Ballot measure to defund Ketchikan’s library over drag queen storytime certified for Oct. 4 election

A rainbow display of books at a public library.
A display at the Ketchikan Public Library celebrating Pride Month. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

A proposal to cut about 40% of Ketchikan’s library funding will go before voters this fall. Advocates for the measure, including former Assembly member John Harrington, filed it in response to the Ketchikan Public Library’s decision to host a drag queen storytime event earlier this summer.

Children and parents turned out by the dozens for the library’s June 17 event celebrating Pride Month. Library Director Pat Tully said the library had to add two more readings to accommodate everyone who wanted to come.

Proposition 2 will ask voters whether to repeal the borough’s “nonareawide library powers.” That would prevent the borough from taxing homeowners outside city limits to fund the library. Those taxes provide about $500,000 in annual funding to the library.

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Clerk Kacie Paxton says the measure’s backers turned in more than 300 signatures to her office on Friday, more than the 287 necessary to bring the issue to a vote.

“The proposition asking the voters to repeal the nonareawide library powers will go on the Oct. 4 ballot,” Paxton said by phone Friday.

The borough’s library tax is only charged to property owners outside of Ketchikan and Saxman city limits, so only people who live in unincorporated areas of the borough will be eligible to vote on the measure. That includes the two North Tongass precincts and the South Tongass precinct.

Paxton says Ketchikan’s assembly is scheduled to vote on statements that will accompany Proposition 2 in a voter information packet next month.

“The voter pamphlet will include information to the effects of the taxpayer, so, What are the effects if this ballot measure passes? What are the effects if this ballot measure fails?” Paxton said.

If approved by a majority of rural voters, the measure would take effect in 2024.

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