We’re in the opening stages of a game, the outcome of which, will have serious repercussions for parents in Llano County and also for Llano County taxpayers. If parents and taxpayers prevail, or at least force a tie, taxpayers will retain control of the way in which county funds are managed and distributed, and parents will also retain the right to responsibly guide their children’s education and development as it relates to their sexual education and development. A loss will be devastating to parents and taxpayers alike.
Here’s the way the game is played: A group of activists (the Plaintiff, many of whom may actually mean well in their efforts) file suit against the Llano County Commissioners and Llano County Library Staff (the Defendant) to force the placement of sexually explicit material in quantities and at locations of their choosing in the public library. The Plaintiff is represented by an experienced law firm with experience in such suits, and the suit itself is brought before a Federal Judge (thereby removing any possibility of local input or challenge). The essence of games such as this is that they become expensive very quickly, and the Plaintiff’s law firm acts quickly and expertly to amplify such expenses.
This is not a theoretical discussion; such a suit has been recently filed; I was able to locate the documents by moving to: www.pacermonitor.com and searching for Civil Action No. 5:22-cv-400.
Having acted prudently in the past, the Llano County Commissioners have kept in place insurance coverage against such legal expenses. As the game plays out, and as the Defendant’s expenses rise, Plaintiff’s attorney will offer to accept a settlement that includes having the Defendant agree to some plan for placement of books or some forced policy related to library management, and at the same time, Defendant will agree to pay Plaintiff’s expenses (especially legal expenses). If accepted by the Defendant, the ruling will set precedent and become law that may well be used and expanded moving forward to further weaken taxpayer control over distribution of taxpayer funds and to weaken the right of parents to guide their children through their early years. At this point, the insurance company will review the proposed settlement and is likely to act in its own self-interest (as expected by Plaintiff’s attorney, and possibly as a surprise to the Defendant who expected otherwise): determine that the cheapest way out for the insurance company is for the insurance company to simply pay the settlement. The insurance company will then notify the Defendant that if the Defendant does not accept the settlement, the insurance company will withdraw all support and the Defendant must then move ahead at its own expense, even though the resulting settlement may be devasting to the Defendant.
A tough decision for the Defendant. NICELY done by the Plaintiff! But wait, there’s more. Unfortunately, in a situation such as this, the Defendant cannot win; best case is to NOT LOSE. A loss by Defendant here will be the camel’s nose under the tent. A camel’s nose is an obnoxious sight; however, please steel yourself and indulge me while I describe the rest of the camel.
The Plaintiff claims (among other things) that Plaintiff’s first amendment rights are being violated because Llano County is prohibiting folks from reading material of their choice. No such thing is happening; the Plaintiffs are free to read any books they choose; the County is simply exercising responsible oversight in deciding which books to provide at taxpayers’ expense, and how to place those books in the most appropriate location. A loss here by the Defendant will set a precedent that will allow anyone to demand (independently of appropriate County management) that any books desired by that individual be purchased and made available at taxpayers’ expense. Additionally, the door will be open to unelected individuals or groups to demand that the County increase the library budget as needed to accomplish the demands made. An impertinent question arises: “Who can make such demands? Anyone? Only the elite group that filed the suit? Or worst case, the citizens of Austin who may sit on a jury to decide this case?” I see no answer to this question that is in the best interest of Llano County parents or taxpayers.
If the stakes in this game were less significant, the cheap way out might well be best; the insurance company would pay the bill and there would be no cost to Defendant. I contend that we, in Llano County, as taxpayers and parents (grandparents, great grandparents, etc.) cannot and should not surrender our rights by accepting such a settlement. To this end, I urge the Llano County Commissioners to stand strong against such legal maliciousness and to fight any such suits. Further to the point, when the County’s insurance company demands the Defendant’s acceptance of such a disadvantageous settlement, the insurance company should be immediately fired!
If you agree that we can and should resist the current legal assault on our rights, I urge you to contact your County Commissioner and urge him/her to stand fast against this intrusion and fight the lawsuit to the best of the County’s ability.
Please resist the intellectual trap of following gossip that is currently being circulated. In multiple conversations, I continue to hear something such as: “Have you heard that the County is censoring books at the library?”
Yes, I have heard the conventional gossip. Let me share the explanation I’ve received in discussions with several of the County Commissioners.
The County Commissioners have insisted that age-inappropriate material be removed from the children’s’ section and placed it in other sections of the library, where it’s still available. The Commissioners have discontinued the use of the Overdrive (online) system and are currently searching for a suitable alternative. Concurrently with all this, the library staff has performed its normal and regular function called: “weeding” in which books in the library that have not been checked out in quite some time have been removed to make space on the shelves.
Having heard no credible source willing to take responsibility for the conventional gossip, I strongly suspect that such gossip is being spread by the Plaintiff and/or the Plaintiff’s associates in order to build public support for their legal action. I am inclined to believe the Commissioners, all of whom I personally know and respect. Additionally, the Commissioners have actually been elected by us, the taxpayers and parents of Llano County and are charged with the responsibility of managing County expenditures (such as the approximately ½ million dollars annually expended on the library). We cannot afford to lose; please join me in support of the Commissioners’ efforts to responsibly manage County affairs and resist the temptation to turn over our decision-making process to unelected, nameless persons or groups who will never be accountable to the taxpayers or parents of Llano County.
On the other hand, if you really want sexually explicit material to be placed in the children’s section of the library, with or without parental input and/or consent, followed by budget priorities set by unelected nameless groups, now’s your chance to achieve that objective by doing nothing.
The game is on, we can’t afford to lose it!
John G. Fowler
Llano Tea Party