Friday, October 20, 2017

Council Outsources Library: End 123 year tradition to make the Escondido Corporate Library

A very sad day for our city. 
  
Escondido City Council Breaks 123 Year Tradition of
Public Operation of Escondido Library, votes to Outsource Remaining Library
Council Votes to Export Tax Payer Funds out of state to LS&S corporation, hedge-fund

Escondido City Hall: For the second time, Mayor Sam Abed and the councilmen on the city council ignored the unanimous recommendation of Library Trustees and a petition from over 4,000 residents by voting to outsource the Escondido Public Library.  Over 125 people demonstrated outside of City Hall and attended the City Council meeting yesterday afternoon in opposition to a proposed contract to outsource the city’s sole remaining library to for-profit, venture-capital-owned library outsourcing company, LS&S.  Dozens of citizens spoke during the public comment period, citing concerns ranging from the length of the contract to the lack of specific accountability measures. Nevertheless, the City Council voted 4 to 1 in favor of signing the contract, with Councilmember Olga Diaz being the sole dissenting vote.
Diaz stated, “We will mourn the loss of what we had forever”.
Councilman Morasco abandoned his earlier opposition position and rejoined the rest of the Councilmen, locking the city into a 10-year contract with LS&S.
This is the first library in San Diego County to fall to the LS&S corporation.
This vote and the way it was promoted should be of concern to all residents of Escondido.  Relevant documents were hidden from the decision-makers, overwhelming evidence produced of problems at other LS&S libraries was discounted, and the Council ignored their own advisors, the Escondido Library Board of Trustees, in pursuing this path.
Concerns citizens voiced about the contract at the meeting included:
·         That allowing LS&S to manage the library with public funds without transparency is not supported by state law which states the Library Board of Trustees should manage the library.
·         The 10-year length of the contract. Originally the public was told this would be a 5-year contract.
·         LS&S staffing policies. One speaker read from comments of LS&S employees, who have complained about low and stagnant wages, poor benefits, and low morale. Another questioned how LS&S can make our library better using fewer, less qualified staff than we have now.
·         Questions about the accuracy of the calculation of the supposed financial savings.
·         Serious concerns about problems with staff and finances that emerged in Jackson County, OR, once LS&S (formerly LSSI) was bought out by a private equity firm.
·         Lack of specificity in the contract. One speaker, who said he worked as a specialist in contracting for 30 years, said he was alarmed by the lack of specific goals, objectives, roles, responsibilities, and tasks in the contract, and ways to measure if goals were met and tasks completed.
·         The failure of the contract to include the usual indemnification of the city against legal action and termination clauses that are clear and protective of the city’s interest.
“Even if some City Councilmembers are not opposed to the idea of outsourcing in general, this contract has so many problems and questions, it is their duty to think carefully and make sure our city isn’t being taken advantage of,” said Escondido resident Shelley Spisak. “It doesn’t seem like they have done their due diligence as our elected representatives.”
The flaws in the contract are significant. City Attorney McGuinness struggled to answer the most basic operational questions from Ms. Diaz such as how a complaint from a patron will be handled. The contract also uses tax dollars to pay a purchasing fee to LS&S and caps their expenses for energy to run the buildings. LS&S is also guaranteed a 3% increase each year of the contract, not to mention the considerable corporate profits which have been 30% of tax payer funds paid elsewhere.
A letter from Ms. Cathy Shaw, a current Board member in Jackson County Oregon, was rife with challenges her district was facing under LS&S, and warned “Think long and hard about this decision. Once made, the lack of transparency of the private equity firm will make a return to a community-held asset difficult to recreate. And if a decision of this magnitude is forced upon an unwilling and unreceptive community, the backlash may be swift and decisive.”
As one speaker testified in speaking against the contract, “If you do support this, remember we all sit at the table of consequences.” 
“Having lived through this experience, this is now about more than just saving the library, it is about saving Escondido from this failed leadership,” stated Laura Hunter, an organizer with Escondido Indivisible. “Our members will now look to the elections in 2018.”  
Litigation is also under consideration.  Any readers interested in donating to the Library Defense Fund should email saveescondidolibrary@gmail.com.






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About Save Our Escondido Library Coalition: The coalition was formed by local Escondido community groups and residents in response to the City of Escondido’s move to consider privatization of the Escondido Public Library. The coalition seeks to educate themselves and the public and to provide a conduit for Escondido residents to voice their concerns.







Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Last chance to save Escondido Library. Attend October 18 City Council meeting

This is it everyone. The last chance we have to save our Escondido Library. Library Last Vote Oct 18 Flyer

Help us Save our library
Attend October 18 City Council meeting

Wednesday, October 18

Rally in front of City Hall at 3:30

Final vote hearing at 4:30 PM

 201 North Broadway, Council Chambers

Escondido


Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and Councilmembers Ed Gallo and John Masson voted to move forward to outsource operations of the Escondido Public Library to the private, for-profit, out-of-state corporation Library Systems and Services (LS&S) which specializes in taking over failing libraries. But, ours isn’t failing. Outsourcing would spell the end of our library as we know it.  The final decision will be made Oct. 18 and will be in effect for at least 10 years.

Please attend this hearing and join over 3,000 residents already opposing outsourcing the library because: 
·    We would lose local control of an important city resource.
·    Our local tax $$ would go to a corporate organization in Maryland, not stay here in our community.
·    No alternatives (there are many) were publicly evaluated so that the best option could be selected.
·    This action will further divide the community and erode support for a bond for a new library.
·    This action will cause a loss of volunteers, donations, and skilled library personnel.
·    Outsourcing is opposed by the Escondido Library Board of Trustees and American Library Association.
·    The contract is for 10-20 years and is too vague to be effectively monitored.

Our library is more than a building; it is the programs and people who make it the soul of the community. We need to preserve our library as a true community resource, responsive to the needs of our residents.  Outsourcing is the WRONG way to go.

The final vote is Wednesday, October 18 at 4:30

CONTACT Mayor Sam Abed, Ed Gallo, and John Masson.
Email city council here                Email them all at once using this link:   https://www.escondido.org/city-council-contact-us.aspx  

Ask them to:
  • ·         VOTE NO on the LS&S contract.
  • ·         Ask for alternatives at least from current library department and county through a public process.
  • ·         Impanel a Budget Committee to develop a comprehensive, sustainable plan to address the pension crisis and the paydown of pension liability

ATTEND COUNCIL MEETING
Wednesday, October 18, 4:30 PM
201 North Broadway, Council Chambers
Escondido

TALK to your friends and neighbors and ask them to attend.  Help Save our Library services!  
   

Friday, September 22, 2017

Draft South Centre City Area Plan out for Southern Escondido - Comment period open

Escondido is seeking input on a new draft South Centre City Area Plan .
Please take a look at this and provide your input.

Per the city website, the South Centre City planning area is located in an area that is described by the General Plan as a future growth area (also called Target Area).  The South Quince Street Target Area, South Escondido Boulevard Target Areas, and the Centre City Parkway Target Area are identified in the City's General Plan (Target Areas C, D, E, and F).  These interconnected Target Areas comprise approximately 420 acres of Escondido’s more established and older sectors of the city and extends 2.25 miles along Centre City Parkway and Escondido Boulevard. 
The overall effort to create a South Centre Center Area Plan, called Envision South Centre City, will culminate into something that is called a "specific plan."  A specific plan is a planning document that consists of new zoning standards and design guidelines for a specific area of the city.  Zoning standards define the allowable uses and bulk or scale of development, while design guidelines address the appearance and quality of development. 
City staff has been working with various residents, businesses, and community members over the past two (2) years to develop a draft specific plan to facilitate the development of residential, commercial, and industrial properties in response to the needs and wants of the community.  If approved, the new specific plan would effectively establish a link between implementing policies of the General Plan and the future, individual development proposals within the South Centre City planning area.  With a focus on the neighborhoods surrounding Quince Street, South Escondido Boulevard, and Centre City Parkway in southwest Escondido, the South Centre City Specific Plan would bring together detailed regulations into a focused development scheme to improve community health, safety, sustainability, and economic prosperity, while respecting the unique character of South Centre City and preserving the community values of southern gateway character.