Ken Balsley on Timberland, take 3

Ken Balsley takes on Timberland again (first and second):

They don’t televise meetings.

This is an old axe to grind for Ken, a repeat from take 1. You can read the longer answer in the link above, but in short, Timberland is unlike a local government that has a local cable contract in which it can extract a TCTV like organization. We will probably start posting audio files of our meetings soon though.

They conduct public business in secret.

He doesn’t provide much context here, but what he’s likely referring to is the process to hire our current Director, Michael Crose. There was some media coverage and editorializing that implied the board violated open public meetings laws, which I completely disagree with.

The editorial I linked to above incompletely quoted an RCW:

The state law designed to bring transparency to decisions by public bodies allows governing bodies to meet in executive session “to evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment.”

The quote leaves out the all important “to be generally applied within the agency,” which to me does not include the director. I may be splitting hairs, but when we’re talking about legal understandings in personnel processes where people’s rights are at stake, I’d like to err on the side of caution.

They give Thurston County, with over half the district’s population, only two of seven board votes.

This is true, but he fails to show how this hurts Thurston County.

They spend nearly a million dollars more on staff in the other four counties than in Thurston County even though Thurston County contributes nearly 55 percent of the property taxes collected by the district.

Now, this just isn’t true at all. In the latest budget information I have, Timberland spends $11 million in Thurston County and about $9.2 million in the other four counties. Thurston County contributes over $9 million in property taxes, so we’re actually getting a good deal.

They provide library buildings free in the other counties, but charge Yelm rent for the only library provided by Timberland in Thurston County.

This is a big deal, and a very unique one in Timberland. Ten years ago, Timberland and Yelm entered into an agreement to share cost on a leased space for the Yelm Timberland Library. The old library was in Yelm city hall and the ten year agreement was meant to give Yelm time to come up with a new location. So, it isn’t really Timberland charging Yelm.

They have a board that does not connect the library community to the general public. The result is failure of the public to support library property tax levies.

Yes, the levy failed. Any advice on how to connect the library to the general public would be gladly accepted. I want to win the next levy election.

Most recently they have failed twice in attempts to fill the vacancy of library director even after lowering the qualifications and increasing the salary, about $20,000 more than the previous director.

I’m not totally happy with the how our leadership search went, but I think we came out with a great solution. Our current leader probably knows more about the library district than anyone else around. Also, as per Ken’s earlier wish, Mike’s an MBA.

A change in the governance structure of Timberland is indicated. The minimum change needed is fair representation on the Timberland board and a board more directly responsible to the property owners that pay the library taxes.

The Timberland library district is the only one of the five multi-county library districts in Washington State that has a county (Thurston) with over half the population and less than half the votes.

This is again something that Ken’s said in the past. In short, its not really a Timberland policy that forces this, rather how state law mandates all similar library districts be.

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5 Comments

Filed under Chat from the community

5 responses to “Ken Balsley on Timberland, take 3

  1. Bob

    Emmett,
    I like your responses.
    Thanks

  2. Vic

    Looking for some advice? Timberland will not win the next levy election if they continue to ignore the needs of rural Thurston County residents. Pull your heads out of your executive sessions and have an open discussion of future services provided to these citizens. Did I mention that they are voters?

  3. emmettoconnell

    @Vic, in what form would fulfilling the needs of rural Thurston County take?

    A full-time library in Rochester, more kiosks in places like Little Rock or just longer open hours in the rural community branches? We’re putting together the budget for next year right now, so even though it’ll be flat, this kind of input is important.

  4. Ken Balsley

    Please send me your news releases

    • emmettoconnell

      Hi Ken,

      Leanne Ingle (lingle at trl dot org) or Jeff Kleingartner (jkleingartner at trl dot org) should be able to put you on the distribution list for press releases from TRL.

      I myself don’t issue press releases.

      Thanks,
      Emmett

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