League City has not officially decided to drop plans for a library from a bond issue that leaders probably will call for May.
All indications, however, are the library will not make the final list of projects voters will be asked to consider during that referendum.
That’s unfortunate both for residents of the city’s west side, who the new library would have served, and for leaders, those elected and those who aren’t, who are working to build community in the county’s fastest growing city.
But dropping the library, along with several other projects initially proposed for the bond, would be a smart tactical move for elected officials and city administrators who have good reason to worry about the bond proposal failing at the polls.
More is riding on this effort to pass a general obligation bond proposition than the projects that would be funded with the money. Also at issue is whether voters in League City will support a bond proposition at all.
The last time the city held a bond referendum was 1992, and it failed. For the next almost 30 years, the city amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt through certificates of obligation without a single vote of the residents.
Clearly, city leaders have been disinclined to attempt bond propositions, and their willingness to risk doing so now is a win for participatory democracy. A loss at the polls would be a setback for the same.
Another risk lies in the fact that state law forces cities to wait three years before issuing certificates of obligation to pay for projects that voters rejected at the polls.
Some of the projects, drainage work, for example, the city hopes to pay for with the bond money just can’t wait that long.
Meanwhile, more than 75 percent of the 2,023 people who took a recent survey opposed plans to build the library, according to the results.
Even members of city’s library board, which had advocated for the west side facility, conceded that now was not the time to ask voters for that money.
The city, as we understand it, plans to list each of the projects considered for funding with the bond money on the May ballot, so voters can make line-item selections, voting for what they like and against what they don’t.
It’s conceivable then to leave the $25 million or so needed for a library on the ballot and let the voters decide.
City leaders have to worry, though, that having projects that voters ardently oppose on the ballot will sink the whole proposition.
Advocates shouldn’t give up on getting a new library for the west side. It’s a worthy goal, and most of the objection to libraries is shorted-sighted and just wrong.
Libraries offer the public free access to history centers and classes on varying topics, including on computer skills. They assist in job searches and provide access to new technology, including 3-D printers, among other innovations. Libraries are some of the first places to offer public access to such technology that would otherwise be out of reach for many people.
League City and other communities should invest in public libraries. Libraries are among the few places that offer local reference resources usually unavailable elsewhere. They are lifelines to information and resources, available to everyone no matter how much or how little money they make.
• Michael A. Smith