Well, I've got to give Salem City Manager Steve Powers high marks for one thing: consistency. Meaning, he consistently spouts falsehoods.
After he and his staff misled the City Council and other citizens about the church-owned Capital Press building being the only feasible location for a temporary public library, I got an email message from Powers that contained more false statements about this debacle.
Because we here at the world headquarters of Salem Political Snark value truth-telling, and consider that not being able to trust City of Salem staff is a big deal, I'm calling out Steve Powers on his continued commitment to spreading falsehoods about this controversial issue.
Look, I spent $844.85 on a public records request that resulted in City officials sending me 1,245 pages of documents related to the selection of a location for a temporary library. I know for a fact that City Manager Powers isn't telling the truth.
Read on for the proof. My truthful responses to what Powers says are in red.
Thank you for your continued interest in the temporary location for the Salem Public Library.
Hey, you're welcome. My interest is going to continue until you and other City officials stop spreading untruths about this issue.
Please be assured that city staff are committed to providing complete and accurate information to City Council and the public.
Saying so doesn't make it so. I'm not at all assured that city staff are committed to this.
Bond proceeds can only be spent on the retrofit and improvements to the Salem Library building. This restriction limits the funding available for the relocation and temporary location.
Untrue. Somehow the City of Salem finds money for other pet projects that go over budget, like the new Police Station. There were other sources of money than the general fund for the relocation budget, as noted before. Here's what Jim Scheppke, the former State Librarian, had to say about this.
"As for cost, it might have cost more to lease Liberty Plaza, but if I were the library director I would have immediately thought of both the Library Foundation and the Library Advisory Board, both of which control pretty substantial funds. I think one or both of them could have stepped up to cover the increased costs. It appears they weren’t even asked. What are they there for if not to assist with things like this?"
Liberty Plaza would have taken most, if not all, the money reserved for everything that goes into the library move.
There's no evidence of this in the public records I've obtained. City officials never seriously negotiated with the Liberty Plaza leasing agent, who was open to lowering the cost of a lease. City officials also never estimated the cost of temporary improvements for Liberty Plaza.
And they didn't discuss with the Liberty Plaza leasing agent available options for adding about 3,000 square feet to the first floor space to make the total equivalent to the Capital Press space. Instead they wrongly assumed the entire second floor would have to be leased as well. So there's no way City of Salem staff can say that Liberty Plaza would have taken the entire $957,000 budgeted for a temporary library.
The almost $1 million budgeted for relocation must cover the cost of moving and storage, lease and tenant Improvements, space design, IT infrastructure, and all the pieces that go into setting up a vital, full-access library.
OK, so why didn't City officials allow the Liberty Plaza leasing agent, who I've talked with three times, to respond to a RFP (request for proposals) along with representatives of other buildings that could serve as a temporary library? Again, there is zero documentation in the public records I got that the costs and benefits of leasing Liberty Plaza were ever seriously examined.
City Council, especially the seismic subcommittee, was informed about the challenges the City was having with locations and why cost was the major factor in the Broadway site building ending up as the one real option.
Wow. This statement is a slap in the fact to the LGBTQ community in Salem.
After listening to a pitch from City officials about how wonderful it would be to have a building owned by the Salem Alliance Church serve as a temporary library, the Human Rights Commission unanimously approved a statement saying that because the church rejects LGBTQ rights, another location should be found even if it costs more and is less operationally efficient.
So City Manager Powers is admitting that city staff paid no attention to the Human Rights Commission, even though it is a City of Salem agency.
Also, the subcommittee had laid out criteria for what they wanted in a temporary location.
True. What Steve Powers fails to mention is that Capital Press and Liberty Plaza were rated equally highly on those criteria, 21 points each. Another potential location received an even higher mark, 22. Yet only the church-owned building got serious attention from city staff. I know, because I have the public records that prove this.
Locations and site criteria were discussed in public and at recorded meetings with audio anyone can access.
No written minutes were made of the subcommittee meetings. Audio recordings were difficult to find and access. I listened to three of the audio recordings, each of which was over an hour long, because I cared a lot about this issue. I don't recall any genuine public discussions. As noted before, City officials failed to consult the Library Advisory Board about where a temporary library should be located, even though this appears to be required by a city ordinance.
The space chosen met most of the criteria for the temporary library location. City staff continued vetting alternate locations up to the day of the City Council vote on the lease; nothing better was found.
Most of the criteria? Again, the Capital Press building was viewed as equal to Liberty Plaza on the criteria, and was rated lower than another location. No RFP was issued for a temporary library lease.
Instead, city staff assessed possible locations in a decidedly unorganized fashion. There was no documentation of the pros and cons of certain highly-ranked sites, such as Liberty Plaza, so there's no evidence that Capital Press actually was the best location.
The Library and the City Human Rights Commission are working together to ensure the temporary location will be welcoming and inclusive to all.
What a joke.
The Human Rights Commission statement said that some members of the LGBTQ community, along with people who support LGBTQ rights, won't use the temporary library because they don't feel comfortable with the City of Salem using taxpayer dollars to lease space from a church that considers LGBTQ people to be second-class citizens.
The Capital Press building can't be "welcoming and inclusive to all" for that reason. It doesn't matter what library staff do.
I hope this is helpful information for you. Thanks again for your interest in the City.
Actually, the information wasn't very helpful, being so inaccurate.
However, it was helpful in one regard: this message from Steve Powers provided good material for another blog post critical of how the City officials mismanaged the search for a temporary library location.
And there's more to come! I plan to discuss in an upcoming post the public records that showed a disturbing coziness between staff of the Salem Alliance Church and City officials.
City of Salem|Mayor/City Manager’s Office