Several members of the Telford Borough Council were blindsided at the July 10 meeting when appointed councilman Robert Jacobus attempted to pass a motion that would provide the council with oversight of the Indian Valley Library. The motion was soundly defeated in a 5-2 vote.
The disorder created by Jacobus came shortly after Wendy Leshinskie, a member of the library’s board of trustees, provided the monthly report along with statistics indicating 3,551 borough residents hold library cards at the meeting.
“The library has been in this town for a long time, over 40 years,” said Telford Council Vice President Emiline Weiss. “Wendy had a report on how many people actually belonged to the library… it’s an incredible amount of people, more than half of the people of Telford Borough.”
Weiss said she has spoken with Library Director Margie Stern who advised that the books Jacobus claims are accessible to children are not located in the children’s section.
This is not the first time the councilman’s far-right agenda to defund the public library has disrupted borough council business, despite being repeatedly told that the monthly meeting is not the venue for his concerns.
In February, Jacobus was identified as the “Bucks councilman” referred to in a Facebook post that threatened to defund the library “if they keep evangelizing for trans agenda and LGBTQ.”
The post sparked public outrage causing the Telford Council to host one meeting in a warehouse to accommodate larger than usual attendees wanting to make public comment on the matter.
Councilman John Taylor remains baffled by the position Jacobus has chosen to take. “We voted for this budget unanimously. That means that Bob Jacobus approved this budget. Now he’s doing an about face and wants to withhold any future payments,” Taylor said.
The proposal introduced by Jacobus at the July meeting was not on the agenda and was not made available to the public 24 hours prior to the meeting as required by Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act.
“Stop all promotion of ideas and ideology in the culture war,” along with providing a member of the borough council “unfettered access to organization operations and fiscal accounting,” were two of the three mandates Jacobus hoped to implement.
“So I’m filing a motion to suspend funding on a month-to-month basis until the library changes their philosophy and takes protecting children as the primary principle that they follow. That’s what I’m looking for,” the Reporter quoted Jacobus as saying.
Jacobus claimed that because he had the highest number of votes in the recent May primary, where he was a write-in candidate, that his voice emulates the will of the people, however statistics from Montgomery County say otherwise.
Councilman Eric Kratz, who admitted to having a pornography addiction at the March council meeting, was the highest vote getter with 186 votes. Jacobus received 138 votes.
Some members of council, as well as contenders for a council seat, believe Jacobus used the monthly meeting as a campaign platform to help win a two year term.
Meredith Torres, a local resident running on the Democratic ticket for a seat on the council, is hopeful that in the future the council reacts more swiftly should Jacobus attempt to use the monthly meeting for personal gain.
“[They] had this protracted argument,” Torres said referring to the July meeting, “which allowed Jacobus to pontificate for minutes on end about how the will of the public and the will of the community is behind him, and this is dangerous. They don’t have to give him oxygen.
“It is such a shame that institutions such as our public libraries and public schools, those that prepare and educate our leaders of the future, have become ground zero for GOP-led culture wars,” wrote Torres in a letter to the editor published by the Reporter Online in March.
The Lansdale Public Library, a short 15-minute drive from Telford, has not been subject to right-wing attacks largely due to a proactive position by the borough council to preserve and protect First Amendment rights of its residents.
“People trying to ban books or materials from schools and libraries, trying to pass judgment on what others should or shouldn’t read… we just thought that kind of activity is egregious, and we wanted to do something about it,” said Mary Fuller, Vice President of Lansdale Borough Council and Library Chairperson.
In November the Borough Council unanimously adopted a resolution to ban the banning of books.
“If there are items that you feel are offensive to you or your children, then you have the right not to check the book out or look at it,” Fuller said. “one person shouldn’t be or one group should not be making those decisions for everybody else.
“We are one of the worst states in book banning efforts now. We had 56 attempts to ban over 302 unique titles,” Cappelletti told KDKA in Pittsburgh.
“Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American independence, home of America’s first library originally founded by Ben Franklin,” the Senator said. “We’re protecting a legacy of American freedom to access information and to determine what’s right for ourselves and our families.”