The Lead Nov. 15, 2022: Library books hit Kerr County; KISD recognizes outstanding sports teams

The Commissioners Court votes 3-2 to end a contract with the city over library.

Good morning, Kerr County!

We are definitely headed toward some cool days and mornings over the next few days. No rain in sight, but we will experience some morning lows near freezing. Daytime highs will be in the mid 50s.

On today's The Lead Live!

We welcome podcaster Tom Fox and Schreiner University Professor Ben Montoya to the show, in what we're hoping will be a three-part series, to discuss George Washington. Montoya is a history professor, and Fox looks forward to a good conversation. The Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau's Julie Davis will tell us what's happening with local events. Texas Hill Country Advisor Andrew Gay updates us on the economy.

Kerr County says it wants to "renegotiate" library deal

A divided Kerr County Commissioners' Court moved to end, or as they put it "renegotiate," a contract with the city of Kerrville for library services, but not before getting some licks in at the City Council and library staff.


Led by Commissioners Don Harris and Harley Belew, the court voted 3-2 to give 120 days notice to end Kerr County residents' ability to visit the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library for free. Commissioner Jonathan Letz tried to soften the rhetoric offered by Belew and Harris by saying the quid-pro-quo contract needs renegotiation.

However, Harris and Belew were explicit in their language during prepared remarks by suggesting the library was marketing its offering to "groomers," sexual predators and that the library staff aimed to sexualize children through a display of banned books.

"This week, they marketed it to groomers," said Harris, who put the item on the agenda to end the contract.

While denying the actions had anything to do with banning books, Belew and Harris repeatedly suggested the books — almost all involving LGBTQ+ themes — were pornographic, including depicting child sex. Belew intimated that Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha would probably arrest anyone with such material.

The criteria, or facts, on how Harris and Belew determined their thinking is unclear. Belew referenced the Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court in his comments but failed to mention the tricky task the Supreme Court has had historically in defining obscenity.

Instead, Harris and Belew drew upon recent tropes that paint LGBTQ+ people broadly as sexual predators. The word "groomer" is now so pervasive in slurring gay men that social media channels now define it as hate speech.

The grooming allegation took off in 2022, with some arguing it began in earnest after Florida passed its "Don't Say Gay" bill, limiting the discussion of sexuality in public schools.

The discussion consumed nearly two hours of the court's time on Monday morning. With 28 people signed up to speak, Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly limited the public comments — although weighted against the library.

Kelly and Commissioner Beck Gipson voted against severing the agreement. Gipson defended the library, arguing the staff made changes in the wake of a complaint.

Kelly argued that severing the interlocal agreement that swaps library access for animal control services raises other issues, including managing an emergency services contract for county residents that the Kerrville Fire Department provides.

But the outcome was not surprising, nor was the rhetoric from the deeply conservative court. Belew came into the meeting from his morning radio talk show, where he attacked Kerrville City Councilmember Brenda Hughes for her impassioned speech defending the library last week.

So, the City Council will have to weigh how it will operate under this decision, but that might not happen until after the beginning of the year, which is one of the reasons the court decided to extend its decision to 120 days.

Other stories we're following

  • The Kerrville Independent School District Board of Trustees heard a report Monday from Trustees Dr. David Sprouse and Greg Peschel about a plan by the city of Kerrville to create a public facility corporation to attract new affordable housing — mostly apartments. The plan could present financial problems for the school district because the new housing would be tax-exempt. The discussion was only an information item.
  • In another part of Monday's meeting, KISD Superintendent Mark Foust said the district continues to see lower-than-expected attendance. Foust said he suspects it's from a flu outbreak, continued COVID-19 infections and other causes. However, the attendance issues could put some financial strains on the district, which receives money from the state for average daily attendance.
  • The KISD trustees recognized the efforts of Hal Peterson's seventh-grade football teams, district champs, and the eighth-grade girls' volleyball team. They also recognized Tivy's team tennis program and the girls cross country team: Here's the photos from the event:
  • A poll of Texas Republicans found emerging support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when it comes to their preferred presidential choice. Former President Donald Trump, who could announce his 2024 candidacy for president today, trailed DeSantis by more than 10 points in the poll — 43%-32%. The Texas Tribune has more details here:

Things to do today:

The arts

  • Texas Furniture Makers Show — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Information: The details: Texas Furniture Makers' Show® is an annual statewide Competition of the Finest Custom Furniture Makers in Texas. The show is held at the beautiful Kerr Arts & Cultural Center.
  • Works We Love Show — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. Information: The details: "Works We Love," featuring Fred Harman, creator of "Red Ryder and Little Beaver." Also on display are works from our permanent collection.

Live music

  • Vinyl Night — Inn of the Hills, 7 p.m. Information: 830-895-5000 The details: Vinyl night is a night of listening to music our favorite way and playing records!

Markets and sales

  • Art Mart — Hill Country Arts Foundation, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Dec. 17. Information: The details: The annual Hill Country Arts Foundation showcase of hand-made arts and crafts by area artists. Gift ideas that are perfect for holiday giving.

Wednesday, Nov. 16

College basketball

  • Schreiner University men (2-0) vs. Concordia University (Texas), 5:30 p.m. at Schreiner University.

Markets and sales

  • Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.
  • Art Mart — Hill Country Arts Foundation, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Dec. 17. Information: The details: The annual Hill Country Arts Foundation showcase of hand-made arts and crafts by area artists. Gift ideas that are perfect for holiday giving.

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