Thursday, July 12, 2012

Letter to the Editor | Vote for Renton Library at Cedar River with Reflections on Credible Campaigning and Healthy Leadership; PDC Complaints of KCLS Increase

Hi Neighbors,

Cedar River Trail during Salmon spawning season (above)
Image (cc) Dena Rosko
My Letter to the Editor

I appreciate that Renton Patch (2012, July 11), Renton Reporter (2012, July 13), and Renton KOMO (2012, July 13) published my letter to the editor regarding Proposition #1 on the 8/7/12 primary and special election:
Regardless if the library moves or not, taxpayers will pay for refurbishing the building over the Cedar River. Note the allotted $20 Million total budget in the Big 5 expenditure statement (http://scr.bi/HeMUmI). Cost will be more or less a wash. So the question depends not on will the move save money or not, or develop business downtown, or appease KCLS.
The voting question remains: Which location do voters believe best suited for a library? Cedar River or the Piazza?
For me, it makes better sense for a learning environment to overlap with parks and play especially for youth, families, and senior adults. The only caveat being voter choice (1) and questions of access (2).
Now that voters can finally contribute their two cents thanks to the Petition group, I encourage full disclosure on part of the city, including a response to KCLS spending tax dollars to fund a campaign mailer. On KCLS I recommend making positions elected instead of appointed. That agency lacks oversight. As for the city, I appreciate and will vote for city officials who respect voter choice and be transparent in how they opt to influence either campaign.
Learn more at http://bit.ly/z3vUdf
Thanks for reading, Dena Rosko, MA-ComL
School bus crosses bridge in front of the Library at Cedar River (above)
Image (cc) Dena Rosko
Demystifying the Debate:
Answering the Ballot Question

The ballot language reads:
Proposition No. 1Vote to Select a Library Site Downtown

After Renton voters chose to join King County Library System (KCLS), Renton contracted with KCLS to provide a state of the art library in downtown Renton. The library will be located at EITHER the existing library location over the Cedar River (100 Mill Ave. South), OR West of the Renton Piazza (508 South 3rd Street). If the Piazza site is chosen, Renton will keep the existing library building for alternative public use in the future.
Which location should be the site of the downtown library?
  • Over the Cedar River
  • West of the Piazza
In other words, the ballot asks for voters to choose the location. Voters must check the box of the location they prefer. Therefore, I ask voters to consider which location they prefer and why, and then vote accordingly.

Regaining Credibility

Conflicting cost estimates falter to justify choice given the already proposed combined budget of $19.8M. Observe that budget determines cost, and not estimates. I hope that my contribution here clarifies the campaign focus so that each campaign pitches their location choice. Voters deserve credible, clear, and consistent information conducted in a credible, clear, and consistent manner.

Frankly, the talk of cost seems a smokescreen considering, again, that budget determines cost and not estimates. The talk of cost seems ironic considering that the city, by a less than 100 vote margin annexed the library to KCLS, proposed annexation in the first place allegedly to avoid levying taxes to renovate the existing building.

To an extent, KCLS' conflicting numbers in their tax-funded mailer damages the city's credibility. Cities and groups must conduct their political campaigns subject to campaign finance laws. Elected officials' credibility depends on the accuracy and legality of estimates that they provide to their constituents. Since city officials must answer to their constituents, it's in the city's interest to issue a statement to their public regarding the KCLS estimates that conflict with those of the city.

Represented Taxation?

Again, recall that the 1942 incepted KCLS exists as an appointed body with oversight seemingly out of reach and even unknown save that of its own board. Taxation depends on the powers granted by the constitution to the Legislative branch appropriated by representation. Which representative proffers power to an appointed body to impose taxes? If such a person exists, then s/he needs to oversee KCLS and be more prominent to the public. 

I submit that any governing agency with power to campaign, require, or otherwise impose taxes must be an elected body. Note that property taxes incepted and sustain KCLS. As KCLS must not answer to elections, how can voters inform KCLS regarding matters of taxation and decisions that impact their locale? The subsequent mess falls to the cities.

Anyway, and either way, there will be cost associated with either library location per the already proposed $19.8M budget. Renton residents will pay via property taxes for either location. Renton elected leaders will carry the burden moreso than KCLS. The question remains: Which location do you prefer and why? Be free to comment below.

Refocus on the Conversion Funnel

Conversion Funnel (above)
Image via Saad Kamal; suggested by Google.
Note that italicized-green words here equal a conversion funnel, or the ask behind the effort. In this case, the library location, election (or votes), taxes, reputation, and credibility amount to the relevant goals behind the campaigning. For example, an official campaigns with signs and events and asks for donations or volunteerism because s/he wants to be voted into office. The library campaigns want persuade (efforts) voters to vote for their respective locations (desired action). City leaders and residents alike may want a certain reputation or credibility within the region, but even those virtues may not be end goals in themselves but conversion funnels to some other desired goal such as an increase in funding, a transit line, and so on.

Regarding credibility, consider the conflict of interest if not violated campaign finance law that KCLS spent tax dollars to mail campaign mailers. As far as I can tell, all city leaders and campaign supporters, regardless which library location they want, benefit from standing up for their autonomy to pitch their campaign without KCLS plugging up the conversion funnels of others, especially those who bear greater investment and consequences in bringing their goal to pass.

Regaining credibility reminds us that we bear the responsibility to govern our city how we deem best. Credibility calls us to consider that we contribute both autonomously and in collaboration. Refocusing on the conversion funnel reminds us to pitch and explain what we want. Demystifying the debate, or returning to the ballot question, acknowledges that budget determines cost and not estimates. The budget will be spent on either location. Demystifying the debate allows each campaign camp to pitch their answer to the ballot question.

Scaling with Foresight:
City Health after the Library

More than that, demystifying the debate de-escalates the conflict and so scales. As a city we must remember that after the vote we will need to transition to whichever location that the voters choose, assuming of course that the campaigns conduct themselves lawfully. For our city health, we will need to collaborate for other human services and city concerns. Our constituents deserve both campaigns and leaders that value fair-mindedness, transparency, clarity, and a shared vision for a healthy and thriving city. How we respond now to KCLS and conduct the library campaigns will impact credibility and lay the groundwork for city health.

Learn More

Learn more about the library story via Text and Pixels and links curated at Public Commons via Pinterest. Note Renton Reporter Tracey Compton's [email] compiled library timeline (2012 July 13). Access relevant documents via Scribd.

Support

Citizens for Cedar River Library campaign sign (above)
Be free to use as your social media profile picture.

Support the Citizens for the Cedar River Library, and learn more about their campaign to keep the iconic Renton Library over the Cedar River and at Liberty Park.

Thank you for reading,
Dena

Afterward: PDC Complaints


Meanwhile, PDC complaints increase regarding KCLS' spending tax dollars for their library campaign mailer. Renton officials do well to serve to Renton residents first before KCLS; Renton finances and community development deserve even-handed consideration and due process. Learn more about the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Search the compliance section to access complaints.

Read Councilmember Randy Corman's detailed and accurate review of cost estimates on his blog.