Ketchikan assembly plans to ask voters to cut library funding in response to drag queen event

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Guest reader Luna, left, performs a line from the book “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish” alongside Amie Toepfer, manager of children’s services at the Ketchikan Public Library, June 17, 2022 (Eric Stone/ KRBD)

A former Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assemblyman is asking the borough to cut more than half a million dollars in funding for the community library. John Harrington cites the library’s decision to host a drag queen for a children’s story hour in a letter asking for the cut.

“The purpose of this action is to stop library programs for preschool and elementary school children (3 to 9 years old) related to sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, thus leaving this much-needed discussion to parents,” Harrington said in his letter.

A drag queen read a picture book to children on friday as part of the library’s Pride Month calendar. The event was controversial, with some community members and elected officials calling for its cancellation.

Harrington says funding the library is “the only avenue left to force community discussion about library operations.”

Although the library is owned and operated by the City of Ketchikan, the borough contributes approximately 40% of the library’s budget through a $0.7 million property tax on homes and businesses outside of city limits. .

The Ketchikan assembly will consider on Monday whether to put the cut in library funding on the municipal ballot this fall. The measure is not sponsored by a member of the assembly. District code allows residents to request agenda items that the assembly must consider.

If the assembly votes against the measure, Harrington says he will try to get the question on the ballot through the citizens’ initiative process. But he says he is ready to negotiate.

“The best outcome would be if a reasonable settlement could be reached with the library in a timely manner so that the initiative process could be avoided,” he said.

The Ketchikan assembly meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Members of the public have the opportunity to intervene at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting is broadcast live on local cable channels and on the Borough’s website.

RELATED: Parents and children attend the first hour of Ketchikan’s drag queen tale

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