December 21st, 2011 4:20 pm | by HANNAH HOFFMAN News | Posted In: Multnomah County, Politics

Poll Results Helped Convince County Chair Jeff Cogen to Oppose Bringing a Library District Measure to the 2012 Ballot

800px-central_library_(portland,_oregon)The Multnomah County Central Library

Recent public opinion polls paid for by the Library Foundation, the nonprofit that helps support the Multnomah County library system, showed that there is less than 50 percent support among voters for a measure to create a library taxing district, according to sources familiar with the numbers.

Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen told county employees last week he would oppose sending a taxing district measure to the May 2012 ballot, saying he didn't think voters would approve it. Cogen tells WW that the polls—paid for by the private library foundation—were a key factor in his decision.

He says he talked to community members, looked at the Portland Public School bond and Beaverton school levy that both failed earlier this year, and considered the poll results before making his decision.

“I’m not aware of any (polls) that have been over 50 percent,” he says of the proposed library district measure.

Cogen would not discuss the specific poll numbers, but sources tell WW that both polls showed the measure started out behind.

Kori Allen, a member of the foundation board, confirmed that there have been two recent polls but declined to discuss the numbers or whether they showed the library measure failing.

"I thought the most recent poll was inconclusive," Allen said.

Cogen's decision has brought criticism from advocates who say the county should fight for a taxing district for the library in 2012.

Brian Wilson, a member of a citizen task force studying ways to fund the library system, says he disagrees with Cogen’s reaction to the polls.

“I think there’s a better option than what he has proposed,” Wilson says. “I believe the library needs stable and permanent funding, and I’m not going to support anything that doesn’t do that.”

Wilson says he has seen the poll results and says Cogen misinterpreted the survey.

“There was no clear path,” he says. “That doesn’t mean they weren’t positive.”

Wilson wouldn’t say what numbers the polls produced, or even if they showed support below or above 50 percent. “It was a private poll,” he says. “I’m not even going to ballpark it.”

Cogen says the numbers weren’t positive at all and says the library foundation knows it. “You can probably read into the fact that they’re not tell you the results,” he says.

Cogen says he plans to push for library funding in two steps. He wants to send voters a three-year renewal of the existing levy on the May 2012 ballot. And then he wants to send a library district vote to the ballot in 2014.

In his letter to county employees, Cogen said that even an extension of the existing levy will mean cuts in services for the library system, which is facing an $11 million shortfall this year.

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