Library: Nothing is simple | The Renton Reporter view

Monday night’s City Council meeting was a lesson in civics and a demonstration of the understanding by some in the community that what the council does matters.

The message to council members was clear: We are watching you. Here are your marching orders. If you don’t do what we ask, don’t expect our support at election time.

Those messages were told eloquently, by Elizabeth Stevens, by Bill Taylor and by Stuart Avery, among about a dozen others who spoke on where to build the new  downtown library.

But many of the comments simply didn’t fit the context of the meeting. Evoking truisms, including the love for the library over the river, works rhetorically (ask any politician). What was needed Monday night was dispassionate reason, expressed with passion.

The council stuck to its guns, honoring a vote by the people in early 2010 to annex to the King County Library System that would ensure Renton residents would have library services for decades to come – an investment in the future.

But some things got lost Monday night on the way to that 4-3 vote:

• That the city must honor contracts it signs, based on the situation and the best information available AT THE TIME of signing.

• That at some point, the talk ends and the decision-making begins.

• That some decisions are fraught with political danger. (This one probably wasn’t lost on the council members.)

So, comes Tuesday and the news that council President Rich Zwicker approached the city’s administration about finding a way to make the public’s voice heard. He had spoken passionately about staying the course at Monday’s meeting, based on constitutional reasons.

We would argue that the public’s voice was heard two years ago, when a majority of voters decided to annex to KCLS, knowing that new libraries were on the horizon.

We would argue, too, like Bill Taylor, the Chamber of Commerce’s president, the council also has a compact with businesspeople downtown and others who in good faith have made decisions based on earlier council action on the location of a new library.

In moving forward, the City Council needs to be careful about trading one constituency for another. And the council needs to worry about its credibility not just with Renton’s citizens but with anyone who wants to sign a contract with the city.


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