Grandstanding, along with fire and brimstone, was on full display at Monday’s Telford Borough Council meeting where, once again, appointed councilman Robert Jacobus was asked to resign.
Due to limited seating capacity at the Telford Borough Building, this month’s meeting was held at the Telford Borough Public Works Facility in anticipation of a larger than usual audience due to controversial information, attributed to Jacobus, that was swirling on social media days prior to the meeting.
This month, a revised police policy, “Interacting with Transgender Individuals,” written by Jacobus made its way to Twitter and Facebook.
Copies of Jacobus’s report “The Library Loophole weaponized to Sexually Exploit Children,” which he presented at the February meeting were being distributed at the door by individuals belonging to a coordinated contingent of his far-right religious supporters.
Telford Mayor Jerry Guretse addressed the audience at the beginning of the meeting.
“The primary responsibility of your council members happens to be first, and foremost, providing all of our residents, in accordance with the oath of office that they swore to, which says, regardless of age, race, color or sexual orientation, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, handicap or disability with the best possible police, fire and EMS service,” Guretse said. He remarked that the Indian Valley Public Library (IVPL), not the Borough Council, is responsible for its literary collection. He encouraged those with concerns to address them directly to the library.
Prior to business on the agenda, Councilman John Taylor expressed dismay at the chaotic and divisive atmosphere caused by the Jacobus library report and called for his resignation.
Council Vice President Emiline Weiss seconded the motion.
President William Ashley concurred, however no additional steps were taken regarding this matter.
“The Indian Valley Public Library provides an impartial environment in which all individuals are welcome,” said IVPL Director Marjorie Stern while giving the monthly report for the library.
Stern pointed out that Fun Home, Gender Queer and This Book is Gay – three books specifically noted in the Jacobus library report – along with All Boys Aren’t Blue and Flamer, are not in the children’s section of the library as is inferred by Jacobus in his report that is now published online and contains a call to action.
“We are on heightened alert. We don’t know from one minute to the next if someone will offer us support in the work we are doing or will challenge our every move,” said Stern. “It has been difficult to answer questions, help with book selection and get jazzed up to read, sing and engage young readers in a story time, all the other tasks that give us great joy, when we know we may be verbally attacked by people who have been fed mistruths.”
The library has been in communication with and filed a report with the Telford Police due to the threatening nature of some visitors.
Despite Mayor Guretse’s message that the Council is not the venue for library complaints, an assortment of public comments both for and against the library were presented.
Borough Council President William Ashley, after setting rules for three-minute resident only comments, allowed people from outside the Borough to speak and some to speak as long as eight minutes creating a circus-like atmosphere.
Many who spoke approached the podium with the Jacobus library report in hand.
The Beacon reached out to State Senator Maria Collett regarding the ongoing situation in Telford Borough.
“Mr. Jacobus’s attempt to circumvent the process for reporting library materials he finds personally objectionable by hijacking the Council on which he serves – not at the pleasure of the voters but by appointment – is an affront to the Telford community and we must continue to denounce any effort to marginalize or demonize our neighbors,” said Democratic State Senator Maria Collett (S-12). “It’s the work of our government to enact measures that make our neighborhoods inclusive, safe and welcoming for all, particularly as we see an alarming number of anti-LGBTQ policies introduced nationwide.
Calls to Democratic State Representative Steve Malagari (D-53) were not returned.
The police policy drafted by Jacobus was not on the meeting’s agenda and was not considered by the council.