EDITORIAL: Voters clear on library message

Library supporters gave it their all, but results from last Tuesday’s election suggest it’s time to take a fresh look at the failed proposal.

The proposal for a $12 million downtown library received just over 40 percent support from the voters, an embarrassing 20 points below the needed 60 percent threshold of success. A related proposal to create a library district as a taxing area failed almost as badly.

We know for certain that Oak Harbor residents enjoy their existing library and suspect they probably have nothing against the idea of expanding it, as the present facility is too small to accommodate the growing demand for library services. So there must have been something wrong with the proposal that was sent to the people for their consideration.

Judging by post-election comments, the downtown site was the main concern of those who voted against the library measures. It was seen as unnecessarily expensive and less convenient than the main alternative, the Jerome Street site near the Senior Center. Many apparently saw the downtown site as a power play by the City Council and others who continually promote a rebirth of the downtown area at taxpayer expense.

The truth is, a downtown library was a great idea. The site was convenient, easy to access and would have brought more people into the Old Town area. It might have sparked a downtown renaissance. Proponents deserved a chance to convince the public that the more expensive option would serve the city better in the long run. Unfortunately, they failed to make their case to the public.

It might be a bit early to bury the dream of a downtown library. Some serious thought should be given to what went wrong on Sept. 14, and to what might be done to convince the voters to reconsider. It would help to get a firm price for the property in advance, to obtain a commitment for more than just moral support from the City Council and to come up with significant alternative library funding so taxpayers wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden alone.

But, after all options are considered, library supporters should not be reluctant to face the plain truth and come back with a new proposal calling for the Jerome Street site as the library location. Voters generally appreciate it when the message they send is understood and obeyed.

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