Escondido, CA

Council votes 3-2 to move forward on library outsourcing

Tonight Escondido City Hall is packed with overflowing crowds. On command about a hundred people held up pieces of papers that said “libraries are sacred” and “librarians make a difference” to cheering.

This article is ongoing and updates are being made during the meeting by our Editor, David Ross. 

When City Mgr Jeff Epp began his presentation, he said the process had been very difficult for staff. When several people laughed, Mayor Abed admonished the public to treat speakers with respect.

Epp (dark coat) speaking

Epp did a slide presentation. The first one was a sign where someone had written “outsource Jeff Epp”.

He said he met that person. Epp said in the course of this process he met people who “have been one of the most vocal, polite and intelligent people I have dealt with.”

After the staff report, they turned over to Library Systems & Services, the proposed contractor.  When the audience interrupted, Abed once again spoke up, “we have 90 speakers. We need to hear from you. I’m not going to allow this meeting to be interrupted and interrupted.”

When the Chief Operating Officer of Library Systems & Services began speaking, he stated “Our motto is based on a true partnership”.

LS&S said “our ability to meet and exceed expectations” will help the city to sell a bond to 2/3 of voters.  They offer to expand hours from 51 a week to 69 and be open on Sundays.

Additional updates/public comment

  • A woman said she supports privatizing. Said when she complained that the metal detector was broken she was told theire wasn’t enough money. She said she was tired of all the communists in the library.
  • Jack Anderson of the Escondido Library Foundation stressed that the people whose support is needed for a bond to expand the library might be alienated. ” our board recommends the city staff with the same plan.”
  • Laura McKenney who retired as Escondido librarian six years ago argued against outsourcing “because of a loss of local control.” “This is an unconscionable loss of public control.”
  • A man: “I propose that we outsource the city mgr and city attorney, the highest paid in California.
  • Myra Ferguson, who said she has a masters degree: ” Would you want your children to be taught by hourly employees?”
  • “Would you like to be remembered as the mayor who turned the library into a warehouse that stores books” Said a woman
  • One man “you are going to pay the price at the next election but you don’t seem to care because you don’t think the people are noticing.”
  • Viktor Sjoberg, a senior librarian, electrified the audience with an impassioned plea that accused Abed of running a “public smear campaign” against the library staff by saying they lack passion. “Business is business and I understand that you will have to make some significant cuts but the way you are doing it is reckless and mean. City Mgr Epp had said’You can’t run a city based on emotion’ but I say You need to do it with compassion.”
  • Michelle Peralta, the library’s archivist said she has seen nothing in LS&S’s plan on how it would operate the library’s special Pioneer Room collection.
  • John Ward, president of the local Democratic Club said “I want to protect the last surviving library in Escondido from a corporate takeover.” He said he doubted that the council cares about public input or they wouldn’t schedule them at 4:30. “Is they city council really interested in hearing the public?” He added, “those of us who remember the demise of the demise of the East Valley Library are right to fear this council.”
  • Neal Griffin said he had never seen this level of passion from the public in 27 years. He said the decision ought to be an easy one: “listen to the people.”
  • Eric Carr: ” You want us to vote for a bond? You might as well ask us to vote for a new Charger stadium.”
  • Ron Geiss of the library board of trustees, was given 4 minutes. He listed 9 reasons for opposing outsourcing. Among them: the library would lose talented staff to outsourcing and uncertainty– that the city will lose local control– “its extremely difficult to pass a bond issue without having it opposed by a disgruntled group. — the city is in danger in losing the support of the Friends of the library who annually raise $75k. He concluded by saying that “the city could potentially give away too much for a small benefit.”
  • Paul McNamara, who is running against Abed for mayor, ended his statement with;”Your record is a very long list of bad decisions and this would be one more … the war to get yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.”

A deeply divided Escondido City council voted 3-2 to move forward with negotiations with Library Systems & Services to outsource Library services. Olga Diaz and Michael Morasco voted no. Many things are left up in the air by the vote, including a possible legal challenge. Check the T-A soon for more details.

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