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Libraries and the ghost of leadership past

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 04, 2002


"How cheap must be the material of which so many men are made." — Henry David Thoreau

Ever since incorporation, the City of Encinitas has been plagued with a case of municipalus interuptus. The carriers of this debilitating civic ailment are elected officials who, once buried by the voting public, refuse to die. Yet, unlike their voodoo counterparts, these zombies do more than shuffle around terrorizing villagers. Sadly, Encinitas' downtown library is currently besieged by a former Mayor intent on its destruction.

Disagreement is not new to the residents of Cardiff, Leucadia, Olivenhain, and Encinitas, both old and new. In fact, Encinitas has been blessed by an active citizen base committed to the betterment of their community. Because of this, all major issues considered by city planners and elected officials must first clear numerous hurdles put in place by an informed constituents. The results of this often lengthy, and contentious, process,are the exemplary civic amenities now enjoyed by everyone. The latest being the brand spanking new Community Center in Oak Crest Park.

Needing to expand library services to keep pace with a growing population, Encinitas spent more than five years, and a great deal of money deciding where to place their main library. On September 13, 2000, the Encinitas City Council, under the guidance of Mayor Chuck DuVivier, voted to keep the library at its current site overlooking City Hall and the Pacific Ocean. It was Mayor DuVivier who made the motion to "Place the Encinitas Main Library within the Civic Center block."

At the meeting, Anne Omsted, speaking as President of the Friends of the Encinitas Library, thanked the City Council for finally deciding the matter. Listening to a tape of the meeting, provided by the City Clerk's office, Ms. Omsted is on record gushing over the idea of moving on to the development and construction phase of a downtown library. Wishing to share Anne's joy I include her comments to the council from the September 13th in their entirety. I quote:

"We the friends are extremely gratified that you have all found it in your hearts, even you Jim, although you didn't support this concept, you supported the library. And that's what was most important to us. But you have given us a workable solution, we will help you in any way we can.

We have offered to do fundraising in the past for furniture we will renew that offer. We will solicit offers for books. You tell us what you want man. We're here. We are really thrilled. We have been working on this for many, many years. And it's really exciting to have the council moving forward. Moving forward is a good place to be. We are happy that we are all moving in the same direction now.

We would like to request that we be allowed to participate in the planning for the downtown library, and in the work on the interim library because we will be actively involved in both of those measures.

So what can I say? You guys have done good! We're happy! Thank you very much. Let's go."

The question now before the 60,000+ residents of Encinitas is what has changed over the past year and a half to warrant Ms. Omsted's need to circumvent a fair and balanced decision of a previous city council, after years of public debate? A decision she supported. Evidently Anne has a new agenda.

In her effort to place the library at a location more to her liking, the ex-mayor is now attempting to place the issue on the November ballot, for reasons only she knows. Obviously her earlier statement was given in bad faith, as her actions today only serve to divide the community. A decision was made September 13, 2000, trying to undo that decision is hardly "moving in the same direction" and "participating in the planning of the downtown library."

Anne Omsted is not a civic booster. Considered by most residents to be a malevolent dictator, she has enjoyed the reputation of being the Godmother of Encinitas. Not the Disneyesque Fairy Godmother type, although her oratory style is the stock of Saturday morning cartoons, Anne is actually cut from the same cloth as Brando's Vito Corleone.

This is power politics at its ugliest, Anne is not staging this mutiny on behalf of Friends of the Encinitas Library, she is working on behalf of a recently formed group called "Library 4 All." A group created by Anne Omsted, to prevent the construction of the downtown library.

A library for all? I don't think so.

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