Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Slowly Destroying the Library

At the library taskforce meeting yesterday, library director Bruce Guter presented the city's plan to keep the library open for another year, *but* with major cuts in services. It appears that the library is still under major threat. Unfortunately the city's plan requires laying off all the long term librarians on August 15  (the director included) and replacing them with people paid by the hour.  This is a classic corporate strategy of laying off long term workers who make reasonable salaries to hire less experienced, less qualified (and less invested) people at much lower wages. Guter seemed resigned to fall on this sword. Given the lack of forward political thinking about the library over the last few years, however, I'd be willing to bet that it is not his own sword that is running him through, but one held out to him by the city.  

The library will lose one of its major assets: the librarians. They are the people who develop collections and programs, help students with projects, help people find books and resources, take care of those resources, and maintain the technology.  Librarians are experts at finding all kinds of stuff, and at helping people to use the library's resources to find what they need. Professors, teachers, students, moms, kids, job seekers, home owners, pet owners, gardeners, entrepreneurs, reporters, attorneys, leisure readers all rely on librarians. Under the city's latest plan, even if the doors of the library stay open, the quality and maintenance will not be there. It is a tragedy to watch the politicians slowly destroy this institution that is one of Pomona's proudest and oldest features.

A few months ago the city had a proposal to outsource the library on the table, but it did not go forward because of public pressure. Now they are trying to do the same thing, but this time under cover of the citizens' taskforce. Don't get me wrong, the taskforce is amazing. Many concerned people gather with great ideas and energy for saving the library. Yet the evidence would suggest that the city is working in the background to undercut the process and to get what they wanted all along.

One of the taskforce working groups has suggested that there may still be money to be found within the existing city budget--pockets of money here and there. But if there is no political will, there is no political way.  According to the Daily Bulletin, Paula Lantz lays the political blame with the people, when she says that no one complained at the prior cuts. According to this article, Lantz said, "I don't recall getting a single email or a single phone call saying, `How dare you.'"

But Lantz apparently forgets that the earlier threat to the library was (intentionally?) eclipsed by the threats to the police department. Many people turned out to speak to the city council about the library a couple of years back, but weren't able to speak, partly because there was so much to say about the police, and partly because Mayor Rothman severely delayed proceedings. (I should note that these same circumstances are being repeated right now with the Parks; the outsourcing of Park maintenance and the loss of more public jobs are being completely eclipsed by the threat to the library. Those who came to the council budget meeting to speak about the Parks couldn't get a word in edgewise.)

I would like to hear politicians and city staff talk about how to make the library flourish rather than to talk about how further to decimate one of the city's most important institutions. The library is a testament to the kind of city Pomona once was. The actions of the city's caretakers will show whether they wish to reinvigorate Pomona and restore it to its former stature or just hammer more nails into the goddess's coffin.


John Clifford said...


One of the things that I've been saying over and over again is that the city is slashing and burning on the backs of its employees. In addition the the fire department, we've outsourced most of the city operations over the past couple of years.

Be aware that the guys who pick up your trash are no longer city employees (lower wage guys are now doing it so they really don't care if they dump half the garbage on the street--sorry, they just picked up here and I picked up after them); the guys who maintain our parks are no longer city employees (lower wage workers who earn a profit for their companies); the people at the building and safety department are not city employees (they may be working at a desk in city hall but they actually work for a company who makes a profit on the fees that you're charged); the police department has been cut by 50 officers out of the general fund (50 fewer guys/gals to protect and serve); Code Enforcement was cut by 2 officers in the just passed budget--these are the ones who respond to the 10 people living in a neighbor's garage or the guy down the street building a 10ft high fence; community services cut including the community centers and senior nutrition program.

Because we already outsource the fire, the city has NO control over the costs of fire service. We're given a bill by the county and we either pay it or don't have any fire service, unlike the police where we can trim using furlough days, reductions in force (layoffs). This year the PD was supposed to get some new patrol cars to replace older cars. Cut from the budget (I guess we can now expect to be able to outrun them in a chase).

And the list goes on.

We need to figure out what services we as a city want, police, fire, library, building & safety, public works, community services, etc. and then we need to pay for them.

Hopefully that's what will be the final legacy of the library task force, but we'll have to wait and see.

Erin said...

Amen. Thank you for this post. These are the underlying issues at stake and they need to be addressed proactively. Too much reacting is occurring. There needs to be some visioning, strategic planning, and implementing!

Pomonaforthepeople said...

The long term strategy of a parcel tax is great, but what good will it do, if the library is already gutted? Will it be so easy to hire the same quality of librarians to a library that will be marked as easy fodder in political mishandling of monies?

John Clifford said...


But at least it should allow for a rebuilding effort. We just need to be vigilant to make sure that the library funds stay away from the mishandlers. But the alternative is pure destruction.

TJ said...

Saving the Library won't "save "Pomona" We are trying to save a part of Pomona that was, is, and should be for a long time a symbol,a sense of pride,a tool for the citizens to better themselves,a resource center for our history, etc.etc.etc. It is what we make of it. It can also be changed to adapt to 21st century technology, and to the future needs of our citizens. The focus should always be on making it the best it can be with whatever resources we have. Our focus as citizens continues to be not just saving the library, but changing our city so that this continual cutting back of what makes Pomona a place we want to live comes to an end. Think outside the box;don't limit the possibilities, examine our current leadership, and vote them out if that is what needs to be done. It is obvious to those who pay attention what the problems are, so lets get involved for a change and get rid of the problems. Spread the word!!

Anonymous said...

RECALL this Dirty City Council !!! (except for Paula Lantz).

Or get ready for MAYOR John Pena and NO Library !!!

Anonymous said...

Mayor Moochie salutes the City at the free (for him and we know the Mayor never passes up on anything he can use his political position to get) KaBoom spectacle at the Fairplex. Accompanied by his School Board President son (who must be so proud), Rothman flips off a family because they aren't important enough to get the only available seats left to view the fireworks. Spread this web address around - more people need to know what an uncouth crook Rothman is - we need to get his piggish snout out of the public trough.


Ren said...

I've been doing my part to get this fool out of office, so make sure you all get out and vote.

Anonymous said...

The main problem with most city budgets are the inflated salaries and pensions city employees receive as a result of unions. These same people would never earn anywhere near those inflated salaries in the private sector. To that extent, it makes sense to "privatize" those jobs/positions to save money in the long run. The inflexibility of most unions to negotiate has lead to this situation.

The city council lacks people with sufficient leadership and financial/accounting knowledge to get the job done. Perhaps the library should be converted to another branch of the LA County library system. Perhaps other money can be squeezed out of other departments (including police dept.). There are certainly alternatives to keeping the library open. I don't believe the tax measures will pass this year; too much bad press about government union salaries and pensions, and corrupt city governments. Upland was one of the last cities to face a corruption scandal ... Pomona may not be far behind.

John Clifford said...

Please go over the city's budget before you make too many broad assumptions about what's causing the problem. Current city employees have all, through their union, given concessions in hours, amount they pay to their retirement, and no salary increases for several years. The city is currently only open 4 days a week (closed Fri-Mon). The library staff is all on a part-time basis and has been for over a year.

Some of the things that are causing problems are huge payouts to previous employees who spiked their income and retirement. We also pay for our "part time" city council (with an annual salary of a little over $9,000 each) full medical benefits. Not at the same rate as part time city employees (none) but at the level of the top administrators of the city. Many people feel that this is justified because they really do a lot more than part time work, but that's not what I think the citizens had in mind. They also get retirement in PERS as well.

What I've seen of the budget is that we're working on bare bones funding. We can't pay for the amount of police protection we need, the amount of fire protection we need, the amount of community services we need, etc.

So how does the city get more money? Their only source of income is from their citizens through taxes and fees. We need to decide what kind of city we want to live in. Do we want streets swept, do we want roads repaired, do we want street lights, do we want a library, do we want a meal program for our seniors, do we want someone overseeing our development? All these are things the citizens have to decide and then decide to pay for.

Waiting for Superman to rescue us is not an option. We have to be responsible for our city. It's our duty.

Arturo Jimenez said...

The root problem in Pomona is a total lack of trust in all layers of Pomona’s diverse communities.

No one group can come up with the answer because another group will shoot it down for being self serving.

Pomona has so many self inflected wounds that the past keeps getting in the way of the future.

We (Pomona) must stop complaining and must start to work together.
What is wrong in making our municipal government and its officers accountable? Only by holding it accountable can we begin the process of building trust.

For example, in an article posted by the Los Angeles Times on June 27, 2012, titled “Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga library directors to meet” the below quote captured my attention:

“While Pomona’s library operates just 26 hours a week with a budget of $1.6 million, their neighbor [Rancho Cucamonga] runs two branches for 101 hours at $3.9 million.”

How is this possible?

I believe that we have been for decades overspending for inadequate services. The Los Angeles Time’s quote only further begs the question.

At least John has read the budget.

Let’s call for outside and independent analysis of our municipal budget that we all could, at least, trust before we launch in to throwing money down a black hole in the form of new taxes.

No Plan + No Trusted Accountability = No New Taxes.

Anonymous said...

I have read the current budget and the one for last year in great detail. While many departments are operating with bare bone funding, there is room in the police dept. budget to at $800K to $1M. This does not mean that the city employees (even after all the concessions) are not overpaid relative to private industry (especially considering the generous pensions). The library budget noted above for Rancho Cucamonga just goes to show we have been overspending for sub-standard city services.

The city council should get not medical benefits or PERS ... makes not sense for part-time positions and should be amended by referendum. The council should have investigated other options for fire department services (including private fire departments companies). We are overpaying for this service and a reduction of even 5% in the fire department budget would be sufficient to fund the library.

John Clifford said...

One of the good things about posting as yourself and not anonymously is that you hear from people and get additional information.

I heard from a couple of folks that some of the information in my earlier comment is wrong, so I'd like to take this opportunity to correct some of my factual errors and offer a mea culpa.

1. It appears that I have been mistaken about the status of the trash collectors. While street sweeping was outsourced, trash collection is still done by city employees.

2. Community Services has had some staff cuts but Holiday at the Plaza, Senior Nutrition, and hours of the community centers is still funded.

And to respond to Arturo's comment, yes I've read the budget, but I don't claim to really understand it all. But at least I've looked to see where the cuts are coming and what they're affecting. I know that there are others who are more well versed who will be looking at it closely.

Again, sorry for spreading any false information. Always ready to admit if I get something factually wrong.

Anonymous said...

How would you grade the City Manager's performance?

* directly responsible to the Mayor and City Council for the efficient and effective administration and daily operation of all City functions

Now with two deputy city managers, one of whom was once head of the now non-existent redevelopment agency. D

* makes policy and procedural recommendations to the City Council and responsible for implementing the final directives of the City Council

She doesn't deserve all the blame for the state of the city but even she has to admit it's in bad shape. D

* Contract oversight of Fire Services, as well as other contract services including animal control and cable television

Fire services and animal control costs are pretty high. Unless oversight means she gets to watch their prices go up, she gets an F as Pomona gets effed.

* oversee operations of City Hall and services to the community

By outsourcing or cutting them. C-

* provide information to the City Council in a timely manner including the preparation of all City Council Agenda Packets.

Is it foolish to assume that the information arriving should be accurate or at least within the vicinity of tabloid-quality half-truth? Accurate AND timely? Rancho takeover, number of parcels in Pomona. Too much to ask. F

When the City Manager gets a pass, the city fails.

Pomonaforthepeople said...

There is definitely a anti-public, anti-union meme going around the state and the country that public employees are overpaid in comparison to private industry, and that unions won't negotiate.

Many waged employees in the private sector *do* get healthcare and other benefits. Some people in the private sector are highly overpaid. But of course there is a lot of unevenness in the private sector. The public sector is an easy target.

But public employees have taken furloughs and all other kinds of cuts, so clearly the unions are willing to play. It will be worse for everyone if their rights and security continue to be decimated.

In my view, it is better for communities, better for business, better for neighborhoods, and better for crime to hire people at good wages, give them security, and have them cared for physically.

It is also better for the community, for the youth, for the schools, and for the reputation of Pomona to have a high quality library. The library will be better if its employees are actual librarians--experienced, trained, skilled, secure and valued.

I would like to see some long term vision that doesn't rely on the meme version of politics and economics and that actually thinks about the well being of the people and community of Pomona.

TJ said...

I read the comments on this posting, blaming public employees, talking about the city manger and her short comings, wailing about the disfunction of the city . Some of the people pointing fingers are the root cause of many of these things. I heard very little mention of our elected officials, and there lies the real blame. If you don't have proactive, honest, ethical elected officials setting the tone, giving our paid leaders guidance and support; being active in solving these problems instead of sitting back and taking what they can, and pursuing their district agenda instead of the city as a whole, we are doomed as a city. I am not pointing at all of them; I know there is true sincerity in some efforts that are going on. For example,Paula has stepped up when know one else was going to in this Library crisis. Where is our mayor? Oh yeah, there was another little league trophy he needed to give out somewhere, or he was too busy boasting on how he is going to slide into getting reelected with no apparent opposition. This guy is supposed to set the tone, and he is the laughing stock of the valley, but very few in Pomona are willing to say that publically, and they stay on the sidelines as Pomona slides further into insignificance. They will continue to give him his 500.00 checks for reelection, because they don't have the guts to stand up to him. The one thing he seems to be good at is intimidation, but that is because we as a city let him. Oh, I forgot, he is also good at avoiding votes on the council.What a leader! So shame on Pomona for this continual embarassment. Lets get rid of this guy by banding together and supporting one good candidate to replace him. Shouldn't be hard to find a better one than the one we got.

John Clifford said...

Who? The question I ask almost everyone I talk to is, "have you heard of anyone who is planning on running for Mayor?" Thus far the answers have only been the same people we have now. So . . .

Anonymous said...

I say we find alternative candidates for the mayor and council seats up for election and back them as a block. I am willing to put up resources (i.e., money and legal expertise) to back them. Almost anyone other than Rothman would be a step up. Lets use this forum to start the ball rolling.

calwatch said...

Remember because we have no runoff elections, people need to coalesce around ONE candidate, instead of having the winner slide in with less than 30% of the vote. The charter reform does call for instant runoff voting, but only when the County implements a compatible voting system, which could be years away.

Anonymous said...

Yes ! Good idea!
We MUST UNITE around one viable candidate!

It costs so much to run, that the honest candidate has to compete against union bribes and special interests monies...

So it could be done as a WRITE IN campaign... but very ORGANIZED and UNITED...

Now...who is showing leadership??
Who would be seen as a unity leader?
Paula? George? Who ???