News / Perspective / With Audio
Filled LB Library Auditorium Cheers & Hears Ray Bradbury Laud Libraries & Books; Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal, Tonia Reyes Uranga, Dir. Library Services Eleanore Schmidt Receive Audience Applause
Fliers Fly Urging Restoration Of Add'l Library Funding
(Sept. 6, 2008) -- Buoyed by a Sept. 5 Budget Oversight Committee recommendation to keep the Main Library open with reduced days, hours and staffing -- and with fliers flying urging continued pressure and restoration of an additional $500,000 in Library funding -- roughly 300 people filled the Main Library Auditorium on Saturday Sept. 6 to hear famed author Ray Bradbury speak on the importance of Libraries and Bookstores.
LBReport.com provides audio coverage of Mr. Bradbury's remarks below. Theo Douglas of TheDistrictWeekly.com his own independently written coverage: "Any Time You Need Me, You Can Call On Me" to which we add the following.
Mr. Bradbury (who's lived in L.A. for much of his life) said Long Beach had been part of his life for more than seventy years...and he spoke warmly about his previous involvements with Long Beach and its assets. He called its architecture superior to L.A...while chiding some decisions by LB officialdom (planned demolition of the Acres of Books bookstore remains a sore point for him).
Two LB elected officials (who had opposed Main Library closure) were present and received strong applause: 1st district Councilwoman [and Dem Assembly candidate] Bonnie Lowenthal and 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga.
Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal (in photo below alongside former 1st dist. Councilman Evan Braude) didn't speak from the microphone but was visibly beaming from along the sidelines, clearly enjoying Mr. Bradbury's presentation and anecdotes.
A number of LB-L.A. market media outlets were present. Councilwoman Reyes Uranga was interviewed by long-time L.A. Times reporter Louis Sahagun.
Commenting on the event after Mr. Bradbury concluded his remarks, Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal said, "It's so heartening to see the community take charge of its institutions. That is what democracy is all about. That's why I believe we're going to keep the Main Library open."
LB's Dir. of Library Services Eleanore Schmidt received applause on introduction. For six stressful weeks in the budget spotlight, she maintained her grace under pressure and, when given the opportunities, cited facts on the merits regarding the Main Library. From the speaker's microphone, she said democracy was alive and well in Long Beach.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, controversy ignited almost immediately on Mayor Foster's Aug. 1 release of management's proposed budget...which included the proposed Main Library closure. Weeks of public pounding followed from two private advocacy groups: the LB Public Library Foundation and Friends of the LB Public Library.
A turning point came at a Sept. 2 Council budget session...when for the first time a total of five Councilmembers (apparently arriving at their conclusions independently) variously indicated that they don't support the management-proposed closure.
We had reported that Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal was on record opposing the closure for some time (which was true) but we wanted to nail down when her opposition began...so we asked her.
"Before [the proposal] even came out, when the City Manager first mentioned it to me [prior to Aug. 1], I said I'm opposed to this, it's unacceptable," she told us.
At the Sept. 2 Council budget session, Councilwoman Lowenthal said she favored removing the Main Library closure from FY 09 budget discussions, inviting its discussion in the future...and her position ultimately prevailed.
Three days later at the Sept. 5 Budget Oversight Committee meeting, management offered options for taking the Main Library closure out of the budget [and the Committee voted to recommend an option with reduced days, hours and staffing to the full Council].
At Saturday's Sept. 6 Ray Bradbury event, we watched as multiple attendees came up to Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal and thanked her personally for her stance on the library.
Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal's position on the issue differed from that 2nd dist Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal...whose comments at the Sept. 2 Council meeting were generally more supportive of city management's position. Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal referred to current Civic Center complex as less than functional and indicated that she believes reexamination of the Civic Center area is in order [presumably including the Main Library].
Among those attending the Sept. 6 event was former LB Mayor/former ELB Councilman [now LBCC Trustee] Dr. Tom Clark, present with his daughter. A few days earlier, Mayor Clark (who was a Councilmember when the Main Library was built in the 1970s) wrote a letter published in the Press-Telegram questioning the reasoning for closing the Main Library.
When we asked Mayor Clark about that, he replied politely, "Well, it just doesn't seem wise to be closing the Main Library without a plan in place for what to do next."
Also present but not speaking was Sara Pillet, Executive Dir. of the LB Public Library Foundation...who was polite but relentless (and quite unintimidated) in opposing the Main Library's closure without a plan for its immediate and long-term future.
At a Sept. 4 budget session, Main Library supporters (literally) rolled out a petition that they said contained over 5,000 signatures. Ms. Pillet calmly reminded Councilmembers from the speakers' podium the signatures represented the views of voters...and she stressed "voters."
At the Sept. 6 Bradbury event, fliers were handed out stating in part,"Main Library Still Faces Unfair [emphasis in original] Share Of City's Budget Cuts!!" With emphasis below as in original, the flier stated:
...[T]he Main Library still faces the threat of an immediate $1.8 million (=37%!) cut to its budget. This means that the smallest department is being asked to shoulder more than 10% of the City's entire $16.9 million deficit...
THIS TUESDAY, Sept. 9th, at 3:30 p.m. City Council will vote on a proposal to RESTORE $500,000 to Main Library's 09 budget, making its total cut only $1.3 million. If approved, this reduced cut would bring the Library Department's overall budget cuts BACK IN LINE with the 10% cut request of all other City departments...PLEASE...URGE [Councilmembers by phone or email] to support adding $500,000 back to Main Library...
Does Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal support restoring the additional money? "I'm supportive of the Budget Oversight Committee recommendations," she told us.
Carol Collins of Friends of the LB Public Library urged attendees to read Mr. Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 [describing a future in which "firemen" burned books]. She introduced Mr. Bradbury as someone who's always been against censorship...and likened closing down a library to a form of censorship.
Mr. Bradbury received a standing ovation on his introduction.
LBReport.com provides on-demand audio of Mr. Bradbury's salient remarks here. [We captured the audio via a monitor speaker that had seen better days, but Mr. Bradbury's remarks came through quite clearly.]
To launch the audio (MP3 file), click here.
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