Energetic young Democrat Dean MacDonald Jr. has had more than a month to process the November election that sliced funding for the Craighead County/Jonesboro Public Library in half, and here’s his conclusion: “It sucks. There’s no sugarcoating or downplaying what happened. Our county AND our city collectively defunded our libraries here in Jonesboro, Lake City, Monette, Caraway and Brookland.”
MacDonald was part of a team fighting against the book banners and pearl clutchers who’ve been gunning for the Jonesboro library system for months. The crusade against knowledge fired up when librarians put out a display in the kids section during Pride Month in 2021. Who knew books about two male penguins raising a baby penguin, the “Frog and Toad” series and “My Two Moms” would be so incendiary? The seemingly anodyne nod to families of all configurations sent the traditional family values crowd into apoplectics and a fit of organizing. They planned prayer walks around the library branches, filed complaints about sex education books they found too risque and eventually ran off beleaguered library staff.
State Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro) was among the crew who helped circulate a petition to get an initiative to defund the Craighead County and Jonesboro Public Library on the November ballot. By couching it as a tax cut, the anti-sex-ed crusaders were able to persuade voters to their side. With its millage rate now cut from 2 mills to one, the future of the library system is unclear.
With the benefit of time and perspective, MacDonald shared his thoughts, lessons learned and path forward to Facebook Friday. Sounds like they’re not giving up quite yet.
You can read the post on Facebook by clicking above, but here’s the full missive.
Good morning, everyone!
I‘ve wanted to give you an in-depth explanation about where we are with the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library for quite some time. Unfortunately and fortunately, I had to quickly shift gears back to finishing my first semester of grad school strong.Also, right off the bat after November, I got involved in a run-off election for city council here in Jonesboro (my guy won! You can check him out at Dr. Anthony D. Coleman For Jonesboro City Council-Ward 6).But I want to talk about what happened:It sucks. There’s no sugarcoating or downplaying what happened. Our county AND our city collectively defunded our libraries here in Jonesboro, Lake City, Monette, Caraway, and Brookland. The county was somewhat expected, but the city was razor-thin close. The margin in the city was 48 votes.There’s a lot of lessons I’ve learned in this fight, but there are very few if any regrets. We laid all the chips on the table. We called thousands of people and knocked on hundreds of doors. We talked to so many amazing people, and over 95% of those we talked to said the same thing: “Oh my God, are they really trying to defund a library?!”What I loved about our fight is that it tied people from all political persuasions together: young, old, conservative, liberal, people who genuinely hate labels. There are so many good people in all facets of life that know that you just don’t attack certain people, places, and things. The library is supposed to be one of those very entities, but the powers that be in Jonesboro do not care. And here’s why:This initiative was slopped on the ballot at the 11th hour, late September. Strategically, you have about 6 weeks to get your message out there. We’re playing on our back foot, on defense. Hundreds of voters go to the ballot box not knowing all of the issues to vote on. Many just go in to vote for Governor, Senator, etc. Out of the thousands of people we talked to, hundreds told us some variation of, ”Thank you so much for explaining this to me. If you hadn’t, I may have voted FOR thinking I was voting FOR the library.”In the next year, we have to prioritize voter education. Schemes like this are common, and they don’t even do that great of a job at hiding their intention. There was not an honest discussion about our library from the other side. Full stop.Furthermore, the other side disingenuously (and smartly) branded this issue as a tax cut in a county that consistently votes Republican 2 to 1. I‘m thankful to have been raised in a Republican family because that experience has allowed me to be able to assess a situation and upon further review, call bulls**t. $20.50/year back in our pocket book is not an appreciable tax cut. If my grandpa was still alive, I’d hope to hear him say, “Whoop-tee-doo!” The people and organizations who spearheaded this measure always meant for this to be punitive. Why? Because the library said almost a year-and-a-half ago that a public library is not a place to discriminate against any class of people. The NEA Tea Party clearly took issue with that.Friends, I have watched this hateful organization and the people that they have propped up as “leaders” refer to our librarians, our public servants, as “pedophiles, groomers, and child molesters” simply because, SHOCKER, the library has books that have QUEER characters. This is the kind of behavior that was espoused by the same people who spoke out of both sides of their collective mouths and lied to our face in telling us that we ought to vote for their “tax cut” proposal. These people genuinely wanted us to believe that we should halve the funding to one of the few things that government gets right. All at the same time, they collectively decided that it is okay to make real people’s lives an absolute living hell. I pray every day that a good lawyer will come along and give these folk the Alex Jones treatment. These librarians have been slandered for far too long.If you’re a librarian and you’re reading this, I want you to know: YOU ARE FREAKIN’ AWESOME! You do a tremendous and often thankless job. You haven’t done a thing wrong in the past 18 months. You have been the victim of hateful people who are willing to say anything and everything to get good people to slash funding for any entity that serves as a public good. You don’t deserve this, and we are here for you. We will continue fighting, and we’re about to go on offense.I may sound crazy, but I am optimistic. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but one thing that is keeping me going is seeing how close we got and being surrounded by people that are already standing back up. This was a genuinely Herculean task. It was David vs. Goliath. I couldn’t tell you a single local official that publicly spoke against the slander that was being hurled at the library. Every local official that HAD an opinion were actively trying to defund the library. I believe this is because the NEA Tea Party, unfortunately, scares the absolute hell out of a lot of good people. To speak against them is to make yourself a target. This is clearly the case. As much as I can’t stand them, they were successful. They defunded our library.And that motivates us even more. That is not leadership. That is trash. It is unbecoming for anyone or any group of people who would claim that they are here to “serve” us: We the People. That is not service. What is going on in Jonesboro is organized hatred, and it has to be called out.I am thankful for these experiences. It has shown me so many good and brave people are here and willing to fight for Northeast Arkansas. We got two great individuals elected in Garrett Barnes for JP – Craighead County District 2 and Dr. Anthony Coleman, the latter whom ran against an individual who helped defund the library (We whopped that guy 65-35%, and don’t you doubt that we’re gonna take that strategy into the new year). We are going to continue this fight, and we will get the library their funding back.For the time being, if you want something to do in the short-term, go to the library, check out a book, get your card renewed, whatever it is you’d like to do, but just please do one thing on top of that: tell the people who work there how awesome they are and that we’re here for them. They need to hear that. And in the future, whatever the next fight is, don’t stand on the sidelines. Be present. Take a stance. There are not always two sides to everything. If you condone the behavior that has been hurled at this organization, I need to ask you to seek therapy. That is not how we treat people. If you’re like the 90+% of rational people that already understands, you’re being called on to stand up for what’s right.I am immensely proud of the hundreds of people that fought to save the library’s funding. We are going to use the holidays to rest, recover, and reorganize. We’re gonna be back, and we won’t rest. The leaders that endorsed this trash are on watch, and with hope and perseverance, will have a pink slip directed their way.Meanwhile, here’s a few photos of my journey. Thank you all for tuning in. I hope to have another livestream with you all soon to dive even deeper into what’s going on here in Jonesboro. Peace and love.