Mayor Urges Council To Stay The Course

Mayor: Council's vote to build a new library in the center of our downtown was one of those tough decisions that will prove to be a major catalyst for more business development and the revitalization.

The Citizens for the Preservation of the Cedar River Library face an uphill battle as the group prepares for its 6 p.m. rally and 7 p.m. Renton City Council meeting on Monday, April 2.

  • The Mayor has urged Council to stay the course (see letter below),
  • City Administrator Jay Covington issued a recommendation to Council to decline to place the Library Initiative on the ballot (click on the PDF thumbnail to the right),
  • King County Library System asked City government to honor the voter’s 2009 decision to annex to the KCLS system (click on the PDF thumbnail to the right) otherwise KCLS will "consider approval of the proposed petition to be a breach of the Interlocal Agreement," and
  • The Renton Chamber of Commerce has urged its Board of Directors and Downtown Committee to attend Monday’s meeting in support of city staff recommendations on the library petition issue. 

However, the petitioners are not without allies.

  • Longtime Renton City Council member Randy Corman stated in a recent blog post that his preference would be to keep the downtown library over the Cedar River,
  • Council member Marci Palmer has continually stated that she’s against the library move, and
  • and creating blogs in support of the petition process, including:


In an email dated March 30, 2012, Renton Mayor Denis Law urged Council to deny the petition:

Dear Council,

Based on comments we’ve read in the newspaper, it’s likely you’ll be having some discussions this next week regarding the local initiative. It made me reflect on some other projects this city has undertaken in past years, and most of them generated some public opposition.

It’s a rare occasion when a city council makes a major decision without some public opposition. Spending tax dollars for new projects, even during a strong economy, often generates criticism and protest from some citizens. And while we always welcome public input, you can pretty much predict that the final decision by the council will not please everyone.

When the city decided to demolish the Carnegie Library and build a new structure over the Cedar River, many residents protested for a number of reasons. They loved their library and felt it was serving the public well and didn’t want the historic building torn down. Some didn’t want to spend the money to build a new facility and others thought it was stupid to build it over the river. But the Council felt Renton needed a larger library facility to serve the public and moved forward with the plan.

When voters said no to purchase the Maplewood Golf Course, the Council agreed with the administration’s recommendation that the purchase would not only be a valuable public amenity for years to come, but was necessary protect the city’s aquifer from potential contaminants. The Council agreed and the golf course was purchased. Despite some opposition, this proved to be a very wise decision.

When the city decided it had outgrown city hall on Mill Street, there were those who felt it was a waste of tax dollars to purchase the current building on Grady Way, which some critics stating this was an unnecessary taj mahal. This was after voters twice turned down the construction of a new public safety building. But the Council felt this was a prudent investment for the future and moved forward.

When the city decided to purchase property in the downtown for a park and public garage, and to spend a good deal of money rebuilding the Pavilion facility, many people felt this was a waste of money, especially since the downtown was perceived as “dead” and “unsafe.” The council had a vision for the area and moved forward with the investment to correspond with the private development of multi-family housing as part of its commitment to revitalize the downtown.

Nearly 45% of Renton voters opposed a bond issue to build a new aquatic center despite information that the Henry Moses pool was leaking tens of thousands of gallons of water each day. With enough money in the year-end fund balance, the council opted to move forward with the pool. This not only raised criticism from those opposed to spending public money on this amenity, others voiced opposition to moving the pool from its historical location in Liberty Park where generations of kids learned to swim. The Council determined that this was the right decision for the city and moved forward with the construction. We all know what a great decision this was for our community.

Not everyone will agree with the decisions made by the city council. But overall, our citizens expect public officials to weigh all of the pros and cons and to make tough decisions that will benefit the community for years to come. Your vote to build a new library in the center of our downtown was one of those tough decisions that will prove to be a major catalyst for more business development and the revitalization that has been a goal of this city for many years.

Mayor, City of Renton


Mary Fitzgerald March 31, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I am not a citizen of Renton so I don't have a say in whether they move the library or not. But if they do, I just want to say what a great location the old site would be for a restaurant. Not sure if the building is up to it but just think about the view and location for a really nice restaurant.
rentonben March 31, 2012 at 08:12 PM
The Mayor's history lesson leaves out the crux of the matter: - all those past expenditures gave the citizens "more." This expenditure takes away library space.
Bill Taylor March 31, 2012 at 10:19 PM
The votes, decisions and commitments have been made and the administration and council have acted in a very respectful and responsible manner. Council, please stay the course and just imagine the chaos that would develop from a precedent if any council decision could be flipped by a relative handful of respectable, well-meaning and passionate but dissenting folks. Everyone that shops at Safeway and lots of other places had an opportunity to sign this petetion, and some 80,000 plus people didn't. Do the math. We elected you folks to do a job and you have done it. The city faces a budget challenge that may well result in layoffs. Costs beyond those already incurred in this matter will probably result in additional people losing their jobs...for what?
BadMath April 01, 2012 at 01:37 AM
If there is a budget issue Mr. Taylor, why did the Renton Chamber of Commerce, of which you are President, turn to the City of Renton for more money to fund your purchase of the old Spirit of Washington Dinner Train. You could have been responsible with the funds and purchased the old flower shop on 3rd Avenue for 1/3rd of the cost and then you would not only would have saved the taxpayers money, but been on the main street of Downtown Renton where you would have been visible. Apparently, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.
Rich Sweeney April 01, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Hi Mr. Bad Math, with all due respect, but you are simply uniformed about the new Chamber building, as well the Library. Just the same I am glad you are around because we need folks like you to continue to make Renton a better place. This new library and the new chamber location will prove to be a wonderful asset to dtRenton.
Roxanne Hanson April 01, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Question....do we have a number of actual "City of Renton" cardholding patrons of the Renton Library there were prior to the KC Library System vote? It would be interesting to know just how many "City iof Renton" citizens actually used the library on a weekly basis. Numbers anyone??
Beth Van Pay April 01, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Put this on the ballot and let us vote on it and then the majority will rule instead of Terri Briere, Rich Zwicker, King Parker and Don Persson. Thanks to Greg Taylor, Randy Corman and Marcie Palmer who recognized that there was a lot of sentiment for keeping the library where it is, and attempted to delay the vote on an agreement with the King County Library System so that more community input could be gathered. And if you feel strongly about not having your voice heard, keep the list above for the next time these folks come up for re-election.
David L McCammon April 01, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Does taking away library space include the fact that KCLS provides the majority of it administration duties at the Issaquah Service Center or the storage at the Preston locations. Both of which provides Renton with more library space?
David L McCammon April 01, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Speaking for myself, I have used both KCLS and the Renton Library without the need or the desire to have a library card since it is not necessary for library usage.
Renate Beedon April 01, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Sounds to me like the mayor is worried that the plan of some people (and I'm not talking about the council) might fall through. Fascinating. Why the resistance to a simple voting by the citizens on the fate of the downtown library? That's all that's being asked here. Could it be because the mayor and his friends know what the outcome of that vote will be?
Richard Bray April 01, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Mayor Law, I think Renton citizens expect their elected leaders to be humble enough to admit they may have been wrong about a decision. I don't think any of those decisions you cite ever resulted in more than 6,000 peoples signing a petition to redress them--like your wanting to move Our landmark Cedar River Library inside Liberty Park has. Thousands of Renton residents, reached by all-volunteer grassroots efforts, are telling you that you have not listened to us. You have not given residents a voice. The petition is part of our First Amendment Rights to address our local government guaranteed under the Constitution. We only needed to get 15% to qualify, but I assure you if we had the time (we have lives to live too) thousands more could have been gathered. My family's success rate was 80% of the people we asked! Residents want a voice! People want our Library's future settled. The fair and honorable thing to do is to put the Saving Our Cedar River Library to a Vote of the People.
rentonben April 01, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Dave, in case you missed it, KCLS manages the libraries now, so I'll factor that into the mathematics for you. 22,000 SqFT of KLCS Cedar River Library is larger than 15,000 SqFT of KCLS Big-5 Site Library.
Cori Myka April 01, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I usually do like to support our leaders to be leaders and not have everything put back out to vote. However in the first vote with changing to KCLS (I believe) voters were not awaire that their vote would mean closing the current downtown location for a smaller space not near a park and without the hands on environmental education opprotunity flowing by. The mayor sites other public outcries at times of change but this is when people were not wanting to spend mine to get more service. This feels like political deception. Why is the city so worried to ask the people directly? It is our government after all.
Dave Beedon April 01, 2012 at 11:01 PM
The downtown library should stay where it is. The location is priceless and educational (spawning salmon) and parking is good. If the building needs to be upgraded structurally, then upgrade it---I would think that that would be cheaper than building a completely new structure. The interlocal agreement with King County Library System seems to have come out of nowhere---were the voters consulted about it? Did the voters's pamphlet that described the KCLS annexation issue say that the downtown library would have to be moved? I don't recall any such wording. If it didn't say that, then that "requirement " was dreamed up privately, without the consent of the voters. The whole thing sounds like an under-the-table deal. When this library matter is finally settled, maybe a recall election is in order.
rentonben April 01, 2012 at 11:15 PM
State Law is quite clear - the council has two choices: Either enact the initiative, or put it on the ballot. My initial reaction is that a recall election would be worth considering for any council member who chooses to scoff at the law without good cause, especially for laws having to do with the rights of the people to petition their government.
David L McCammon April 01, 2012 at 11:40 PM
22,000 sq ft, dwtn, 6,000 sq ft in the Highlands. Combine the 2 new libraries and not only do you have 30,000 for the Renton libraries but you have Issaquah Service Center and Preston for storage. On top of that you see something the Renton hasn't seen since 1983 and that is Library service available without having to leave the City limits.
rosemary quesenberry April 02, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I do understand the comments made by "members of the Chamber of Commerce". Many of them are still bleeding for the development at the Landing while little has been done to address the increased crime in the downtown core. Parking is an issues that plagues the downtown business district as well, even though the parking garage was constructed to address that very issue. Moving the library in an attempt to improve the downtown core seems inadequate. Until one feels safe walking by the transit center the downtown will not obtain the amount of business it deserves. It is unfortunate that our very popular Mayor does not recognize the need to readdress the library issue.
rosemary quesenberry April 02, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Hey Roxanne that is a good question. Although I wonder when was the last time the Mayor checked out a book? ...or those council members that are supporting the move?.....I have held meetings at the downtown library as well as done more than my fair share of research there.
Rich Sweeney April 02, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Hi Rosemary! My wife told me just the other day she feels fine walking dtRenton. We do have too many homeless folks period, and it breaks my heart to see them. I think the more activity we have in the dt will help everyone. I think the new library will really help the dt. The building over the river will remain as a wonderful repurposed building that we will still enjoy. Thanks for sharing!
BadMath April 02, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Hi Rich! Glad to see you so involved in Renton. Maybe you should try living here since your opinions run strong. I myself am both a business owner and resident of Renton. The library is part of my community in which I live and I firmly believe it should be the residents of Renton who decide what happens to their public resources, not the Chamber of Commerce members who may or may not be Renton citizens. The city can build the Community Arts Center at the Big 5 location and leave the library where it it. An Arts Center/Cultural Center would tie in to the Pavilion, the IKEA Performing Arts Center and the Renton Civic Theatre. A library will not bring money into the downtown core. It is my and other Renton citizens taxpayer dollars being spent to shape the community in which we live. We should have the final say in how our city develops. We all want progress in dtRenton, but not at the expense of losing our beautiful library.
Beth Asher April 02, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Hi Roxanne - the library itself kept records of patronage for over two years, since they were conducting a study for cross-use. And I am not referring to the quickly conducted cross-use study sponsored by KCLS while two other local libraries were closed. I'm not sure what happened to those figures, but would imagine that the city would have copies of them available through a public information disclosure request. If not one would have to wonder where those records went. Interesting to see Mr. McCammon's reply that a library card is not necessary for library use. Of course if you don't ever check out a book that might apply. All 4 of us in my household had library cards and used the library weekly.
Beth Asher April 02, 2012 at 05:44 AM
Hi Bill - according to the City's own figures in the Renton Library Master Plan the cost to remodel would be less - it was called out at $845,000.00 including planning and permitting - than a costly move and new build of 9 million.
Beth Asher April 02, 2012 at 05:51 AM
The City has already got one costly failed attempt at revitalization downtown - the Piazza. Except for the Farmer's Market and a couple of other events the building sits empty all year. Why not open that up, sponsor art exhibits, craft shows, intimate civic theater performances, etc. to get people downtown? People don't go to a library to spend money. They go because it's free entertainment, or because they're doing research, or need online facilities. None of these things is conducive to shopping and spending. You go in, get your books or other materials, use the facilities, and leave. I do understand that the downtown merchants are suffering, especially because the City chose to spend money on infrastructure at the Landing which has taken trade away from the 3rd avenue merchants. But, I don't think moving the library is the "magic bullet". Why not admit that the retail corridors have moved - to Rainier Ave., Grady Way, the Landing, Sunset and Cemetery road - and develop something new and vital in the 3rd Street corridor?
Renate Beedon April 02, 2012 at 08:39 AM
Rich, are you saying that bringing the library into the old Big 5 Building will reduce the number of homeless folks? Or are you saying they will move and then your heart won't have to be broken anymore because you don't have to see them?
Renate Beedon April 02, 2012 at 08:40 AM
Maybe a homeless shelter can be built in the place the mayor and his friends want to put the library? Now, I'd go for that!!
Kat Smith April 03, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Blah blah blah , politics politics politics. Does anyone know how bad the crime rate is down there???? And how much of that crime is not even reported. Drug dealers , thugs . Many coming in from Seattle on the buses. If I had a kid, I would not let him go to the "new" library or anywhere NEAR the bus depot down there!!


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