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Save the Libraries, save the world! Or, why no one comes to budget forums

April 24, 2009 - 12:02 pm

San Diego's Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone talks budget with Clairemont residents.Last night, I was one of 14 people not on the  government payroll to attend a budget forum at Clairemont High School. And six of those showed up mostly so they could hold up  a homemade sign that read “Thank You”, because they were grateful that no libraries will be closed this year. Questions for the mayor focused on pothole repair and why the Padres and Chargers got free use of city services. No one seemed all that worked up.

And apparently the small audience is the trend this year.  Sanders’ spokesperson Darren Pudgil said they’d gotten 30-40 people at the forum in University City. But the OB Rag reported that officials outnumbered members of the public at the forum held in Ocean Beach on Monday. Last night,  Sanders joked that the Clairemont audience tripled the one he’d seen the night before. Last fall, when libraries were in danger of closing, communities rallied to save them, and packed the City Council Chambers to demand that they stay open. The pre-budget forums hosted earlier this year by City Councilmember Tony Young (who is also chairman of the Budget Committee) attracted audiences in the hundreds.

So why the lack of passion? The city had to close a $60 million budget deficit. But it did it with pay cuts for unions, some fee increases, eliminating about 55 jobs and spending down savings. We in the media made a big deal about the savings part (including me).  But maybe  since none of these moves effect the public directly, maybe the public feels everything is under control. Save the libraries, prevent a fuss.

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