Life Goes On

2010 September 28
by Dave

A friend of mine pointed me to an article on Voice of San Diego concerning privatizing libraries and the often visceral response against the concept. We proceeded to have a bit of a discussion on the merits of privatizing the city library system and some of the innovative services that you might try to offer at the same time. I think there may be some value to the notion of contracting out some part of the services that the library provides. The warehousing  and distribution aspects are especially ripe for cost cutting, consolidation across larger geographical regions and innovative access points and methods.

And then, amidst memories of childhood summer reading programs and hours spent playing Kung Fu on the local library’s first computer, that visceral gigantic No reared its head. I think that the “moderate, progressive Republican” mayoral trio of Wilson, Hedecock and Golding could use some time in the shark tank at Sea World for all of the taxpayer money and land that they have given away to various developers and sports teams. This makes it hard for me to maintain a cool head when discussing city service cutbacks. So please enjoy my anti-library outsourcing rant.

Privatizing the library is lame. I wan’t unionized librarians that have jobs for life and know their stacks inside and out. I don’t want the slow checkout clerk at Target working at the library instead. The first time you ask a surly teenager with poor grammar where the biographies are you will miss your fifty something library lady who’s whole life is the library.

The Library budget is approximately 33 million dollars. That is a little more than one percent of the 2.85 billion dollar city budget. Contrast that with the Redevelopment Agency, SEDC and CCDC which have a combined budget of 206 million dollars.

But even that is irrelevant. Our city doesn’t have a spending problem. It has a revenue problem. Doing more with less is great, but even if you close the libraries you will not make a meaningful change to the budget picture.

Digging through the city budget is fun. Did you know that the Padres pay $500,000 rent on Petco Park per year? The city spends 4 million dollars operating and maintaining Petco per year and 11 million dollars on servicing the debt on the damned thing.

The Aztecs pay $385,000 rent to use Qualcomm. How do the Padres get a better deal than San Diego State’s football team?

I don’t think the city can cut anything but bone and muscle at this point. So much of the budget is eaten up by bad, shady or fraudulent deals from the past that you can privatize everything except public safety and not make a dent.

The police and fire departments are about 500 million dollars. There is some real money. Those are the unions that actually got most of the benefit of the shady practice of giving pension increases instead of raises in order to pretend to balance budgets. The librarians didn’t bankrupt the city. The cops did. Well, actually unelected city managers did in order to fund mayoral and council giveaways to various groups.

Dear Corky McMillin, can I please have my money back. The Trader Joe’s at Liberty station is really nice, but maybe it would have been nicer to make the airport bigger rather than privatize public assets so that your son could have a wicked baja 500 racing team. Fun fact number one: The city of San Diego does not share in any of the revenue realized from Liberty Station home sales. Fun fact number two: Duncan Hunter was chairman of the military procurement subcommittee and helped draft the bill that forced the Navy to give the NTC to the city of San Diego for free rather than sell it. Fun fact number three: Duncan Hunter’s brother James was McMillin’s vice president of acquisitions at the same time and was in charge of lobbying San Diego to give the NTC to McMillin. Fun fact number four: James Hunter was the fourth person picked in the lottery to buy the homes built at Liberty station

Back to saving the city money. I think that the city should raise enough revenue to meet current obligations. Then I want to see honest transparent government going forward that ends up raising and spending money on whatever services that residents prioritize via city council elections. And if a prospective councilman has an awesome concrete plan to privatize the library in order to increase services or cut taxes, hopefully he will be elected and implement it. I know, I am an idealist with impossible dreams and expectations and should frame my proposals in plausible reality. Is it wrong to wish for government not to be run for private gain? Or is that socialism?

I think that cutting vital city services in order to pay for the pension deficit is much more lame than paying extra taxes to pay for the deficit. Taxpayers act like the pension deficit isn’t their fault and so they shouldn’t be liable for it. Well, when you elect politicians that promise something for nothing, don’t be surprised when you find a bill someday.

I think we should worry that the GOP is taking this theme to a national level by promising to balance the budget without cutting social security, medicare or defense spending. Maybe they’ll make up the difference by privatizing the Library of Congress.

Actually, I think Duncan Hunter’s son has a plan. Duncan D. Hunter, who currently holds the House seat that was his dad’s until 2008, wants to save money by getting rid of that one amendment to the constitution that makes you an American citizen if you are born on American soil to non-citizen parents.

Um, Libraries. Sorry for the mostly off topic rant. At least I deleted most of the swear words and took out the part where I called Corky a dick.

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