Sunday, April 1, 2012

We the People | Petitioner Rights, Petitioner Stories, Petitioner Rally

Hi Colleagues,

This post will respond to some criticisms made against the library petitioners (1) and share stories from residents on what they love about the library and why they signed the petition to keep it at its current location over Cedar River and by Liberty Park (2). Rally info at end of post.

1) To answer far-flung accusations some that the petitioners (e.g.,, all certified 6,383 of them, are "whining," anti-progress via "resisting progress," and what's more, anti-diversity:

Nevermind that such criticisms reduce "emotionally based" concerns as though emotions ought not be part of our public space or decision-making process.

On the contrary, landmarks and local icons wouldn't be community space without emotions. In volunteering with the petition group, I witness all heart and passion from people of varying ages, socio-economic and religious backgrounds. When canvassing neighborhoods, petition volunteers interfaced with residents with a wide array of backgrounds. 

Have critics of petitioners demonstrated such courage and heart to so dialogue with people even to the point of outreach and proffering solutions? If such critics care for diversity, then why hasn't any of them interviewed me, the epitome of diversity assuming that someone whose opinion diverges constitutes a most basic diversity.


The key in resolving this conflict in a healthy way involves returning to our core values within constitutional parameters, and to return to dialoguing (vs. debate) with each other to develop our economy together, but not at the expense of public space.

Nevermind that the author demonstrates ageism and a bias against the past in the context of these comments, "building that was obsolete 10 years ago" and "this generation of citizens can contribute," as though the current library building and some members of the petition group can (or should!) no longer contribute to our public commons due to some arbitrary age requirement.

The vote to annex passed by "a hair." To my knowledge did not disclose that terms of annexation meant relocation. The chronology of annexation agreements (under "Interlocal Agreements") doesn't support the claim that the vote to annex also was a vote to relocate. Nothing seems to add up or make sense. 

Make sense by recognizing that the constitutional right to petition and free speech trump any behind-the-scenes contractual agreements that the city has exercised regarding the intent of a few to relocate the library for seeming business interests and political gain. The city will lose more by insisting on its way; the city will gain by understanding that true development by respecting democratic process even if doing so requires adjusting course as saving face.

Nevermind that far-fetched criticisms volleyed at the petitioners are in themselves emotional appeals urging people to dismiss a historic story, or the first ever initiative petition that 6,383 residents, whose signatures King County certified, exercised their constitutional right to free speech and to petition their government.

In short, criticisms thrown at the petitioners are baseless and, for the aforementioned "neverminds," immature. They serve as an attempt to dismiss a historic event unfolding before our eyes that will determine the degree to which our city deals with its constituents above board and in deference to democratic process.

I encourage officials, those who support the few officials urging relocation, and business owners to their widen scope to see the bigger picture. If you want to develop a city, you can't do so at the expense of your founding principles without expecting backlash. Consider this story from a systems' perspective

To politicians I say you collect people's stories when you doorbelled. Now consider asking people, not campaigning your agenda, but sincerely asking people of all creeds and socio-economic backgrounds what the library at Cedar River means to them and how they want you to preserve that space. 

We have already done the legwork for you. Our petition provides 6,383 feedback, excluding the 1,442 signatures thrown out, of people who want you to keep the library in its natural setting.

Dramatic Interlude

I expect officials to listen as a leadership behavior that I promoted in some of you when you ran for office. Now that you secured my vote, will you let me down?

This ought not be about the politics of a few.

To me this story speaks an appeal to local control, about people believing they can make a difference when they believe that they should. Will you defy your own proclamation for volunteerism by rejecting a volunteer-led petition?

At the heart, I see the KCLS Director, Mayor, CAO, and City Council President's position as entrenched in its divergence from understanding that the library story reveals more about socio-economic disparity, and that disparity won't be solved by moving the library 4 blocks against the will of the people who acted upon their right to petition.

Then there's the irony of the high cost of relocation, "roughly" $9M USD. While I appreciate a good solid investment, answer me how such a high cost will issue a growing return.

I urge city administration and KCLS director to realize that they are perpetuating economic disparities, and not solving them, by driving the socio-economic divide between themselves via their position of power and tax-funded salaries.

Compare that privilege and, yes, responsibility, with that of those of a wide range of access needs for the library. Such petitioners include, but aren't limited to, families with young children, senior citizens, and English Language Learners. Respect the need for all residents regardless of income or status to access educational resources, and consider the value of intersecting learning with play in a natural surrounding.

Then know that the debate here provides an example for unrest elsewhere, such as fueling the 99% and Occupy movements. Note that we as a petition group sought a different channel of influence, but I see overlapping themes in our grievances. In other words, see the flip side and paradoxes of your appeals to economic development, contractual fidelity, and volunteerism (item 3; pg. 1). We must all engage in such an exercise.

Finally, I remind you of our First Amendment right that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Tread lightly, for though your supporters paved your campaign trail, now you must use it to intersect with your community as a whole! Ask yourself for what do you want to, and should, be known, and see if those desires agree.

2) Please appreciate these stories as told by Renton residents on what they love about the library and why they signed the petition to keep it at its current location.

I asked via email and social media persons to answer the prompt, "What does the library at Cedar River mean to me?" Given my researcher-as-participant underpinings and lead-by-example ethos, I share mine, too. Here's a few of our replies (used with permission):

Our special connection to Cedar River Library by Al Aderajew (relayed via email 2012 March 27)

Here is my story that made me believe that the library should stay where it is:

I am an immigrant from Ethiopia and when I came to Renton in early 1990 I had two small children. My wife and I both worked and took turns to keep our kids at home, because we couldn't afford daycare. I worked a night shift and my wife worked a day shift.

So I wont fell asleep watching the kids at home, I took them to RENTON LIBRARY at Cedar River everyday of the week at Nine am to start them with STORY TIME program. When the story time ends we went out to the very conveniently located play ground and played for few minutes or until they want to go back in the library. We read books together, we selected books to take home and by that time it usually is lunch time and we go home for lunch. Then we could all take naps together.

Our special connection with Cedar River library:

My kids were so happy with the Cedar River library close to the playground, to the trail alongside the river and the story time, they couldn't wait every morning until I take them there. When the kids turn age Five and Six we were able to buy a house on an area that was unincorporated King county and we were told to take to renew our library cards to Fair wood library. My kids did not want to go there at all.

That is when I knew the library location, the water, the play ground, the trail by the river, watching and counting the fish in the river that has contributed the interest and excitement to go to library for my kids.

Because of that I am proud to say that Both of my kids became a very avid readers, did very well in school, and at this moment they are both a second and a third year eengineering students at UW. I believe the library has the biggest impact on my children's life and it should continue to exist where it is, where it excites kids to going to THE Library.

When I went around to get signatures, many elderly neighbors told me their concern about parking and the navigation of the one way streets in downtown Renton of the new library.

What the Cedar River Library means to me by Phyllis Forister 
(relayed via email 2012 March 27)

Upon moving to Renton nine years ago I was first impressed by the lovely landmark Cedar River Library and its perfect location in Liberty Park. A library that actually straddles a river….now that’s remarkable.

Not only is it a large, comfortable library it is hub of a community center that includes Liberty Park and all the many opportunities the Park offers for community interaction of all ages.

The library sits immediately next to the Cedar River Trail on which citizens can either walk or bike to Lake Washington, to the Renton Community Center, Carco Theater, the swimming pool and points east.

Right out the front door of the library the River provides a habitat environment to observe fish, fowl, fauna and flora year round. This has to be a one of a kind experience.

Because my husband and I visit the library often we have observed all ages enjoying the habitat. There is always something going on in the river, along the river, in the park and in the library. It is a thriving community for Renton citizens to enjoy. Many people come from surrounding areas to enjoy all that Liberty Park, the Cedar River Trail and the Library has to offer. I know this is true because I have talked to them….be they local or visiting.

Bronson is one of the main entry ways into Renton. Liberty Park and the Cedar River Library make an excellent first impression for visitors.

Surrounding the Liberty Park Community are many small businesses that thrive because of the many visitors to Liberty Park and the Cedar River Library. Bus service is directly outside the library parking lot and onsite parking is convenient and adequate.

The City of Renton has a treasure in this unique park community, which contains a landmark library. Liberty Park is the traditional location for the downtown Renton Library as the original Carnegie Library was built here.

As you can tell….I appreciate the uniqueness that Liberty Park, Cedar River Library lends to Renton.

Beth Asher (submitted via Facebook page 2012 April 1)

I have always loved the proximity to the park. This is so key to people using and enjoying the library. The unique and family-friendly atmosphere of the infrastructure is one of the reasons we chose to buy a house in Renton.

My special connection to Cedar River Library by Dena Rosko (initially posted to this blog on 2012 March 22)

For me the Library and adjacent park grounds provided a space to reflect and heal during a season of transition. I reconnected with my city, family, and friends when I photographed the Library, Renton River Days at Liberty Park, and the Cedar River Trail. I nannied our goddaughter and niece during that time, where we enjoyed play dates, swinging on the swings, and nature walks. I later photographed storytime.

Our learning and play overlapped with relationships and nature rain or shine. We watched the river swell and surge in the winter, laughed at the ducks in the Spring, melted in the heat of Summer, and saw the salmon thrash red and purple above the brown river rock and below the overhead red and gold leaves in the Fall.

To this day I feel grateful that I taught our niece community engagement via the Library and parks, and that I experienced community as connection, learning, imagination, art, and play.


The petitioners gathered signatures from people of many backgrounds. From a system's perspective, the relocation proposed by a few officials suggests an economic disparity well beyond private business interests. 

In fact, lumping a public commons into economic development for private gain is fundamentally flawed to the purpose of said commons (1) and opposes democratic principles (2). Consider the 1,442 signatures that King County invalidated as citizens from Potential Annexation Areas (PAA).

For more stories, Ask our petition volunteers to share their stories from the field, or like our Facebook page.

Rally & Speak

Check out our rally press release for immediate release!

Join us 4/2 at 6pm to rally at Renton City Hall and to speak to the council at the council meeting afterwards to urge the council to respect constitutional right to petition and civic right to address and participate in government.

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.

Access Text and Pixels' coverage of the library petition.

Thank you for reading,