Valley News -

By Chuck Washington
Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor 

Libraries bring value to Riverside County's residents

 

Last updated 5/30/2019 at 10:04pm



Jeff Pack questioned in his opinion-editorial titled “Prioritizing passion projects over a societal crisis” that spending $50 million on the construction of three new libraries in Riverside County is a poor use of public monies when the County is faced with a homelessness problem. I appreciate Mr. Pack’s concern for the homeless issue in Riverside County, and I, too, believe in the “basic societal importance of aiding and caring for our fellow human beings.” However, this criticism fails to recognize the complexity of public funds nor does it reflect the immense value libraries bring to everyone in our community. 

As a member of the Board of Supervisors, which approved the funding for the new libraries, I know our $5.6 billion budget is extremely limited in its flexibility. Public libraries make up a very small portion of that sum and are funded by a special property tax collected specifically for libraries. The rapidly growing community of French Valley, which now has an estimated population of 31,000, pays those taxes but must travel to neighboring cities to receive library services.  By using some of those monies for construction of a library in French Valley, in conjunction with a cost-effective public-private partnership, the County of Riverside is appropriately directing dollars already designated for libraries to a community where it’s warranted.

Private companies build and operate all County’s libraries, while Riverside County collects a 1.15 percent ad valorem property tax, which it uses for lease payments that ultimately will result in the County owning libraries. This partnership works well for Riverside County — the County has been able to decrease operational costs, increase the materials budget and operating hours, add more programming to each library and save jobs at the library. We value our excellent relationship with our private partners, and we cannot take monies that we owe to them and use them for any other purpose, no matter how noble the cause.

Furthermore, the County has a responsibility to serve all of its 2.5 million residents. We work hard to serve the homeless individuals in our county – an estimated 2,800 at last count – just as we have an obligation to the other 2.497 million residents. Bringing three new libraries to our county, including the first-ever library in French Valley, will bring a multitude of benefits to Riverside County residents. Children ages 0 to 5 years old will benefit from early-childhood activities just as teens, veterans, seniors and many others in our community will benefit from a wide array of programs and services tailored to their needs.

More importantly, libraries do provide services that can help move someone to self-sufficiency. On Tuesday, May 14, the Grace Mellman Library in Temecula hosted a “Homeless & Mental Health Sharing Resource Event” that provided services specifically catered to the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. They also have computers and printers where someone can research job postings, print a resume or find resources for getting out of homelessness. Libraries can provide workshops to teach literacy, English and computer skills. The Riverside County Library System’s website, www.rivlib.org, provides links for jobs, training and claims and benefits. The County’s libraries contain a wealth of resources, in addition to the thousands of books on every subject imaginable, including self-care and career advice. 

I appreciate the interest in supporting our homeless residents as demonstrated by Mr. Pack, our Riverside County Library System and the board of supervisors. I believe we all want what is best for our county. But I do hope that I have shed some light on why I stand by our libraries, and why I am so thrilled and excited to see three new libraries built in Riverside County. 

Supervisor Chuck Washington represents the southwest region of Riverside County on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Including the cities of Murrieta, Temecula, Hemet and San Jacinto, as well as the unincorporated communities of Idyllwild, Anza, Winchester and Homeland, the 3rd District has the largest unincorporated population in the County.

 

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