A victory for libraries.
Persuading voters to add a new layer of government isn't easy, but promoters of the Lane Library District have done it. Certified results of the Nov. 2 election show that Creswell area voters approved the creation of a library district by a margin of 19 votes out of 3,813 cast. The close vote suggests that the district's newly elected board will have to work to gain the public's trust. In time, however, Creswell area residents will mark the library vote as a pivotal point in their community's history.
Creswell is Oregon's 78th largest city, and it's just a few minutes' drive from Eugene, the state's second largest, and Springfield, the ninth largest. Creswell is doomed to be swallowed by Eugene-Springfield unless it can find ways to preserve its identity. Creswell's schools offer one important means of creating community cohesion. The new Lane Library District offers another.
What's more, the library district is the first significant step in years toward solving a countywide problem. Of the people without public library service in Oregon, one-third - about 90,000 - live in Lane County. That distinction is an enduring embarrassment to a county that is the home of the state's flagship university. The new library district is nearly contiguous with the Creswell School District, covering territory outside the city of Creswell. The district will reduce the number of county residents without library service by about 10 percent.
The number could be reduced further now that the Lane Library District has shown the way. With voters' approval, the district could annex nearby areas - say, the Highway 58 corridor or portions of the South Lane School District that lie outside of Cottage Grove. Or other new districts could form, using the Lane Library District as a model.
It's remarkable that people in Creswell and surrounding areas would agree to bring into being a new unit of local government and give it permanent taxing authority. Yet that's what happened. The district will be supported by property taxes at a rate of 59 cents per $1,000 of property value - a noticeable increase in the tax burden, amounting to $88.50 a year for the owner of a $150,000 home.
People in Creswell could see the need. The current library has run for 77 years as an all-volunteer operation, with a trickle of financial support from the city of Creswell. It is housed in a 130-year-old school house that needs extensive repair - and even if the building were remodeled, it would still be too small. The development of the Lane Library District proposal happily coincided with the opportunity to lease the Cascade Home Center's building on Oregon Avenue, providing a well-located and spacious new home for the library.
Voters in the city of Creswell, not surprisingly, pushed the library measure over the top. Yet voters in one of the two library district precincts that lie outside the city narrowly approved the measure, and the vote in the other was reasonably close. These rural voters include some who consider the absence of taxes to support city-level public services as an attractive feature of where they live. Yet many of them agreed to pay for a library. They recognized that some public services can add value to their property and improve the quality of their lives.
In a decade's time, people in the Creswell area can expect to look back with pride on this vote. The library will strengthen the schools, reinforce community identity and become an incubator of civic activity. The voters in the district showed a clear concept of where their long-term interests lie, boosting confidence that Creswell will always be more than a suburb.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; Creswell area voters form new district|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Nov 30, 2004|
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