Someone should give Commissioner Jeff Kinnard a gold star because he deserves it.
Kinnard’s vote Tuesday killed an attempt by two Citrus County commissioners to eliminate all displays at county libraries that deal with materials about sexual orientation.
It came just a few minutes after Kinnard told Commissioner Scott Carnahan he would support it. Does that mean Kinnard is a turncoat? No. It means he’s a commissioner, one who knows the ends do not always justify the means, that there’s a proper way to go about things and this wasn’t it.
Let me explain.
We all know about Library Guy and his friends and their concerns about the libraries turning into wild sexual outlet for our young people, who will see a Gay Pride display and get Crazy Ideas about their bodies.
This “issue” has simmered for the past few months. Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. placed it on Tuesday’s agenda with the idea of finding some sort of resolution.
We all expected a schoolyard rumble and that’s what happened. Kitchen, to his credit, allowed a special public comment time just for folks to say what they needed to say.
From my notes:
“Remove deviant behavior.”
“Great library system.”
“Don’t be misled. This is dangerous.”
Jesus said don’t harm the little children.
“Citizens of Citrus County oppose this material in the library.”
“God opposes this kind of behavior.”
We’re all created equal.
Parents should be responsible for their children.
“If Jesus Christ was standing before this microphone, what would you tell him?” (Chairman Kitchen would tell him he has three minutes.)
Libraries support the pursuit of knowledge.
“Those little displays have been twisted, distorted out of proportion.”
Protect the children!
“We pay your salary.”
And on and on for two hours.
I don’t mean to poo-poo public comment, but the story is the vote, not the discussion. Commissioners listen for two hours, what do they glean from it?
Kitchen read the room and counted noses. Twice as many noses wanted something done, so he wanted something done.
A quick note here. Kitchen pointed out that many of the library supporters were unabashed library supporters and, in his mind, biased. I guess his thinking is that folks on the other side just spontaneously showed up. That, of course, is silly. And even if he believed that, I would think he’d want to know if anyone on the other side has actually stepped foot in one of our libraries other than lately to look for trouble.
That’s the problem with counting noses before a vote. That might work in a zoning case, where it’s essentially a neighborhood dispute, but not something as vague as library displays.
Those should come down to policy. What do our rules say and are there holes in that process?
Commissioner Scott Carnahan said the libraries shouldn’t have any displays of LGBTG materials. This is exactly what he said:
“I can tell you now: My kids weren’t taught this. My grandchild’s not going to be taught this. Anybody who tries teaching it to them, God help them, because I’m not going to put up with it. I have friends that are gays, lesbians. They’ll give you the shirt off their backs. When you show them a display like this, they wouldn’t want it either. Most of those people keep to themselves, they do whatever they do behind the doors and really don’t push it upon anybody, the ones that I know. I don’t agree with these displays. I don’t think they should be in the library for anybody to see. You want to do these things, do it behind closed doors, do it at your house. It starts with parenting, it’s as simple as that. Get a handle on your damn kids.”
Just wanted you to read that.
When Carnahan suggested banning displays of sexual orientation materials, Kinnard at first agreed. Give it back to the library advisory board to come up with something that’s workable, and return it for a public hearing and vote.
That is sound public policy. The county does it that way all the time. Ideas are vetted and then returned for a final vote. The public has its say all along the way,
But it wasn’t enough for Carnahan and Kitchen. They wanted the policy changed RIGHT NOW to bar those displays.
Carnahan, convinced he had a 3-2 win, called for a roll call vote, even though there was no need for one. I’m fairly certain that was to embarrass Commissioners Holly Davis and Ruthie Schlabach, who were likely to vote no -- and they did.
Oops! That blew up with Kinnard’s no vote.
Who knows what will happen now. We’d like to hope it goes away, but probably not.
Yes, this thing was emotional. And some hard feelings on both sides. But something very good came out of it. From a public standpoint, the majority got it right.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.