Offering odes to Los Angeles, libraries and librarians, author Ray Bradbury and Mayor Tom Bradley on Friday formally launched a $90-million bond measure campaign to reverse the decline of the city's traumatized library system.
Proposition L, for library, on the Nov. 8 ballot would provide money to repair, fortify and expand a system that has been victimized by arson and earthquake.
"Every great city is measured by the quality of its libraries," Bradley declared in a press conference staged on the walkway of the Malabar branch library in Boyle Heights, closed since the earthquake one year ago today.
The quake, its aftershocks and the 1986 arson fires at the landmark Central Library, the mayor said, have caused "a sad state of affairs for a great city and what was once regarded as a great library system."
'Graduated From the Library'
Bradbury described how, unable to afford college, he studied in Los Angeles' Central Library and the Pio Pico branch (in what is now Koreatown) "two hours a day, three days a week, for 10 years. And after 10 years, I graduated from the library."
Bradbury later authored such works as "Fahrenheit 451," portraying a futuristic totalitarian state in which firefighters performed book-burning chores.
"This is my alma mater," Bradbury said of the library system. "All the women in my life have been librarians, English teachers and book sellers."
The $90-million library measure, which requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage, would partially fund restoration and expansion of the Central Library, damaged by two arson fires in 1986. It would provide seismic retrofitting necessary to reopen four branches, including Malabar, that were immediately shut after last year's earthquake, as well as seismic work on eight others that face possible closure. In addition, several libraries would be expanded and three new branches would be built for Canoga Park, Northridge and Granada Hills.
So far, library officials say, the only note of dissent concerning Proposition L has come from Councilman Nate Holden, who has voiced reservations over another element of Central Library finances. Under a plan proposed by the Community Redevelopment Agency, the city would negotiate a sale-leaseback of the library as a tax shelter for investors. After the tax benefit period runs out, the investors would return the building to the city for a token amount, Library Commissioner Ron Lushing said.
Changes in Tax Laws
Such a plan has been an element of Central Library financing for years, but recent changes in tax laws have put the proposal in doubt. Holden has expressed concern that the city could lose possession of the library, but both Bradley and Lushing portrayed the sale-leaseback plan as irrelevant to Proposition L.
A second library measure sponsored by state officials, Proposition 85, will also appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. That measure would set aside $75 million for library construction statewide and would require local municipalities to apply for grants. However, the state measure would provide relatively little funding for Los Angeles, City Librarian Wyman Jones said.