This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 14, 2010 - vote No on the Bad 3

So you go to the doctor and he says, "I'd like you to lose some of that weight." You think, "You could lose a few yourself, doc!" but what you say is, "So are we talking a diet? Exercise? I can do that!"

But he frowns at you. "I'm afraid I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is, I want you to lose weight faster than that. We're going to have to amputate your leg."

"What's the good news?" you exclaim.

"To give you time to get used to it, we're going to amputate in stages!" He demonstrates: a whack at the knee, then mid-thigh, then at the hip.

That little scenario is pretty much the combined effect of Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101, the Bad Three.

Honestly, I've been listening to and reading what the proponents say. While it pains me to be so uncivil, I don't know what else to call their claims but lies. Some proponents have stated in highly public forums and the press that no one will lose their jobs, that the effect is only something like a 2% reduction in "government" spending.

Have they not read their own proposals? As noted in previous columns, Amendment 60 alone would reduce the revenues of the Douglas County Libraries by more than half, effective January 1, 2011. If that should happen, over 170 library workers would lose their jobs shortly thereafter. Not 4 or 10 years from now.

That's certainly bad for hard-working and conscientious library employees, and the economy. But more to the point for our community, the services used so intensively by you, our patrons, would be harshly curtailed.

Some branches would close altogether, despite their value as community centers. Our new materials purchases - books, music, and movies - would be reduced by half as well, despite our having one of the highest per capita uses of those materials in the nation.

Based on our patterns of use, we would start cutting hours at the three or four branches that remain. Although plenty busy by any standard, some hours are less busy than others. Evenings would be first to go. That means no more night meetings at the library, which are currently booked out as much as a year in advance.

Over the past year or so, libraries all across the country have been seeing a big surge of use by people who use our resources to retool. They learn to write resum├ęs, they search for jobs online, they write business plans for start-up companies. This would not be a good time for them to lose library access.

I've been involved in various Douglas County communities for a long time, and I've learned something nobody talks much about. The quality of our lives depends on two strong legs: the private sector, and the not-for-profit.

Business cannot and does not thrive without an ongoing investment in infrastructure: roads, schools, libraries, water, public safety. Some people protest business regulation. Yet those laws, inspections, fees, and our courts create something without which no business can long survive: a predictable and consistent environment that promotes the common good.

Don't believe me? See Haiti.

Likewise, the not-for-profit sector depends on the productivity of business. Humans need to make things, grow things, build things. Those activities not only celebrate achievement, but also create wealth. A percentage of private profits returns to the not-for-profit sector, investing in and sustaining that shared environment.

Both business and government, being human enterprises, are only as good as the ones who work in them. Both need to be watched, and both need to be put on a diet every now and then.

But blindly hacking off one of your legs isn't a diet. It's just a good way to make it impossible to stand.

LaRue's Views are his own.

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