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I was interested to read the comments after this story yesterday about the shortfall in fundraising for the new main library and the question of whether taxpayers of this beleaguered city would be on the hook during construction if that gap wasn’t closed.

This comment and others like it made a similar point:

So we should expect private donors to have fully funded the $60+ million needed in private funding before ground is even broken. Come on, can’t we be realistic? There have been more than $30 million in private money to build the building and another $10 million to operate the facility without the City even committing to build it yet. That is quite an accomplishment and completely in keeping with fund raising for capital campaigns. Once the Council moves forward, additional donors will see the City is serious about building this library (after 30 years of talking about it).

And this one:

If the universities, museums and hospitals and other nonprofits in San Diego and elsewhere had to have all the funding in place before beginning construction, there would not be the great facilities in place that San Diegans rely on every day.

These make good points. I often tell people seeking advice about starting a news operation like this that they need to just start — they can’t hope to have everything perfectly in place for the launch, even the fundraising.

But they are not the city of San Diego. And the unnamed museums, hospitals and nonprofits building new facilities hadn’t just outright misled their constituents for the last 15 years and let their services dissolve.

I find it continually bewildering that people in this town would wonder why some of us might be skeptical of unsubstantiated reassurances from people who want to build things. It’d be one thing if this city’s leaders had an impeccable track record of never reneging on promises or found themselves facing a bill they swore we’d never have to pay.

But, unfortunately for us, that is not the case.

No, you don’t have to have all the money in the bank before you start construction on something like this. But the Library Foundation has done absolutely nothing to disclose or provide evidence it has both the pledges it says it has and a plan to make up the difference. And boosters have provided no legal or formal assurances that the unbalanced city will face a $30+ million bill to finish something the mayor has worked overtime to persuade us will require no actual sacrifice to city services.

So they can go forward a build without the money in place if they’d like. But they can’t complain if we’re unwilling to buy, simply on their word, that this gap is not something to at least talk about.

— SCOTT LEWIS

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