Wednesday letters: Affordable housing and Manga books in local libraries

Affordable housing thoughts

Who can refuse free money? Certainly not the local or the national affordable housing development firms. Certainly not the city of Glenwood Springs officials, our city councilors or even the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA).

Most recently, our esteemed governor, through the state of Colorado, passed Colorado’s Proposition 123 program, a $320 million annual fund to support Colorado communities that want to increase their amount of affordable housing. This program appears to be available over a several-year period and will financially assist any development form to build affordable housing projects throughout Colorado cities and towns. Also, it appears that the governor has made it mandatory that they build a certain quota of affordable housing each year in order to remain eligible for this funding (it would appear that Glenwood Springs would not have any trouble meeting that quota).

So, why wouldn’t developers jump at the opportunity and take all the money that you can while the money is still available? In fact, why not build an affordable housing project on every open space left in Glenwood Springs? This appears to be the position taken by the city of Glenwood Springs officials without a public vote from its residents? The problem is simple: the affordable housing runway train will eventually crash. No more open space, no more room for public parks and, most importantly, nothing left for the present and future children to decide what they may want to do with that land. Ironically enough, the public decision makers are the same people that preach the need for open space, Green New Deal and climate change — not, however, when free money is available for these projects. In fact, once again, after a very defiant no vote from the local residents regarding the future usage of “The Confluence.” 

City officials (and the Post Independent) recently suggested that we re-evaluate The Confluence’s future usages. The question that comes to mind is, are our city officials aware that this is public land and that any major decisions should be handled via a public vote? The city officials represent us, but do not own the land — the residents do. Be aware, this does not appear to be the case. I truly understand the lack of housing is an issue; however, at what cost? Isn’t the quality of life one of the major reasons for living here?

Joe Infascelli, Glenwood Springs 

Restricting Manga books

Recently, I attended a meeting at the Carbondale Branch Library regarding pornographic Manga books that were stocked on the lower shelves at the Silt Branch Library and are available to anyone of any age, even though they have red labels indicating their sexual content and “parental advisory warning explicit content” on the book covers. Our libraries have self checkout machines so people can check out books without even talking to a librarian.

While some people were emotional about the easy access to books that show sexual abuse of minors, other people were very emotional about limits to First Amendment rights. Many friends of mine in the audience have never seen and did not want to see these books or the petition requesting that they be segregated so that children under the age of 18 would require parental approval. That is restricted access to minors, NOT BANNING the books. They were just up in arms about the First Amendment.

Sue Zislis calls these books “rather risqué” and asks if any public library or governance body should have the authority to restrict access to which reading material. The fact is that they already do! Libraries decide which books they will purchase and display and where. And, according to US laws, “A few narrow categories of speech are not protected from government restrictions. The main such categories are incitement, defamation, fraud, obscenity, child pornography, threats and fighting words” (Brandenburg v. Ohio 1969). For example, speech urging a mob to attack a building is against the law. Defamatory lies (libel if written and slander if spoken) may be punished. Material depicting children engaging in sex or being naked in a sexually suggestive context is called child pornography.”

I have seen these books, and they do include sado-masochistic treatment of adolescents, gang rape with objects, graphic crotch shots, violent abusive dialogue and more. “Sundome” shows a school girl chained to a wall with her uniform not covering her private parts. At the meeting Executive Director Jamie LaRue said these books are meant to be funny. What is this supposed to encourage? 

What I want to know is who requested these books, who bought these books, who approved these books being stocked at these libraries, and why? Who wants to promote this in our society? The First Amendment does not protect child pornography or obscenity. Apparently some educated adults don’t know this.

Roxanne Bank, Carbondale

Opposing censorship

Once again a small group of zealots have reared their ugly heads in favor of censorship. I fully support Mr. LaRue and his staff of the New Castle Branch Library. They are trained professionals, who have put a system in place to protect children from inappropriate content. Let them do the jobs for which they were trained. If Ms. O’Grady doesn’t like certain books, she is free to ignore them.

Brian Martin, Glenwood Springs 

Context focus

Sopris Sun printed a letter about restricting access to the library book, Prison School. To understand the concern, I read the first two of the six-book series in question. Although rather risqué for my taste, there’s a legitimate storyline about a private high school with underlying references to Japanese culture. It is a story about peer pressure, bullying, conflict management and team efforts toward a common goal.

Most characters are totally believable, with the glaring exception of one student. Her appearance and behavior are so outrageous, so exaggerated that she is clearly a caricature, a satire of female sexuality, not to be taken seriously. She is a distraction from this story that has been categorized as adult fare. Restricted access to this series (and potentially other books deemed unsuitable by some folks) came to the forefront because we all care about the development of children into responsible, resilient, perceptive and considerate adults.

Many differ on the strategies to raise such children, however. The question at hand is, should any public library or governance body have the authority to restrict who has access to which reading material?

One purpose of a public library is to collect literature reflecting the vast variations of human existence, and to share that literature with those who wish to understand people in unfamiliar situations. Those people have faces, needs and experiences that are worthy of sharing. Libraries intend to be safe havens for free exchange of ideas that facilitate intellectual freedom, creativity and critical thinking. Parents have the right to decide what their own children read. The freedom of choice to avoid certain materials is as important as the freedom of choice to have access to such materials.

How can we allow some parents to control decisions other parents make for their own children? When children get a library card, perhaps parents should set guidance for their own children’s book choices. It is NOT the role of a librarian to evaluate anyone’s emotional maturity, or to know each child’s family restrictions.

Sue Zislis, Carbondale

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