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January 19, 2012 at 12:30 PM

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Questions raised about wisdom of library levy

Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen raised doubts Wednesday about putting a levy on the August ballot to help fund the city's libraries. He said that with the city needing to fund a $300 million seawall replacement along the central waterfront in the next two years, a measure to provide additional funding for the libraries might not be the highest priority.

"My concern is we go to voters in an isolated way. Do you want funds for libraries, do you want funds for parks, do you want funds for the seawall? They may say no at some point. It's not an option to say no to the seawall." Rasmussen noted that replacing the aging seawall is a critical piece of the viaduct-replacement project.

"What I'd rather see is the council look at all the measures to go before voters and prioritize them. Libraries are important, but what is most critical?" he asked.

Rasmussen's remarks came during the monthly Seattle Channel question and answer session with council members broadcast Wednesday night. You can find his comments at about the 11:30 mark in this video.

The Seattle Library is currently hosting a series of public meetings to weigh the strength of support for a tax measure to restore and possibly enhance the libraries current funding which has been reduced over the past three years as the city has slashed its budget.

Since 2009, the libraries have scaled back hours with 15 of the system's 26 branches now closed Friday and Sunday and the entire system shut down for a week at the end of each summer. Library staff takes an unpaid furlough during that time. Money to buy new books and materials also has been cut.

The final public meeting on a potential levy, scheduled for Wednesday night, was canceled because of snow. The meeting will likely be rescheduled, but a new date has not yet been set.

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