The Goldendale City Council meeting on February 21 was dominated by a citizens group concerned with some of the materials available at the Goldendale Library.
Councilor Steve Johnston brought the issue to the council as a presentation. Mayor Mike Canon explained to the audience that by doing so, it gave citizens there a chance to comment for more than the three minutes allotted each person during the regular public comment period, which occurs at the end of the meeting.
Johnston led by saying that what he was about to say was “little short of a tirade.”
“The library issue is directly related to public education,” he said. “It’s an arm of public education, which is owned and controlled by the liberal state and teachers’ unions. There is a systematic assault by a radical left wing progressive socialist Marxist fascist element in this country, with full support of large corporations and the liberal mainstream and social media to erode and destroy our traditional values, morals, Constitutional rights, and God-given liberties.”
The people who showed up at the meeting in person were part of a larger group that gathered in response to an incident reported on social media by Olga Hodges, who served as the lead spokesperson at the council meeting. She told the council that she had taken her three children to the library to print out some material, and said she had been startled by some of the books she saw:
“We saw typical stuff that kind of rubbed me the wrong way,” she said. “I was not really happy with it. The first book I saw was about talking to your children about white privilege. I wondered why six-year-olds need to know about that. Along with that, I saw a book about tarot reading, and I thought, how do we wipe that out?”
Then, she said, they went upstairs to the section marked for 12 to 18-year-olds where she saw a book on display that really concerned her
“I look and there’s a mature rating on here, and I’m thinking, ‘OK, that’s interesting,’” she said. “First thing I open up to, there are two minors engaged in sex, naked. I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s pretty inappropriate.’”
Hodges had printed out examples from the unnamed book and others she found, telling council members she found the books depicted “things like child pornography, sex with minors, things like torture, child sacrifice, explicit sexuality, explicit nudity, fetishism. Things that made my skin crawl.”
Seeing the material, she then sought out the librarian.
“She offered me a form, which I did accept,” Hodges said. “I was kind of frustrated because, you know, I was like, she was probably was just going to come down to see which to review. Nope. Firm resistance and pushiness, and ultimately she called the police on me and my children, and we were escorted out by a policeman.”
Police Chief Jay Hunziker explained to the council that even though it’s a public building, if the person who controls the building asks someone to leave and the person doesn’t leave, that’s trespassing, and people can be charged for that. This did not happen in this case, and Hodges said the officer was respectful and supportive.
Hodges stressed that she was not a book burner or a witch hunter, that she was just a concerned parent.
A number of people spoke, including Luke Throop, who said “It is difficult sometimes to connect all the dots, to understand, how does LGBTQ rights, how does CRT [Critical Race Theory], how does, say, comprehensive sex ed fit into the political landscape of what’s going on? How does this all come together?”
He answered his own question, saying, “There is a common enemy. There is a movement afoot that has been in motion for decades, longer than I have been alive. I am sure many of you know, it comes straight out of the Communist Manifesto.”
Others, however, cautioned the council about their course of action. One of those was council member Dave Jones, who said it was really easy to jump on a bandwagon and that such things had led to bans on books such as Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, and 1984.
Rick Lundin had this comment: “This is an extremely slippery slope,” he said. “Who sits on a council and says, ‘This is offensive,’ or ‘This is not offensive?” This has been done in America, and it’s rarely worked out well.”
Ultimately, the council voted to examine the nature of the current agreement between the city and the Fort Vancouver Regional Library. The city is in an unusual position in that the city owns the building, but the library is operated as a branch of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library.
As part of that motion, which passed unanimously, councilors set up a subcommittee to involve citizens in a public process to see what might be done.
In the limited time of the meeting that wasn’t part of the hour-long discussion, council members voted a necessary budget adjustment to cover increased costs for the new police car authorized at the last meeting and had a first reading of an ordinance that would double council members’ salary from $100 a month to $200 a month, noting that state law says current members can’t qualify for an increase until after they face the public in an election. So those who are elected this November won’t get their pay increase until they start their next term in January.