Escondido, CA
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Court challenge to library outsourcing goes forward without TRO

Opponents collect signatures to create independent library district

A Superior Court judge last week denied the request for a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the City of Escondido from passing operation of the Escondido Public Library to the Library Systems and Services (LS&S,) which is scheduled to happen this week.

Alan Geraci, the attorney for the plaintiffs Roy and Mary Garrett, and for the Save Our Library Coalition, issued the following statement on the January 10 decision by Judge Earl H. Mass, III to deny the request to grant a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the implementation of the privatization of the Escondido Public Library:

Geraci told The Times-Advocate: “The case to stop the privatization of the Escondido Public Library will continue to move forward in the courts. I am confident in the merits and in the outcome of this important case. I’ve been fighting and litigating cases like this for three decades as a former San Diego deputy city attorney and currently as a consumer attorney.

“We are in the beginning phase of this case. Although we wanted the court to stop Escondido’s implementation of privatization of the public library pending litigation, we recognize the court’s role to balance equities at this early juncture.

“Now, the case proceeds on its merits. We will prove in court that the act of granting the private contract to Maryland-based LS&S to manage the public library violates the law in both spirit and intent,” said Geraci.

Besides working on the case pro bono for the plaintiffs, Geraci is also a candidate for the 75th Assembly District, trying to unseat incumbent Marie Waldron.

Meanwhile on Monday, the official hand-off date from direct city management to management by Library Services and Systems (LS&S) the Save Our Library Coalition (SOEL) announced its next moves, which include organizing to “help other communities defeat Library Services and Systems (LS&S) from taking over other libraries,” according to their press release.

SOEL has launched a new petition drive to qualify a measure for the ballot to create a new Independent Library District. The petition reads, “We, the undersigned, are calling for the creation of an independent library district that would remove all control of the library from the Mayor and City Council. Further, we will oppose any library bond until management of our library is returned to public control and a plan is in place to re-open an East Valley branch library.”

The opponents have also announced a “program of community library monitors.”  The volunteer “monitors” will make unannounced visits to evaluate how the library is operating.

SOEL wants to make sure that a library complaint system is implemented. In its press release the group says, “A particularly revealing exchange during the October contract hearing at city hall was when city staff could not answer the simplest question from Councilmember Olga Diaz about how complaints will be handled.  It was clear to SOEL that the city did not know how complaints would be addressed.  Slow response to problems was also cited in the reasons LS&S was dropped from Santa Clarita. SOEL will also encourage people to report any complaints to the city and to SOEL so that resolution of them can be tracked. Complaints can be filed here Community Library Complaint Form.”

Editor’s note: The Santa Clarita, California city council voted last week to end its current contract with LS&S.

SOEL has launched a new “Stop Library Outsourcing Website.” In its statement SOEL declares, “Sadly, the story of the hostile takeover of the Escondido Public Library is not an isolated one.  SOEL fully believes that LS&S will use the Escondido takeover as a launching pad to attempt to control other county and state public libraries. This new website (see below) shares information SOEL has found during our fight and makes it available for other communities who will be forced to fight to keep LS&S from taking over their library.  I wish we would’ve had access to information in a website like this when we began our struggle, so we hope it will help other communities.”

The group is also starting a voter registration drive targeting Mayor Sam Abed and councilmembers Ed Gallo and John Masson, who are up for reelection this November.

“It is now obvious to everyone, Mayor Sam Abed and Councilmembers Ed Gallo, John Masson, and Mike Morasco do not listen to the public and are not worthy to care for our public services,” said Brenda Townsend, a resident who was quoted in the press release.

“While we are disappointed in the failure of the TRO,” said Laura Hunter, an organizer with Escondido Indivisible, “we are even more energized, committed, and focused on Election Day, November 6, 2018 to achieve a new mandate for change in Escondido.”

Email saveescondidolibrary@gmail.com to be added to the Save Our Escondido Library Coalition information list.  You can also visit the Stop Library Outsourcing website at (www.escondidoindivisible.com) for more information.

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