Cheers in Cedar library camp; next up, talks with KCLS
By TRACEY COMPTON
Renton Reporter Staff writer
August 9, 2012 · Updated 9:13 AM
Renton’s voters stuck by their beloved library over the Cedar River Tuesday, overwhelmingly voting to refurbish it rather than build a new one.
Renton’s voters are selecting in the primary election the location of the downtown library. Initial results posted at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday showed that 76 percent favor keeping the library right where it’s been for 46 years vs. 24 percent who want to build a new library just west of the Piazza.
In numbers that’s 7,786 for the Cedar library and 2,444 for the Piazza library. The next results will be posted at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Citizens for the Cedar River Library celebrated its victory Tuesday night, while Mayor Denis Law showed appreciation of the process the morning after the vote.
Law also answered the question, What’s next for the downtown library?
At the Citizens for the Cedar River Library camp, a roar went up when the first election results came in at about 8:30 p.m. among the 40 or so people gathered at the home of City Council member Marcie Palmer’s house.
Among those at the election-night gathering were former Mayor Don Custer, who was the mayor when the downtown library was built in 1966. He told stories to the group about the library.
“I am no less than thrilled with the results and they should put an end to any speculations about what Renton citizens want for a library location,” Stuart Avery, group spokesperson, wrote in an email Wednesday. “I believe the overwhelming amount of information which voters had been exposed to over the past weeks was weighed into their decision making, and the decision has now been made clear.”
For Mayor Law it’s now clear that Renton voters want the library to remain over the Cedar River. He credited the majority of City Council members, who initially selected the Big 5 site, for allowing voters to have a say in the final location.
“This process shows that the council truly cares about the opinions of our citizens,” Law wrote in an email Wednesday morning.
The city will now meet with the King County Library System to discuss how to proceed, he said.
“The city still has contract obligations to meet with KCLS and it’s my hope that we’ll be able move forward successfully with minimum additional expense to our taxpayers,” Law said.
KCLS officials declined to comment, referring questions to the City of Renton.
For the opposition, the People for the Piazza Park Library, Laurie Beden, co-chair, is proud of their campaign.
"I am extremely proud of the fact-based campaign we ran and know our efforts were aimed at providing the very best in library services to the citizens of Renton," said Beden. "The next chapter in the Renton libraries has begun. It is now in the hands of the mayor, City Council and KCLS. I see two options: two scaled-down libraries or a tax increase. It will be interesting to see what will be done."
The King County Elections Division will continue counting ballots through Aug. 20; a lead this large is impossible to overcome.
The county will update election results weekdays at 4:30 p.m. through Monday, Aug. 20, with the final results posted Tuesday, Aug. 20.
The stage was set for the election after a citizens group collected enough signatures to validate an initiative to put the location to a vote. While the Renton City Council didn’t accept the initiative, council did come up with its own ballot measure that accomplished the same thing.
Avery acknowledges that it is still important to support downtown retailers, but a new library site at the Piazza just wasn’t the way to do it.
“This was never about taking anything away from them (retailers),” said Avery. “They need and deserve the full support of our community. Although we knew a library downtown at west of the Piazza was not the solution for this, we do believe that a solution can be found to address the concerns of business owners in the downtown district. There is no simple solutions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work as a community to find one.”
During the campaign before the election much of the debate swirled around the cost of each location.
The cost of building the new Piazza library is estimated at $9.3 million, the figure that was used in the Voters Pamphlet. The most recent estimate from the King County Library System to refurbish the Cedar library is $13.1 million. The Voters Pamphlet had the cost at $10.1 million, an earlier estimate.
The City of Renton sold $18 million in bonds to build the new libraries downtown and in the Highlands. The King County Library System will then own and operate the two libraries.
(Editor Dean A. Radford contributed to this report.)Contact Renton Reporter Staff writer Tracey Compton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-255-3484, ext. 5052.