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Proposed Sale of Central Library

August 29, 1993

* I am responding to the front-page piece of Aug. 20 on the possibility of Los Angeles selling part of the historic Central Library to Philip Morris Capital Co.

How could this even be considered when we're finally starting to show some hopeful progress in ridding ourselves of this deadly and destructive industry?

Proponents say the library deal would save taxpayers an estimated $15 million in the long run. I say let's save taxpayers' money now, by not subsidizing tobacco growers to furnish us with a deadly substance that is a leading cause of deaths.

Would we accept charitable contributions from the Medellin drug cartel? After all, their products kill fewer people than Philip Morris does.

LAUREL SAVOIE

Altadena

* The proposed sale of the Downtown Central Library to Philip Morris raises a series of questions that deserve complete and thorough public debate.

Although city officials argue that the sale will bring them money at "a rate lower than it would cost to borrow it on the open market," there are, as always, ultimate costs to the taxpayer. Public discussion should include debate on the wisdom of the policy in the first place. Both the redevelopment agency and City Hall have not disclosed the final payment to buy back the library in 20 years. Philip Morris will receive large tax credits, in addition to the almost $5 million annual payment and final payback. These credits, and the "profit" on the payments and final buyback are costing us money--is this how we want to spend it?

Attendant to the discussion of the ultimate cost to the taxpayer is the question of which city budget "pot" comes up with the money that pays the lease (the buyback is to be funded from interest on a portion of the original sale price). The annual lease payments are to be funded from bonds floated against the tax increment from Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project. At present, this money provides leveraged financing for approximately 40% of the affordable housing that is built in Los Angeles each year. Los Angeles has the worst affordable housing crisis of any market in the country. Mayor Richard Riordan's deputies have stated that affordable housing is crucial to making this city "business friendly," because without it, business won't come here--no matter how many police are on the streets. If this sale goes through, housing for bank tellers, school employees, health care workers--and rookie police officers and their families--will simply not be built.

While the concept and practice of borrowing is core to public financing in this country, sales of public landmarks, their potential buyers and the ultimate costs to the public good are questions which should not be ignored in the rush by the city to solve one immediate problem while creating new ones.

JAN BREIDENBACH

Executive Director

So. Calif. Assn. of Non-Profit Housing

Los Angeles

* Next year, the city can sell off the school buildings, then rent them back. Next come the police and fire stations, then rent them back. Sell off LAX to the highest bidder. Then all of the real estate that the City of Los Angeles still owns. Never a thought of cutting useless social programs or welfare. Never a thought of cutting city government expenses or salaries or bureaucracies. The city is beginning to sell, rent and give away the store all at the same time.

Whatever happened to selling city bonds on the open market? They really can't raise any more taxes or demand endless fees and service charges from businesses. Businesses are already leaving California like smart rats deserting a sinking ship. It's time for the voters of Los Angeles to wake up and smell the coffee.

ALAN ALBERT SNOW

Santa Ana

* A library is somewhat different from an airport, and a cigarette manufacturing corporation is somewhat the same as alcohol, firearms, and soft-pornography publishing corporations. At best the leasing would be in conflict with the public interest, even if the sale benefited the city financially. At worst the plan is a pre-planned attempt by a suspect industry to escape its civic duties, namely its tax payment responsibilities.

MICHAEL ARON WEINBERG

Van Nuys

* It is ironic that the idea of a free public library received its greatest impetus from one of America's greatest capitalists, Andrew Carnegie. If Philip Morris wants to be part of the great free library tradition, it should follow Carnegie's example and give money to support library use and not use the public library to support its own corporate goals.

WILLIAM L. EMERSON

Playa del Rey

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