Proposal seeks Alaska library funds cut over drag story time

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — The leaders of a southeast Alaska borough plan to hear a proposal that would cut library funding over the library’s story time event hosted by a drag queen.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly plans on Monday to consider whether to place on the fall municipal ballot the proposal, which was offered by former Assembly member John Harrington, the Ketchikan Daily News reported. Citizens can ask to have items placed on the assembly agenda for consideration.

Harrington, in a written sponsor statement, said the goal of the proposal is to “stop library programs aimed at preschool and primary school aged children (3 to 9 years old) related to sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, thus leaving that discussion if needed to the parents. It is also hoped that it will let the kids be kids for a few more years.”

The statement adds that the “best outcome would be if a reasonable settlement can be reached with the library in a timely period so that the initiative process can be avoided.”

The Ketchikan City Council last week rejected, 5-2, a motion to cancel a drag story time event at the public library.

Councilmember Janalee Gage at that time defended the library event, saying: “When kids see various individuals leading healthy lives, regardless of whether they’re LGBTQ+ or even disabled — they see that anything is possible, that you can be whatever you choose to be.”

She said removing the event “would be a direct violation of the Ketchikan anti-discrimination ordinance and a civil rights violation.”

The proposal before the borough assembly seeks to end a contract with the city of Ketchikan that funds about 38% of the library’s operating budget through a property tax.

Ketchikan Public Library Director Pat Tully said losing that much funding would be “devastating.”

“We’d really have to think very hard about what it would be possible to do with a 38% budget cut,” Tully said.

A borough memo notes that if voters were to support cutting the funding as proposed, the borough could still support library options using other powers or funding mechanisms.

The memo states that Harrington also has applied for an initiative petition, another process for trying to put the question before voters. That request is being reviewed, the memo states.