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Welcome to the web site sponsored by the all-volunteer SOS-Library campaign committee, 2370 Yale Avenue East, Seattle, WA  98102-3310 (full name:  Save Our Seattle Library with Full Regular Funding, not a Temporary Levy).  We are longtime supporters of the Seattle Public Library who opposed the August 7, 2012 Seattle Proposition 1, a $122.6 million, seven-year property tax levy.   Our motto during the campaign was “Please join us in voting NO on the levy, thus conveying to the City Council a strong YES to improved Library funding from the regular budget.” 

The levy did pass, although with a smaller majority (62%) than the 69% majority received in 1998 by the larger $169 million “Libraries For All” bond issue.   The large number of “no” votes is impressive when one considers the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the “yes” campaign for mailings, yard signs, etc.  (SOS-Library spent less than $25 on our entire “no” campaign.)

We feel that the narrower margin in 2012 compared to 1998 reflected voter concern over the issues we raised during the campaign.   These issues have become even more important with passage of the levy, and therefore we will maintain this web site as a source for information and to encourage volunteers to contact us about them.  Please see or click on the following for background on the issues.

Seattle Times editorials  (7/16/12) and (7/29/12) opposed Proposition 1.  The editorial board saw through the smoke and mirrors to how bad this levy would be for the Library and for democracy.

Joel Connelly’s SeattlePI.com column (7/29/12), entitled “We need libraries, but the City doesn’t get it,” argued that “levies should be for building stuff” and urged that the Library receive priority in the general funds rather than a temporary levy.    

Fund Libraries in City Budget, Vote No on Seattle Proposition 1.  This op-ed piece by Chris Leman in the 7/22/12 Seattle Times summarized SOS-Library’s case.  A “no” vote on this special, temporary levy, would be a “yes” for honest government and a higher priority for the Library from regular funds.

The case against Seattle Proposition 1 (Longer and more detailed analysis by SOS-Library of the problems with the levy, and why a NO vote on the levy meant YES for honest government and a higher priority for the Library from regular funds.)

The Municipal League Foundation’s statement opposing Seattle Proposition 1, the “Library Levy.”  “We are  deeply concerned that approving this levy will result in a continued practice of reducing allocations from the general fund.  The lack of a citizens’ oversight component further weakens this proposal by failing to provide a sufficient level of transparency to the public.”

Voters’ guide City versionCounty version (Both links are given here in case one doesn’t work for you.  Included are the actual ballot language; the levy-defining Ordiance 123851; pro and con statements; and the Explanatory Statement that the Ethics and Election Commission adopted over the objections of the “pro” campaign, which claimed more certainty than was actually in the levy).

Seattle Times articles 7/25/12,  “Views clash over approving $123M levy to protect Seattle libraries,” by  reporter Lynn Thompson, who also reported 8/8/12  on the levy’s passage.

Seattle Times “live chat” (8/1/12) moderated by editor Joni Balter, with City Librarian Marcellus Turner debating SOS-Library’s Chris Leman. 

Seattle Channel TV debate  (4/27/12) on Proposition 1.  It was two (City Librarian Marcellus Turner and City Councilmember Jean Godden) against one, but the Washington Policy Center’s Paul Guppy got the better of the argument in his case for full regular funding and against a temporary levy.

Ord. 119019, the ordinance which defined the 1998 levy by which voters approved funding of the “Libraries for All” construction bond issue.  Unlike the vague, unaccountable 2012 levy ordinance (available in the Voter’s Guide above), the 1998 levy ordinance gave iron-clad assurances to voters on how the funds would be spent.  (For background, see “The case against Proposition 1,” above).

Seattle’s library is among best-funded in big cities.    Reflecting a Pew Foundation study of 15 large city library systems,  Atlantic Cities reported on 3/7/12 that Seattle’s has had fewer cuts than any except San Francisco’s.

Internal records reveal political deal-making behind the levy, in full knowledge of sacrificing the Library’s financial stability, to move some of its regular funds to other departments—and concealing that switch from the voters.   Click for (1) a 2011 Library Board analysis that outlines the deal with the City Council, warns of dangers to the Library in this strategy and unsuccessfully calls for protections to be written in the levy; (2) a Library Board member’s objections to the City Council’s raid on the Library’s general funds, unsuccessfully urging that voters be told the truth about it; (3) City Council staff eliminating from the ballot, language that would have committed the Mayor and City Council to “ensuring libraries remain open” (i.e. not to close branch libraries) or even “maintaining and improving essential services”; and (4) a consensus among the Councilmembers for the levy achieved by moving some of the Library’s regular funding away from the Library to other departments, while making sure not to tell voters that the levy does not fully benefit the Library.

Public records request, denial, and appeal   The City Budget Office and Mayor refused to release budget documents about the Library that were essential for the voters to see before the August 7 election.    

Complaint (52 pages) filed July 3 with the Ethics and Elections Commission alleging violation of campaign laws by the Library and the City Budget Office in using City resources to promote Proposition 1.  Summary of the above July 3 complaint to the Ethics and Elections Commission.  On August 1, the Commission found that the Library had violated campaign laws.  At its August 1 meeting, the Commission deadlocked 3-3 on whether the violations were major and worthy of a fine, so they have (so far) been deemed minor.   

To donate.  SOS-Library’s position on political donations was as follows:   Please don’t make political contributions for or against the levy.  Please donate directly to the Library, asking that your donation be used to add to the collection or for improved technology.   Send your check, made out to “Seattle Public Library,” to the City Librarian, Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA  98104.   (Wish we could recommend a donation to the Seattle Public Library Foundation or the Friends of the Seattle Public Library, but they gave a total of $175,000 in political contributions to the “pro” levy campaign—money that should have gone to the Library.)   

To contact SOS-Library:  cleman@oo.net, (206) 322-5463, or c/o Campaign Manager and Treasurer Chris Leman, 2370 Yale Avenue East, Seattle, WA  98102-3310.   We want to hear from you!