LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — After months of debate and protests, culminating in a four-hour long meeting Tuesday, Liberty Lake's city council voted 4-3 to give themselves the power to approve or reject library policies.
"At face value, I believe the intent of most of the council members was to mainly have oversight to the policies," said Liberty Lake Mayor Cris Kaminskas.
Kaminskas says city council has never had that kind of oversight before.
The ordinance, which has yet to go into effect, has many library users concerned the council will be able to ban books. Kaminskas says that power, outright, has been prohibited.
"The city council and mayor will not initiate any book ban," the ordinance reads.
Though council does have the final say to 'confirm or deny a book ban' if the library board chooses to remove a book. Kaminskas says if a challenged book is kept on the shelves, council does not have authority to override that decision.
There is some ambiguity when it comes to whether council can control what's in the collection and what books come in.
"Where we get into the question of banning books then could really be in the library collection development policy," Kaminskas said. "If the ordinance goes into effect, then the council would have the right to bring back this collection development policy and have a discussion with the board about making changes."
While the ordinance doesn't allow the council to create new policies or rewrite policies independently, it does allow them to reject any policies or changes made by the board.
"The library doesn't have to come to the Council for individual approvals of books, they have eleven criteria that they use to bring a book to evaluate a book to decide whether they bring it in or not," Kaminskas said. "However, the way [the ordinance] is written, it could open up a door to multiple cycles of if you reject them, the board goes back and rewrites it, and then it gets rejected again. And it could it could open the door to a big circle, a never ending circle of rejections and rewrites."
The decision is far from final. Mayor Kaminskas can still veto the ordinance; that deadline is May 26, ten days after the vote. Kaminskas can also take no action, which would leave the ordinance to take effect.
"My goal is to get through that process by the end of the day [Friday]," Kaminskas said. "I'm honestly still working through that process. If I would veto it, it would come with that written description of why."
The council could override any veto by a 5-2 vote.
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