Reflections on attending the DQSH Protest

Last Saturday I attended the Clearview Library Drag Queen Story Hour as a counter-protester. This was my first time ever making a political sign and exercising my First Amendment rights in this way, and was quite an interesting experience.

The story hour itself was a registration-required event, and had filled up in the prior week. Apparently there was a 200 person waiting list (the largest room in the library had a max occupancy of 80). Outside were about 100 people in the designated “free speech zone” – an area 30 feet from the entrance to permit library patrons and story hour participants to arrive. Of the 100, it was about a 1/3 to 2/3 split between protesters against the event and supporters/counter-protesters.

Protesters seemed to fall into two large camps: people protesting on religious/moral grounds, with signs citing biblical verses and various religious and moral messages about corrupting children, as well as conservatives there that were “fighting the Left”. It was questionable as to whether some of the protesters were part of the Alt-Right, but some of the protesters seemed to be part of some larger conservative-based movement.

As for the supporters, there were also 2 segments: those drawing attention to the LGBTQ issues, counter-protesting the intolerance, as well as those generally supporting the library, freedom of speech, and general opposition to the protesters. I would count myself among the latter group, but my nuanced position seemed to confuse people on both sides at some point.

When I got there at 9:45, it wasn’t clear where people were standing, so I just stood on the corner and held up my signs. A lot of people who would later stand with the “against” protesters told me they liked my signs and were conversing with me. Apparently, some event supporters yelled obscenities at me as well, but I didn’t hear them. Then when the lines became apparent and I saw someone I knew, I went and stood next to her, at which point I had a bunch of supporters come up and apologize to me. A lot of the protesters suddenly had problems with my signs. As the morning progressed, a few supporters from the back came up to me and said they liked my signs.

The protests were mostly civil, both sides chanting back and forth. There were a few minor confrontations, but the police did an excellent job making their presence known without interfering or infringing the free speech rights of everyone. Truth be told, I think both sides had some chants and actions that were bad looks. Protests are a blunt instrument, and when you remove nuance, you give way to stereotypes to take hold. You could see the protesters demonize the supporters as religious heretics that were enabling child endangerment, while the supporters generalized the protesters as religious nuts and Alt-Right hate groups.

I didn’t take part in any of the chants and mainly stood silently unless someone directly yelled at me about my sign, at which point I would engage back with them. One of the protesters that engaged with me finally said he couldn’t disagree with my points, so that was kinda cool. At the end of the event when the supporters disbanded, I walked back to my car past the police chief who shook my hand, then by a few of the “Don’t tread on me” protesters. I told them to have a good day and they said: “you too”.

In the end, I think this was a worthwhile event for our community. Diverse programming was offered at the library unimpeded, and there was a lively conversation about culture, morals, and freedom outside of the library. I realize that people may feel uncomfortable about social disruption, but protests (and counter protests) and demonstration are integral parts of our American heritage. Just because conversations don’t happen in the public square doesn’t mean that they’re not taking place, these events just enable communities to bring these views into the light for all to see.

More on the Windsor Library Mill Levy

I wanted to share some more thoughts that I composed on the NextDoor discussion regarding the Clearview Library District Mill Levy proposal. People brought up some great points about whether we need to build the new library now and why the library can’t finance it out of the current taxes they receive.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t understand how Libraries are funded, but let’s assume that a portion of their funding of their $2.6m operating budget comes from our taxes, and that revenue may have increased over the years due to additional growth. Even then, we’re still talking about operational budget.

I don’t know how your household works, but if you’re a homeowner, chances are that you didn’t purchase your house outright with 100% cash. If my family was expected to save for the complete value of our home using only my operational budget, it would take a lot longer than 30 years for me to buy my home – and by the time I could afford it, my kids would be grown and we’d be too old to manage a house the size that we needed back when our family was young.

Good thing we have mortgages, where the bank takes a chance on us and assumes I can make incremental payments out of our operational budget for the next 30 years, making a return on their investment through interest.  We’re able to benefit because we can buy the house that fits our needs now (although I’d recommend buying the house you need 5-10 years from now, if you can afford it – but that’s another post).

While the Mill Levy is not a mortgage loan, it enables the financing to construct needed facilities now, rather than 20 years from now, 10 years too late. Rather than getting interest payments, the community benefits by being able to use the new modern facilities now, rather than having to wait 20 years (imagine if the bank said they’d forgo interest in exchange for being able to regularly use your home).

People raise valid points when they examine current needs and weigh them against priorities, wondering if we should wait until the need becomes more evident. However, we’ve already seen how this played out in how we’ve deferred I-25 and I-70 improvements – and now look at how terrible traffic has become. I wish I could go back in time 10 years and convince younger me to fervently push for an Interstate train, or at least more northern lane expansion between Johnstown and Fort Collins. Now it almost seems like too-little, too late.

One last thing to consider: that proposed area of land, once on the outskirts of Windsor, is really the last opportunity for us to have a centrally-located library. The current location is land-locked, and the architecture doesn’t support vertical expansion, without starting anew. We have an opportunity now to choose what’s going on that proposed plot of land. It’s prime real estate, and something is going to be built on it – are you sure you’ll be happier with what’s built there over a library?

Windsor’s Library Mill Levy

The Clearview Library District in my town of Windsor has recently announced that they’re seeking a Mill Levy increase in this November’s ballot. As you can imagine, this has generated a significant amount of discussion and debate within the community, reflected in sites like NextDoor. I wanted to my thoughts I recently posted on that site, in response to people who were considering voting against this measure because of dissatisfaction with how the library is run, or it’s current conflict with their own needs.

I would really encourage people to not make this mill levy a referendum on your current view of the library or its management, but rather what you want Windsor to stand for, as well as the roles libraries have in providing access to knowledge, resources and serving as a community space.

It’s easy to forget just how many resources are offered by libraries, I didn’t realize the value until I had kids of my own. With two girls under 5, it’s important for them to have space for them to interact with other kids, have stories read to them, and to be able to discover new books and learning tools. We do our best to enforce proper library etiquette, but kids at play are not always quiet. it’s become apparent that space has become an issue and that town growth has outpaced the current capacity.  To those that are upset by the children: what alternative do you have aside from more space or a better design?

I hate to break it to you, but Windsor is going to continue to grow. We can either put our heads in the sand and complain, or acknowledge the growth and take a civic role in shaping our community.  Citizens – namely children – are going to need places to gather. You can choose whether it’s going to be at a welcoming place that has the space to accommodate them, or be forced to choose somewhere else that invites trouble.

The Mill Levy isn’t about what’s going on right now, it’s about what’s going to happen in the next decade. You can either play checkers with your ballot, or play chess and think a few moves ahead  – I’m sure you can use the library to help up your game.

Since then, a healthy debate has formed in the discussion of this topic. While people obviously disagree, it does sound like many do believe we’re in need of a new library, but question whether a Mill Levy is the appropriate fund-raising avenue.  There were questions as to whether a Sales Tax increase would be a more fair taxation. I actually got clarification on the taxation issue, learning that the Library District isn’t supported by the city/town municipality and thus does not have access to sales tax revenue. It’s actually considered a state entity and like many public schools, can only receive funding through Mill Levy increases.

Fair points have been raised as to whether Mill Levy’s punish small businesses by requiring their owners to pay twice, with the commercial assessment being far greater than personal property.  I do agree that there should be a debate and exploration as to whether Mill Levy’s taxation on businesses should be re-examined, but also must acknowledge that all citizens – not just business owners – carry the burden of taxation.  It’s not like this is a cigarette tax or sin tax, it’s affirming that the entire community is committing to something that will better our town.  We shouldn’t avoid building the house just because we only have hammers in our toolbox, but let’s see if we can refine our tools.