The idea to form a library district and tax residents for related services grew out of the white-hot backlash to Wallowa County’s actions this past spring.
People packed hearing halls to protest the county’s plan to close county library service to balance its budget. For weeks, it was all anyone talked about.
Fast forward to Monday night when three people showed up for the first of the public meetings to explain the district were held in Enterprise. No pitchforks. No tar and feathers. No burning Susan Roberts in effigy this time around.
The plan took a serious broadside recently when Enterprise announced it may not approve the city being included in the library district boundary. Some of the reasons given were legitimate, some smacked of provincialism at its worst.
The unfortunate timing of the fire that destroyed city hall has Enterprise leaders rightly concerned about whether taxing for a library district might mean insufficient funds to rebuild city hall and provide a home for millions of dollars in fire equipment.
Under state law, the city can only tax to a specific level before Salem essentially takes over municipal government finances. Fears of Enterprise having to “fix” a failed library district are nonsense.
A library district without Enterprise’s participation appears to many to be unworkable, although there are ways to work through the challenges. The leadership of the quest to form the library district must find a way to generate the same interest shown after the county announcement. Without that, there is little hope a library district will fly.
No one should have been duped into believing that asking to dip into the wallets of county residents for libraries –– or anything else –– would be an easy sell. The push needs to involve more than the people who serve on the Wallowa Valley Library Foundation, as laudable as their efforts have been.
Most people who would have liked to volunteer and become part of the push were told essentially “we will call you if we need you.”
Hopefully after Monday night’s meeting, the call is going out in earnest.
If there isn’t a Herculean effort to rally the cause in the coming weeks, the library district will die aborning and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will be missed.
That would be unfortunate.