By Elise Modrovich
Special to the Sun
Voters may recall Measure F, a funding measure for county libraries that received a simple majority 52 percent of the vote but needed the super majority of 66 percent to pass into effect. Well, some legislation passed recently that made it possible for a grass roots-driven initiative to pass with that coveted simple majority, and there are some lovers of literacy who are working diligently to try and get a new Kern County Library funding measure on the November ballot. The catch: they need a whopping 13,256 signatures by June 30 to make it happen.
The nonpartisan “Library Initiative for Everyone” (LIFE) will double the current Kern County Library budget, keep our local branches open, increase funding for books, allow the modernization of technology (including WiFi), build new libraries, remodel existing branches, increase access to job training, after school programs, and increase partnerships with the community organizations and resources.
Voters may well be asking, “Okay, libraries are great, but what is the bottom line here? How much comes out of my already tight budget?” The LIFE is asking for a 1/8 of a cent sales tax, which means that for the average family that spends $1,000 per month on taxable items, will see a total hit on their pocket books of less than $1.25 a month, which averages to $15 for an entire year. Or, as Linda Fiddler, Executive Director of the nonpartisan Kern Voter Engagement Project and the driving force behind LIFE puts it, “For the cost of one children’s book, we can fund public libraries for everyone.” Additionally, LIFE dedicates the taxes collected to libraries and cannot be diverted to other county agencies or the General fund, and the creation of a citizen’s over-site committee is included in the language, requiring regular public meetings and reporting to the Board of Supervisors as well as the community.
There are currently 150 volunteers circulating petitions, but the organizers need “library-lovers to join us in the effort,” says Fiddler. We can mail petition packets to anywhere in Kern County. They come with instructions, petitions to gather 25 signatures, and a mail-back envelope to make the process very easy. The signatures are due to the County by the last Friday in June, June 29, to get them on the November ballot. Fiddler says, “If 500 people circulate just one packet, we’re there.” To get your own packet, or find out where you can sign the petition and support the Initiative, voters may contact Linda Fiddler directly by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.