Friday, March 30, 2012

Mayor & CAO Recommend the Council Reject Library Initiative Petition & Deprive Vote; Petitioners Plan Rally

Hi Colleagues,

Save the Date!
Rally at City Hall 4/2 at 6pm PST
in Renton, Wash.!
See our event page.

Show your support at the Council Meeting at City Hall 4/2 at 7pm PST!

Details to follow via

Renton Reporter Front Page news 2012 March 29 (above)


Vocalize your concerns about the *already contracted* library relocation and expense ($9M). Now is the time to step up if you've any questions or concerns regarding the City's handling of the library petition. Here's what we're up against:

Administrative Memo

Starting at pg. 306, here's Mayor Law's recommendation, echoing KCLS director Bill Ptacek's recommendation, to reject the petition (1) and not put the relocation matter to vote (2).

In other words, oppose our constitutional right to petition in the interest of a centralized and *appointed* not elected governing body elsewhere via playing with numbers. 

Here's the Executive Order by the Mayor with [my response and interpretation in brackets]:



DATE: March 28, 2012

TO: Rich Zwicker, Council President

Members of Renton City Council

VIA: Denis Law, Mayor

FROM: Jay Covington, CAO

SUBJECT: Library Initiative

Should the City Council place the Library Initiative on the ballot?

Decline to place the Library Initiative on the ballot.

The King County Department of Records and Elections has notified the City that the Library Initiative has obtained sufficient valid signatures. The Council must now decide if the issue should be put on the ballot. 

[The Council can adopt the petition as worded (1), adopt with its own revisions (2), reject the petition (3) and put the matter to vote (a) or continue with their plan (b).]

Before the successful election where the majority voted for the City to join the King County Library System (KCLS), it was necessary to obtain the approval of KCLS. As a precondition of that approval, the City Council adopted an interlocal agreement (ILA) with KCLS, CAG-09-136, dated July 13, 2009. That ILA required certain significant actions be taken by the City, including in section 5 of the ILA “replacement facilities for both the Main and Highlands Libraries on other properties within the City…” Based on that promise by the City, KCLS agreed to allow the issue to go to the ballot, where it passed. 

[The "successful election" passed with a slim margin. Access the City's construction agreement in 2010. Full disclosure also refers to communication efforts. Simply posting a document in a City archive online does not necessarily constitute fully disclosing to constituents the nature of their annexation vote. Excluding the people from the *location* decision appears more as top-down management compliance model than the at times messy business of democratic contribution.]

The Library Initiative would require the City to repudiate a key provision of the ILA, which was a material part of the vote to join KCLS. As opined by the City Attorney in his March 5, 2012, opinion to the Mayor and Council, the Library Initiative would require an unconstitutional impairment of the contract with KCLS and an improper collateral attack on that election.

[Repudiating decisions can be a good thing if the decision was made via a process that violates primary principles. Maintain fidelity to the People first. Refer to timesmith's opinion on the interlocal agreement.]

In September 2010, subsequent to the annexation vote, KCLS, with input from the community, completed a Library Service Area Analysis to analyze and recommend the most optimal distribution of library services within the greater Renton area, now that Renton was part of the King County Library System. That analysis reviewed costs, revenues, population trends and forecasts, demographics, transportation, and other considerations. Based on those key trends and conclusions, KCLS proposed the following recommendations for the Downtown Library:

- A facility of up to 20,000 square feet with a civic presence in the downtown core
- Be oriented toward public transportation and transit
- Correspond to the economic development goals of the City of Renton
- Provide information resources and increased space for computers, meeting
rooms and other programmable spaces

[What community input? City-hosted events promoting and pitching already-made decisions opposes constituent-driven emergent design. The City itself worried about the lack of community input. How do you reconcile these seeming contradictions, Mr. Mayor?]

To meet the conditions and goals of the interlocal agreement and service analysis, the City conducted an analysis of several potential downtown sites. In March 2011, the full Council approved the purchase of the Big 5 site for the new library facility. Subsequently by ILA CAG-11-130, dated July 11, 2011, with KCLS, the City agreed in section 3a to “two new City of Renton library facilities consistent with or superior in form, function and quality of (sic) other recently constructed libraries…” in the KCLS system. After running the current Cedar River library site for some time, KCLS has informed the City that the Cedar River library can never be brought to the functionality or quality of other recently constructed KCLS libraries, and would not meet the goals of the 2010 Library Service Area Analysis. The Library Initiative would again require the City to unconstitutionally impair the second ILA with KCLS.

[Conflict resolution 101. Abstain from "never." Did voters know that terms of annexation included relocation (1) and new construction (2)? Which companies has the city contracted? The current location has been deemed seismically safe and can be renovated for a fraction of what relocation would cost. Make use of what we have in this recession. Consider the claims to fiscal responsibility made by the Mayor regarding budget trims elsewhere, and this logic makes little sense. btw, show me where the Constitution protects contracts made between governing bodies. Isn't the concept of checks and balances supposed to protect constituents from governance that steamrolls the people? How do you justify obligating that you entered into contracts without the public's *prior* input?]

KCLS has also expressed concern about the precedent of a City violating the agreement upon which KCLS agreed to allow the City to annex to KCLS. KCLS is currently reviewing the annexation to its system by another city and is negotiating a contract with that city setting the terms upon which KCLS will agree to allow the annexation to proceed. KCLS is very concerned about the integrity of that process if there is a precedent of a city repudiating its agreement after election to join KCLS.

[We the People do not exist to vote people into power who will demand we support their efforts to protect their inter-agency agreements. City Budget is 75% salary. For instance, we taxpayers pay the Economic Development Director $113,916 for 2011-2012. Who's the boss? Does KCLS pay that salary? We the property owner pay property taxes to fund KCLS. KCLS shares interest in respecting local population's wishes vs. managing the process top-down.]

Before settling on the new Downtown site, there was an analysis done about the cost of redeveloping the Cedar River Library or building a new library. The study showed that a new library building would be cost effective, and would provide the best flexibility toward meeting future library service needs for the community. Also redeveloping the Cedar River Library would require renting an interim facility and moving the library, assuming a suitable site could be found during renovation.

[Cost effective? To/for whom? $9M "rough" estimate? Effective? Really? Pfft. It's ineffective to force taxpayers to pay for a facility over which there's obvious conflict. Rejecting petitions and removing right to vote leaves the only option to resolve this dispute legally. Talk about an *access* issue! Really? So to access government groups now must hire lawyers to fight "Super Lawyers" for their decision-making input? If you're going to raise the access/cost card, recognize what *your* decision costs your constituents (1) and democracy (2). We can find workable solutions for other objections raised.]

While cost estimates are rough, the Administration believes that renovating the Cedar River Library building with its higher costs and temporary relocation requirements, and considering the acquisition costs and architectural costs already invested in the Big 5 site, could result in the Cedar River Library costing millions more than developing the Big 5 site (see accompanying letter from KCLS). To meet our contractual obligations to KCLS, this would require City Council to identify a funding source to meet the revenue shortfall.

[If cost estimates are rough, then has the City contracted public space and obligated taxpayers to pay it without a ceiling or cap? The most popular funding source? Property taxes. Funding most if not all city services via property taxes in a declining housing market seems ill-advised. Ironic considering the steps leading to our current housing crisis. From a system's perspective, doubt basic principles such as fidelity and honesty to your primary constituents, then, well, you leave the system off worse than you found it.]

Another concern is that the Council, by taking this action, would be allowing its budgeting authority to be infringed upon by the Library Initiative, which is an improper use of the initiative process.

[Consider more irony on a governing body telling the populace what is and isn't "proper" use of petitioning. The point of petitioning government includes, but is not limited to, correcting action, e.g., steamrolling governance.]

Finally, the City Attorney’s opinion of March 5, 2012, sets forth several additional reasons why the Library Initiative is improper including that the initiative is really an untimely referendum and that it improperly tries to interfere with the Administration in executing policy adopted by Council to build a new downtown library and acquire the necessary property.

[So the people interfere with your business and political dealings? GOOD! Public commons and local icons should not be decided by lawyers or private business. The library should not be used to develop economy, nor has the City or KCLS pitched the public with evidentiary support supporting their claims. When we make decisions because we fear losing something, we've already lost our power.]

It is worth restating in this staff report that—in addition to the two new library facilities—the City has always intended to keep the building over the Cedar River in public ownership and accessible to the public. Since September 2011, the Liberty Park Library Steering Committee has been developing recommendations for the City Council to consider. The committee has completed its work and is scheduled to present its findings and recommendations to the City Council next month.

[So you obligate your constituents to obey decisions trickled down to you by rejecting their right to petition, and barring that, vote?]

Beginning with the annexation vote in February 2010, the City Council and Administration have taken a number of actions that have contractually committed the City to complete a downtown library at the Big 5 site. We acknowledge the public sentiment regarding the current location of the library over the river, and the time and effort taken to submit signatures for the initiative. But suspending or reversing previous City decisions and actions would place the City at considerable legal and financial risk,  and would not meet the goals and objectives of the analyses done to determine the best way to provide library services now and into the future for the City of Renton.

Therefore, the Administration recommends that the City continue its present course of action. The City Council should decline to place the Library Initiative on the ballot.

[Echoing KCLS director Bill Ptacek's request (?) to "stay the course," the Mayor heeds an *appointed* official.  In other words, allow the People to jump through hoops, but insist on your way anyway.]


Ding-Ding-Ding went the... Steamroller?

"You can't un-ring the bell, not without a tremendous amount of cost and difficulty," said Covington (Renton Reporter, 2012 March 15). Too many decisions have been made down the road by the council to stop the process now, he said.

So now we're to hurry it up, too. He calls us to comply because the decisions have already been made and they plug along. We need to govern with a collective pace. I interpret fallacies in the Administration's order, such as Post Hoc, ergo Propter Hoc ("after this, therefore because of this," or claiming that city administration honored community input via after the fact sessions), implying that the library story is too complex and so appealing to authority (Ad Verecundiam), and rushed and exclusive decision making process risk missing important details and so ripen for error.

In the absence of vote or petition, where remains our power?

If the city has made contracts, regardless if disclosed to the public, then the public must abide by the city council's decisions. Sounds a free ticket to me, and I don't like it.

Recommendations citing money and following the *appointed* line lead me to ask, *which* business will benefit, and *whom*, financially and positionally?

We've all a shared interest in trusting the decision-making process allowed to us by the Constitution. We the People have a right to petition our government. We the People decide collectively via votes. We the People elect people to office to preside, yet that elected privilege does not give elected officials a license to make public decisions in the interest of a private few. Furthermore, We the People do not need elected officials to slap our wrists and tell us about what we can or can't petition our government. Nor should local elected officials give way to fear or threats as to what local public facilities *appointed* governing bodies will or won't close.

The petition secured in short order 15% of Renton voters petition the council that they do not want the library relocated. Stuart Avery, spokesperson for Citizens for the Preservation of Renton's Cedar River Library, said, "The city has convinced themselves they don’t need to listen to the public, and even when we follow the rules we still won’t get what 15% of Renton voters have requested."

Our council, while elected by voters, no longer governs as a *representative* body. So let's not kid ourselves Mr. Mayor with the language to "stay the course." While staying power may be an admirable virtue elsewhere, *I, this Person* do not *recommend* it in cases when your constituents tell you otherwise. Instead I recommend you show fidelity towards your voting public as your first priority. Sometimes, Mr. Mayor, you cannot run a city as you would a business.

I voted for the Mayor and other members on council. I vocalized my support, which the Mayor used in some of his campaign materials, of a mayor who I believed would listen to the people. It seems I surmised in error. Note I will vote more carefully next time around. 

I did not vote for KCLS director Bill Ptacek. If the City owns responsibility for the library building, then why must it answer to one KCLS director? Without full disclosure of all agreements, terms, and contracts made on the library, we may not know.


Let's engage in reflective decision-making, locate our shared virtues and interests, and be conscientious of our impact on our public and constituents. I encourage the council members to courageously stay their course to their fidelity to their constituents. 

Your constituents, residents and voters of Renton, voted you into office, and not the *appointed* director of KCLS. Campaign endorsements may be nice, but democratic checks and balances are better. Let's change the language to speak of shared virtues of fidelity to constituents, respect for democratic process, and honesty in full disclosure.

Documents and Links

Access the full document,
April 2, 2012
Monday, 7 p.m.

Access the documents I'm curating re: the Renton Library at

Public commons and local icons should not be decided by lawyers or private business. However, if the city Mayor, Council President Zwicker, and *appointed* KCLS director Ptacek intend to stay *their* course, then the People will speak.

Access more library news at

In the meantime, show up with me to vocalize your support for democratic process at a rally at City Hall on 4/2. Stay tuned for more details!

A Word to Business Owners

I want downtown businesses to succeed, and I participate in downtown events and patron businesses there. I celebrate and promote the city of Renton by covering events. Yet public commons, or civic spaces funded by tax dollars, must not be shuffled into economic development or be used for the interest of private business. 

Tell me private business owners advocating for the library move: if tables were turned and the city contracted for relocating a downtown business without your knowledge or approval, and you had to relocate, but you were responsible to pay the debt of such a move without having a say or foreknowledge in the terms or obligations of said contract, including location, and you didn't know who the contract owners were, then how would you feel? 

I support 3/50 and "going local." How do businesses reconcile the seeming brand breakage by marketing for local indie business, but support a centralized decision-making process made in part elsewhere? All of this posturing and "taking stands" means moot if we distrust the democratic process that provides the platform on which we make public decisions.

Reject the People's right to Petition. Deprive them of a vote. What type of governance remains?

Let me close this post with this quote from FDR:

Access the above quote at

Update | On 4/23/12, the Renton City Council approved the resolution confirming the ballot title, description, and voter question for the August 7th library ballot (Proposition #1). The city attorney(s) now draft the full text. Then two groups will draft statements in favor of one library location or the other.  I desire to contribute to the statement drafting.

Sadly I now better understand the 99% 
and Occupy movements,
and now onto the business of rallying,