Yelm Mayor Ron Harding’s May 20th column in the Nisqually Valley News raised several “red flags”. While I am thrilled that a decision about Yelm’s library future was reached, some key questions now have arisen.
To quote the Mayor on May 20th:
“In the wake of the current economy, discussions even ventured to whether we would be able to afford a library, much lees one as nice as the current location…
“We have a long way to go before the deal is finalized. We will need to enter into an agreement to purchase the building under the proposed terms with the landowner, enter into a supporting agreement with Timberland. develop a condo agreement for the current site, and of course fund the purchase of the building itself.”
These facts highlight several issues on the immediate horizon:
1. Harding is on the record saying the city could only afford $600,000 to purchase the current facility, splitting the then $1.2 cost with Timberland Regional Libraries (TRL) being the only way to maintain the current level of service.
2. Mayor Harding said in his February 8th State of the City address to the Yelm Chamber of Commerce that outside financing will be required to purchase the current 2nd floor facility.
3. Harding’s proposal to split the library condo cost with TRL was presented in writing, as required in advance, to the TRL Board before their April 27th meeting. Emmett O’Connell, Trustee, Thurston County for TRL stated in a letter April 26th:
“Unless something changes about the current proposal, I will vote against it. I can’t speak for the rest of the board, but I don’t expect the proposal will be successful.”
4. Then on April 27th, Harding tells the TRL Board, without an advance document for the Board’s review, the city will alone purchase the current location for $1 million, after the owner lowered the price by $200,000.
Harding said he did NOT consult his own city council prior to announcing the $1m city-purchase offer, according to TRL’s Draft Minutes of the April 27th Board Meeting.
Harding said he was certain the council would go along.
REALLY? How does he know that? Are they all just “YES MEN”?
Can the mayor make such kind of major decision on his own, without consulting the public, his staff or his own city council?
Now, here is the key question which the taxpaying public has not been informed and deserves answers:
– If the City of Yelm is going to finance the library purchase via municipal bonds,
DOES THE CITY OF YELM HAVE THE CAPACITY TO FLOAT A MILLION DOLLAR BOND?
– If so, at what cost (interest expense) for the 20 year period of the note?
– The city currently has many financial commitments and the public has a right to know the city’s bonding capability!
– Kevin Brekke wrote this last week in the Casey Report:
“The Fitch report also raises concerns about the ability of a growing number of cities to repay their bonds and maintain access to credit markets at affordable rates should states continue to cut aid to cities. The pressure on the municipal bond market is likely to increase as a result. This is another area we continue to monitor.”
From Casey Research, LLC.
On April 20, 2011, Harding wrote this in a letter to TRL Board member Emmett O’Donnell:
“At the end of the day, residents should not be concerned that they might be forced to pay too much for library services or that we will lose our library altogether, because the City Council and I will not allow that to happen.
– The issue of e-books is a hot item right now and with more electronic media coming into our libraries nationwide, will we really need as large a space in the future when printed-book shelving requirements may decrease?
Read more from change.org.
– Charles Simic wrote this valuable op-ed in The New York Review of Books – “A Country Without Libraries”
Will Mayor Haring come back and tell us the city can not afford the cost of this library space?
– If the city cannot finance the purchase of the library, would Mayor Harding go the route of other cities in such circumstances and privatize Yelm’s facility?
Let’s hope not!
David Morris, Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., wrote this insightful piece on this very issue published by On the Commons.
AFTER ALL, IF THE MAYOR DOES NOT EVEN CONSULT HIS OWN CITY COUNCIL OR STAFF FOR SUCH A HUGE PURCHASE, WHAT ELSE DO WE, THE PUBLIC, NOT KNOW?
WE ARE ALL GOING TO HAVE TO BE AWARE OF HOW THIS PROGRESSES AND ASK QUESTIONS…
DID THE CITY PAY TOO MUCH FOR CLAPP’S CONDO?