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Letter to the Editor: 'Our Community Needs This Bond Referendum'

Reader asks fellow residents to vote for Fairfax County library bond on Nov. 6 ballot.

To the Editor:

Fairfax is a passionate community.  We are passionate about our local businesses: nothing can compete with the number of local cupcakeries, or series of weekly farmers markets where we pick up our most prized possessions.  We are passionate about our sports: our local high school rivalries fill stadiums weekly, and who can forget our love for the Redskins and the Nationals?   And we are passionate about our education: thanks to public support, we have both one of premier public school systems and one of the premier library systems at our disposal here in Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax.  But are we committed?  We have reached a crossroads in the timeline of Fairfax where passion can only bring us so far, and we require commitment to carry us the rest of the way.

On November 6, when we fill out our ballots, we will have the opportunity to answer four bond referendum questions.  One of these questions discusses a library bond referendum.

Our community needs this bond referendum for a number of reasons.  The library bond referendum will fund the possible renovation of four of the library’s twenty-three branches: Pohick Regional Library, John Marshall Library, Reston Regional Library and Tysons-Pimmit Library.  Of the library’s branches, these four reside in the oldest buildings yet to be renovated (save Woodrow Wilson Library, whose renovation is currently in progress).  These libraries were set up for the latest technologies when they were built 30-30+ years ago, before the internet, personal computers, eBooks, and many of the most essential services the library provides today. 

The library needs to be able to better serve today’s library customers and community. These branches are only going to become more and more out of date if we don’t improve them, becoming less and less suited to the community’s needs. A vote YES will bring these library branches up to date and make them better suited for the changing technologies of the future. We need a library for 2012, not 1976.

Since the most recent of these library branches was built in 1985, Fairfax County’s population has grown by 54%.  All four districts in which these libraries are located are expected to have large increases in population by 2030.  The Lee District (John Marshall Library) is expected to have a 17% growth, the Springfield District (Pohick Regional Library) is expected to have a 5.6% growth, the Dranesville District (Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library) is expected to have a 12.9% growth, and the Hunter Mill District (Reston Regional Library) is expected to have a 19.6% growth in population.  An increase in people requires either more space, or a more efficient use of space, and most of the funds from the referendum will be used to serve this purpose, allowing the libraries to keep up with the growing population and serve more community members. Without the referendum, the libraries could become overcrowded and would not be able to adequately meet the needs of—or provide invaluable services to—all residents of Fairfax.  A vote YES for this referendum will fund major critical improvements in space efficiency, preventing overcrowding as population increases.

A vote for the library is a vote for the people of Fairfax.  More than five million people visited the library in fiscal year 2012 to search for employment, complete homework assignments, educate themselves, and otherwise improve their lives.  Why not give our library the tools to best serve the community members?

Fairfax is a passionate community, and our duty to commit is a small one; all it takes is a vote.  A vote YES for the library bond referendum will have an effect far beyond the upkeep of the library. Its echo will be heard: in our businesses from a community member who found his employment opportunity using the public library computers; in our schools from a student who is achieving academically after discovering her regular quiet study room in the library; on our sports teams from a child whose interest in football strategy came from reading Vince Lombardi’s biography, which he picked out at his local library.  Yes, we are a passionate community, but we must commit ourselves to our community, our library, and our future by voting YES for the Fairfax County Public Library Bond Referendum.  Let our passion be heard.

 

Bruce Yoran
Fairfax Library Foundation Board of Directors

Dave November 01, 2012 at 03:18 PM
If we vote yes for every Fairfax County bond proposal our property taxes will go up dramatically. Libraries are becoming an anachronism. Our existing county libraries are more than adequate.
Rob Whitfield November 01, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Dave, the proposed Library bond issue is the only one that voters should support. The Reston library is often crowded. With the Silver Line opening next year, more future patrons are likely. The County has not made clear factors and options to be considered in Reston: renovate and expand at the present library location or locate elsewhere in Reston. Why not? Fairfax Supervisors have totally failed to provide clear, specific information on how bond proceeds will be used for parks, safety and storm water. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/nov_2012_county_bond_issues.pdf State statutes should be changed to force Fairfax County to become more accountable. Last year (or was it 2010?) a "transportation" bond issue allowed unspecified $$ amounts to be given to WMATA for unidentified purposes under the guise of "Metro Matters." When was the last time we saw a road bond issue? As to parks, I asked County staff several years ago to explain why they do not charge non-County residents who use Lake Fairfax Park when such a charge is applied at Burke Lake Park. Such a charge should at least be made on summer weekends and evenings. County Supervisors plan to suck $$billions from taxpayers for Tysons "city" plan dreams that will take decades to implement and whose feasibility has not been demonstrated. County transportation staff want to provide free transit for workers in Tysons using the Silver Line coming from Arlington County, Alexandria and DC. Wake up Reston!
Rob Whitfield November 01, 2012 at 05:07 PM
As to proposed safety bond proceeds, one project to be funded is the replacement of the Herndon volunteer fire station. Normally, I might support such use of funds but renovation and expansion at the present station location in the middle of town seems far less cost effective than choosing a new location near Herndon Parkway and the County Parkway that could also serve the Reston Town Center area. With massive traffic congestion likely to occur near the Wiehle Avenue Fire Station when the Silver Line opens, the County should provide assurance to the Reston community that the Reston Town Center and north Reston area will continue to be adequately served, particularly since additional high rise projects will be built around Town Center in the decades ahead. I also gather that a new $176 million police and fire headquarters was recently approved by Board. (Make no small plans!!) What use will be made of the existing police HQ at the Massey building? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/fairfax-county-planning-new-176m-police-fire-hq/2011/07/06/gIQAFbsW1H_blog.html
Gene November 01, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I'm leaning towards support for the Library Bond I've discivered that it may be a vital service for some of our legal residents. I won't be supporting the others and for sure I won't support any parks bonds, as is suggested we need to do a better job of ensuring these parks support our residents, I feel like I'm an outsider anymore when I go to parks such as Lake FFX. It is a widespread problem and one of the things we should look at is the fees for their use. I'll leave it at that before I say soemthing that is not politically correct. - Gene
SP LaFalce November 01, 2012 at 07:14 PM
The FCPL system is caught in a bind of trying to be all things to all people. It wants, and should have, a robust online presence so that patrons/clients can avaii themselves of the efficiencies of having information delivered electronically. The system also wants to keep positioning itself as a physical, brick and morter infrastructure throughout the county, so that kids, the elderly, etc. can come in an use the library's physical resources. This dichotomy of purposes will keep pulling at the system indefinitely, and weakening its ability to accomplish its overall mission. The Board has to decide if it is going to truly commit itself to overseeing an technologically advanced library system, or it wants to keep investing in brick and mortar, traditional libraries that have five copies of the most recent mystery novel and a dozen outdated PCs. Unfortunately, I do not think the residents of the county are willing to fund both visions. Until a more concrete (if you'll pardon the expression) decision is made, I would not be in favor of this bond question.
Gene November 01, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Interesting view and I think you make some valid points but I worry about those that rely of the existing facilities and the ability to support it without the bond. I thought part of the bond issues was needed to support current capabilities but add some more computers for example.
SP LaFalce November 01, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Physical libraries are still very important, to be sure. My concern is that the library system will keep asking for funds to build additional libraries as the county population grows, thus syphoning off funds that might/could be better used for technological investments. Another question, for obvious reasons not stated in the bond issue, is what to do with underutilized community library branches. Martha Washington, a community library with a modest collection, is only about three miles away from Sherwood Hall - a regional library. Nevertheless, it still was refurbished a few years ago at considerable cost. Is this an example of effective use of limited library funds?
Quattro November 01, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I can walk to the Vienna library and I've only been to a physical library once in 8 years, to print out show tickets when my printer died. They may still be "very important" to a few people, but in a world of e-readers with online "book borrowing" and many classics available free of charge, the library system as it exists is not important. More physical space and fancier buildings to store books gathering dust is not the direction we need.
Quattro November 01, 2012 at 08:43 PM
We should all vote for a library bond issue because Reston library is crowded? How much of the county is impacted by a crowded Reston library? And a Metro bringing more patrons to a library...from where? I'm not voting for a vague bond issue because Reston has a problem with crowding.
DGeorge November 02, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Yes, the Reston Library is crowded. All the upholstered chairs are filled with men from the homeless shelter SLEEPING. Backpacks littering the floor. They intimidate library goers and few people want to sit next to them. Library officials just ignore the situation. Does remodeling the library address this situation? To make more space for Reston people all you would have to do is stop the current library from being an intimidating dormitory.
Gene November 02, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Seriously? Is this every day? Geez and now Metro is probably going to bring more.
Java Master November 02, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Why do you feel like an "outsider" at the parks, Gene? And why should your personal comfort and enjoyment of the park facilities be any more important than any other person's? What thinking is behind your statement? Come clean with us...
DGeorge November 02, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Gene. yes. The shelter next door kicks them out every morning and they move next door to the library. Stop by and see for yourself.
Bob Bruhns November 02, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Yeoww, $176 million for an office building? Who made such an estiimate?
Rob Whitfield November 02, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Bob, I too was shocked at the new public safety HQ $176 million price, particularly as the County has owned the land for 25 years. A June 2012 Tom Jackman story notes the project is not included in the current public safety bond referendum and may not be built until 2016. The latest cost estimate is $149 million. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/new-fairfax-police-fire-hq-pushed-back-to-2016/2012/06/19/gJQAbDr5mV_blog.html http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news/2011/updates/public-safety-headquarters.htm Jackman says that the next County bond referendum in 2014 will be for Tysons Corner transportation infrastructure projects. Maybe county leaders don't see the crumbling Massey building as a priority. With over 17 million square feet of office space vacant currently in Fairfax County, the County could buy an existing office building for a bargain price. Another option is to do a sale leaseback of the new HQ in a manner similar to what occurred at other Government Center buildings in the financial downturn of 1990. When sequestration happens in 2013, greater bargains may occur. However, the County's bond capacity could shrink if commercial and residential property values decline after layoffs of federal workers and contractors. http://cra.gmu.edu/pdfs/Fairfax_County_Sequestration.pdf The County is spending $16.1 million to expand an animal shelter. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/construction/facilities_construction.htm
Skip Endale November 03, 2012 at 06:19 PM
DG, the homeless people also sleep at the Starbucks and the Barnes and Noble as well as a few other places. That's not the problem. The problem is homelessness itself... try to fix the root cause not the symptom. Why does a Vietnam war vet have to sleep in the woods near a multi million dollar defense contracting firm? Why are our tax dollars spent arresting homeless people and putting them behind bars when in fact they need a shower and some clean clothes; maybe then they could find easier acceptance and perhaps even find a job? Secondly, why do you deny state&local employees a right to earn a decent living just as they have over the past 40 years or more - before the T party craze began? Final question, say you get your way, government becomes lean and mean, then what? Not voting for the library bond, that's your choice but I believe you're wrong when you imply that you're supporting a social justice cause when you're voting for the library bond. Its up to you to take the library back maybe even make it better.
Virginia Colin November 04, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Borrowing money to renovate libraries is a bad idea. Most of us live in houses or apartment buildings that were built before 1985. Maybe we have added some electric outlets so that we can use the internet. We did not tear our buildings down to the ground to build something entirely new. That is what was done the last time our county borrowed money to improve library buildings. Richard Byrd library, which was a very good building, was demolished. I do not know all of the branches, but I know that Pohick library is fine as it is. In tough economic times, neither homeowners nor counties should be borrowing money to reconstruct buildings that are in good shape.
Anoneemous November 08, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I agree with Dave that this bond will cause our taxes to increase eventually. Seems like Fairfax County is doing some gold plating of government services. ( New $176 million police and fire headquarters was recently approved by Board).

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