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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!".)

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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