There has been a lot of noise thrown up over the library issue. I have to say that I can no longer remain silent. I have no more patience for individuals supposedly speaking on my behalf and that of the community for a decision that has already been made by both the City Council and a popular vote.
Most of the arguments that have been raised to keep the library where it's at make little to no sense. Most of them are purely emotionally based. History has shown decisions made this way are foolish at best. Some of my favorites:
Businesses will be harmed. First, there are few businesses left near the library. I doubt Ben's Loans will be affected by the move and the Liberty Cafe and other great businesses do great business not because it's near the library, but because they are great places to patronize.
They are taking away the library. This is outright misinformation. The library is simply moving to a new location more in line with the original intent back when the Carnegie Building was conceived. KCLS will be moving into a state of the art facility ready to take on the new challenges of the community for this century. The old building is currently taxed to its limits. An antiquated heating-A/C system that takes the better part of a day to react to conditions. An electrical system that was never designed for the loads modern electronics put on it. A floor that cannot support heavy loads in the center. That's why book stacks are in the wing that's on land. Even those parts no longer comply with the modern building codes for floor loading. Let's not talk about what would happen in a major earthquake. Don't get me wrong, I love the building but it's no longer viable as a library. People want Internet access and meeting space and this is a building that has trouble delivering. The city and the community deserve better and it's time we give it to them instead of putting bandages on a building that was obsolete 10 years ago.
The new location is terrible. That is simply not the case. The downtown area has been passed over for years for revitalization. The Spirit of Washington dinner train was a great pull to downtown and when it left, it created a huge hole in the downtown economy. Only within the last few years have we started to see growth in downtown. The new library will bring much needed traffic to the core area and will be a boost to all. The Farmer’s Market showed us that already. We are seeing new businesses moving in, such as Toshi’s Teriyaki, Heaven Sent, and Smoking Monkey Pizza, anticipating this new vitality. Crime is even down with this increased traffic and the diligence of the Renton Police Department. Not to mention, just try to give directions on how to get to the old building. It's a lot easier to say "Its three blocks down on Third" than to have to tell someone who is not a native of Renton how to navigate all the one way streets.
I know that the very vocal minority continues to shout about what the community wants, to keep the library where it's at. But it seems that the fervor of this issue is masking the true intent of this group. The intent to resist any change to the continuing growth and cultural diversity of this city. Now I get to speak for the majority who are silently getting tired of this backwards and paranoid logic. We want a vibrant and safe downtown. We want our local businesses to thrive. We want a city to be proud of. The irony of this whole thing is the old Carnegie building went through the same fight for progress and we got the building we have today. And now it's time for all of us to get behind the new library and do something great and iconic again. Something this generation of citizens can contribute to our great city. Not just a new building, but a new vision for the entire Downtown core.
As for a vote of the people, it already happened. It is done. That's why KCLS is providing this community with service the city and its former library system could only dream of. It’s time to start moving forward and stop wasting time and energy on resisting progress.
Living in the past and fearing change is no way to go forward. Burien, Kent, and other cities are doing this and are now reaping the benefits. Shortsightedness, anger, and fear are not the way that this city and community want to go. This city's motto is "Renton, Ahead of the Curve". It's time for all of its citizens to step up and live up to this ideal and to embrace the diversity, progress, and possibilities that lie ahead.
Stop fighting. It’s time to unite and move forward to a city and a future we are ALL proud of. I ask the Mayor and the City Council to hold to their given word and stay the course. Businesses are coming in. Families are taking back the Downtown Core. Renton is starting to finally become the city we have all hoped for. DO NOT let the few individuals who have self-anointed themselves to speak on behalf of this community, undermine the hard decisions and labors this Mayor and Council have made. Stay The Course!
Renton looks forward to its new library and the amazing things to come that are just Ahead of the Curve.
Captain Robert W. Benedetti, Jr.