Investments

Public libraries are investments in social equality

Jul. 30—Astoria and Warrenton are advancing poll measures for the November election that may finance enhancements to public libraries.

Libraries are investments in social equality, locations the place data is shared, not segregated. Equal entry to info might help erode limitations tied to race, earnings and sophistication. Studying one thing new, or being uncovered to totally different concepts, might help unlock potential.

However even should you by no means step foot in a public library or fail to understand their worth, they’re brick-and-mortar belongings that we collectively personal and have an obligation to keep up.

In Warrenton, the town will ask voters to boost a tax levy for the library from 33 cents to 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed property worth. The 5-cent enhance would generate almost $1.5 million over 5 years and assist pay for operations, neighborhood applications, library workers and prolonged hours.

Voters accepted a considerable enhance within the tax price — from 9 cents to 33 cents — in 2017 when the Warrenton Neighborhood Library moved from Hammond to a bigger house on S. Foremost Avenue downtown.

In Astoria, the state of affairs is a little more difficult.

The Metropolis Council is seeking to voters to make clear the scope of a renovation on the Astoria Library on tenth Road that has dragged on for almost a decade.

The $8 million bond measure would assist pay for a $10.6 million renovation. The tax price is estimated at 57 cents per $1,000 of assessed property worth.

Metropolis leaders have emphasised that an architect’s designs for the library are conceptual and will likely be topic to public suggestions if the bond measure is accepted. However the renovation would doubtless contain bigger home windows for extra pure mild, eradicating the mezzanine, opening up the basement, improved studying rooms and extra inviting assembly areas.

Maybe extra importantly, the enhancements would make the complete 55-year-old constructing — designed within the Brutalist-style by outstanding architects Ernest and Ebba Wicks Brown — accessible underneath the People with Disabilities Act and restore ageing infrastructure.

Again in 2019, after we urged the town to basically begin over on the Astoria Library, we referred to as the renovation plan “a compromise of a compromise.” The library basis was unable to boost a lot cash from the personal sector for the challenge. We feared voters wouldn’t help a bond.

Three years later, the one factor that seems to have modified is the Metropolis Council’s willingness to let voters settle the matter.

Mayor Bruce Jones, who will not be working for reelection in November, framed it appropriately: “If the voters select to not help the bond for the library, then we’ll transfer ahead on the $2 million renovation utilizing funds in hand. However in both case, this council will come to a closing decision and we’re not going to punt it to the subsequent council.”

The town has launched polling information that signifies a majority of voters would help the bond measure in November. We fear, although, that library advocates will oversell the renovation plan or make guarantees that might be arduous to maintain. Already, within the few weeks because the bond measure was introduced, library advocates have been drawn right into a debate over whether or not there would be the identical variety of browsable stacks as there are right this moment.

In our view, Astoria missed a possibility when the Metropolis Council voted 3 to 2 in July 2016 towards a brand new library with the potential for housing at Heritage Sq.. That very same night time, the council rejected a stripped-down enlargement of the library into the car parking zone alongside Trade Road.

On the time, we referred to as these actions “small pondering.” However even probably the most cynical amongst us did not assume we might nonetheless have an empty pit at Heritage Sq. and the identical library all these years later.

Voters have accepted latest bond measures for a brand new county jail and for public colleges in Seaside, Astoria, Warrenton and Knappa, together with greater tax levies for the Clatsop County Fairgrounds and for fireplace safety in Cannon Seashore and Knappa.

Library advocates in Astoria ought to focus their message for the November election round bettering accessibility and repairing ageing infrastructure. Seeing the library as an asset to keep up — somewhat than an aspiration, as we’d want — may make the distinction.

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