City Council on Feb. 28 voted 5-3 in favor of the final reading of an ordinance establishing the city's Community Standards Review Committee, a group that will review Helen Hall Library books flagged as potentially inappropriate by residents. The committee could remove or reshelve such books or decide to not do anything, city staff told Community Impact.
Council Members Chad Tressler, John Bowen and Tom Crews voted against the ordinance.
“I think it’s wrong on so many levels,” said Bowen, who added he will always oppose growing government.
Members of the Galveston County Library Alliance, a new organization formed in response to the proposed ordinance, protested the idea of a new review committee outside City Council chambers an hour before the meeting. Many said the committee was an attempt to remove or censor books with LGBT themes from the library.
“We know what this is all about,” said John Cobarruvias, who was part of the protest, during the public comment portion of the meeting. “It’s simply an attack on our gay community.”
Over a dozen others spoke against the ordinance Feb. 28, and about 20 showed up to protest. No one spoke publicly in favor of the ordinance.
“I would like to remind the dais of who you work for. You work for all of us,” League City resident Marika Fuller said during the meeting. “Is this really what we should be spending time and money on?”
Several speakers specifically called out Council Member Justin Hicks. Hicks and Council Member Andy Mann originally proposed a resolution City Council passed Dec. 6 that prohibits the city from spending tax dollars on “obscene” Helen Hall Library material targeted at minors and established a new challenge process for such material, for which the new committee will be responsible.
The committee will be composed of three members with experience in childhood education and three library board members. A seventh member will act as chair and break any ties in votes.
So far, the Helen Hall Library board has been responsible for reviewing books flagged by residents. Since 2016, the board has reviewed three books flagged by residents and has opted to reshelve them elsewhere in the library, city staff told Community Impact.
This prompted some speakers to question why a new committee is required and claim it is so council members can handpick committee members to censor books.
No council member who voted in favor of the ordinance spoke on it.