The Ketchikan City Council, in a regular meeting that was postponed from Thursday to Tuesday evening, has an unusually light agenda to consider, with only one action item concerning how the library should go forward in holding the controversial “Drag Queen Story Time” that was held last year in June as part of National Pride Month.
Library Director Pat Tully had been planning to hold the Drag Queen event again in June, but earlier in May Ketchikan City Manager Delilah Walsh directed Tully to not hold it as a City-hosted program.
In an email written to Ketchikan City Council members, Walsh wrote, “I am now very firm in my resolve moving forward.”
Walsh noted that “I have directed Pat to consider programming that does focus on inclusivity and zeroes more specifically on the goals behind Pride Month. Pride Month is celebrated in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and works to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for LGBTQ Americans and one idea was for an adult program to screen the PBS documentary series “Stonewall Uprising — The Year that Changed America” and perhaps host a roundtable discussion.
“Again, I am not saying a drag queen story time is prohibited by the City but that it will not be part of City-sponsored programming,” she added.
The Ketchikan City Council in a regular meeting on June 16 last year decided in a 5-2 vote to reject a motion to force library staff to cancel the event. There were nearly two hours of public comment concerning the Drag Queen Story Time at that meeting.
During that meeting, Council Member Riley Gass stated that “the city should not be promoting or advocating for events where the goal is to normalize gender fluidity in young children. The city should provide a safe environment for all people in public spaces. However, sponsoring, advertising, and advocating for LGBT goals and worldviews should not be the focus of city government or its entities.”
He also noted that he did not think that such an event should be held in a space paid for by taxpayers who might not agree with the aim of the Drag Queen Storytime.
Council Member Janalee Gage at that meeting reminded her fellow council members that she had, in 2020, requested that a non-discrimination policy be added to the municipal code, which was approved by the council.
She explained that she had seen that policy addition as necessary, as there still are many circumstances locally in which some people are given the message that they are “to be seen, and not heard.”
Additionally, people often are given the message that “we will decide what you can and cannot do.”
She also mentioned that some groups of people are treated as though their taxes are not as valuable as other community members’ taxes.
Following the drag queen event in June, a citizen in protest of the Drag Queen Story Time placed a proposition on the October borough ballot that would have ended the borough’s monetary contribution to the library. That ballot measure was rejected by the voters in the October election.
There are two proposed motions on the Council’s Tuesday agenda. One would overturn Walsh’s directive to the library’s director. The second motion would allow the City Council to establish a policy related to the event.
Also attached to Tuesday’s meeting agenda is Walsh’s manager’s report, which mentions progress on a few notable projects.
One of those projects is the “Mobile Integrated Healthcare” program, that aims to increase quality, individualized care for community members while decreasing the pressure on local ambulance and police resources.
During an April 11 interview with the Daily News, Ketchikan Fire Department’s Fire Marshal Gretchen O’Sullivan said, “the idea of the (Mobile Integrated Healthcare) team is to sort of fill the needs of vulnerable members of the society, people who fall through the gaps with healthcare, who maybe don’t need 911, but they’re using 911 as their primary care.”
She explained that such a team could take the pressure off of the primary ambulance crews, allowing them to focus on true emergency calls. Those who need care — but not necessarily a trip via ambulance to the emergency room — could receive the help they need instead from the mobile team.
Walsh noted in her report to the Council that the City has officially received a Memorandum of Agreement from the Alaska Department of Health regarding a $150,519 award for the program.
During a phone call on Friday, Walsh explained that the funding came from the Department of Health through a “Healthy and Equitable Communities” funding program.
Also in her memo, Walsh wrote that the bid opening for the Berth 3 expansion and mooring dolphin installation is planned for June 7.
“The new schedule estimates full completion by April 15, 2024,” she wrote.
Walsh also noted that the City is expecting to receive loan forgiveness for Water Street sewer main replacement, the Park Avenue and Harris Street sewer replacement and the Schoenbar culvert rehabilitation project. The loan forgiveness program is through the State Revolving Fund “intended use plans” for fiscal year 2024. The intended use plans still await approval.
The City Council meeting is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Council Chambers, located in City Hall at 334 Front St. There is time allotted at the start of the meeting for public comment.
The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan YouTube channel and also on the City of Ketchikan’s website at www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.