Sonoma County’s libraries are in the sixth year of their worst funding crisis ever. Like tens of thousands of youngsters, teens, and seniors, my two young sons used to make Monday our “library day.” But now every one of the 13 libraries in the county is closed Mondays for the first time in history. What does it say about our priorities, as parents, voters and neighbors if we are unable to sustain one of our community’s most cherished and vital public resources?
Closed Mondays and closed evenings are the result of a system-wide 25 percent cutback in hours, from 52 to 40 hours at most branches. During the 1970s, our library was open more than 70 hours per week. Despite ever increasing usage and demand for books, Internet access and multimedia materials, our libraries have been starved for funding.
Sonoma County now spends just $35 per capita for libraries, versus $95 in Marin County and $110 in San Francisco.
Four years ago, I started the countywide Restore Library Hours Campaign. Thousands of citizens signed our petitions, hundreds called and wrote their supervisors. They heard us, in the summer of 2014, voted unanimously and placed Measure M, an 1/8 of a cent sales tax measure, on the Nov. 4. 2014 ballot. I then worked on the Measure M campaign and was a leading fundraiser for the effort.
Measure M received 63% of the popular vote, but because it needed a whopping 66.67% to succeed, it did not pass.
This November, the Sonoma County library commission is trying again, with another 1/8 of a cent sales tax for libraries, this time called Measure Y.
I urge everyone to vote for Measure Y—and to let friends know about it at schools, workplaces, senior homes, and gatherings.
If Measure Y does not pass, I will work with our City Council to lead the County’s cities to adopt a cost sharing arrangement to at least restore Monday hours across the County, as I proposed in this column in the Sonoma Independent here.
I am committed to doing what it takes as a public interest advocate to end the worst funding crisis in Sonoma County’s history, and create a bright future for our beloved libraries.
Below is a video that my public interest communications company, Progressive Source. made and donated to the Measure M effort.