Archive for Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Americans for Prosperity representative questions pre-election library fliers distributed in Lawrence utility bills

November 10, 2010


Election 2010

Find detailed candidate profiles, campaign finance information and complete election coverage in our Election Guide.

Precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the Lawrence Public Library expansion

View an interactive map of Lawrence's vote on the library expansion proposal by precinct.

Library leaders moving forward with expansion design plans

Now that the one detail of $18 million is out of the way, leaders of the Lawrence Public Library are excited to be moving on to more specifics about the planned expansion of the facility.

Read more about the details and timeline for the next few years.

Library vote dissected

A wrap up of election results shows the Lawrence Public Library bond issue found good support in all areas of town, but opposition was more likely on the west side of the city. A total of 13 of the 49 Lawrence precincts voted against the library proposal, but none had negative votes that registered 60 percent or more. That was in contrast to 10 precincts that supported the library to the tune of 70 percent or more.

For more stats on the library vote, read the Nov. 3 Town Talk post.

A week after voters approved an $18 million expansion of the Lawrence Public Library, city commissioners were accused of going too far in trying to persuade the public to vote for the issue.

Jim Mullins, the local field representative for Americans for Prosperity, told commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting that a flier inserted into city utility bills prior to the Nov. 2 election was an improper attempt to sway voters rather than provide objective information about the library bond issue.

“It was a complete puff piece,” said Mullins, who was a chief opponent of the bond issue. “If you’re going to do that type of piece, you ought to let the other side have their say too.”

In the bills leading up to the election, the city allowed the Lawrence Public Library Board to insert a flier into the city’s water, sewer and trash bills. The fliers listed growth statistics related to the library and provided information about “why the project is needed,” its costs and what would happen if the referendum failed.

City Manager David Corliss said the flier was deemed to be appropriate because it was an educational piece and was not advocating that residents vote in favor of the bond issue.

“We certainly tried to follow the law,” Corliss said. “The law says we can provide information but not provide advocacy.”

Mullins, though, said the piece crossed the line in several areas, especially by stating that if the bond issue failed “the use of the library will continue to outpace the building’s capacity and the library’s needs will be deferred to a future date.”

“You don’t know that,” Mullins said.

He said such a statement was an assumption, not a fact. And he said it was an assumption that was in dispute by some library bond opponents who believe library usage will slow due to new electronic book technology.

Mullins also objected that the flier was paid for by taxpayer dollars. As previously reported, the Library Board paid the city $600 to have the flier printed.

Mullins said he understood there was nothing that could be done about the issue now, but he wanted city commissioners to consider passing a policy regarding the use of such fliers in future city referendums.

Commissioners made few comments about Mullins concerns, but rather asked Corliss to prepare a response to the issues raised.


LogicMan 7 years, 4 months ago

"Nothing can be done?"

A court injunction? A State Attorney General investigation?

ronwell_dobbs 7 years, 4 months ago

And the purpose for the action you suggest is to lower the cost and reach of government?

kernal 7 years, 4 months ago

What's to investigate? What was done is out in the open, we know who did it. This is not a situation requiring an investigation by the Attorney General's office. Any investigation at this point would be political grandstanding and since the elections are over, that is highly unlikely.

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 4 months ago would have passed regardless so stop your bitchin and get ready for some nice upgrades to the library!

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 4 months ago


The Precinct by Precinct link above is linked to the wrong thing.

justforfun 7 years, 4 months ago

well DUH!! 18 Mil it better not be a POS. Nevermind its a bad time to stick it to the tax payers.

kernal 7 years, 4 months ago

Even if it's awesome, that doesn't make it prudent. You can stop with the hater word. That is So immature.

Nathan Atchison 7 years, 4 months ago

sounds like youre chuggin the haterade too! whats wrong with you people? is this library going to be your economic demise? get a grip. maturity is overrated.

getreal 7 years, 4 months ago

Americans for Prosperity wants no improvements to libraries, just like they want no improvements to our schools. What else is new?

geekyhost 7 years, 4 months ago

Yes, that broad brush is very lovely, but you really should watch where you're applying all the paint.

fairplay 7 years, 4 months ago

Actually, Mullins has publicly stated that he, and AFP, support improvements to the library but that the $18 blueprint is not cost effective. The parking spaces come in somewhere around $30,000 per space for the new lot. This is double the accepted normal costs.
It'll be a GREAT improvement to the library, no one is disputing that, however, for half the cost, the concessions would be insignificant but the long term impact and addition to the property taxes would be noticeable.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 4 months ago

I don't recall any of that nuance in the big ads placed in the JW by the AFP. And why does the AFP care about a library in Lawrence? I didn't know the AFP lived here. What is up with that? We have a rightwing lobbying organization weighing in on a local issue. Thought they were still fighting health care reform, big fish.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"He said such a statement was an assumption, not a fact."

It's an assumption that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, as well.

fairplay 7 years, 4 months ago

The sun is not susceptible to changing technologies. At one time we ASSUMED the need for communication via postal service would grow so there would be more need for Pony Express riders. How'd that work out? We certainly increased our postal numbers but technology changed the way we communicated. The same goes for the traditional library system. Your argument is capricious and teetering on sophomoric idealistic loyalties. Perhaps openness in your mindset would be a more prudent approach.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

If they were tripling the size of the library, you might have a point. But they aren't, so you don't.

missunderestimate 7 years, 4 months ago

The paid shill for AFP (Mullins) should figure out that if the commissioners wanted to engage in a full frontal advocacy effort on behalf or, or opposed to, the library issue, they would have been fully within their legal right to do so.

Meanwhile, what business is it of the Koch brothers if we in Lawrence want to expand, or not expand, our library.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

Is that true?

Can the city, using public funds, advocate for an expansion of the library without giving folks both sides of the story?

According to Corliss, the law says they can provide "information but not advocacy".

The flier clearly didn't include a variety of arguments against the library proposal, or alternatives, didn't specify what accreditation was at stake and what would happen if the library didn't get the highest level, and, as pointed out, assumed an increasing use of the library.

It was clearly biased in favor of the proposal, and was in fact crafted by the library itself, which has an obvious stake in the project.

I'd say it was at least as much "advocacy" as "information".

fairplay 7 years, 4 months ago

While I disagree with what I believe you are implying your stance on the library to be (pro-tax increase for expanded governmental services) I DO agree that the commissioners had, and have, the right to advocate as they please. I believe the issue is whether or not the CITY implied an endorsement of an propaganda for a particular stance on a ballot issue. Let's imagine that with your IRS returns in 2003 there was propaganda inserted that was used to build support for an Iraqi invasion. Even if the insert were paid for by private funding (to be consistent with your assertion that the Koch brothers continue to pull strings) the mere presence of the information, without contrasting viewpoints, would be enough to make you raise an eyebrow about the Government's tactics and the administration's means of reaching sympathetic supporters.
Another question is that if all the City Commissioners were such supporters of the project, why didn't they OK the mil levy increase on their own instead of putting it up for a special election and a segregated budget item?

Kent Shrack 7 years, 4 months ago

I'm up for a re-vote after we get flyers from BOTH sides. Let's do it right or not at all.

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 4 months ago

First, let's have a survey as to how many people read the insert in their water bill. I, for one, did not.

It would have passed anyway.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 4 months ago

Me, neither. I didn't realize there had been one until I saw this article.I just pull the bill and the return envelope and toss the rest.And I agree that it would have passed anyway. The library has been fighting this battle for a long as I have lived here.

Isaias Shannon 7 years, 4 months ago

This is just bizarre to me...who in their right mind is against PUBLIC LIBRARIES? educational resource that supports community interaction, provides quality programming for children and adults, and generally enhances a someone could could oppose that is just, well, weird.

Kent Shrack 7 years, 4 months ago

I am not opposed to libraries. I am opposed to building a parking garage under the cover of a library addition. Putting this project in perspective, Free State High school construction costs were approximately 23 million. It is 250,000 sf. In my opinion, it should have cost 17 million. (Goddard high school construction cost at 246,000 sf was less than 17 million, built at the same time) With inflation over the past 10 years, we should be getting about 185,000 sf of new library. I’m guessing that we voted more on a parking garage than on a library expansion.

Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 4 months ago

I could not agree with you more. I voted against the bond and I am the daughter of a librarian. I love the library but not this "expansion". I worry that the amount of money we are spending now will effectively eliminate the possibility of improvements in the future.

Based on today's property values, this expansion will cost me nearly $1,500 personally over twenty years. I want more for my money!

lily 7 years, 4 months ago

Both sides should have been allowed to state facts or it appears as advocacy. I certainly don't want the new library to carry the shadow of this. Whether we like it or not, there should have been representation from both sides.

50YearResident 7 years, 4 months ago

I wondered how it was able to pass! I say foul play by the City.

Isaias Shannon 7 years, 4 months ago

It passed because the majority of voters in our city support the library expansion and desire a new, enhanced library. Duh.

fairplay 7 years, 4 months ago

Correct. Are you willing to say that the majority of voters were given equal access to all the information including alternatives? Of course not.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

Well, obviously.

But I wonder how many people who voted for it really understood the proposal, and the alternatives, and the outcome if the library didn't achieve the highest accreditation it wanted.

One person I spoke to didn't know that the proposal would involve an increase in property taxes to pay for it.

seriouscat 7 years, 4 months ago

They do have a point. In the interest of fairness both sides should be given their chance to make their argument.

That being said, their argument sucks:

  • if the bond issue failed “the use of the library will continue to outpace the building’s capacity and the library’s needs will be deferred to a future date.

"You don't know that"

um yes, those of us who use the library now this fact quite well.

-some library bond opponents believe library usage will slow due to new electronic book technology

now that's a big assumption! Are there any libraries anywhere whose usage has slowed due to e-books?

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

Here's the other side:

  1. The reasons given for the expansion - enough computers to achieve the highest level of accreditation, more meeting space, and more parking - are not sufficient to increase taxes at this time.

  2. The highest level of accreditation is not necessary or appropriate for a Lawrence public library, which more clearly meets the definition of the next highest level, being a library which serves "the community and a broad surrounding area".

  3. There are numerous other possibilities for improving the library without approving this expansion - for example, we could simply create an annex (in the old Carnegie building, or in the Tanger mall) which would serve as meeting space and a reference section. Such an annex would free up space in the current location (and parking), would not require check-out capability, or new staff.

  4. We don't actually know that the use will continue to increase - as the economy improves, it may slow down - and e-books are clearly a factor in the near future.

  5. Current computer use is often recreational (games and/or porn, from some posters), and there would be an easy way to make computers available for more educational use - simply disallow the games and porn.

notajayhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

"now that's a big assumption! Are there any libraries anywhere whose usage has slowed due to e-books? "

Just out of curiosity, did you buy a print copy of the newspaper this story appeared in, or read it online?

bad_dog 7 years, 4 months ago

Our family does both. The wife reads the paper and really couldn't care less about the online version. I find that placing comments in the print edition is not nearly as fulfilling...

Godot 7 years, 4 months ago

Why does the city have a marketing department in the first place? It is not as though we residents can choose which city we want to provide our services.

Why does the city waste our money by sending out glossy, colored, propaganda brochures in the water bills? If we have a need for city services, we will take the effort to find out about the ones we are interested in. You don't have to "sell" anything to us; unless, of course, you intend to influence our votes.

dateixeira 7 years, 4 months ago

At the least the city waded into gray waters with the flier, and should have been more careful on the message. I for one am all for improving our public libraries, they are great resource for the community. However, the current plan to improve the Lawrence Library is backward thinking. The use of technology is only going to grow and expand, and our libraries need to adapt their operating models appropriately. The current expansion plan is based on an old analog model - funding for only 100 or so computers? I voted against the bond b/c the plan should have been focused more on expanding the Library's digital footprint, not the physical footprint.

blindrabbit 7 years, 4 months ago

Shleppy: No doubt, the Library re-do will be "awesome" as you state; but is it really needed. I agree, the library needs some update and renovation, But!!! Did anyone really investigate the expanding trend of electronic media and how that will impact on-site usage? If so, I would really question the objectivity of the "study" especially if "The City" felt compelled enough to allow a flier to be sent out under it's Posting. I have no knowledge of Mullins and AFP; but I also understand his/their questioning the "legality" of the process.

KansasPerson 7 years, 4 months ago

Even though I voted against this library proposal (and before you say "Why do you hate reading?" just hear me out) I agree with seriouscat that the arguments in this article were not completely logical. Maybe I lack vision, but I just don't see e-books gaining the same foothold on society that, say, the web has. I see them as being a side-by-side alternative with traditional books. Again, I could be wrong on this, but the reason I voted against this proposal was because it was too strong on parking garage, meeting rooms, 100 new computers and much too vague on improving and adding to the current collection.

And I still wish we'd gotten to look into the Simons proposal. The Riverfront Mall is just sitting there. Its structure is strong enough to bear the weight of the stacks. I thought it had a lot going for it, but it never came before the public so it never had a chance.

blindrabbit 7 years, 4 months ago

Did anyone notice a LJW story a few days ago (following the Lawrence Library vote) that the Library was undergoing a immediate renovation of it's HVAC system. Why, is this going to happen if in-fact the Library will have a major renovation based on the outcome of the recent vote. It would seem to me if there will be a major renovation as voted on by the public, an entire new HVAC Plant will be added at that time. Am I missing something?? Or maybe the current work was funded by monies already approved by The City?????? Sounds fishy !

Julie Jacob 7 years, 4 months ago

Are you sure that wasn't for the Carnegie Library renovation that is going on? I can't find the article, link please.

ksarmychick 7 years, 4 months ago

The city should allow the people against the library expansion to include a flyer in the next city utility bill and force a recall election. Of course taking the cost of the recall election out of the money that Corliss gets paid for failing to do his job correctly. I bet if that happened he would never let a mistake like this happen again.

BrianR 7 years, 4 months ago

Professional right-wing meddlers AFP whining about someone else advocating for something?


Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 4 months ago

I don't know about you all, but I received that flyer the day AFTER the election.

50YearResident 7 years, 4 months ago

What about the recent article about, now that this vote has passed, the city will consider satalite liabrary locations? Are they already thinking about building more now that this was passed?

irvan moore 7 years, 4 months ago

voting against a flawed plan does not make people library haters or bad citizens, these are times for no frills additions to public resources. i think more will be revealed in a few years when we see why we really got the parking garage.

jimmyjms 7 years, 4 months ago

So Jim Mullins, a paid representative of the Koch-created (and funded) AFP suddenly has a problem with "puff" pieces?

Long walk, short pier, Jimbo.

Clara Westphal 7 years, 4 months ago

If you will pay my property tax bill, I will quit complaining about the city spending money they don't have.

ToriFreak13 7 years, 4 months ago

Mari, your mailman is hoarding your mail. This came well before the election. It was extremely illegal and it's too bad the AFP has no connects with a worthy law team willing to proceed with this action against the city. For Corliss to state it only shared information, make him the most guilty. That document was pure advocacy for this $18 million. Surprised it didn't have a return envelope for donations.

jimmyjms 7 years, 4 months ago

" it's too bad the AFP has no connects with a worthy law team willing to proceed with this action against the city."

You're kidding, right? Probably should stop posting about things you know nothing about, huh?

ToriFreak13 7 years, 4 months ago

Where is the legal action then hotshot? "Mullins said he understood there was nothing that could be done about the issue now.." If he had a real deal legal team...he wouldn't be bumpin his gums...instead taking action.

ps. the library paid the $600 to print it...we still paid the postage. helluvadeal

jimmyjms 7 years, 4 months ago

So no legal action means no legal team to you?

Admit it: you have no idea who AFP or the Koch's are, do you?

ToriFreak13 7 years, 4 months ago

Are you making a point? That you know the Koch's?

Admit it: The Koch's could care less about Lawrence, KS politics.

Note my initial statement....a WORTHY legal team...this is an easy case but they send a pup to do a little barking. Go bang on your keyboard some more! ha

jimmyjms 7 years, 4 months ago

Of course I don't know the Koch's. That is far, far from the point.

Here's your statement that I responded to: "" it's too bad the AFP has no connects with a worthy law team willing to proceed with this action against the city."

AFP has filed lawsuits across the country, to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. The idea that the Koch's, who are multi-billionaires and fund AFP, along with a number of telecom giants, has "no connects with a willing law team" is beyond ludicrous, it's ridiculous and ignorant.

As for you supposition that they don't care about Lawrence, KS politics...what? Do you know where Koch Industries is located?

statesman 7 years, 4 months ago

AFP is against ANY education-related improvement, lest a better educated citizenery figure out exactly what AFP and the Koch brothers want -- a government that panders to THEIR wishes with lax environmental laws, no taxes, and no governmental interferrance into their evil empire. AFP is all about returning life to the dark ages with anarchist principles, and rule of this country by the wealthy and for the wealthy.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 4 months ago

Why didn't Mr. Mullins just use those all those AFP buses that he used all last year and summer to take citizens to all those health care rallies and Glenn Beck rallies to shuttle his "no" votes to the polls?

Just what I anonymous super-rich oil conglomerate making my decisions for me (AFP).

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 4 months ago

I should have said "all those AFP buses full of social security recipients that he took to those anti-socialism rallies all last year."

bd 7 years, 4 months ago

glad I don't pay taxes in larryville!

Centerville 7 years, 4 months ago

So I can have my own 'educational' lit inserted in utility bills..and the utility company, at the very least, doesn't have to report it as an in-kind contribution? Sweet!!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Really now Mr. Mullins there are far bigger issues on the table. Where are you when taxpayers need you?

The library has been ignored for too long! Compared to all of the cost living increases listed below the library rehabilitation costs are about the size of a flea on an elephants butt.

Remember where new infrastructure goes so goes all of these BIG TIME tax increasing projects:

  • the $88 million sewage treatment plant,which in and of itself increases the cost of community services/ our cost of living.

Plus: water and sewer lines streets and repairs houses (((If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality. Why not IMPACT FEES or EXCISE TAXES? Local real estate developers ARE STILL laughing all of the way to the bank on the backs of taxpayers. ))) public schools fire stations law enforcement manpower sidewalks snow removal Traffic signals Traffic calming developers requesting more BIG GOVERNMENT tax dollar assistance(new infrastructure) and tax incentives for their warehouses and retail strip malls = local corporate welfare. In general all above the increase the cost of community services to all taxpayers aka cost of living increases big time.

Apparently local complainers truly do love the largest of tax increases that accomplish the least the for overall community and benefit the very few.....aka duped.

Matthew Herbert 7 years, 4 months ago

I'm just amazed that a community that overwhelmingly supported the "T" in all of its inefficiencies and wastefulness, nearly failed to support the public library. Regardless of your political affiliations, you must admit, this town is just weird.

pace 7 years, 4 months ago

Anybody ever find out who was responsible for the robocalls to Lawrence people with misinformation about voting?

I think it can be "known" at least in a statistical way or common sense way rather or not the "“the use of the library will continue to outpace the building’s capacity...' granted if an apocalypse happens or "free private funded library opens" the reason of the statement might change. but it is not a wild hair "unfounded" claim.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 4 months ago

It was not advocation. It was information. There is a difference despite what you hear on the news.

TopJayhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

If I were you, I would close the library and just mooch off of Topeka like you do everything else. We already have a really nice, really overpriced library.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 4 months ago

All this hoopla over an insert to the water bill. It was the water bill right? I toss all that junk into the recylce and hang on to the bill. I wonder how many do the same.Honestly, I don't recall seeing it. I doubt it matters at all to the votes on the library. Certainly not ten points worth. Time to get over it and move on. Cheers!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is an astroturf front group started by oil billioniare David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries).

AFP works together with the Koch family’s other conservative foundations and think tanks to disrupt Barack Obama's presidency.

Accordingly, AFP has opposed health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create.

AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s "green jobs" czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks.

According to an article in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, the Kochs are known for "creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names," that "make it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington." [1]

This is a political machine not a prosperity machine which should NOT have tax exempt status.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

The Justice Department should declare war on these political organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, National Rifle Assoc., Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove, the DCCC and the RNC!

Granted if political groups were not tax exempt less money likely would flow in their directions which would be a good thing.

There should be no IRS deductions for any type of political organizations.

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