Elected Library Board Idea Resurfaces After 14 Years, Voter Dissatisfaction
December 4, 2006
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By: Dave Rogers
Ask just about anybody whether an elected library board is a good idea.
Most people support such a plan, an informal MyBayCity.com poll has shown.
In fact, an elected board under the state District Library Law was proposed in 1992 by the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, then headed by Mike Asiala.
The idea didn't fly because the library board at the time, appointed by the County Commission, wouldn't approve.
Now, with the library system facing critical cuts in service in the wake of a close voter defeat of a renewal millage, the idea has arisen from the ashes.
Strangely, it is a County Commissioner, Vaughn Begick, who made the proposal at a Lions Club meeting last week.
Mr. Begick figures he can round up a few votes for the district library plan on the County Commission, and perhaps even enough to pass it so the county would take the initiative.
Some observers feel the county body may have had enough of library troubles and may be willing to pass on the responsibility to a board directly elected by the voters.
Getting approval of the present library board is another question and may pose the most difficult hurdle, backers indicated. But the County Commission, if it takes the lead, could help facilitate the transfer process.
The present board, headed by Ella Jane Martini, has so far resisted intense criticism that includes many calls for mass resignations, or at least resignation of the chair.
In 1992, the Library of Michigan began to encourage all county libraries to reorganize under the new District Library Establishment Act. (Public Act 24 of 1989). Many have, including Branch, Genesee, Jackson and Van Buren counties. Bad Axe recently formed a district library that is working very well, said Mimi Harrington, director.
A planning committee prepares a district library agreement and submits it to prospective participating municipalities.
Funding is the same as the present method, with voters governing any and all millage issues placed on the ballot by the elected board.
The district library would be formed by at least two municipalities (city, village, school district, township or county). Although board members could be appointed by the participating municipalities, the preferred organization is with elected board members. If elected there will be seven board members.
Assets of the library system would be transferred to the new district library board.
We think it's a good idea at least worth exploring by formation of a planning committee, that would take the idea one big step beyond the one that failed in 1992.
If you have any interest in joining a grass roots effort to consider a district library system and elected board, please send an e-mail to mybaycity.com by using the link at the bottom of all stories posted. Your e-mail will be forwarded to organizers if they decide to push forward with the plan.###
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at email@example.com)
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