Library deserves a good debate, then big turnout | Our View

The field is now set for what promises to be a spirited debate on the location of a new downtown library.

Even the word “new” is up for debate. If the public chooses to keep the library over the Cedar River, would that library be considered new even if it’s been around for decades? Certainly, the King County Library System wants it to be state-of-the art. Maybe old/former is not synonymous with state-of-the-art.

For sure, the debate will feature a lot of parsing of dollars and words and intent and history.

Most assuredly, how much Renton will spend for a downtown library will come up for scrutiny. City Attorney Larry Warren wisely in the explanatory statement stuck to a simple concept of what it would cost to build a new state-of-the-art library vs. what it would cost to bring the current library up to that standard.

Right now those City Council members who want to keep the library over the Cedar favor the more expensive option. The new library at the Piazza is $9.3 million, while renovating the current library is estimated at $10.1 million, with $400,000 on top of that to house a temporary library.

By the way KCLS and the city don’t have a flexible pot of money  to build two libraries. The new Highlands library has its own pricetag and it certainly shouldn’t sit well if money is siphoned from those plans to keep the  downtown library over the Cedar.

When all is said and done and parsed, we hope that everyone will be fully informed when they mail in their ballot this summer. Frankly, there are misconceptions out there, including whether KCLS threatened to sue the City of Renton, that continue to cloud important issues.

The Renton Reporter will do its part to clear up any half-truths and untruths.

This is a critical turning point in Renton’s community and its politics. We’ve already questioned the merits of sending the library location to a vote, when the matter was already resolved through City Council action and binding contracts.

We ARE NOT questioning the public’s right to seek redress from its government.  But so far the efforts to annex to KCLS and to bring about a public vote on the library location have moved forward with the narrowists of margins.

Because of that, no one  – including the City Council – can be completely sure where the public really stands on  this. Surety will only come if there’s a very large turnout in the Aug. 7 election.


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