For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
October 7, 2005 - Douglas County Libraries support C and D
During the recent recession, the Colorado State Legislature reduced state funding for libraries by almost 79%. Libraries were not, of course, the only services to take a hit.
That recession, along with various competing mandates -- federally mandated increases in Medicaid funding, State Constitutionally mandated increases in education funding, and TABOR mandated tax cuts -- meant that there simply wasn't enough money to keep funding many other programs at historic levels.
Acting to head off what was called "the perfect fiscal storm," a coalition of State Senators and Representatives, as well as the Governor, crafted two proposals called Referenda C and D. In brief, C permits the state to keep, rather than refund, the TABOR refunds over the next five years. D is a bonding question that articulates how the money will be used for various, mostly capital, projects.
The Referenda have garnered a lot of attention. Given the importance of the question, the library district sponsored or co-sponsored four debates.
At Lone Tree, Representative Ted Harvey squared off against Brad Young, former (Republican) chair of the State's Joint Budget Committee. At Highlands Ranch, Young debated Richard Randall of the Libertarian Party. At Parker, Senator John Evans sparred with Greg McKnight of the Colorado Department of Transportation. Finally, at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, the Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored a debate between Senator Tom Weins and House Majority Leader Andrew Romanoff.
The library has been pleased to offer its space as the civic square, where citizens can find easy access to some of the key players in this issue.
Based in part on the information revealed from these debates, based in part on analysis provided by the Colorado Association of Libraries, based in part on discussions with other Douglas County entities, the Board of Trustees of the Douglas County Libraries has chosen to take a stand on this issue: it urges the endorsement of C and D.
It is not alone. While most of our Douglas County representatives (excluding only Representative Jim Sullivan) oppose the measures, many of the citizen leaders of various local governments support C and D. So do many business people -- for instance, the Boards of various Chambers of Commerce, and economic development councils.
That's a curious division between local community and state representatives.
I've given a lot of thought to this lately. I moderated a couple of the debates above, and learned that there are two distinct ideas of government out there. One of them is predicated on distrust. Allow politicians to decide nothing; mandate everything through direct citizen initiatives to change the Constitution. Of course, that's what got us mandates to both increase spending, and reduce revenue.
Another view is that representatives should be held accountable for their decisions, both to maintain a balanced budget, and to provide services essential to the well-being of the people who elected them. But that requires paying attention to the decisions those representatives make. It also means understanding the limits of their authority -- and that can be a complex thing.
A good place to start is the library website. Go to www.douglascountylibraries.org. Then click on "Douglas County and Community." At the bottom of that page, you'll see "Making Democracy Work." This link takes you to a comprehensive collection of links for voter registration, political candidate information, and issue analysis.
The library would like to thank our speakers for their time and participation in this vital civic discussion. Finally, the Douglas County Libraries strongly encourages all citizens to get informed -- and to vote!