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Op-Ed: March 26 KCLS 'Open House' a Farce

Renton residents Richard Bray, David Keyes and Beth Asher write in an opinion editorial to Renton Patch that distrust with KCLS descended to outright hostility at a March 26 "Open House" at the library.

The KCLS Open House was a farce last night! First, KCLS Director Bill Ptacek announced that they would do their presentation and then "allow" the estimated 200 attendees to seek information and give their "input" at four different stations spread out through the library, rather than allowing for full group questions and answers.

When the people immediately objected to his format--quite loudly, Ptacek refused to modify this format in any meaningful way. His absolute refusal to address audience concerns on this issue ruptured any patience or trust that many in the audience had been prepared to display. From that point on, much of the initial presentation was interrupted by loud questions from audience members as it became abundantly clear KCLS was only prepared to repeat its previous rationales and self-lauditory statements. As in all KCLS presentations to date, he went on with his own show.

Mr. Ptacek wasted the first 12 minutes in introduction without providing new information. His staff presented KCLS 3-year old rational for a small downtown Renton Library based not on preferences or needs of Renton Citizens but on KCLS's separate logic of Service Area Projections (These projections are broadly based on a wide and disparate service area including outlying Newcastle, Skyway, Fairwood and portions of Kent. Disparities in geographic barriers — such as hills/valleys, travel distances and transportation routes are ignored. No consideration was given to the fact these outlying locations are not easily accessed by Renton citizens).

Ms. Balaiko of Miller-Hull, the architectural firm commissioned to lead KCLS design team presented a chart indicating allocation of the reduced construction budget among necessary seismic, energy upgrades and replacement of unmaintained building systems. The portion of construction budget available for visible architectural upgrades was obviously small if the allocation shown is accepted. Audience members had to interrupt to point out that alternatives to the allocation itself should be presented and discussed publicly.

Continuing, Ms. Balaiko made reference to "three" alternatives. However, it was clear KCLS was only prepared to present in detail the 15,400 sf. design recently submitted to the City for Land Use (and environmental) Review (This plan demolishes 5,000+ sf of structural deck above the River and was formally declined for review Intake by the City, yesterday prior to this evening presentation). Audience members were forced to interrupt repeatedly in order to clarify what the alternatives had been, both in budget and design.

KCLS presenters repeatedly began their comments and answers with statements such as “We’ve heard you” or "We totally get that". In the end, KCLS's presentation and answers provided invariably returned to the sole alternative with their contention a greatly reduced size was their only option, given KCLS budget calculations. In return, the audience repeatedly asked WHY a schematic alternative indicating full use of the existing Library footprint (together with the present entry) was NOT studied and presented in the same detail, as this direction has been the overwhelming focus of public comments given KCLS over the past months!

When Ptacek announced it was time to disperse to separated stations to give input, over 60 percent of the audience said "NO", remained in the main seating area. No attempt was made to interfere with others wishing to attend the stations.

After Renton Councilman Ed Prince intervened with Mr. Ptacek, KCLS did re-gather people and took some questions but little time remained, either for residents' questions or for follow-up discussion of the answers made.

Almost immediately, KCLS Facilities Director Greg Smith claimed insult and refused to answer Audience questions regarding "Project" or "soft" Costs estimated by himself and his staff. He refused to answer questions posed by Mr. Paul Ouellette regarding Smith's own estimates and invoices for consultant Additional Services that appear to exceed State guidelines by a wide margin.

(Ed. Note: David Keyes, Beth Asher, Richard Bray are all affiliated with the citizen's group "Citizens to Save the Cedar River Library, Again!".)

Richard Bray March 28, 2013 at 06:48 AM
David Keyes and Beth Asher contributed to this as well. Keep updated with Citizens to Save Renton's Cedar River Library at www.SaveRentonLibrary.com and Facebook: Save-The-Cedar-River-Library. Thank you Patch for your ongoing coverage of our community's efforts to Preserve and Enhance our beloved Cedar River Library!
Pauline March 28, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Enough. Enough time, enough money, enough of the Renton city council spending every single meeting discussing the library. Enough of KCLS's lies and their refusal to listen to the citizens, enough votes, enough petitions, ENOUGH. Time for de-annexation. They're not going to do what the citizens of Renton want. They're going to do what THEY want. It's not going to change. Goodbye, KCLS, it was nice knowing you.
Question Mark March 28, 2013 at 04:01 PM
For some reason, the phrase "diddling around" comes to mind when thinking back on events at the open house Tuesday. It's a shame that after the overwhelming show of support by the Renton community in keeping the existing library over the river that KCLS has single-mindedly pushed forward rather than taking a step back and engaging the community. KCLS has retained a stellar design company in Miller Hull. I hope that KCLS will stop diddling around and allow consideration of design ideas that would be acceptable to the community that owns the library. Smart and capable people, working together, can do great things.
Kendall Watson March 28, 2013 at 04:28 PM
I've asked KCLS Director Bill Ptacek to respond in some form to this Op-Ed. Hopefully we'll hear from him or someone else on behalf of KCLS for their perspective on what's happening with the Cedar River Library.
Dena Rosko March 28, 2013 at 06:51 PM
I appreciate how Renton constituents engage in decisions over our shared public space. Clearly, Renton values its library as a cornerstone of the city; the challenges we've encountered makes the library an icon for democratic process. Be free to read this article via Project for Public Spaces titled, "Stronger Citizens, Stronger Cities: Changing Governance Through a Focus on Place" (http://bit.ly/WEylUw). This article may benefit us as we develop the library as a shared public space. Consensus decision-making constitutes good governance (http://bit.ly/16K8luY), and may work well to resolve disputes over the Renton Library at Cedar River and move the project forward to each group's liking (see http://bit.ly/16K8m2a + http://bit.ly/11kppaM). Thank you for reading. Kindly, Dena Rosko http://bit.ly/AccIR6
Kendall Watson March 28, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Thanks Dena, the informative links and comments are much appreciated!
Dena Rosko March 28, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Most welcome, Kendall! Thank you for reading. I appreciate your participation and outreach! Kindly, Dena
Dave Beedon March 28, 2013 at 07:10 PM
KCLS is stuck in an argument that ignores customer input. It continues to say ”we have only so much money to work with, so this library design is what you get.” That’s what it said at last night’s Open House. To illustrate how goofy this approach is, let’s say I hire a builder to build a house with design elements A and B and I commit C dollars to the project. I would expect the builder to estimate how much it would cost to build the house with A and B in it so I could see whether my desires were too expensive for my allotted budget. But then the builder comes back to me and says “Your budget of C dollars will not cover the design elements A and B that you wanted, so here’s a design (without A and B) that will fit within your budget.” Such a response would deny me the ability to see how my desires were too expensive for my budget. By denying me that ability, the builder would not be treating me with respect. Yet that is the very tactic being used by KCLS in its dealings with the residents of Renton about renovating the Cedar River Library. To this day, in spite of the oft-stated concerns of residents, KCLS has not bothered to tell the residents how much it thinks it would cost to renovate the building in the manner residents desire. Instead, it clings to the argument that “we have only so much money to work with, so this is what you get.” Why does it act that way? I would be ashamed to act in that manner.
ira sacharoff March 28, 2013 at 08:38 PM
One would think that that in everybody's best interests, KCLS ought to be trying to mend fences with Renton's citizens. But it doesn't seem like they know how. They don't get that Rentonians are proud of their existing library and don't want it to go away. When they voted to locate the library at it's existing location rather than the Big 5 site in DT Renton, it wasn't because they preferred a new generic library over the river rather than than downtown. They voted that way because they wanted to keep the existing library. To me, the plans looked so much like the Newcastle or Burien library. Nice enough, I guess, but not what we want. Sure, we'd like the library to be able to stand for another 50 years, and to be made more useful and efficient. I'd like to see what they can do with that nine million dollars to the existing building, rather than a " No. We're going to build a library just like the Newcastle and Burien library, and you're going to like it, but we value your input."
Ryan McIrvin March 28, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Perhaps another citizen initiated initiative calling for a modest tax increase to fund the difference between the "preferences and needs of Renton citizens" and "KCLS's seperate logic" is in order? If the people of Renton (whom you claim to speak for) truly believe as you do, then it should pass by a margin as convincing as the vote on the location right?
Shelby Smith March 29, 2013 at 01:18 AM
Where has all the money gone? It has been slipping through KCLS's fingers like we almost let our Cedar River library slip away. What the heck are they doing?
Shelby Smith March 29, 2013 at 02:14 AM
As for Tuesday night's presentation at the library, I could not repress myself after hearing the design representative say the entrance should be at the corner of the library "for the safety of the children". Have they been disappearing over the railing or something? What?
Anne Cooper March 29, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Thank you patch for keeping us updated on the Renton CRL. I really wish KCLS would work with us. Bill Ptacek was really just outright rude to people. If I was that rude to my customers I would not be in business because they would not come back.
Dahbee March 29, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Bill Ptacek was condescending and rude. When someone questioned the budget, he retorted cleverly with "Good luck dealing with *your* budget." When asked to repeat his snide comment, he hemmed and hawed and refused. He hid behind Ruth Balaiko, leaving it up to her to attempt to win over the residents with congeniality. It was pleasant, but not effective. The question was asked several times: "What would it cost to keep the library as it is?" The answer was never given because KCLS has no intention of keeping the existing building. The reason KLCS had the had the open house was to give the residents a chance to vent, and we did. This is a common tactic. Let everyone vent and then they'll go away tired, but happy they had their say. The next step is to move forward, having worn everyone down. But damn, Renton citizens are hanging in there (Again!) and I'm proud of them. If we don't let go, it we keep fighting, they're going to have to back down at some point. I don't think KCLS understands at all. It doesn't matter what their plans are. Even if their plan was to rip it all down and completely rebuild it identically, the Renton people would not agree to it. The simple truth is, we just want our library building the way it was built. It's a great building, it's not falling down, and honestly, do you think they would have allowed that many people inside if they really felt the structure was going to collapse into the Cedar?
Shelby Smith March 29, 2013 at 11:49 PM
The scent of robber barons lingers. Again, why is the budget down below 5 mil for the Cedar site?
Richard Bray April 01, 2013 at 04:11 PM
City Council Mtg tonight. Let them know what you thought of the KCLS show!
Union_Hat April 02, 2013 at 05:00 AM
Are you seriously suggesting that we tax ourselves more so we can hand the money to an agency that has proven again and again that they have no interest in listening to what Renton residents want? NO! We are already spending over 5 million per year for about 3.5 million worth of computer lab services. For the money we spend on KCLS we should be getting overnight book delivery and we easily could if we would just dump KCLS. They are in the process of getting out of the Library business anyway. It would be far cheaper and more satisfying to fire KCLS and give every Renton citizen 25 vouchers per year for free books from Amazon. Use the leftover bucks to fund free kids programs in the existing Library year round. Expand the City’s Wi-Fi network to homes that can’t afford the ridiculous prices Comcast charges for fast Internet. The city surpluses about 100 five year old computers every year. Residents who can’t afford a computer could enter a lottery to get them for free. Viola! Replacing KCLS is easy! Creating a great Library is hard. Apparently way too hard for Billy P. and Stepford Architects.
Union_Hat April 02, 2013 at 05:41 AM
It is past time to cut to the chase. Don’t negotiate with KCLS. Liars will lie. They can’t help themselves. Negotiating with KCLS is a waste of our valuable time. Put De-Annexation to a vote this fall. It will pass by a large margin. Not 76 %, but it will pass. Include a companion Resolution to levy three million dollars per year exclusively for the use of the Renton Library System. This will save between two and two and a half million per year in taxes now shipped to Bellevue to support their Regional Library. Add the two million per year that we have been paying for Library services for decades and we will have more than enough to fund a frugal Library, something KCLS will NEVER be able to do since they will never try to be frugal. Once we control the destiny of our own library system again, we can do an efficient remodel of the Cedar River Library and build a great library in the Highlands for far less than KCLS would spend. Then we can do something really radical, we can make books available to be checked-out the same day a patron visits the Library like it was in the good old days of 2008.
Shelby Smith April 02, 2013 at 05:47 AM
Wow! You gotta love someone who can say it the way they see it, especially when they make a good argument for it.
David A. Keyes April 02, 2013 at 06:02 PM
I like the way Union Hat is thinking in both of his posts above! Real alternatives to KCLS 'Services' DO EXIST, such as the one Union Hat outlines here! City Council Members: ARE YOU LISTENING?
Question Mark April 02, 2013 at 07:16 PM
Kendall, I'm curious if KCLS has responded to your inquiries at all by now, or given any public indication of timelines for their next action.
Kendall Watson April 02, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Thanks for checking in, Mark. I am sad to say that Director Ptacek did not respond to my invitation to present an "Op-Ed" for publication to Renton Patch. We'll keep trying though, and will reach out to KCLS generally for comment in our next news story.
D. Charles April 02, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Do a search on "The Delphi Technique" by Lynn Stuter to understand how this "divide-into-stations" public hearing format is used to manipulate subjects to a preselected conclusion.
Dave Beedon April 03, 2013 at 12:19 AM
D. Charles, I did some research as you suggested and had my eyes opened. (This article is interesting: http://www.vlrc.org/articles/110.html ). But apart from what that or any article says, I found several aspects of the KCLS Open House that did not favor the audience: 1. There is no public record (such as a video recording) of the complete event 2. There was an attempt to force citizens to make all input at isolated stations 3. A non-neutral organization controls the process of digesting the input for later presentation 4. A non-neutral organization will present the digested input at later meetings 5. The organization running the whole process is not trusted by many people who attended the Open House. It would have been a better meeting if it had been recorded for public visibility, the format had left out the input stations (or had brought the station input back to the whole group for discussion), the input were received and processed by a neutral party, the presenters of the results were a neutral party.
Union_Hat April 06, 2013 at 06:57 AM
The Renton City Council will vote on de-annexation from KCLS Monday night! How is this not the top story this week? Check out the Resolutions and Ordinances section of the Council Meeting Agenda for Monday April 8, 2013: https://renton.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=26297 PDF https://renton.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=26296 Web page Published agendas are subject to change so have a look soon. At 5:30 the Committee of the Whole (the whole council without the Mayor presiding), will meet to hear a presentation from the City’s senior staff regarding a vote to de-annex from KCLS. Expect this presentation to make a very strong case for the financial risk and procedural uncertainties of de-annexation. The current Mayor is the prime mover behind the incredibly bad idea to kill the most efficiently run library system in the entire state in exchange for a MASSIVE tax increase, much longer wait times for books and minor improvements to open hours and technology that annexing to KCLS brought Renton residents. After this presentation the Council is likely be more cautious about putting de-annexation to a public vote. By bringing this very important decision back to the Council so quickly, the current regime is attempting to push the Council vote against a public de-annexation vote before any more momentum can build among citizens to de-annex.
Question Mark April 06, 2013 at 05:52 PM
It's not clear that a final decision will be made at Monday's council meeting. A formal resolution to call for a public vote on de-annexation is one possible product that might come out of the Committee of the Whole meeting, so that (potential) resolution is listed in the agenda as an unfinished business item. KCLS is also expected to make a presentation available to the council on April 15. Everything I've heard from the council to date is that this input from KCLS is critical to be received before making decisions on continued partnership with KCLS.
Dave Beedon April 06, 2013 at 09:16 PM
The way I understand it, last Monday’s resolution to the Council (suggested by Mr. Corman and made by Mr. Zwicker) was a procedural requirement to get the subject of de-annexation added to an agenda of the Council, which in turn allows the Council to discuss the matter. The Committee of the Whole meeting on April 8 will be the first such discussion.
mthrship April 07, 2013 at 06:50 PM
No final decision should be made at Monday's council meeting. Renegotiation of the ILA to get Renton residents what they want, a thoughtful renovation of the existing library with full usage of all its square footage, or de-annexation are not topics that can be covered in a bit less than 2 weeks. The council needs to revisit their own Library Master plan and consider several alternatives to replacing the collection and renovating the present library. This would include selling the Big 5 property and using the money either for the renovation budget or for furnishings and collection in the event of de-annexation. Again, there are many ways to skin that cat. In a Finance Committee session KCLS noted that many of the counties (29 to be exact) that they have reciprocal agreements with don't like the cross use fees charged. Why not approach some of them and ask for reciprocal use with each library paying their own postage/UPS/FEDEX for books? Our main goal is to keep the Cedar River Library as a viable community resource. To that end, our council needs to be willing to renegotiate and revisit the Master Plan, as well as exploring new options. There are many challenges facing Renton, not the least of them being the loss of our FAA tower. If Council can't color outside the lines a bit, we'll be behind the eight ball instead of ahead of the curve on that, the library, and a host of other issues.
Union_Hat April 08, 2013 at 04:31 AM
Council votes to de-annex Monday Question is almost certainly right. There is virtually no chance that the City Council will vote to proceed with a de-annexation election on Monday, and that is the whole point of forcing an early vote. Once the Council has voted against calling for a de-annexation election, the Mayor can head off any future effort to de-annex by forcefully stating that the Council has already voted on the issue and it is time to quickly move on with the destruction of the Cedar River Library. Mayor Law has a history of cutting off citizens speaking to the Council whenever their presentation gets emotional, and things are certain to get very emotional when the wrecking ball shows up at the Cedar River Library site. Denis and Bill know that if they don’t destroy the building in the next couple of months, it will never happen. So, force an early vote to de-annex that cannot pass, then bluster for a few weeks until the demolition starts. This may be the last chance to save our library from the ambitions of our “leaders.” The odd paradox is that Denis would run a better Library system than Bill, if only he had the self-confidence give himself the chance. The railroading has already started: http://www.rentonreporter.com/opinion/201677511.html

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