This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
Leave it to a former city manager to state the obvious. In a May 14th editorial in the Times-Call titled, "Become engaged before new taxes hit the ballot," Gordon Pedrow urges residents to, "help shape the vision for our future library." I couldn't agree more, and that vision should be based on a thorough understanding of the issues.
Pedrow appears to believe that simply describing the proposed Library Information District as a "new level of local government" is enough to spook people into seeing some nefarious plot to unnecessarily tax people for things they don't necessarily want. The truth is that library districts are the primary method of funding libraries in the state of Colorado and has been for several generations. Furthermore, our library system in Longmont has been consistently underfunded, and a special district would unburden the city from funding the library directly, enabling the city to dedicate that revenue to affordable housing and other needs that can only be addressed by the city.
By conflating the establishment clause in the 1st amendment with freedom of the press, Pedrow exposes his lack of understanding of constitutional principles. The truth is that the 1st amendment prohibition to establish an official religion has no bearing on whether the government can establish a press, only that the government cannot interfere with the exercise of a free press. His chiding of Council Member Martin’s description of a potential library district newsroom as being similar to national public radio (NPR) is equally dubious. NPR is part of the public broadcasting system (PBS), established by an act of Congress in 1967. As a part of PBS, NPR is not simply another nonprofit organization, it is a chartered entity charged with providing the public the information it needs to be engaged citizens in the political process. Even as a portion of its funding comes from Congress directly, PBS/NPR has its own governance structure independent of Congress and is more than capable of providing an independent voice unfettered by government outreach. A library district newsroom would have similar safeguards. Hysteria that such a newsroom would be the equivalent of a government propaganda mouthpiece like the Soviet Union’s Pravda is exactly that, hysteria.
No doubt there needs to be further discussion about the future of the library system and how a publicly-funded newsroom can be a part of that future. Let's just try to lead that discussion through a thoughtful presentation of facts and trade-offs for the citizens of Longmont, not scare-mongering and limp attempts at legal analysis.