Archives for posts with tag: Fullerton Public Library
Fitzgerald Coyote Hills 714

Jennifer Fitzgerald’s war on Fullerton’s library should be stopped now.

Matthew Leslie

Back in May the Rag reported that Fullerton City Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald during the Council’s May 1 meeting requested that the council agendize an item to consider replacing Fullerton’s Library Board of Trustees with the city council members themselves:

“I do want to bring the library board code sections up to date. I want to add to that we institute a new organizational structure for the library board that calls for the appointment of the city council members to serve as the trustees to the library board and to form a library advisory commission.”

At the time no other member of the City Council commented on her request, letting it pass like the ravings of a demented relative at the dinner table. When asked privately about it, another member the Council responded that no one else supported the idea. But, five months later, the item has nonetheless made its way on to the Council’s September 18 meeting as part of the ongoing initiative to restructure Fullerton’s Committees and Commissions,

CITY OF FULLERTON BOARD / COMMISSION / COMMITTEE REORGANIZATION
Fullerton City Council | Successor Agency Agenda September 18, 2018 – Page 4

“Ongoing implementation of City Council’s final direction regarding boards, commissions and committees, specifically elimination of Planning Commissioner stipends, changes to the Library Board of Trustees and creation of a Library Advisory Commission and Active Transportation Committee.”

The staff reports explains that: “The attached draft code amendments reflect City Council direction provided at the May meeting in which the City Council directed Staff to return to the Council with code updates regarding the Library Board of Trustees as well as having the City Council serve as the Library Board of Trustees in the future.” So, no one on the City Council stopped the idea either.

The effort to restructure Fullerton’s commissions and committees goes back to the Joe Felz days, and some actions to that end have already been taken by the City Council. Though discussed for staff direction at the May 1 meeting, however, this latest round of restructuring options has taken many by surprise–including all three boards serving the library. Neither the Fullerton Library Foundation, who privately raise funds for the library, The Friends of Fullerton Library, who operate its bookstore and organize its periodic books sales, nor the Library Board of Trustees themselves were consulted about the idea or even apprised of its imminent appearance before the Council next Tuesday night. That’s a lot of people, and they are not happy about it.

The city staff’s proposed ordinance calls for replacing parts of the Fullerton Municipal Code (FMC)’s section on the Fullerton Public Library with language that establishes a Library Advisory Committee, but makes no mention of the City Council populating the Library Board with their own membership, presumably because it isn’t legally necessary–it’s just that no one ever does it, because there is no reason to do so. My mistake. It actually does say:

“2.16.020 Library Board – Appointment – Term.

The Fullerton Public Library shall be managed by a Board of Library Trustees consisting of five members appointed by the City Council. Appointees shall be current members of the City Council.” (Boldface added).

The staff report calls for “replacing current Library Board of Trustees members with current City Council Members as Trustee’s terms expire,” meaning that some Council members could begin serving as Library Trustees as early as December.

This unilaterally proposed action cannot help being seen in light of Jennifer Fitzgerald’s support for selling the Hunt Branch Library and her other recent outlying suggestion that the Orange County Public Library system take over Fullerton’s century old plus library.

Adopting the proposed changes would effectively reduce the Library Board to serve only in an advisory capacity, altering a practice dating back to 1901, before Fullerton was itself even incorporated. Amendments governing the Library Board of Trustees date to five years later in 1906, and, for what its worth, specifically hold that “Men and women shall be equally eligible to” to be appointed–that’s fourteen years before women even had the right to vote in elections in this country, for those of you counting.

And for what purpose? In May Jennifer Fitzgerald gave no rationale whatsoever for the City Council to appoint itself as members of the Board of Trustees, but somehow this change to 112 years of the Council appointing members of the public to serve as Trustees to the library has appeared on a City Council agenda anyway. This unprecedented and unwarranted change should be adamantly opposed by all members of Fullerton’s City Council until and unless some compelling reason is given for the change–and it would have to be a really compelling reason at that. Further, members of the City Council should be more proactive in stopping wastes of staff, City Attorney, Council, Library Trustees, and public time if none other than one of their number seriously support idiotic ideas like this one in the fist place.

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Hunt Register

The Hunt Branch Library, which has been closed to the public since April, has been encumbered with problems for years.

Matthew Leslie

The second of four planned meetings of the Library Ad Hoc Committee took place in the Community Room of Fullerton’s Main Branch on Monday, August 6. Though fully constituted, the Ad Hoc’s agenda still reflected a committee searching for basic information about the Hunt Branch Library, the disposition of which the committee is intended to consider, and the scope and efficacy of the committee itself. The ambitious agenda laid out for the evening gave rise to the hope that essential questions about the actual cost to operate the facility as a property library, requirements for bringing the building up to current accessibility standards and needed repairs, and even an accurate map of the property might finally be forthcoming.

Picking up where they last left off, weeks earlier, the Ad Hoc moved to choose a Chair and Vice Chair—the decision having been postponed until ninth member Molly McClanahan was seated to break a tie between Pete Beard and Randa Schmalfield. The revelation that Ms. Schmalfield was “delighted” not to serve as Chair led the committee to unanimously elect Mr. Beard Chair and Ms. Schmalfield Vice Chair.

With one clear decision under their belt, the nine Ad Hoc members surged on to the next item, existentially entitled Prioritizing Council Direction Regarding the Purpose of the Library Ad Hoc Committee, precipitated by a July 30 memo by member Barbara Kilponen , who suggested therein prioritizing, in order, Funding, the Library building’s use, and Landscaping. Library Director Judy Booth, an ex-officio member of the Ad Hoc also unreasonably tasked with staffing it, attempted to locate a map of the Hunt and its surrounding grounds on the city’s own website. Attendee James Cho, an affiliate of Hunt leasee Grace Ministries International (GMI) and unsuccessful applicant to the Ad Hoc, called out navigational instructions from the audience. Once found, the map led to more questions from the committee, including whether or not the adjacent dog park should be considered part of the Hunt Branch proper. Eventually, Molly McClanahan requested a more accurate map. Several members suggested that a Request for Proposals/Request for Qualifications (RFP/RFQ) be issued to solicit possible uses and occupants of the facility, referred to by Jan Flory as a “dying library.” Former council members on the committee explained that the Ad Hoc itself was not procedurally allowed to itself issue RFPs or RFQs, but there was general agreement, that the committee could recommend the City Council to do so.

For many years people have asked how much money it would cost to repair and reopen the Hunt Branch Library building. A definitive answer was not to be had that evening as the Ad Hoc moved on to its next item of business, but Director Judy Booth did provide a Preliminary Inspection Estimate totaling around $ 2.5 million. $ 1 million of the figure, characterized as a “guess” by Director Booth, was dedicated to the cost of replacing unbroken windows that had been painted black because they had been repeated etched by vandals. Replacement of interior lights was the second highest expense at $ 720,000, followed by $ 120,000 to replace the roof and another $ 160,000 for new heating and air conditioning systems. Other expenses included fending repair, exterior lights, and a fire sprinkler system. Other costs, like seismic retrofit and landscaping and internet connectivity were classified as “Unknown,” while gas, sewer, and water systems were not inspected.

A staff report estimated the cost of operating the Hunt Branch as a library once again as $ 832,956 for seven days a week or $ 679,630 for five days per week. Director Booth explained that an additional $ 200,000 would need to be spent on new collections, since the books currently housed at the Hunt were evidently assumed to be in such poor condition, presumably due to being shrink-wrapped for years while the building has been leased out to GMI. Technological upgrades were not included in the estimate either. Former Fullerton City Council member Jan Flory doubted that the current City Council would allocate $ 2.5 million to refurbish and repair the Hunt, but didn’t think the public would support selling the building and grounds either, and so supported finding an alternative use for the Hunt.

And so the committee moved on the next item, to considered Publicly Beneficial Uses of the Building and Grounds, including, but not limited to, a CSUF reading program satellite facility, a “maker-space” for robotics, a “creative space” for seniors, and different permutations of art and science spaces for kids. All the Arts for All the Kids was said to be interested in submitting a proposal. Committee member Michael Williams wondered whether or not the Hunt Branch was the best site for many of the suggested uses.

Committee member Elgeth Nuncii reported that Robert Pletka of the Fullerton School District had been about being a partner for programming at the Hunt, but no realistic suggestions for programming partners who might bring the necessary funding to repair the facility were forthcoming. Overall, fewer funding ideas were presented than uses for the site. They included Barbara Kilponen’s suggestion to invite architectural firms to lease the site for 99 years, and selling off portions of the property to fund the remainder, or to transfer the open spaces surrounding the building to the Parks and Recreation Department to take advantage of Park Dwelling Fees.

One audience member asked why the committee was presupposing that the city would ultimately be the owner of the Hunt Branch, to which Jan Flory responded that “there are two council people who are hot to sell it,” while the other three were “too chicken to say so.” In the recent past Doug Chaffee and Jennifer Fitzgerald have voiced support for selling the Hunt, while Bruce Whitaker and Jesus Silva have supported the city retaining it, while Greg Sebourn has remained noncommittal on the issue.

Ultimately, the Library Ad Hoc Committee voted to invite members of the public to submit ideas about possible funded uses for the Hunt Library at the Ad Hoc’s next meeting, to be held on Tuesday, September 4, 5:30 p.m. at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave.

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