A citizens signature drive is underway to secure a certain percentage of the budget for our libraries. This would replace the library parcel tax set to expire in 2014. If enough signatures are collected, the measure could be placed on the ballot in November.
Single-issue advocacy may come at the cost of something else. However, setting aside a specific percentage of the budget for a specific purpose is the only way to guarantee it is done. Elected officials often fund services not within their scope of responsibility. Last month, I proposed examining and collecting data for setting a certain percentage of the budget—higher than today’s percentage—for the police department. My proposal will come back for discussion during the budget process.
You can argue the merit perspective on both libraries and public safety. On one hand, public libraries are an equalizer, which allow youth the opportunity and access to information both paper and electronic. Libraries are considered a special place in the heart of many academics that populate our valley.
On the other hand, police are the only enforcement of the Social Contract that allows us to walk back and forth from the library without being assaulted. We can always hope for the best in prevention, but there are those in society who are deviant. Even if they’re provided a free public education, an open library or community center, they opt out. At this point, a book or DVD won’t do much to stop an act of violence while you’re going to and from the library.
Perhaps we could combine the ideas and set a percentage of the budget for police and libraries. It would bring together the two most popular city services and cover the bases with both camps of San Jose residents. I believe most would say that a city is doing good job when it has an excellent police force and library branches that are open. Otherwise, the risk is that tax revenue could be spent on items not in the City Charter.
We should strive to have the best city possible—a library system open seven days a week, augmented by unpaid volunteers, and a police force able to respond to calls for service. Being proactive could eventually enforce the quality-of-life concerns our residents have.