Just got my ballot in the mail (along with my first big batch of election junk mail!) and was reading through the Library Levy more carefully than usual because of some controversy I had heard about it (I think the Times even endorsed a NO vote to get the Mayor/Council to come back with a fixed levy).
In general, I figure library operating costs should be part of the general City budget (so "No"), but these are tough times and I believe free public libraries are really important to our society (so "Yes") but Seattle's library management has been out of touch with reality as shown by the library porn and druggies (so "No") but would the City Council and Mayor really change anything if we voted down this one (so "Yes"???)?
Anyway, I actually read the whole Levy Ordinance actual text and my understanding of that text is that:
1) The text talks about using the Levy money for extended hours, new books, new technology and so forth, but then clarifies that these are ALL NON-BINDING examples, even the general categories! NONE of the money has to be used for ANY of that! ALL of the money can be used for whatever the administration wants, even for non-library activities! For example, it could all be diverted to road diets and bicycle greenways! **
2) The text says that while "...it is the intent..." of the Mayor and City Council to keep funding the Library with the same proportion of General Fund and Real Estate Excise Tax money as today, there's no written requirement for that and the Mayor and Council could just take the current money away from the Library if this Levy is passed, leaving the Library with less money and transferring it to other City departments.
So, bottom line for the next 8 years if this Library Levy is passed: (a) any/all of the new Levy money can be used for anything the City wants to -- it doesn't have to be library-related and (b) the Mayor/Council can take away any or all of the current General Fund library money and spend on other things, like the Seawall Replacement or fiscal "emergency" du jour.
I'm bummed out enough by this that I'm going to vote against the Library Levy. If the City Council doesn't come up with a more transparent and accountable Levy, I'll just donate cash to the Library.
Anyway, check out the "complete text" for yourself at http://www2.seattle.gov/ethics/votersguide.asp
** - not that those are bad things on their own, but not for this Levy money!