Live Blogging: B-PAC's Library Board Forum at Civic Center
B-PAC's library board forum starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Civic Center in Morton Grove
B-PAC sponsored its own library candidate forum on Tuesday evening, with a general assembly of residents walking up to the podium to ask questions. Members of PROLibrary, the opposing organization running for library board trustee spots, also held a pub quiz event at the same time, and said they never received timely invitations for the B-PAC forum on Tuesday, which you can read in greater detail here. There will be a library candidate forum, sponsored by Morton Grove Public Library, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.*
7:00 p.m. The candidate forum kicks off with four candidates on stage: Paul Berg, Catherine Peters, Mark Albers and David Calimag. The members of PROLibrary are not in attendance, though name tags and empty seats are on the stage for Bernadette Fahy, Laura Frisch and Lawrence Levin.
7:08 p.m. Candidate Peters takes a question about the library lending policy between libraries in Skokie and Niles, saying the relationship is healthy and B-PAC candidates have no intention to decrease the number of books or materials at MGPL.
7:13 p.m. Candidates have taken three questions from the audience. More than 20 people in attendance nibble on cookies and coffee as they listen.
7:15 p.m. Candidate Berg reiterates the desire to bring "fiscal sanity" to the MGPL governing.
7:20 p.m. Berg continues with a discussion about an increase in hired staff at the library since 2004. As for the need to spend money on building infrastructure: "Some money will certainly be spent on infrastructure as long as we keep the current library building," he said.
7:21 p.m. Peters also asks, "Where is the money going?" noting a 40 percent increase in staff and no changes with hours of operation. She said that there is a "two million dollar" account that is listed as "reserved/restricted for culture and recreation" in the Dec. 31 2009 "Village of Morton Grove, Illinois Component Unit - Public Library, Statement of Net Assets and Balance Sheet."
After the meeting, Peters explained her question in greater detail:
"This is not the account that is used to pay for budgetary items throughout the year, this is separate from that account. Our question is: What culture/recreation project do they have that they are holding two million dollars for, and why did they go to the taxpayers of Morton Grove for an additional $400,000 when they have two million dollars available to them?"
7:23 p.m. Morton Grove resident Patrick Kansoer comes to the podium to talk about the "forensic audit" that B-PAC wants to order if elected. "Is it that the auditor has not been doing a comprehensive audit, or do you believe a forensic audit is in order because there is any wrongdoing?" Albers said, "We're not implying any wrongdoing…but we're going to be watching public money because we want to know what's happened with the money. We want to be transparent."
7:26 p.m. Kansoer takes the podium for a follow-up. As a former library board member he asks, "What is your position on consultants and if you believe current use should continue, explain, or if not, why not?" Peters said that there is a time and a place for consultants.
7:33 p.m. "The reason it would be important to choose B-PAC or the other side is because B-PAC will not be trying to put in a new building, while PROLibrary will take it up again. The choice people have: Do you want 20 million or 30 million dollars with a new library? It really is the seminal issue of this campaign right now," said Peters.
7:35 p.m. Candidate Calimag speaks up, "Can we afford a library? That will be the question."
7:40 p.m. About 10 more people trickle into the event, so the crowd is now about 30 people in attendance. One man stands up to tell the members of B-PAC, "thank you for running," and asks that if elected, they will commit to civil and open board meetings.
7:46 p.m. Samina Hussain, Morton Grove resident and District 67 board member, asked about the program attendance at the library, whether people are asked to identify themselves as Morton Grove residents or not. Peters said she would hope that Morton Grove residents would receive high preference for program spots when attendance is completely full.
7:53 p.m. Hussain asks for candidates to clarify their vision for the role of the library in the 21st century. Berg reads from the B-PAC pamphlet, highlighting the importance of literacy and love of learning. Peters also reiterates that the library is a good place for children to read and do homework. Albers "takes it one step further" to say that B-PAC hopes to improve technology in board rooms to facilitate work with the schools and businesses in the community.
7:56 p.m. "If there are no more questions, anyone can state what's on their mind; feel free," said Albers. Berg notes that he has plenty of yard signs in his car if anyone wants one, and Peters thanks the audience for attending the event.
7:57 p.m. The panel of candidates receives audience applause before adjourning.
*Clarification: Context was added for recent events on library candidate forums.