Sunday, June 1, 2014

Measure C & the Proposed Library - a pre-election update

Campaign Contributions Supporting Measure C

Earlier this past week I was urged to visit City Hall to examine the campaign disclosure statements that were filed by the political action committee supporting Measure C.  I didn't expect them to be all that interesting, but I made the effort anyway. As it turns out, they are rather intriguing.

As of May 22nd, the PAC took in a reported total of $62,450.

The first interesting contribution is that made by the City Manager, Fran David. It would appear that she really wants to see this measure approved. Not even being a Hayward resident, she contributed $2,500. This is more than the contribution made by the Mayor and all of the City Council members combined. In fact, her contribution is more than that of any other individual except one. That honor goes to our district Assemblymember Bill Quirk, who's currently running for re-election.

Mr. Quirk contributed a whopping $7,500. Apparently public service in the State Assembly makes one wealthy and philanthropic. Or perhaps the money is otherwise a quid pro quo payback of the funds previously provided to the Assemblyman's campaign by local unions (as documented in other campaign disclosure statements). 

Direct contributions by labor unions to Measure C are less than I had otherwise expected. So far the total contribution is $9,200 with Hayward Firefighters Local 1909 and Sprinkler Fitters Local 483 providing the bulk of the funding at $5,000 and $3,000, respectively.

Now here's where things get really interesting. The next largest contribution is by the architectural firm Noll & Tam. This is the firm that has been working with the City on the proposed new library since 2007. It currently has an active $3-million contract with the City to complete the library's final design. The firm initially contributed $5,000 to the campaign. But within a week of my posting "Hayward's Proposed New Library - A Costly Mistake," the firm tripled its contribution, bringing its total to $15,000. Now I'm not an authority on campaign financing, so I'm guessing this is legal. But it sure does smack of impropriety to me. This is because the contract includes a contingency pay item that's authorized at the discretion of city staff for issues not previously identified. Seeing how eager our city staff is to have Measure C pass (as evident by the City Manager's generous contribution as well as contributions made by a couple of other executive employees), one has to wonder if the firm will be recouping its contribution through exaggerated contingency claims, contract amendments, or deliverables that would not otherwise meet expectations. An independent audit would be prudent.

Finally, the largest contributor, providing $20,000 so far, is the Friends of the Hayward Public Library. This is particularly surprising; because as a non-profit organization, it is discouraged from political lobbying. In fact, the IRS imposes severe penalties, including revocation of non-profit status, on an organization that spends more than 20-percent of its expenditures on campaigning. This means that the friends group must spend $80,000 (and advisably more) on other endeavors this year. Spending a minimum of $100,000 in one year is a tremendous amount for the group considering that it only takes in about $25,000 annually.

Library Commissioner Criticizes Council over Measure C

At this past week’s City Council meeting, Library Commissioner Kelly Greenne laid into the Council for allowing a long sought library funding measure to evolve into a costly, unrestricted general fund, sales tax referendum. She fears that if approved in this form, the money can be spent any which way, potentially resulting in an undesirable project or possibly none at all. She also called for a public accounting of the $10M in library funding promised by Calpine.

SF Chronicle Highlights Proposed Library Project

In case you missed it, earlier this month the San Francisco Chronicle published an article highlighting the City's proposed library project. The article reveals just how delusional city leaders are in their belief that a new library will be Hayward's salvation. They claim it will have "a huge impact" on economic development by attracting over one million visitors to the downtown each year. They seem to be under the illusion that they're planning the next Disneyland.  The photos in the article are equally revealing. Advocates for a new library trumpet the need for space, yet photos 1 and 4 show that the existing shelving space is significantly underutilized. And why would Hayward citizens want to invest $90-million in a new library when the City is unable or unwilling to maintain it's existing from such things as a window leak as shown in photo 5? Voters ought to take note that it's this kind of deterioration from neglected maintenance that's used as justification for promoting replacement of many of the older City facilities.

Pursuing Library Partnerships

On a more positive note, at the last City Council meeting the Library Director informed the Council of the department’s new goal for FY 2015: expand the library's reach by partnering with local schools. Yep, it looks like we're starting to talk some good sense. Perhaps my arguments aren't falling on deaf ears after all. Whatever way it has come about, let’s hope the endeavor proves fruitful.

No comments:

Post a Comment