 33.3%.
If anyone would like to join me, you can email me at email@example.com and we can begin coordinating.
Ultimately, this library parcel tax vote is being rushed through without much thought or consideration to the big picture of downtown Oakley. This agenda item stinks and it doesn’t pass the smell test. It goes to show you the lengths that City Manager Bryan Montgomery, Mayor Romick and the Friends of the Library will go to in order to try and sneak this one though with a May 7 mail-vote.
The Mayor and City Staff are gutless in telling the Friends of the Oakley Library this is a terrible idea and now they are potentially about to be reckless with $92,000 of taxpayer money for a Mail Ballot that will likely fail.
The reality is this. A parcel tax to fund the building of an equestrian center makes a hell of a lot more sense because at the very least, that can become a revenue generator for the City while a library becomes an instant money pit and a liability.
I applaud the Friends of the Oakley Library for working towards their goal as they should be doing. I support their dedication to this idea, I just don’t agree with them. However, shame on City Staff, Bryan Montgomery and Kevin Romick for pushing this item on parcel owners for this boondoggle.
‘This one ain’t going to turn out pretty!
Email the Council and encourage them to reject this proposal and slow down:
Kevin Romick – Mayor
Phone: (925) 625 – 7007
Carol Rios – Vice Mayor
Phone: (925) 625-7007
Randy Pope – Councilmember
Phone: (925) 625-7007
Diane Burgis – Councilmember
Phone: (925) 625-7007
Doug Hardcastle – Councilmember
Phone: (925) 625-7007
By Michael Burkholder