Obama Speaks Populist, Caters to Power Elite

bankstersHere’s a good column by Robert Scheer, who voted for Obama with hope in his heart, but “came unglued” recently when he received “yet another of those ‘we the people’ e-mails from the president.”

“Barack Obama’s faux populism is beginning to grate, and when yet another one of those ‘we the people’ e-mails from the president landed on my screen as I was fishing around for a column subject, I came unglued. It is one thing to rob us blind by rewarding the power elite that created our problems but quite another to sugarcoat it in the rhetoric of a David taking on those Goliaths.

In each of the three most important areas of policy with which he has dealt, Obama speaks in the voice of the little people’s champion, but his actions cater fully to the demands of the most powerful economic interests.

With his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, he has given the military-industrial complex an excuse for the United States to carry on in spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined, without a credible military adversary in sight. His response to the banking meltdown was to continue George W. Bush’s massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, and his health care reform has all the earmarks of a boondoggle for the medical industry profiteers.”

Scheer begins the following passage with an example of Obama’s populist rhetoric, a quote from the president’s fund-raising e-mail:

“ ‘As we head into the final stretch of health reform, big insurance company lobbyists and their partisan allies hope that their relentless attacks and millions of dollars can intimidate us into accepting the status quo. So I have a message for them, from all of us: Not this time. We have come too far. We will not turn back. We will not back down.’

But we, following him, have already backed down. Does the president not recall that he began his health care reform effort by ingratiating himself with the insurance lobbyists in taking ‘single payer’ off the table on day one? The insurers are not really upset with what may survive as a minuscule public option, for they have won the big prize: Everyone must buy insurance from them under penalty of law, and there will be no built-in requirement for cost control. Their so-called opposition to the current plans has to do with fine-tuning the president’s guarantee of their future profits.”

See full column: “Dear Barack, Spare Me Your E-Mails

County CIO Comments on Library Citizens’ Oversight Committee

committeesIn response to an email I sent to the Library FAQ, asking for a clarification of how many Library committee meetings there would be on Thursday at the Rood Center, and in what room(s), etc, Steve Monaghan (County CIO) sent me this direct reply:

“There will be one meeting in the Empire Room, second floor, East Wing. The meeting is going to be video conferenced to Truckee Town Hall for Truckee members and public. Depending on public attendance at the Rood Center, the BOS Chambers will be used for over flow via video conferencing.

The second and/if third meeting dates/times have not been set yet, probably in Jan.”

When I also asked him (1) How we could discover if the meeting needs to be cancelled (due, say, to snow) at the last minute, and (2) whether the same background materials used by the committee members would be available to the general public in attendance, he replied:

“We would only cancel it if we closed the building again, in that event, we post that on the County website, notify KNCO, etc. I believe we are just due rain, not snow for Thursday at this time.

As a workshop meeting format, we don’t typically make copies of the materials for the public. We will have the agenda/etc for the public, but would not have all the back ground materials printed, RFP, RFP responses, draft library strategic plan, etc. I attached a copy of the draft strategic plan for you as you seem to be our most active citizen participant.”

See the The Draft Library Strategic Plan he sent me, and also the Agenda for the first meeting of the Citizens’ Oversight Committee.

More Beautiful Than Freshly Fallen Snow

The only thing more beautiful — and still — than freshly fallen snow, is freshly fallen snow in sunlight.

Here are a few pictures I took soon after the snow fell, but before the sun came out.

deer_trailDeer Trail

Lauras_cedarLaura’s Cedar (planted in 1989)

Buddha_unperturbedBuddha Unperturbed, Under the Madrone

bird_houseBird House

eagle_with_cargoEagle with Cargo

After the sun returned, I took these:


Madrone_in_sunMadrone in Sun




First Meeting of the Library Review Committees

committeesAccording to yesterday’s update to the Library FAQ, the first meeting of the Library Review “Committees” (plural!) will be at 8 AM, Thursday December 10th at the Rood Center.

Here’s the complete FAQ update from yesterday regarding the committees:

What is the public review committee structure and who is on it; what is their mission, when will they meet, are they open to the public?

The committees will hold their first meeting on December 10th, 8:00 a.m., at the Rood Center. Video conferencing will be available to Truckee at the Town Hall. This meeting is open to the public.

They will hold additional sessions; dates and times will be posted when they are finalized.

Library Services RFP Review Process:

1. The County of Nevada has received two proposals to operate the County’s libraries. The Friends of the Libraries of Nevada County has submitted a proposal to operate the Doris Foley Historical Library. Library Systems & Services, LLC has submitted a proposal to operate all of the County libraries.

2. The County Purchasing Agent will make copies of the proposals available to members of the 3 evaluation panels that will be reviewing the proposals. Committee members will be asked to sign a statement attesting to their understanding of the importance of fairness and integrity in the review process.

3. The three committees are:

a. Staff committee:
Laura Matteson, Assistant County Executive Officer; Joe Christoffel, Deputy County Executive Officer; Steve Monaghan, Chief Information Officer; Mary Ann Trygg, County Librarian;
Mary Ross, Purchasing Agent (facilitator)

b. Library Management Model ad hoc committee:
Reinette Senum, Nevada City representative; Lisa Swarthout, Grass Valley representative; Richard Anderson, Truckee representative; Jim Meshwart ; Mike McDaniel

c. Citizens Oversight Committee:
Diane Davis, Ruth Hall, Jack Ricks, Susan Pearson, Christine Trussler

4. The Staff Committee will prepare a financial analysis of the proposals, as well as alternate models for library operations. This information will be provided to the other committees as input to their deliberations.

5. Each committee will review the proposals and the alternate models to determine:

a. the extent to which they address the scope of services described in Section 5 of the RFP.

b. in the case of the proposals, the capability of the proposer to provide the services, based on past experience and qualifications of key personnel.

c. the extent to which the various options address the specific needs of Nevada County Library patrons.

6. Each committee will report their findings and recommendations to the County Executive Officer by January 25, 2010.

In response to the information above, I sent the following additional email this morning to the Library FAQ:

“Dear FAQ Angels:

In your response of 12/4/09 concerning the activity of the review committees, you indicate the their first meetings will take place at 8 AM on December 10 at the Rood Center.

I’m confused. Does this mean that there will be three different meetings in three different rooms at the Rood Center at that time on that day?

Or, does it mean that there will be one large joint meeting of all those committees in one room at that time on that day?

May we also have more specifics about which room or rooms?


Don Pelton”

County Will Make LSSI Cost Breakdown Public (But Not Online)

confusionThe County responded yesterday to my question about making LSSI’s cost breakdown public with the following update to the Library FAQ:

When will the cost estimates presumably submitted by LSSI as part of its proposal, as specified in section 6.4 of the RFP, be made available to the general public?

The RFP responses are only a portion of the overall library budget. The vendor cost estimates will be provided to the review committees which are open to public attendance. They are not being provided on-line. They need to be placed in context within an overall library budget presentation to make practical sense and be the basis for sound judgments. Without this background information, accurate and objective analysis would be impossible to perform.”

The County seems to be saying that by putting LSSI’s sealed cost breakdown online without the important context of the overall library budget, somehow the public would be unable to exercise sound judgment in reviewing it.

But the overall library budget is online here. If this online version of the library budget is insufficient, then it should be improved and enlarged, as issues like this clearly demonstrate.

The first meeting of the review committees (plural?) will be held on Thursday, December 10th, 8:00 a.m., at the Rood Center. Those of us who are interested in this level of detail and are not otherwise occupied (say, with a job!) might find it instructive to attend.

Let’s try to reserve judgment about the adequacy of the County’s response above until we have witnessed the review committee process firsthand.

We Need To Do More Than Merely Oppose Privatization

elephant_in_the_roomIt’s not enough to merely oppose privatization of Nevada County’s library system. Those of us who oppose privatization must come up with some concrete, positive ideas for solving the budget crisis, and soon. The budget crisis is real.

The elephant in the room is the “Salaries and Benefits” line item in the library budget. The figure on that line — a full 72% of the total library budget for 2009 — grows relentlessly in good times and in bad, while in bad times the revenues shrink.

Statements — at Board meetings, at rallies and in Op-Eds — in support of the traditional and democratic nature of our public libraries are heartfelt, sincere and moving. But they don’t matter a bit in preventing privatization, or moving us toward a viable solution.

The only way we can prevent privatization is to come up with some concrete ideas for taming that elephant.

I don’t like saying this, but it may be that the only way to prevent privatization is to accept some draconian cuts in services — a la Mary Ann Trygg’s proposed cuts — until the recession has run its course and revenues begin to rebound of their own accord.

Those of us who oppose privatization need to ask ourselves whether we are so opposed to it that we prefer such cuts. At least the public nature of the institution would be preserved.

Or, alternatively … what?

If you have an idea for solving this budget crisis, and preventing privatization, feel free to describe it in the comment section below.

If we can’t identify a concrete workable solution, my guess is that privatization will happen, whether we like it or not.

Did LSSI Fail to Reveal Litigation?

shell_gameThe hardworking journalists at Yubanet noticed that LSSI is a party to a lawsuit in Florida:

LSSI responded to this question in the RFP:

6.2.4 Please describe any current, pending or past litigation (within the last 5 years) that your organization has been, is, or is expected to be a party to.

LSSI’s Response:

“There is no current, pending or past litigation involving LSSI.” (page 14 of the proposal)

It appears LSSI may have omitted litigation they initiated against the State of Florida in August of 2009. According to the Florida Library Association, “Library Systems & Services (LSSI) has filed a lawsuit against the Florida Division of Library and Information Services. The suit challenges a proposed amendment to State Aid Program Guidelines which requires the head of a public library to be a full-time employee of the single administrative unit.”

The suit is still pending in the Division of Administrative Hearings.

I corresponded by email today with Faye Roberts, Executive Director of the Florida Library Association (FLA), an advocacy organization for Florida libraries and librarians which has filed a Petition to Intervene in this case. The petition supports the rule that LSSI seeks to overturn:

7.  The proposed rule establishes, inter alia, the eligibility requirements for seeking Operating Grants under the State Aid to Libraries grant program.

8. Thirty-six (36) of FLA’s members are either libraries or library cooperatives. A majority of these FLA members receive Operating Grants under the State Aid to Libraries grant program.

9. Operating Grants are established in section 257.17, Florida Statutes, which requires that libraries eligible for these grants

Be operated under a single administrative head who is an employee of the single library administrative unit and who has completed a library education program accredited by the American Library Association. The single administrative head shall have at least 2 years of full-time paid professional experience, after completing the library education program, in a public library that is open to the public for a minimum of 40 hours per week.

It appears that if LSSI prevails in this suit, Florida libraries under its management statewide would no longer qualify for grants under the State Aid to Libraries grant program.

It appears that if LSSI prevails in this suit, Florida libraries under its management statewide would become eligible — as they apparently would not under the proposed eligibility rule described above — for grants under the State Aid to Libraries grant program.

The FLA, in its Petition to Intervene, raises concerns about the deterioration of the professional status of librarians and the professional management of libraries, should LSSI prevail in its effort to block the proposed rule.

Is this an example of how the profit interests of a private library management company and the interests of a public library system are inherently incompatible?  How might this inherent incompatibility play out in Nevada County?

In her email response to me, Faye Roberts said:

There has been quite a bit of concern in Florida communities where outsourcing/privatization has been proposed over the past year or two.

Sarasota County, Seminole County and Hernando County are among those where it has been considered and rejected in light of citizen protests.

Think You Know Where Computing is Headed? Watch This Genius!

sixth_sensePranav Mistry demonstrates his vision of SixthSense computing, the melding of the real and the digital. We need a new language to describe this extraordinary way of being human in the world.

This is fifteen minutes of viewing you’ll never regret.

County is Withholding Key Part of LSSI Proposal From Public View

blindfoldedAs I was reading LSSI’s response to Nevada County’s RFP for outsourcing management of its library system, I felt as Pinocchio must have felt when he glimpsed the glittering temptations of Playland, but — unlike Pinocchio — I had the uneasy feeling that there may be danger within.

LSSI promises much: a 14% increase in hours among the six county libraries, a $130,000 investment of “corporate resources” for capital improvements, the possibility of grants as an extra source of funding, marketing strategies to increase community involvement (in a county where 67,000 people already have library cards), improved children’s programs, upgraded computer systems, etc.

All this and more (including LSSI’s profit) “for a cost that is nearly 7% less than the current budget proposed by the County.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

For starters, despite LSSI’s claim in its cover letter that it can keep the six library locations open for “14% more hours … for a cost that is nearly 7% less than the current budget proposed by the County,” nowhere in the 64-page proposal released to the public does it detail its budget, or otherwise prove its claim that such savings are possible. We are asked to accept the 7% figure on faith, with no clue about how it would be achieved.

Section 6.4 of the RFP stipulates that the prospective contractor should submit a detailed cost proposal in a separate sealed envelope.

Either LSSI failed to provide these cost figures in a separate envelope or else the County has not released the cost calculations to the public.

What figure is LSSI using for the “current budget proposed by the County?”

If LSSI is proposing merely to reduce expenses by 7%, then the following table (derived from data in Mary Ann Trygg’s memo of 9/28/09 to the Board, without factoring in the Library Fund offsets, since the fund dries up rapidly) shows that such a plan would be insufficient to solve the library’s overall budget problem: there would continue to be somewhat smaller shortfalls, but shortfalls nonetheless:







LSSI (7% Reduced)




2011 $2,129,123 $2,585,786 $456,663 $2,404,781 $275,658
2012 $2,163,723 $2,715,535 $551,812 $2,525,448 $361,725
2013 $2,234,654 $2,766,696 $532,042 $2,573,027 $338,373
2014 $2,309,131 $2,820,586 $511,455 $2,623,145 $314,014

Obviously, in order for the general public to participate meaningfully in the discussion of the merits of the LSSI proposal, it will have to see the missing cost portion of that document.

I sent the following email today to the Library Outsourcing FAQ, with cc to the Board of Supervisors:

To: Library Outsourcing FAQ:
(cc to Board of Supervisors)

Please add the following to the list of questions you are answering in the Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ):

“When will the cost estimates presumably submitted by LSSI as part of its proposal, as specified in section 6.4 of the RFP, be made available to the general public? Releasing the cover letter and proposal without the cost portion makes it impossible for the general public to judge the merits of LSSI’s offer, or indeed to participate meaningfully in the discussion of their proposal.”

Thank you.


Don Pelton
Editor, “Sierra Voices” (http://sierravoices.com)

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