Mar 28 2011

Issues Concerning Piedmont Library Services Contract

Oakland Public LibraryA San Francisco Chronicle article written by Carolyn Jones on Piedmont’s not making annual $350,000 payments to Oakland for access to library services contains several significant errors and omissions.  Specifically, the writer fails to note that the City of Oakland:

  • was not using the dollars from Piedmont residents to support Oakland libraries (instead, placing the monies in its general fund)
  • recently decided to close the Piedmont Avenue Branch Library near Piedmont
  • refused to utilize the dollars from Piedmont to pay the rent on the Piedmont Avenue Branch Library to keep it open
  • attempted to charge Piedmont residents for library cards when it offers free Library cards to any California resident
  • insisted that Piedmont pay 400% more per person than Emeryville
  • suggested at Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League meetings that area residents should pay a special library assessment – in addition to an existing Measure Q library assessment – to have a Piedmont Avenue branch library in the future.
  • charges Oakland businesses the Measure Q assessment but does not charge many households, making the figure “$130 per Oakland household” inaccurate
  • in making the decision to close the Piedmont Avenue Library, is closing the smallest, least expensive, and one of the most intensely used of all the Oakland branch libraries, leaving Oakland and Piedmont residents in the area without a local library.

The journalist further failed to note that Piedmont residents:

  • pay library fees to the County of Alameda through property taxes
  • suffered recent unexpected losses of close to $3 million due to undergrounding utility projects
  • face a large unfunded liability for medical retiree benefits which could reduce available City operating revenues by as much as 10% (recently discovered)
  • receive minimal business sales tax revenues
  • will be exploring options for library services
  • like any taxpayers, object to the breach of fiduciary duty represented by any expenditure of tax dollars with no benefit to residents
  • expect services to be provided and maintained in exchange for substantial fees being charged by Oakland

See original Chronicle article by Ms. Jones.

6 Responses to “Issues Concerning Piedmont Library Services Contract”

  1. Nice points to balance out the recent Piedmont-bashing on SFGate.

  2. I find this article unfortunate. Much is made by the author about the closing of the Piedmont Avenue Library. As we all know, Oakland has extremely serious financial problems. They have a right to manage their budget as they see fit. For myself, I find the Main Oakland library, Lakeview, Montclair and Rockridge branch libraries are all convenient.
    Yes, we pay toward the cost of the County library system. As County residents, we have no choice about that. But I don’t find it convenient to drive to Albany to visit their closest branch there.
    I see no relevance to the reference to Piedmont’s budget problems. Oakland bears no responsibility for the undergrounding cost overrun. Most important, it is my understanding that about 50% of Piedmonters have an Oakland Library Card and that we make heavier use of the library system than the typical Oaklander. We use the service and we should pay for it. (The fact that our payments are put in to Oakland’s general fund is irrelevant). $350,000 per year, or somewhat more, seems quite reasonable.
    Steve Weiner

    Point:The fact that our payments are put into Oakland’s general fund is irrelevant.”
    Gerry Garzon, the Associate Director of the Oakland Public Library system, told the Oakland audience at a recent PANIL (Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League) meeting in Piedmont Gardens that whether or not the City of Piedmont contributes a “Library” payment to Oakland is irrelevant to the library, since Piedmont’s contributions have never come to the library & do not change the size of their budget. A number of Piedmonters are very supportive of the Oakland Library and make individual charitable contributions directly to the library. These contributions do reach the library.

  3. It is not true that there is “no benefit to residents.”

    There is a valuable privilege we will lose if the library services contract is not extended. The Oakland Temescal Tool Library is only open to residents of Oakland, Emeryville and Piedmont. If the contract is not extended, Piedmont residents will no longer be able to borrow tools there.

    I realize this probably doesn’t affect a lot of people, but I would sure miss it. It is a great resource. I was just there today, in fact:

  4. The following letter was sent to the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle to correct several errors in the article by Carolyn Jones about monies paid or requested of Piedmont and Emeryville to support the Oakland Public Library:

    March 28, 2011

    Carolyn Jones’s Library article was error-ridden. Emeryville paid $80,000 in FY09 for more Oakland library users (residents plus workers) than Piedmont. Jones ignored Oakland’s refusal of Piedmont’s generous offer of $375,000 to $455,000 each year for 5 years. Oakland’s 2008 counter- demand was $665,000 per year. Negotiations continued.

    Oakland will close two branches (including Piedmont Avenue) despite parcel tax Measure Q ballot language guaranteeing the tax was for, “maintaining and expanding neighborhood branch library services.” Oakland’s City Council increases the Measure Q tax rate annually up to 5% in most years. The tax requires an Oakland General Fund library appropriation of at least $9,059,989. Oakland’s General Fund contribution as a percentage of the Library Budget shrinks annually as Measure Q contributes a growing majority of Library funds, not half. In short, the Library Budget has not been cut in the current year and will continue to grow as long as the Oakland City Council continues increasing the Measure Q tax.

    The lack of transparency in Oakland Library expenditures, and Measure Q, in particular, probably confused Jones. The League of Women Voters of U.S. advocates increased transparency in local governments. Publishing the line-by-line Oakland library expenditures would avoid confusion and misinformation.

    Susan Southworth
    Piedmont, CA

    Note: Jones article stated– “Emeryville not only renewed the contract, it offered a 60 percent raise over the 2008 rate.” Increasing from $75,000 (FY08)/ $80,000 (FY09) to $100,000 is not a 60% raise.

    Jones article also stated –“When the contract expired, Oakland asked to raise the fee to $395,000 a year, in part to cover a steep rent increase at the branch used most by Piedmont residents, the Piedmont Avenue Branch.” The Piedmont Avenue Library rent increase did not occur in 2008 and was not contemplated then. The increase occurred on November 1, 2010, a year after the library was sold. The new rent offsets the roof and foundation maintenance responsibility and property tax paid to Oakland, neither of which the previous owner of the library paid. In 2008 Oakland refused the offer of $375,000 to $455,000 and demanded $665,000 per year not $395,000.

  5. Lets see. Piedmont pays Oakland around $350,000 a year for library access.

    Hello – the elephant in the room is wondering why you don’t build your own library and blow Oakland off?

    When backed against a wall, most people stop complaining and do the right thing. So stop whining, build a library, and invite Council Member Brunner to the opening. I’m sure she’ll regret calling Piedmont unconscionable.

  6. The option to build a library has been looked at by the City of Piedmont and I think the cost estimate was $4M to build/stock/staff. If built, staffing of a Piedmont library would certainly be undertaken by volunteers and could probably be established to operate only under that condition. The City could undertake this effort but I think that would require a sustained effort by future Councils and a ballot initiative would be needed to give Council that direction. Alternatively, would Oakland accept a volunteer library established in the classroom wing of the 801 Bldg as a legitimate public library that would entitle Piedmont to sharing privileges? I think Piedmont would still be charged by Oakland but that amount be substantially less than the approx. $500K that is being discussed. Under this scenario, Piedmont would have to make a substantial commitment to buying books and setting up a library but if a volunteer association undertook this effort it might suffice. Is there a a “Friends of Piedmont Library” out there that could take this on?

Leave a Comment