The resolution, which passed 4-3, will prohibit the city from spending tax dollars on “obscene” material at Helen Hall Library intended for those under the age of 18 establish a new challenge process for such material and allow the council to create a Community Standards Review Committee to consider challenged materials.
The topics initially listed as “harmful content” in the proposal were pedophilia and/or incest; rape and bondage; gender ideology; ideologue human sexuality; and books with sex, nudity, sexual preference or related topics for an intended audience below the age of 10. However, the council removed gender ideology and ideologue human sexuality from the list of prohibited topics before approval.
Council Members Tommy Cones and Justin Hicks as well as Mayor Pro Tem Andy Mann and Mayor Nick Long supported the resolution with Council Members Chad Tressler, John Bowen and Tom Crews voting against. The seat of Position 7 was vacant at the meeting as the runoff election was in progress at the time.
“I don’t think that a City Council meeting is the place to develop policy on the fly; that is irresponsible,” Bowen said in regards to the resolution.
More than 50 people voiced opposition to the resolution during public comment, citing varied concerns, including the loss of valuable educational resources, the cost of establishing a new committee, potential legal trouble, vague language, the possible loss of LGBT+ representation, censorship, governmental overreach and parental rights.
“This is an egregious resolution that denies our citizens their freedom of speech,” said Kathleen Nenninger, vice chair of the Helen Hall Library board of trustees.
Another concern from commenters was Helen Hall Library already has a reconsideration process where those with an objection to certain library material can submit a two-page form to the library staff. The staff can then make a recommendation to the library board, which has the final say on whether to accept the recommendation.
“I would much rather see a workshop, not on our regular agenda, revising the informal process from the library as a starting point instead of starting with this broken thing as a starting point,” Tressler said.
The library board and staff were not consulted about the proposed resolution, Nenninger said. City staff did not immediately return requests for comment on what spurred the resolution.
Most of the individuals who spoke out in support of the resolution read sexually explicit passages from specific books, which they claimed were available to children at the library. They also said they were concerned their tax dollars were being used to purchase such material.
“We’re not trying to ban books by any means,” Cones said. "I don't want to take out books about the gay community in the library. I certainly don't want minors to pick up a book and sit down at a table and start looking at some of these pictures that we were handed tonight."
Clear Creek ISD Trustee Scott Bowen also spoke in support of the city’s resolution during the public comment period. He said the council was giving a voice to citizens who have concerns about the library’s materials.
“If the process got you to the point where the kinds of things I’m hearing are for kids and they’re identified as for kids and mixed in with innocent books, then the process is broken and it needs to be changed,” he said.