Councilors hear residents’ views on library book contents

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

In a nearly four-hour meeting June 14, City Council members heard an hour and a half of public comment regarding book banning, and then addressed a dispute between the City of Lebanon and police and staff of the Lebanon Police Department.
Officer Timothy Trahan, who also serves as president of the Lebanon Police Association, read a four-page letter to the council concerning calculation errors on paychecks. In his statement, Trahan said some police employees were notified in 2020 that their paychecks were miscalculated over the span of one year, resulting in the employees owing money, some adding up to thousands of dollars. Employees received a similar letter again this year.
“What takes this most recent error to a new level of frustration for us is that we now feel misled, deceived and mistreated,” Trahan stated.
The city moved to a digital payroll system earlier this year. Trahan said employees have since noticed several concerning fluctuations in their paychecks and had discussions with City Manager Nancy Brewer and Finance Director Brandon Neish about it. He praised Neish for his efforts to fix the problems, but noted the new payroll system, provided by ADP, continues to pose problems.
Trahan also indicated the city “negligently” moved forward with installing the new system even after it was aware ADP had problems, and said the police association received an email last week from Brewer stating the city will take employees to small claims court, if necessary, to recover the overpaid funds.
Councilor Michelle Steinhebel expressed consternation over the issue.
“I want it fixed now, I want it fixed today,” she said. “Let’s pay these officers correctly.”

A RESIDENT urges city council to not ban books from the library.

The City Council room was packed with residents who approached the council about a concern that book banning at the Lebanon Public Library was up for consideration following a comment by Hannah Ahn at last month’s meeting. Ahn told council the children’s section in the library contained sexually explicit books.
Many said they support those books being at the library for several reasons, including that parents can choose which books to provide their children, the importance of access to comprehensive sexual education, First Amendment rights, nudity and sex not being shameful in and of themselves, and that Ahn’s comments seemed to target the LGBTQ community.
“I would urge anyone who’s concerned about the material in the library to read it first and to consider that material from the perspective of a child who’s unsure of their identity, or questioning how their body works, or even is simply curious,” resident Jennifer Moody said.
Ahn approached the council at the June 14 meeting to clarify she was not asking for books to be banned, but rather wanted the books to be in a clearly identified and age-appropriate section.
Others read portions of books wherein sexual activities of children were described, sexual details were geared for young adults, sexual images were portrayed, information on accessing online pornography was given, and gender was being “factually defined” as not based on biology.

HANNAH AHN explains to city council she was not asking for a book ban.

Those commenters also stated they don’t support book banning, but were concerned about how accessible these books were to children.
Venessa Wood shared a picture book that seemed to promote sexual transitioning.
“Some believe that not giving children access to books like this is being discriminatory,” Wood said.
She then unloaded a bag full of books onto the table and said none of those books were at the Lebanon Public Library.
“These books are life stories of influential historical African Americans,” she said. “These books promote character development and hard work despite challenges, and they have expansive vocabulary and culture.”
In that vein, Scott Cowgill said he found 23 books by authors or politicians with Democratic ideologies and Karl Marx’s book, “Capital,” as well as 59 returns on a search for books regarding “transgender.”
He said he did not find Donald Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” or any books by four other specified authors or politicians who express controversial ideologies; nor did he find a copy of a “best seller” book by Abigail Shrier, “Irreversible Damage,” which analyzes a recent surge in gender dysphoria.

Following public comment, the council continued with its agenda items during which members:
♦ Held a public hearing for and approved the adoption of the 2023-24 budget for $85,312,588, with an expenditure budget of $68,791,302, taxes of $5.1364 per $1,000 of assessed value, and bond revenue of $1,666,124.
The budget does not include funding to reopen the jail or repair streets, and indicates revenue projections are down. (Read more about the budget at LebanonLocalNews.com/panel-oks-85-million-budget-draft.)
♦ Held a public hearing and approved a resolution to receive state revenue sharing funds. Funds coming from a variety of sources – including liquor, marijuana and cigarette taxes – totaled $728,102 and were budgeted in the city budget as non-dedicated revenue in the general fund.
♦ Held a public hearing for and approved the adoption of a 2022-23 transfer in budget appropriations and a supplemental budget.
Five adjustments included adding $6,000 to the Municipal Court budget; adding $10,000 for debt service interest; adding $8,500 to cover expenses related to the resignation of the city recorder; adding $30,000 for plan review costs; and an adjustment related to the purchase of a new LINX bus that arrived a year earlier than expected.
♦ Held a public hearing as the Urban Renewal Agency and approved the 2023-24 budget for $4,720,888 with an expenditure budget of $3,196,444 and to levy taxes as the URA.
♦ Adopted a resolution certifying that the City of Lebanon provides services that make it eligible to receive Marijuana Shared Revenue from the State of Oregon and the city’s 3% marijuana tax.
♦ Approved a resolution for the demolition of the old water treatment plant, a designated landmark.
♦ Approved a motion authorizing the mayor to sign a letter of support for the Linn County Multi-agency Coordination Group, which is seeking state funds for homeless services.
♦ Approved a motion for an AFSCME collective bargaining contraCourt
♦ Approved a motion to renew a two-year contract with Municipal Court Judge Gerald Waite for $55,961 a year.
♦ Approved a motion to renew a three-year contract with Morley Thomas Law Firm LLC with John “Tré” Kennedy acting as City Attorney. The agreement includes a monthly pay of $17,000 in the first year, $17,500 in the second year and $18,000 the third year.
♦ Heard a presentation by the Lebanon Downtown Association. Jeannie Davis summarized the work the LDA does and provided a financial statement from 2022.
♦ Approved a motion authorizing the mayor to sign an agreement with the LDA providing $30,000 in quarterly payments as long as the LDA is in good standing with the Department of Justice and provides a letter from United Way showing the IRS approves them to act as an agent for LDA.