Deputy Mayor Bill Fulton and Library Director Jackie Griffin are discriminating against the children and the elderly by supporting the closure of Wright Library. Wright Library is Ventura’s main library. It supports the highest population, has the highest circulation and is in the densest area. Wright has six schools within walking distance as well as two retirement communities. It is easily accessible because of both parking and proximity. The service area of 93003 generates the most property tax revenue, which should therefore be spent on Wright library. They are blatantly dismissing these facts and removing the service from the children and citizens surrounding them.
Fulton cites on his blog, www.bilton4venturablogspot.com, purposefully misleading reasons for closing Wright Library. He underestimates the intelligence of the community and answers your complaints with Billisms that include telling you that children’s books are not as valuable as other books and by devaluing Wright’s circulation numbers because of the “nature of the collection and the nature of the library.” This is in his paragraph referencing children’s use and is meant to say that because children will frequently check out 20 children’s books versus an adult who would only check our one or two books, that the circulation numbers should not have bearing in the decision to close the library.
Fulton then writes on his blog that Foster will be safe for children because the downtown area is busier and there will be extra “eyes on the street” to watch your children. This would be comical if it weren’t so scary. If you follow his leadership, you would drive downtown and drop your child off to be watched by the “eyes on the street.” Fulton’s clear support of Griffin’s recommendation, both at the Monday night city council meeting and on his blog, make sure that your children’s books will be taken away from the safe, close proximity to your homes.
Fulton also writes, “I am sure as I can be that the college will not renew the lease.” Because the public is trusting, they would believe his sureness to be a fact. He is making gross assumptions about the future college leaders while underestimating the supporters of Wright library who would happily fundraise to either buy the building or renew the lease at the current market value in 2015. Either way, 2015 is six years away. Just think of the enormous variety of books children read from age 6 to age 12. Removing the library would be the equivalent of taking books away for almost half their childhoods. There is no ethical justification for this.
Another disturbing issue is that Fulton was one of three people who recommended hiring Jackie Griffin to the Library Commission. Griffin had a very troubled past in Berkeley. “Seventy-seven of Berkeley’s 120 union members signed a no-confidence statement regarding Griffin.” (Library Journal, May 2006) She then hired a lawyer to sue the city for wrongful termination. She resigned after a settlement agreement that included pay and benefits. In Berkeley she had “overflowing rooms of angered and concerned citizens and union members,” with citizens writing, “Wake up, Berkeley! The nightmare is here!” (Berkleyans Organizing for Library Defense) In Berkeley, which has double the tax dollars for libraries that Ventura has, she was paid $131,494. However, Ventura, with our significantly smaller budget, hired her for $141,804. In addition to this generous salary, she was given a $25,000 housing allowance and a car allowance. (Berkeley Daily Planet, Oct. 2006) So this director who is telling you that you should drive your children downtown to E.P. Foster because it is only four miles away, is actually paid by your property tax dollars to drive her car. Fulton has yet to explain if he even did a background check or to give justification for hiring someone who brought so much turmoil and controversy into her former position.
Griffin has ignored the countless letters and pleas from children and her community. The mission statement on Ventura County Library’s Web site says this: “The mission of the Ventura County Library is to meet the general reading, life-long learning and informational needs of the people of Ventura County, with special focus on children, youth and families.” Griffin is ignoring this mission statement by removing the most-used children’s library in the city from its community. She is removing it from the very school children and residents it is meant to serve.
The city does not need to subsidize the library, nor do taxes need to be raised. We have $2.5 million to run these city libraries. Wright is the model of efficiency and uses only 34 percent of that money yet generates 58 percent of the total budget. Foster needs to tighten its internal structure. A strong director and commissioner would be looking for the various ways to keep libraries open to best serve the community. They would come up with numerous solutions instead of dismissing all alternatives with the excuse that we need to make “tough choices” to close the library that serves the highest population.
Maili Brocke is a concerned mother, library defender and civil rights supporter. She is also a chef and an English Major living in the city of Ventura.