UPDATE: ‘Angry’ Council to Insist KCLS Board Drop Library Consolidation Plans


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by Ralph Nichols

A “very angry” Burien City Council insisted in a letter Tuesday (Nov. 29) [download PDF here] that King County Library System trustees back away from yet another attempt to close and consolidate North Burien libraries.

After suggesting changes to make its wording stronger, council members directed City Manager Mike Martin Monday night to send that letter to the five trustees and library system Director Bill Ptacek.

The trustees are scheduled to consider at their monthly meeting today (Tuesday, Nov. 29) the proposal to close the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries and consolidate those services in a new facility.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the King County Library System’s headquarters building in Issaquah (read more about that here).

Councilman Gerald Robison expressed “puzzlement” and “outrage” with the process used by library system staff for finding changing conditions to justify their recommendation against upgrading the two libraries.

And Councilman Jack Block Jr. said it is time for the King County Council to assume direct oversight of the largely unaccountable board of trustees and library staff.

Bond issue funded local improvements
A 2004 capital improvements bond issue, approved by voters throughout the county library system, included funds to build a new and larger White Center Library and to improve the Boulevard Park library.

But since 2007, Ptacek and his staff have slowed the pace for beginning these projects – and since 2009 have been coming up with reasons not to proceed with them.

One roadblock, according to Ptacek, was that both libraries would be too close to the Seattle City limits if Seattle annexes the remaining North Highline unincorporated area.

Burien City Councilmembers are "very angry" with the King County Library Board of Trustees.

Last winter, however, Seattle backed away from the city’s earlier plans for annexation.

Then, in late June, library system trustees voted 3-0 to place the consolidation proposal on hold until the question of whether Burien will annex North Highline is resolved.

Burien voted to proceed with annexation in October, and submitted its plan to the King County Boundary Review Board earlier this month. A hearing on that plan by the board is scheduled for early January.

Library staff tries again
Yet in mid-November, library system staff again raised the consolidation proposal. Ptacek noted that it may take at least a year for the question of annexation by Burien to be settled, and that construction costs are favorable in the current economy.

“Why the rush to get this done now, when we’re still working on annexation?” Robison asked in a direct challenge to library system staff at Monday’s meeting,

He added that the staff still hasn’t made public even how much the land for a new library building would cost.

“It just stinks to high heaven,” Robison said. “It’s outrageous. It looks like a plan to shut down libraries in North Burien.”

Councilman Jack Block Jr. noted that while the library system is building a new parking facility for Bellevue Library patrons, “many lower income people don’t have cars in White Center and Boulevard Park.

“Yet the King County Library System proposes to cut neighborhood services for people there, making it more difficult for them” to utilize libraries.

Library only zones?
Block urged his fellow council members to re-zone the two North Burien library locations for libraries only.

He also proposed asking the King County Council to consider oversight of the library system board of trustees, which is not elected and operates free from direct public oversight.

“It does not make sense for taxpayers to pay for two new libraries” less than two miles apart,” Councilwoman Rose Clark said. A consolidated library likely would be built within that distance from the two-year-old Burien Library.

Clark also said it is “reprehensible” that while Burien has a representative on the library system board of trustees – Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak – she doesn’t keep the city and the council informed about these actions.

"We're angry. We're very angry" – Mayor Joan McGilton.

In approving the letter to the library system, Mayor Joan McGilton concluded, “We angry. We’re very angry.”

Public opposition
Burien Planning Commissioner Greg Duff, who opposed Krakowiak in the general election, said there are “inconsistencies in the program review” by library system staff.

“What have they done with the money?” Duff asked. “They sold it to the citizens under the guise of rebuilding the White Center Library and remodeling the Boulevard Park Library.”

The Burien City Council needs to develop a strategy to represent the interests of Burien before the trustees, “which we don’t have now,” he added. “We won’t take this lying down.”

Barbara Dobkin, president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, expressed concern that the board of trustees is discussing the fate of the North Burien libraries “so far away from our community….

“Hopefully you will continue to support us” on this issue, Dobkin said.

And Liz Giba, who recently was elected a North Highline Fire District Commissioner, criticized the library system staff for operating in near secrecy.

“If it wasn’t for Rachel [Levine, president of the White Center Library Guild], we wouldn’t have known about this coming before the board. Suddenly there’s this new plan and new resolution, and we get to go to Issaquah [to oppose the pending action] again tomorrow night.”

UPDATE 11/30/11: Below is the text of the council’s draft letter, dated Nov. 29, 2011 (download full PDF of it here):

November 29, 2011

The Honorable Richard Eadie
President, Board of Trustees King County Library System
960 Newport Way NW
Issaquah, WA 98207

Dear Judge Eadie:

We learned recently that you and your colleagues will consider closing the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries to build a single facility at some other location. We are surprised and disappointed since you tabled the same proposal once already after an outpouring of public opposition. We know of nothing that has occurred since then that should cause you to change that position. We urge you to reject the idea, again, for the same reasons.

In our May 27th letter to you, we encouraged your Board to delay making this decision until the question of annexation of the North Highline area was resolved. Since then, the City has in fact voted to advance annexation and filed a formal “Notice of Intent” with the Boundary Review Board. In our letter we also wrote that if annexation does not occur, we would work with you to find a solution that is acceptable to our community.

When you asked for our community’s support in passing the $172 bond measure you advanced in 2004, you promised that both of these libraries would be improved, not closed. Now, contrary to your promise, virtually all public testimony and the wishes of the Burien Council, you are considering just that.

The King County Library Board is the only special district in the state whose members are appointed, not elected and you might have the ability to impose your will on the residents you are taxing, without their consent, on this matter. Nevertheless, we ask you to consider whether this extraordinary privilege requires yet greater deference to the wishes of your patrons, our residents, who were promised one thing and now are being told they must accept another.

Also consider the fact that both the Boulevard Park and White Center libraries are within Burien city limits; it is self-evident that the city of Burien should be deeply involved in this decision. For example, you may not be aware that one of the paramount reasons for annexation is to improve access to resources such as the libraries for our residents in general and our youth in particular. Advancing consolidation without addressing this issue is a major step backwards.

You might have the authority to make this decision unilaterally, but from the perspective of good governance, that would be a very bad idea. Please reject the idea, again, and please keep the commitment you made to the voters.

Sincerely,
Joan McGilton

Cc:

Burien City Council
King County Library System Board of Trustees
King County Executive Dow Constantine
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott
North Highline Unincorporated Area Council President Barbara Dobkin
King County Library System Director Bill Ptacek

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Comments

19 Responses to “UPDATE: ‘Angry’ Council to Insist KCLS Board Drop Library Consolidation Plans”
  1. skeptical says:

    Interesting. You show a picture of six council members, excluding Lucy Krakowiak. It looks like the picture was probably provided by the City. Also, the article does not quote Krakowiak, and it gives the impression she was not at monday’s meeting. (I haven’t watched the video, yet, so I don’t know.) Lucy won reelection by a wide margin after 5 or 6 council members openly endorsed her opponent. Krakowiak was against hiring Martin in the first place, and, if I recall correctly, did not vote to give him a free pass on his second (that we know of) DUI. I would like to read a story about what’s really going on at the City Council, and why they think it is appropriate or necessary to gang up on Lucy, a council member favored by the voters.

    Is Ralph Nichols a reporter? Or is he a paid staff member of Mike Martin, issuing any press release they want printed?

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    • Skeptical – Thanks for taking the time to Comment. The council photo is indeed one that the city has posted on its website. I don’t know why Lucy wasn’t in it. Please note that we are not “excluding” Lucy from the photo by any means, and we have no “agenda” against (or for) her. This is a story about libraries, and I think it’s fairly written. I was unable to attend or view Monday night’s meeting though, as I was helping my kids with their homework (argh!) so I don’t know if Ralph missed anything. None of the content within came from Mike Martin or a press release though – Ralph is a good Reporter, and I do my best to make sure he’s fair. But we’re only human, so if we are missing something, or are coming across like we have an agenda, please note that it’s not intended. Also, if you’d like to do a story for us, or write a Letter to the Editor (basically a Reader Editorial), you’re welcome to – please email me ([email protected]) and I’ll review it. Thanks, Scott Schaefer

  2. watching says:

    As a member of the Burien City Council, it seems to me Lucy would have to recuse herself from any action of the King County Library Board that deals with Burien or be in breech of ethics. That is probably why nobody has seen her shouting from the rafters like her detractors have been. This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been able to make her opinions clear to the other members of the Library Board privately. She was appointed to the library board after working hard for the library bond issue, so I think Lucy feels like the rest of us do – that you cannot have too many libraries. On the other hand, much as we would all like to see the Library Board keep its word, Burien really does have more libraries per capita than some of the other cities in the County. For example, Auburn has 60,000 residents and one library, and probably the same proportion of poor and disabled as Burien. So, shout on, Jack. Perhaps bluster will work.

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    • J Lutz says:

      Watching Lucy is paid by the City of Burien to represent ALL the citizens of Burien. She is a volunteer on the King County Library Board. Paid trumps volunteer. She does not have to recuse herself on any issue having to do with the King County Library Board. At the KCLB meeting tonight (Tuesday) Lucy did not speak up and defend the citizens of North Burien. Instead she gave her speach again about recusing herself.
      She deseerved exatly what she got last night.

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      • william Forest says:

        You obviously have it in for Lucy because she is against you pet project (the fiscally insane annexation of white center) Frankly I’d like to know why the city council of Burien is so gung ho about the rights of the residents of white center while they neglect the needs of the real residents of Burien.

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        • Hotrodgal says:

          William, the Burien City Council is “gung ho” about the rights of ALL the residents affected. Might I remind you that we, here in Boulevard Park, ARE real TAX PAYING residents of Burien.

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          • I saw a survey of the kids who use these libraries and it worked out to something like 60% of Boulevard Park Library kids were Burien residents. If not 60% it was close. As for the White Center Library it was about 40-50-ish % Burien kids.

            I’m looking for this survey, but can’t remember where I saw it as it was a while ago. Don’t quote me on the numbers until I can find that thing.

            Joey Martinez

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          • William Forest says:

            Hotrodgal

            The evidence does not bear out your claim that the city council is gung ho for all the residents of Burien.. The proposal to annex white center and the lack of oversight of the city manager being two cases in point.

            One of the libraries in question IS IN WHITE CENTER.. Last I checked White Center was not part of Burien.

            I am neither for or against consolidation but it seems to me the voice from the unincorporated area resonate more with the current council than with the majority of the rest of the city of which boulevard park is only a part.

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          • William Forest says:

            Yeah right Joey.. You are always full of ad hoc numbers that have no basis in reality or any real docmented facts to back them up.

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          • jim clingan says:

            In fact, Mr. Forest, the White Center Library is in Burien. Your not knowing where the library is causes me to wonder if you are a resident of Burien. This particular library is in what is now called North Burien.

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          • Hotrodgal says:

            William, my mention of “gung ho” was a play on words from your previous post: “Frankly I’d like to know why the city council of Burien is so gung ho about the rights of the residents of white center while they neglect the needs of the real residents of Burien.”

            I was simply pointing out, using your own phrase, that the Burien City Council is not neglecting the residents of Burien and are, in fact, backing the wishes of the library patrons.

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          • Feral dog says:

            *WOOF*

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  3. I used to be an employee of the city of Auburn (2001-2005) and know the area very well.

    I can say that Auburn, pre-annexations as well as Pre-PUD (Planned Urban Development), was very well served by the Library in Auburn. Those Auburn residents who were not well served by the Auburn Library had other options. The Muckleshoot and Algona/Pacific Library were very close and viable options to them.

    Another thing we have (North Highline and North Burien) is a higher percentage of persons in poverty. Council member Robison did some research and found that there is 50 times more low-income and public housing units than Bellevue, if I remember correctly. So maybe, just maybe, the County owes this area something.

    I know from experience, and have shared at the most recent council meeting as well as the KCLS board meeting tonight, my first hand account of what a library close by for impoverished kids means. In short, it means a greater chance to self-educate and better yourself while staying out of trouble.

    Joey Martinez

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  4. VERY TIRED says:

    It seems to me that if you cannot afford to maintain the status quo, it has to change. This is a recession. Hard choices have to be made. If the libraries cannot continue to operate on their own, then they must be consolidated or be closed. Economics trumps the wants and demands of people who think money grows on trees. It doesn’t. As tax revenues go down, the funding for the library will naturally decrease. We have had 3 1/2 years of misery under the current government, and we have to come to terms with the current realities that face us. The private sector has had to sacrifice, and now it is time for the public sector to take it’s lumps.

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    • Hotrodgal says:

      Very Tired,
      No one has said the libraries can’t continue to operate on their own.
      I know nothing about the White Center library and have no interest in researching it.
      I do, however, have a vested interest in my local Boulevard Park library.

      The property the library sits on is zoned for governmental use and, as such, the costs of its use would either fall on the shoulders of Burien or KCLS. Currently, the operational costs of the library come from KCLS and/or the 2004 bond money. Replacement of the library would simply shift the overhead to a new location plus sharing the additional cost of purchasing land and building the new facility.

      You can bet your bottom dollar that, in at least the current financial climate, maintaining the current library is far cheaper than building new and moving it.

      BTW-I also think that your comment “We have had 3 1/2 years of misery under the current government….” would be better aired outside this blog. I am sure there are more appropriate places for you to express your dissatisfaction with the United States government.

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      • VERY TIRED says:

        My comment about the current affairs has as much to do with the local area as the people who made decisions nationally. We would not be in the mess we are all in right now without their “sage wisdom”.

        I am sorry to say, but sometimes it takes the grown-up to tell the children to straighten up. I don’t like the idea of closing down libraries, but it may have to be done. Deal with it, and move on. If you think that wringing your hands and getting riled up over it will help, it won’t.

        You want to know what you can do to improve the financial situation? Donate to your libraries, if you feel so inclined.

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  5. Very Tired, I agree with you on what you said. KC Council Member Joe McDermott said, in part, that a bigger White Center library would have the type of circulation and visitors to be cost effective.

    Also, Several speakers, including Burien electeds stated that it would be cheaper on the KCLS CIP to rebuild and remodel those libraries than it would be to build a consolidated library – about 2 miles from the current Burien Library on or near 128th.

    I’ve not yet had a chance to do my own analysis but it sounds like if we want to save money, like you’ve stated, we rebuild and remodel what we’ve currently got.

    Joey Martinez

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    • VERY TIRED says:

      Thank you for your reply, Joey. It is great to see that someone sees where I am coming from here.

      No one wants to close libraries. No one thinks it is a good idea, but these are not normal times. Cities, counties, and states are struggling, due to the decline in tax payments. This is only because our economy is on the ropes. People can’t find work because of inane policies from our federal government, and this trickles down to the rest of us.

      I think in the interest of keeping the whole preserved, we have to make unpopular decisions like adults, and stop getting emotional and mealy mouthed over this situation. Think rationally, act rationally. When the economy improves, then we can work on building local infrastructure, if it is indeed needed.

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  6. J Lutz says:

    William, William William You said last you checked White Center was not in Burien. You got that right. Unfortunately you said some factoids AGAIN. The White Center and Boulevard Park Libraries are in the City of Burien and the Burien City Council should be fightting to save them. You probably should not accuse Joey of throwing out ad hoc numbers that have no basis in reality or documents to back them up. You do that all the time!!!! I do like it when you go off on one of your rants, William, because I always get a good laugh when you throw out a factoid. Some of my friends even email me at work to tell me the latest factoid you throw out there. Thanks, William, and keep up the good work.

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