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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 . 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.

Catherine Peters March 24, 2011 at 08:26 PM
In order to have a forum, three things need to be agreed upon.....the time, the moderator, and the venue. Without all three, there is no meeting of the minds. In short, there is no agreement to have a forum. B-PAC has never agreed to the terms insisted upon by the library and will not be forced or bullied into accepting them.
Brent D. March 24, 2011 at 08:57 PM
What I don't udnerstand is why would a physical loction would be a problem?? If you have d substance and passion about specific topics and want to share it with your supporters, perhaps have an opportunity to sway the undecided ones, then you shouldn't care at what building the debate will take place. If you belive that you are running on truth and facts then why hide behind silly smoke curtins. I for once am still undecided and will be attending tonight's meeting. I really want to make an informed decision before I cast my vote. I would think that having more opportuntities to share your vision would benefit your campaing efforts. Pointing fingers that this group didnt agree or that etc.., it is just bunch of silly micky mouse politics. Step up and be a biger person, show up the forum and tells us why are you so passionate about the needed change, don't hide behind baseless excusses. Based on the conduct that has been displayed on this forum none of you deserve our votes!
C. Quinn March 24, 2011 at 09:42 PM
As the library as the institution, I understand that there was no negotiation by either slate of candidates to change the venue, moderator or process. That only dates were open for discussion based on availability. Ms. Peters, you can make insinuations all you want, but I have to believe the intent is dead on. I have to ask the broad question that I sure hope each candidate can answer truthfully: how will the future elected board ever work together? If the B-PAC slate considers the library as a battleground, what will ever happen when you all have to work with the balance of the library board? I'm already concerned that the negativity, the 'death by a thousand paper cuts' in legal challenges as I read them, and demographic posturing will cause loss of current library volunteers and support, which are critical for personnel and managing services. Everyone needs to think about how you would work together, because, let's be honest, there's an equally high likelihood that parts of these polarizing platforms will become our new board. The future of the library is what is under question and up for a vote-do we have leaders who have passion and a vision for it? Avoiding it because you view it as a hostile environment does not bode well. So, please, take a moment and think about what you as an individual would do as an elected official working with others who have diverse opinions. That's where the work needs to be done-so please, step up.
Dan Goldberg March 24, 2011 at 09:56 PM
In looking at the correspondence from the first invitation by the Library Board President and all the rest that followed, it seems like one side was pressuring the other then disregarded their input. A date/time, location and moderator were selected for the forum when that side they didn't get the answer they wanted from the other. Printing up a flyer and posting it on the Library's site seemed a bit premature because in legal terms, there really was no agreement. But take a look at the letters for yourself in case my interpretation is wrong. Personally, it seems like one side was being bullied and chose to stick up for their principles. There's something not quite kosher when the arrangements are being made by your opposition, on your home turf and are utilizing a moderator of your own choosing. If I were them, I would continue to take my case to the voters directly and avoid the whole debate issue all together (they rarely sway anyone and are attended by supporters of one side or the other if you really think about it). Sadly, I'm not sure many people around town really care enough one way or the other, but I do hope enough people come out to vote to bring this discussion to a conclusion, what ever that may be. http://mortongrove.patch.com/articles/live-blogging-library-board-forum-at-civic-center#pdf-5379944
Brent D. March 24, 2011 at 10:52 PM
I still view these tactics as silly rethorics and innuendos. It is really sad to see that the entire focus of what this campaign should be about has been replaced (at least at this forum) by angry, demeaning finger pointing. How are we suppose to trust any of these candidates when they display this behavior. Being an advocate of any instutiation requires ability to be flexibile, able to stay objective and understand when you have to compromise in the intstrest of all. Viewing Library as an unjustice and hostile enviromnent sounds like any immature excuse to me.

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