Escondido, CA

Kabuki Theater of the Library Vote


The library outsourcing vote, which will have happened by the time you have read this article, has acquired a Kubuki theater quality.

Kubuki theater, as you may know, is traditional theater in Japan where everything is choreographed to the nth degree and there are no surprises. The enjoyment comes from seeing something that is a known quantity acted out with skill and finesse. You don’t attend Kubuki theater in order to be surprised.

I won’t say the meetings about the library vote have been entirely without drama or surprises, but the process has acquired something of the choreographed theatrical production.

That’s as true of the people opposed to the library outsourcing “Save Escondido Library,” as it is of the city staff and the mayor and his party. Everyone has his part to play—and plays it.

Count me as completely mystified why anyone has ever thought that “signs, banners, and chants” or candlelight vigils, when it comes to that, have ever accomplished anything. I’m equally skeptical about petitions, especially when they let anyone, whether an Escondido resident or not, sign them. People will sign just about anything, usually without reading it. Color me cynical.

People who are impressed by signs, banners and chants have already decided what stand they are taking on the library outsourcing, whereas there is a significant number of people in this Republican majority city who take one look at the protestors and say to themselves, “Ewwww! Whatever they are for, I’m against!”

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t do petitions and demonstrations if it makes them feel good, but they shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking it actually achieves a concrete goal. It certainly doesn’t make new friends and tends to cement the opposition in place. And I do think the opposition to the library outsourcing could have chosen a wiser strategy since they are playing right into the mayor’s hands, whose palms I envision rubbing together like Mr. Burns’s from the Simpsons while he exclaims “Excellent!”

The Kubuki theater aspect of this process comes up with the fantasy that anyone at this point would ever change their mind, no matter what the evidence.

Donald Trump famously declared that he could shoot someone in Times-Square and a significant portion of his supporters wouldn’t be fazed by it. One gets the definite impression that evidence for or against the library outsourcing isn’t really part of the process any more. If the CEO of LS&S were to be caught on video with a bloody knife over a corpse, the city staff would probably say, “We’re monitoring this closely to see if the blood DNA matches” and if a dozen little children from the Temecula library marched into city hall and sang that LS&S taught them all to read at a 12th grade level, the coalition would probably snipe: “Do we know that they are really children, rather than dwarves, and how do we know they live in Temecula?”

The city discounts any criticism it hears of LS&S because there are so many others who have positive things to say. I question this approach. If I hire someone to fix my car, I’m far more interested in hearing from the dissatisfied customer than from the satisfied customers. Once again, I’m a cynic.

The fact that the city has only posted items on the website that favor LS&S and hasn’t posted anything that doesn’t favor it, such as, for example, former interim director, library and community services Cynthia Smith’s scathing assessment of LS&S, tends to make my argument.

I’m mystified why the city budget has suddenly reached the crisis point that it requires this contract with LS&S, but the rest of the budget doesn’t require the same kind of major surgery. As I have written before, if things are this bad, why not put a spending and hiring freeze in place? Instead, just a month ago, the city added a deputy city manager, a post that hadn’t been filled in several years.

On the other hand, you can’t  dismiss out of hand all of the public officials who have worked with LS&S and like what they do—which is what the coalition does.

So, at this point, no one is listening to anyone’s arguments anymore, and both sides are talking past each other.

One council member, Ed Gallo, complained at a recent meeting that the library issue was going to become a “political football” in next year’s elections—as though that is a bad and unfair thing. All things controversial become political footballs in elections, because, as Mr. Dooley said, “politics ain’t beanbag.” As well they should. Anything that any elected official does should be subject to being thrown back in his or her face.

Is that fair? No. But what’s fair about an election?

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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