The council discussed the ordinance at length and went over many variations before landing upon the final amended version that was ultimately passed.
“I believe that the [old] process was flawed,” Mayor Nick Long said.
Council Member John Bowen presented a slideshow in regards to the ordinance and said he believes the current review process should be adjusted instead of replaced with a new one.
“Nobody from the council has sat down with the library board since Dec. 6 to talk about this,” Bowen said.
Furthermore, Council Member Chad Tressler brought forth a detailed amendment to the proposed ordinance that would allow the current library board to continue carrying out reviews.
“I feel this motion to amend addresses everything that we actually had an issue with,” Tressler said.”
However, Long proposed the council keep many of the adjustments suggested by Tressler, but stressed the value of having a separate board dedicated to reviews.
“The reason I feel this should be split into separate committees is the sheer amount of time and specialization,” Long said. “We need specialized people on the library board, whereas the review committee needs teachers, district administrators and early childhood development people.”
The amended ordinance will have no specific language about what material can be challenged, but will lead to the creation of a six-member Community Standards Review Committee with a board chair that will act as a tiebreaker, as suggested by Council Member Sean Saunders.
“I’m not against reclassifying books, but I am against banning them and removing them from the library,” Saunders said.
The committee will be composed of three members with experience in childhood education appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council and three board members from the llibrary board.
The new board will review library materials in any medium that are challenged by community members within 30 days. However, no material can be reviewed more than once within 12 months nor is there a process outlined that would call a sustained challenge into question.
There were over 100 people present at the Valentine's Day meeting with a line formed in the hallway of the chamber for public comment. Dozens of people spoke out against the ordinance on the grounds of potential discrimination and freedom of speech, among other points. However, there were many others there who spoke in support of a sports and research facility for local disabled people that was not on the agenda for the night.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas also shared a letter in opposition to the book review committee, noting the vagueness of the resolution could lead to discrimination and possibly infringe on former Supreme Court decisions as well as the First Amendment.
“The concern about potential viewpoint discrimination is compounded by the fact that the proposed commission would be comprised of mayoral appointees, with no guarantee of diverse community views or literary expertise,” ACLU attorney Brian Klosterboer stated in the letter. “Thus, the proposed committee could easily become a one-sided, politicized referendum on cultural issues.”
Public comment ran for about two hours until 8 p.m., when it was finally closed.
“I want anybody that watched us tonight to understand that this decision on this committee policy was very difficult to make,” Saunders said.
To learn more about the original resolution or proposed ordinance, read Community Impact's previous coverage.