Maria Elena Durazo and Richard Riordan Lead Mixed Coalition on Measure L, To Save Los Angeles' Shuttered Libraries
Finally, a big coalition is urging approval of Measure L on the March 8 ballot, which would save the decimated Los Angeles public library system from anti-library Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who, as mentioned in the past, reads mostly menus.
Measure L, sponsored by Councilman Bernard Parks, undoes Villaraigosa's attack on libraries, reopening 73 of them on Mondays and maybe Sundays. Measure L boosts the libraries' share of existing funds. The $8 million to $10 million should come from Villaraigosa's record-high staff of 220 aides who accomplish nada, and from the 20-person entourages of the ineffective L.A. City Council. Here's why:
Last year's severe slashing of library workers and funding, and the mayor's scheme of forcing the 73 libraries to pay the wealthy and conniving Department of Water and Power for library lighting and heating, has resulted in:
Library hours cut 3 times in the past 12 months; library service cut from 7 days a week to 5 days a week for the first time in the Library's 139-year history; Library staff cut by 28%; and reductions in the Library's services and book purchasing budget.
Villaraigosa and the City Council were the subject of severe nationwide criticism following L.A. Weekly's Sept. 16, 2010, cover story by Patrick Range McDonald, "City of Airheads: Villaraigosa Dismantles L.A.'s Vaunted Library System, Mirroring Detroit's Disastrous Choice."
Top library leaders credited McDonald's "Airheads" story for prompting the ballot measure by deeply embarrassing the 15-member City Council, which blows $1 million to $2 million each on its staffs. (Way to go, Mr. McDonald.)
Not a big reader, Villaraigosa's unprecedented budget attack on libraries turned L.A. into the only significant U.S. city -- except sad sack Detroit -- to darken its grand Central Library two days out of seven.
Again, Los Angeles is the only significant city closing its main library twice weekly. The only city.
Bernard Parks, former chief of police, was so disturbed by the details in the "Airheads" story that he pleaded with his colleagues to support his idea, Measure L. They agreed, because they had no choice after being outed in "Airheads."
Today, L.A. is an ugly example of municipal-level politicians butt-protecting their own comfy nests of taxpayer cash while siphoning money away from core city services.
Villaraigosa is the highest-paid mayor in the United States, at about $230,000. He pours millions into his huge personal entourage and about a dozen deputy mayors -- both at record-high funding levels far above mayors James Hahn and Richard Riordan.
Moreover, the $20 million to $23 million spent by the City Council members on their entourages and personal perks is enough money to reopen every library seven days a week. And leave enough for each council member to maintain small staffs with real jobs instead of padded jobs.
Then there's the mayor's secretive, and almost certainly ineffective, Gang Reduction Youth Development project, or GRYD.
The $19 million to $25 million in taxpayer money spent annually on GRYD could reopen every L.A. library -- and still have about $10 million to $15 million left for the mayor's ego project, GRYD.
GRYD is a great place to get the money for the libraries.
But every time crime drops in bad L.A. neighborhoods -- which is happening in almost every city nationwide -- Villaraigosa drags out the LAPD brass to use soft data and stretched logic to claim that GRYD is the reason. It's been awful to watch.
But let's not forget the City Council's role in all this. McDonald's disturbing "Airheads" story detailed how Villaraigosa launched a major assault on the library system's budget without a fight from the City Council.
No other major U.S. City Council failed to fight back. For example, the New York City Council fought strongly, and stopped Mayor Michael Bloomberg from making severe library cuts.
And no other significant American city boasts a backwards City Council that protects a $19-$25 million pet project like GRYD while shuttering public libraries needed by all.
(GRYD's in the news because one of its adult "managers" -- Blanca Martinez-Navarro -- apparently attacked an LAPD cop at a bar the other day.
The secrecy surrounding GRYD is going to be increasingly challenged by the media and the public -- especially now that the mayor's system for choosing "managers" has been thrown into doubt.)
While GRYD claims to be helping up to 5,000 kids yearly -- no actual proof of that claim exists -- L.A. public libraries are turning away up to 19,000 school children every day that they are closed.
That 19,000 figure comes from city library officials who surveyed daily youth usage of LA libraries before the big closures started.
The worst hurt? Children and families in South Los Angeles and the Eastside, where kids use libraries as a safe haven from gangs and other jerks. This thanks to Villaraigosa, with his $230,000 salary and vast staff of do-nothings.
The new coalition says:
For over 100 years the Library has had a Charter guaranteed funding stream; however, the funding has not been adjusted in decades as the demand for library services has skyrocketed. Measure L will not require residents or property owners to pay any new taxes or fees and all funds are subject to strict fiscal accountability and audits.
The coalition is made up of a bunch of powerful business, union and police leaders.
They include LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, former Mayor Richard Riordan (who in stark contrast to Villaraigosa insisted on boosting funding to libraries during an economic downturn), the LA County Federation of Labor, Los Angeles Business Council and others.
Among those jumping in to back Measure L are the Librarians Guild AFSCME Local 2626, AFSCME Local 3090, The Los Angeles NAACP, LA Valley College President Emeritus Tyree Wieder, YWCA of Greater Los Angeles CEO Faye Washington, Families in Schools President Maria Casillas and, naturally, librarians citywide.
Measure L does not raise taxes or fees.
Measure L redirects a very modest portion of the city's huge general fund to the libraries so they stop getting screwed by Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council.
The ultimate goal is to reopen all 73 libraries two days a week.
But on the conservative side, proponents say "Measure L will provide these neighborhood libraries with the additional funding they need to help restore library service hours to at least 6 days a week, purchase books and support library programs including literacy and after-school programs."
Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said in a prepared statement: "we cannot wait to provide funding to our local libraries. We rely on neighborhood libraries for after-school, literacy and job-search programs."
Mary Leslie, prez of the Los Angeles Business Council, said in her prepared statement: "In these tough economic times, job-seekers are heading to their neighborhood libraries in greater numbers" seeking librarians' help with "basic computer instruction, adult literacy, resume writing and to improve their English-language skills."
Most Angelenos may not realize that the city libraries run L.A.'s largest after-school program, and "Student Smart," which helps kids pass the PSAT/SAT tests and apply to college, as well as "Live Homework Help" which pairs students with online tutors.
Not to mention "We Read Together," which is aimed at infants and toddlers and their parents, and builds up crucial early-literacy skills that lots of poor children normally don't learn at home.
Some folks think the Los Angeles Public Library System librarians are significantly more effective than the Los Angeles Unified School District in helping kids with homework, preparing for college testing and grasping early reading.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.