Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Lingle rebukes
state librarian

The governor derides Lowell's
approach to looming budget cuts

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Gov. Linda Lingle has accused state Librarian Virginia Lowell of taking "a less than professional approach" on finding ways to cut spending in the statewide library system.

During a news conference yesterday, Lingle noted a Friday newspaper story in which Lowell was quoted about how she decided to cut hours to meet the spending cuts Lingle ordered to cover less-than-projected state tax revenues.

"When I read the librarian's quote in the paper that said the desires of the public are not the determining factor in our hours, I wondered, Well, what could be a determining factor?" she said. "Is it her convenience?

"It seems to be a less than professional approach to what is a serious fiscal situation for our state," Lingle said. "So whether it's the state librarian, the Department of Education, the University of Hawaii or any department in state government, it is time for everyone to continue to deliver outstanding services."

Lowell's office said she was on leave yesterday and could not be reached immediately for comment. Her special assistant, John Pennebacker, was present when Lingle made her remarks, but also was unavailable for comment, the office said.

The governor said the state government has to learn to live within its means, especially at a time the nation may be going to war, which could further cut state revenues for some time.

"So we need to use all our creativity and our energy to find ways to continue providing great service," she said.

Lingle said Lowell's comparison with the amount per capita that Hawaii spends on its public library system and the spending per capita in other states fails to show that some of those other states face billion-dollar deficits.

"We do not want to allow ourselves to get into a situation like that, because what we're doing then is placing a burden on our children because they are going to pay ... for our decisions not to stop the spending," she said.

The initial 5 percent cut Lingle ordered for all state departments was pared to 2.5 percent for the library system, or about $500,000. The cuts are expected to remain in place for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Lowell announced last week that to meet the cut, Hawaii's 50 public libraries would open no more than 40 hours a week starting as soon as the end of the month.

Under the plan, the Hawaii Kai and Mililani libraries would close on Sundays, leaving only three libraries open on all of Oahu: Kaneohe, Pearl City and Kaimuki. Libraries on the neighbor islands were already closed on Sundays, but the impending cutbacks would affect their Saturday hours. On Kauai that will leave just one library open on weekends.

Library patrons and others say the decision should take their needs into account.

In the quote that prompted Lingle's criticism, Lowell said it was either cut library hours or close libraries completely and lay off staff.

"While community input is important, it's not the deciding factor of what days to close," Lowell told the Honolulu Advertiser last week. "It's finances that's driving the plan here. The real solution here is to put pressure on the lawmakers to adequately fund the library system."

Office of the Governor
Hawaii State Public Library System

E-mail to City Desk


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