‘The public does not support dissolution’: Commissioners vote on Meridian library petition

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Citing overwhelming public support for the Meridian library, the Ada County commissioners threw out a petition to dissolve the library taxing district.

“It’s reasonable in a forum like this to take into consideration what the levels of public support are,” Ada County Commissioner Ryan Davidson said during commissioner deliberations. “The record is pretty clear that the public does not support dissolution in any large number.”

The Ada County commissioners received more than 1,000 written comments about the petition, in addition to two nights of public hearings in the courthouse earlier this month.

Commissioner Rod Beck said the commissioners office compiled a list of most of the comments and concluded that 1,000 of them opposed library dissolution and 55 supported it.

The petition, which garnered support from 115 people who signed it, would have placed a question on the November general-election ballot asking voters if they support dissolving the district.

Even the petitioners who spoke during the public hearing said they didn’t want the library to disappear, but they had concerns with “sexually explicit” content that is in books available in the library’s children’s section.

The commissioners deliberated in their meeting room Wednesday morning for just over a half hour. The three sat at a long conference table with a large stack of postcards sent by library supporters and a 3-inch binder full of printed emails, mostly in support of the library.

The Ada County Commissioners received over 1,000 written comments from people who supported the Meridian Library, said Commissioner Rod Beck.
The Ada County Commissioners received over 1,000 written comments from people who supported the Meridian Library, said Commissioner Rod Beck.

“We have this policy question that should be addressed,” Beck said. “I would ask both the library district and the petitioners to reach out and try to come to an amicable solution because I know that to dissolve the district would be overwhelmingly disruptive.”

Davidson said he believes there is validity to the petitioners’ concerns with material available in the library children’s section.

“Some of the pictures I saw in the books that were geared toward the younger audience was pretty shocking,” Davidson said. “I do agree with the petitioners that there is a concern about children having access to books that they shouldn’t.”

Five books previously posted by the Concerned Citizens of Meridian online were cited as examples of “graphic” and “disgusting” pornography. An Idaho Statesman investigation found two were children’s books in the youth section — “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” and “Sex is a Funny Word” — one was in the teen section, one was in the adult section and one wasn’t carried by Meridian at all.

Davidson suggested that the petitioners could pursue other avenues to regulate the availability of books in the library. He suggested they could seek a recall election for the district board members, or vote for different board members in the upcoming election in May.

Meridian Library Director Nick Grove, who has been embroiled in the controversy over library material and the district dissolution for months, said he was “not surprised” by the amount of public support for the Meridian Library District.

“We feel that every day,” Grove said, in an interview with the Statesman after the meeting. “The community loves and appreciates the services and opportunities and resources our library provides.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to deny the petition.

Idaho Legislature takes on the library issue

Davidson also told attendees during the meeting that the Idaho Legislature would likely pass a bill that would allow parents to sue schools and libraries if their children received “harmful” material from an employee.

The bill allows the guardian of a child who was able to obtain “harmful” material from a library or school to claim $10,000 in statutory damages for each instance the material was obtained, the Statesman reported. The bill allows legal defenses if the school or library employee had “reasonable cause to believe” the person obtaining “harmful” material was 18 or older or if the minor obtaining the material had permission from a guardian.

Davidson said the bill is up for a hearing on the Senate floor and predicted it would pass.

Idaho defines ‘obscene’ material. None of it is in Meridian libraries, board member says

Meridian Library trustee shares what would be lost if district is dissolved | Opinion