To: “tony perkins”
Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 12:20:05 AM
Subject: Randy Corman’s concerns about KCLS July 2nd letter to Renton Citizens regarding Proposition 1
Dear Mr. Perkins,
On June 25th I wrote to your office and to KCLS officials concerned that the King County Library System (KCLS) was making preparations to send a letter to all Renton households about Renton Proposition 1. In response, you sent me an email indicating that they had a right to send such a letter as long as it was an “objective and fair presentation of the facts,” but you had not had the opportunity to review the letter. For reference, I have attached your email guidance on this topic to me at the bottom of this email.
Unfortunately, I feel that the letter that was published by KCLS after our last email exchange was not objective, fair, or accurate. If the Piazza library prevails, this letter will leave a pall of doubt about the validity of this election for years to come.
The public record reflects that Mr. Ptacek does have a strong opinion with regard to this question that is now before the voters, so he had an extremely delicate path to walk in making the decision to send a letter at all.
A City of Renton press release from March 8, 2011, directly addresses the library location issue that is up for election. While Mr. Ptacek’s words were okay in that previous context, they leave no question about his bias for an issue which is now before the voters.
“We could not be more excited about the new downtown Renton Library location,” said Bill Ptacek, KCLS director. “This new, more central Library location will provide easier access, whether patrons are coming from Renton High School just a block away, by bus through the Transit Center, or by car, due to the abundance of nearby free parking.”
The above quote was picked up by several media outlets including the Renton Reporter, Renton Patch and the Seattle PI. With such strong words in favor of the Piazza Library site on record, Mr. Ptacek should have worked extra-hard to ensure that the KCLS mailing stayed on the topic of neutrally explaining the impacts of the ballot issue on KCLS operations, using established and vetted facts and data. Instead, he used hastily created data, with significant errors and new unexplained assumptions, and then focused much of the letter on his view of City of Renton (not KCLS) financial impacts from this ballot issue.
I know from reading the Renton Patch and the Renton Reporter that your office has already received one or more formal complaints on this topic. Rather than lodge my own complaint, I would simply ask that you add my inputs to the file as you consider the complaint(s) already filed. Please let me know if you need a separate complaint filed by me for action.
To keep my specific complaints in context, I have attached the entire body of Mr. Ptacek’s letter below. Within his writing, I have included my objections within brackets and in bold font. Please let me know if this format does not come through well when you receive this email. Also, please let me know if you would like further detail regarding any of my specific complaints. You can find further background on this issue, including the Miller Hull and KCLS studies, on my personal blog entry at http://www.randycorman.com/?p=2963
2216 Harrington PL NE, Renton, WA 98056
[Mr. Ptacek's letter with my concerns added in bold brackets]
July 2, 2012
Dear Renton Resident,
On August 7, Renton citizens will vote on whether the downtown Renton Library should be renovated at the current site over the Cedar River, or built at a location west of the Piazza.
The future location of the Renton Library has been the focus of community discussion over the past few months. The King County Library System (KCLS) is sending you this letter to help you better understand the Renton Library options before the citizens of Renton. In particular, we want to make you aware of a study by Miller-Hull Architects indicating that building the new library at the site over the Cedar River would be more complicated to permit and would cost 38% more than the original budget. [Factual Error: The Miller Hull study indicates that the hard costs (labor, materials, contingencies, and escalation for inflation) of the library are 8.1 million instead of 6.7 million-- this is NOT 38 % higher as stated, but is instead 21 % higher. KCLS, not Miller Hull, added the remaining 17% of growth using erroneous math--see comment in later paragraph] [Bias/half-truth: the Miller Hull study based this 21 % difference on higher floor loading than KCLS needs or has previously agreed to with Renton, and bases it on moving the front entrance which has never been discussed with Renton before. These facts are relevant to Renton voters and are seemingly intentionally NOT discussed in the KCLS letter] The City of Renton would be responsible for the additional costs and for managing the additional complexities. [Casts doubt on the intention/legality of the entire letter: Since the City of Renton is responsible for the additional costs and for managing the complexities, not KCLS, then it would be up to the City of Renton, not KCLS, to discuss these costs with Renton residents. The PDC rules allow each agency to fairly discuss the impact of a ballot proposition on their own operations and budget, not on another jurisdiction's operations and budget. One might conclude that the only other reason for sending this letter is to bias the election towards the preferred KCLS choice.]
As defined in the Interlocal Agreement, the City of Renton agreed to fund the construction of two Renton libraries if residents voted to become part of the King County Library System. As part of its commitment to the community and to KCLS, the City sold bonds and selected sites for the promised libraries after the annexation was approved in March 2010. The City chose and purchased the site west of the Piazza as the location for the new downtown library.
The City of Renton has already invested nearly $1 million on property acquisition and design since selecting the site west of the Piazza. [Bias: the city council has it in its power to sell the Big 5 site to recapture the majority of these costs, or to use the Big 5 site to extend the park. Council has always known this was a strategic site for other purposes than a library. KCLS intentionally tries to make it sound like one million dollars in sunk costs (wasted money) which may be reasonably viewed as an attempt to bias the election]
It is more expensive and more complicated to build the library at the site over the Cedar River. KCLS has advised the City Council of possible complications that might be associated with a choice to renovate the site over the Cedar River to the same standards as other KCLS libraries. The unique structure of the building spanning the Cedar River creates issues that could affect the construction timeline [Bias: the KCLS need for a quick timeline is unsupported, and is of no significant consequence to Renton Citizens. If KCLS is going to introduce concerns about timeline, they should explain their own motivations for bringing up this issue. Waiting for permitting to occur at the existing site has no practical impacts to Renton library patrons] and increase projected costs for retrofitting the building to meet current and future needs of Renton Library patrons. To assess the scope of the impact, KCLS hired Miller-Hull Architects, the firm already working on the design of the downtown library, to conduct an in-depth investigation of potential construction scheduling and cost considerations.
The Miller-Hull study findings indicate that the cost for renovating the site over the Cedar River to new construction standards would be $13.1 million [Factual error: Miller Hull came up with a grand total of 8.1 million in labor and material costs and contingencies, and KCLS then added 5.0 million developed by their own staff; their staff made about two million in errors in their estimates, including repeating the 15 % contingency costs that the architects had already included, and making random and incorrect guesses at mitigation costs for traffic, utilities, and other items. ] that an estimated $3.6 million more than the City’s existing project budget for construction planned at the site west of the Piazza.
Miller-Hull also found that the permitting process to upgrade the existing building over Cedar River to meet modern library requirements would be more complex and costly than the City’s original plan to convert the building into an Environmental Interpretive Center for the Renton Parks Department. [Factual Error: The city does not have an "original plan to convert the building into an Environmental Interpretive Center." Instead, we have a citizen steering committee report recommending this use of the building to save it from destruction. There is no detailed plan to convert the building, no concept for what it would look like, and no funding. There is no one qualified in the City of Renton to say what this would cost, and no formal estimates have ever been created. Bill Ptacek, who authored the KCLS letter, knows this, or should know this. He was in attendance at the last council meeting where this was discussed in great detail. At that meeting we discussed that no one knew how expensive an Environmental Center would be. I personally asked Kirk Robinson, CEO of the Robinson Company (who did the city estimate), if he had any idea of what the environmental center would cost, and he clearly said he did not. At that same meeting, our own facilities manager said he did not know the costs. At that meeting we established that an environmental center would require seismic upgrading similar to a library, and that this upgrading would likely double the value of the building thus tripping the same set of codes that require the library to be upgraded to modern standards--in effect, requiring the basic building to rise to the same cost as a library. ] [Bias/half-truth: the mention of the environmental center, without mentioning that there is no money to create it, creates confusion in the minds of voters--potentially giving voters the impression that they get two buildings for the price of one without letting them know that the existing library building would also require millions of dollars of upgrades to reopen as an environmental center. While the Piazza Library campaign may be within it's freedom of speech rights to try to misdirect the public on this point, KCLS has no such freedoms under RCW 42.17.130 and it interpretations by the attorney general. If KCLS is claiming to educate Renton Citizens about the costs of the ballot issue, they must do so accurately and fairly]
When the City of Renton residents voted to join KCLS, the responsibility to determine how to best provide library services in Renton shifted to KCLS. [Bias/misleading: The interlocal agreement is very lengthy and spells out a collaborative process for determining future library services, a path which Renton and KCLS have been pursuing together-- Renton has many duties and rights under this agreement, and KCLS misleads the public by implying that they are the only ones that get to make decisions] Site selection and construction costs remain the responsibility of the City of Renton. We understand that the increased cost for construction at the site over the Cedar River is in excess of the City’s budgeted amount. [Casts doubt on the intention/legality of the entire letter: The City of Renton, not KCLS, should be communicating with citizens about impacts on the City budget. KCLS should be communicating only on their own budget. The City of Renton has many options to close this budget gap, such as selling the former highland library site, which KCLS is not qualified or authorized to speak to on City of Renton's behalf. ]
If you have any questions or would like more information about the feasibility study conducted by Miller-Hull Architects, please contact Facilities Director Greg Smith, 425.369.3237.
Bill Ptacek, Director
King County Library System
From: “Tony Perkins”
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2012 3:55:17 PM
Subject: RE: Concerns about KCLS intention to mail information to voters regarding Renton Proposition 1 right before ballots are issued
Dear Mr. Corman,
Thanks for your email, and for including me on the list of recipients of your earlier correspondence. I am the right person to contact at the PDC, as I do quite a bit of work for the agency on RCW 42.17.130 (note that effective January 1, 2012, RCW 42.17.130 was recodified as RCW 42.17A.555).
If you have reviewed PDC Interpretation 04-02, Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns, you have noted the statement that “The PDC will presume that every agency may distribute throughout its jurisdiction an objective and fair presentation of the facts for each ballot measure.” PDC staff advises that this right extends not only to agencies that call or pay for a ballot proposition election, but to any agency whose finances or operations would be impacted by the proposition. A good example would be in last year’s election for Initiative 1183, the liquor privatization measure, when many local jurisdictions made presentations to their residents regarding the initiative, and the expected outcomes of its passage or rejection.
PDC staff understands that a mailing or other agency communication that is explicitly tied to an election will go out at election time, when information about what is on the ballot is most relevant. The sponsoring agency is nevertheless prohibited from promoting or opposing the proposition through the tenor or tone of the agency’s statements. In addition, an agency’s communications must present the facts about the ballot proposition, accurately representing the costs and other anticipated impacts of the proposition. Because I have not had the opportunity to review KCLS’ proposed communication on Proposition 1, I can’t comment on its tenor, tone, accuracy or completeness. Had KCLS asked me to review its proposed communication, I would provide a memo to the agency containing comments and suggestions for compliance with RCW 42.17A.555, as I have for many other agencies.
I hope the above is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Lead Political Finance Specialist
Washington State Public Disclosure Commission,