Why a Pro-LSSI Op-Ed in The Union on the Eve of the Library Decision?
Why is a Jackson County, Oregon administrator taking such an interest in Nevada County’s consideration of LSSI, and why did the The Union publish his “Other Voices” Op-Ed (“Public-private library partnership a win-win“) just days before the Nevada County Board of Supervisors is likely to vote for or against LSSI’s proposal?
I sent an email this morning to Danny Jordan, Jackson County Oregon Administrator, and asked him if he submitted his “Other Voices” Op-Ed at LSSI’s request, and — if not — how did he happen to take such an interest in the library management issue in Nevada County?
He replied immediately:
Greetings Mr. Pelton,
Sometime around the beginning of December, 2008, I heard about the issue from a Library staff member. I then went to www.theunion.com and ran a search on LSSi. The subject returned results from the search and I read the results, and as more material was and has been added over time, I read it. My interest isn’t in Nevada County, but rather in sharing some facts about our experience with LSSi. I submitted Op-Ed because I believe it is important to speak to Jackson County’s factual experience in our personal dealings with LSSI. They had a tremendous positive effect on our ability to deliver service. From our experience, I wanted to make certain that factual information was shared about how they went about working with us to open our libraries and create an opportunity for us to operate at a reduced cost, with tremendous service and with employees that appear to be happy with the transition. I didn’t do it because of any other reason than I thought it was important to provide facts.
10 South Oakdale, Room 214
Medford, Oregon 97501
I replied to his reply, pointing out that the LSSI issue first came up here last year, in 2009 (not 2008 … so perhaps he mis-spoke), and asked him about the reports we’ve heard that some Jackson County, Oregon librarians are unhappy because they no longer have a viable retirement program. He has not yet responded to this question.
The title of Jordan’s recent Union Op-Ed, “Public-private partnership a win-win,” is nearly identical to the title of an essay he wrote in May of 2008 for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which was soon thereafter critiqued by Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief of the Library Journal:
Certainly, Jackson County faced dire times. It had lost its federal timber subsidies in 2006, two library tax levies failed at the polls, and the libraries were closed and staff furloughed. Yet, one of the two proposals submitted to the county came from a local union representing the library employees, which county officials were required by the collective bargaining agreement to help the union prepare. Nevertheless, the county chose to give the contract for providing library services to private company LSSI, which had a much lower bid.
I wonder, however, how hard the county worked with the union to make the bid competitive—and how much of the impetus to go private came from knowing that, under LSSI, staff would be employed by the company, saving the county from paying money into the state pension plan and on other benefits.
Jordan noted that privatization “strengthened the stakeholder role of each of the local governments.” As a result, local libraries can increase their operating hours by “purchasing” additional hours—paying for them themselves—“in four-hour blocks of time.” That solution and other instances of cost-sharing could have been implemented as readily under county governance, too.
It is widely expected that the Nevada County Board of Supervisors will approve one of the two public plans which were endorsed by the joint county-citizens’ committees.
Keep your eye on this county webpage for the appearance of the agenda for the meeting on February 23rd. It usually gets posted a few days before the meeting.
Update: Danny Jordan wrote back and confirmed that he meant to write “2009” not “2008.” But his reply did not include a response to my question to him about the pension/retirement issue.