King County Library System Assailed as "Machiavellian" and "Coldhearted"

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The dastardly librarians learned all their tricks from him.
Is there any more boring reading than voters' pamphlets? Not usually. Only the worthiest of citizens make their way through the political pabulum and excruciating details of bond measures and levy lids.

But voters who do study the latest King County voters' pamphlet, in the run-up to the Feb. 9th election, will be rewarded with an unusual entry full of intrigue and vitriol. The unlikely subject: a levy for the King County Library System.

"Library management coldheartedly disregards thousands of unemployed, including families losing homes overburdened already by overassessed property taxes," reads a statement in the pamphlet attacking the levy. The entry also accuses management of "Machiavellian lawbreaking" in a prior bond campaign, as well as colluding with parents who "abandon" their children in the library, where the kids play video games for hours on end while the grown-ups go off gambling at Emerald Downs.

The writer, a Kirkland retiree named Will Knedlik, does not appear to be a crank, judging by a phone interview this morning. He claims to have a Harvard law degree, a Ph.D from the University of Washington in medieval language and literature, and a former career as a fellow at a Massachusetts think tank called the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

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Terrible things go on here.
And he's got some legitimate points. Whether the library system was Machiavellian or not, it did violate a state law by using public funds for an all-out campaign to pass a 2004 bond measure, according to a report written by a Public Disclosure Commission staffer. (See pdf of finding.) The PDC never took any disciplinary action, however.

Moreover, kids undoubtedly use library computers to play video games--and just how much, and where their parents are at the time, sounds like an interesting issue to explore.

More to the point of this election, it's also true, as Knedlik asserts, that the library system is asking for money without making the kind of draconian cuts as has, for example, the Seattle Public Library system, which is scaling back branch hours. Julie Brand, a spokesperson for the King County system, says that library board members "felt that before we make such drastic cuts, we should go back to voters [and ask for more money]."

To the average person, nevertheless, it might seem that the library system is being fairly modest in its demands. If the levy passes, someone who owns a $400,000 house would have to pay an additional $32 in property taxes.

But Knedlik, in typical rhetorical form, insists that's $32 too much for a lot of people. "There are thousands and thousands of people who are holding on to their homes by their fingernails, and King County seeks to pull their fingernails off," he says.

 
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