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The Public Library is No Place for Politics Part 2 –“Secrecy Sauce”

By now, most people who have been following the library privatization/outsourcing issue in Huntington Beach know that the matter is on the City council’s June 18, 2024 agenda. The agenda item specifically seeks direction on the next step to take with the Request for Proposals (“RFP”) the City issued on May 31, 2024 seeking proposals from contractors to operate the library. 


There is a lot about the way this process has been conducted that is unorthodox, to say the least.  Whichever way the Council vote goes on the privatization issue, this matter has been handled in a messy, opaque manner from the outset (not the fault of the City staff, by the way).  Secrecy and disorder do not yield trust.


Let’s not repeat this escapade. 


Instead, the next time the City Council expresses an interest in exploring an unfamiliar concept that would represent a sea change in city operations or policy, let’s follow the long-established process of requesting staff to present a Study Session on the matter.  The public would then have a window into the subject matter, learning alongside its policymakers instead of being left in the dark. The public would be in a position to make informed comments on the matter earlier in the process. 


And then, if warranted, the process could proceed to a Request for Expressions of Interest (“RFI”, sometimes referred to as a Request for Information)as in the past (and was suggested here, which the Council majority ignored). This was the approach the City used, for example, to study the feasibility of implementing a 311 information system.  A defining characteristic of an RFI is it is typically public, therefore, more transparent. In contrast, an RFP, typically is not a public process because the bidders are submitting confidential information such as pricing.


Government through secrecy is not a desirable model. And yet, a pattern has emerged over the past eighteen months (still waiting for the air show settlement anyone?).  This is the secrecy sauce. And it’s leaving a bad taste in residents’ mouths judging from the tenor and volume of constituent communications I’ve seen.


Don’t stay silent.  Protect our public library by signing the petitions now being circulated for that purpose.  Also, please support City Council candidates, like me, who will protect the library and champion transparency!

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