Letters for April 13, 2023


The Macon County News letters page is a public forum open to a wide variety of opinions as a right guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Letters are neither accepted nor rejected based on content. Letters must be signed and contact information provided. Views expressed are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of publisher, editor or staff. Writers are asked to refrain from personal attacks against individuals or businesses. 

Time has come to either reform or leave FRL

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the term reform means “to change into an improved condition; to put an end to faults or abuses by enforcing a better method or course of action … a removal or correction of errors.”

Whether we realize it or not, no tax-funded entity is capable of self-policing.  Most everything attached to government funding can be turned into a bureaucracy of self-interest. That has become true of the Fontana Regional Library System or (FRL).

For the last two years, the FRL has allowed itself to be wrongly influenced by outside NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who are obviously pushing a controversial agenda.  The agenda is out in the open sexualizing children and teens and is a nationwide problem not limited to Western North Carolina.

Each of us supports the library’s basic mission of providing resources unbiasedly, but when the FRL arrogantly refuses to listen to the community who funds it,  now is the time for the FRL to either reform or Macon County to leave it.

Overwhelming numbers of patrons respectfully spoke of concerns at multiple FRL board meetings only to be ignored and marginalized.  The FRL did not like patrons speaking about issues that affect our community, so the FRL has now suddenly banned speech at meetings.  When the FRL claims they protect obscenity in the name of the 1st Amendment but hypocritically censors patron’s speech, it is time to reform or leave.

When the FRL intentionally crafts new policy intended to silence patrons and strengthen bureaucracy while refusing to answer questions from taxpayers, it is time to reform or leave.  When the FRL creates ad hoc committees to meet in secret rather than discuss things transparently, it is time to reform or leave.

When the FRL purposefully spreads misinformation about patron’s concerns and conducts their business through email more than in meetings, or when it fails to keep minority board members properly informed because those board members reject the FRL’s bad behavior, it is time to reform or leave. When the FRL cannot follow other library’s examples of reform across the nation, it is time to leave.

When the FRL constantly asks for increases in funding yet retains large bank accounts and grows their bureaucracy, it is time to reform or leave. When the FRL has adequate funds yet does not pay dedicated staff a living wage, it is time to reform or leave. When the FRL defiantly rejects all suggestions for unity and compromise with a “public be damned attitude,” it is time to reform for more accountability or leave.

Macon County taxpayers deserve a fully transparent library not pushing controversial agendas from NGOs or mismanaging funds. Macon County deserves a locally prioritized, unbiased library that all of us can be proud of.  These are simple principles we can all unify under as Macon residents.

I ask our board of commissioners to realize this community is not asking for anything unreasonable.  Libraries are not sacred cows.  They serve the public the same as the Post Office and Sheriff’s Department.  There are many more county libraries than regional libraries throughout the U.S., so becoming our own county library is not revolutionary.  What the FRL has chosen to do the last 2 years by rejecting compromise with the very people who fund it is wrong by all standards.  


Warren Bergstresser – Franklin, N.C.

Threat is to preferred brand of authoritarianism

  We have a frequent writer who has been speaking out against Donald Trump ever since the Russia collusion allegations. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think that he still believes this fantasy that has been thoroughly discredited. Now he turns his attention to Mike Pence, who along with his bete noire, Trump, he credits with potentially being a threat to “Our Democracy”™. More likely the threat is not to democracy, or more accurately, a constitutional republic, but to his preferred brand of authoritarianism. Quoting the constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe is a red flag. His legal opinions seem to track closely with his political stances. Although I don’t know Mr. Tribe’s position on the current indictment, he has a generally “get Trump” attitude about the other investigations. I don’t think that he is an unbiased legal analyst although his silence on this particular indictment as far as I can tell suggests to me that he is underwhelmed by it. I prefer the analysis of someone like Alan Dershowitz who is not afraid to take stands on the law that cut against the grain of his politics. He sees the current indictment of Trump as an abomination of the rule of law.

 As for January 6, this is the new Russia collusion hoax that has not yet run its foul course. Even though Speaker McCarthy has released the video of that day, much is still stopped from being aired. Video has come out on other outlets that are not well known but show that the insurrection narrative is just that. It was a setup, a Reichstag fire scenario with many federal agents involved to foment a disturbance that they could then use to arrest and imprison without due process many people. BLM rioters who caused much more damage got bailed out if they were arrested at all while people on January 6 who were in the wrong place at the wrong time were caught up in the general dragnet and denied bail or a speedy trial. They are still languishing in jail. The lengths to which the government is going reveals their abject fear of it being exposed that the January 6 “insurrection” was engineered by them. It is and always has been a power play to prevent protests under the threat of being accused of insurrection and to delegitimize the voicing of real concerns of citizens. Meanwhile the goons of the left have free rein to be the brownshirts of the regime. Our democracy, indeed.  

 David Parker – Franklin, N.C.

Follow correct procedures to make changes

I was wrong. The library has not been stonewalling the concerned citizens. After publication of my previous letter about our library, I spoke with the directors of the Macon and Jackson County libraries.

I learned that our Macon County librarian, Abby Hardison, had agreed to curtail the PRIDE displays in the children’s section back in February. She also spent hours with some of the folks to help them buy Christian books for the library.

Further, while she provided a Request for Reconsideration to them to challenge certain books in circulation, the group has refused to return the form. That they went on to our County Commissioners meetings to complain and make spectacle, they have shown that they are not serious about reasonable solutions or compromise. This alone should be grounds for the commissioners to disregard their request to withdraw from Fontana. They refuse to follow procedure, and instead prefer to escalate fear, division, and disinformation within our community.

The fact that none of this information made it in their full-page ad in The Franklin Press speaks volumes about their lack of integrity. Further, their accusations of an agenda by library staff to sexualize our children is an abject lie. It is character assassination, pure and simple.

As the librarians have explained many times to anyone who will listen, there are strict laws about materials in a public library. A single person cannot remove a book or other material, and there is a procedure that has been ignored.

Given the precedents of many court cases across this state and nation, materials that have been properly vetted cannot be easily removed, restricted, or labeled based on content. One head librarian in North Carolina removed a book with the intention of de-escalating tensions in a community, only to be sued for doing so.

When libraries have been removed from consortiums and run by a county, they have all but fallen apart, even when the county spent millions of dollars to run it. More interesting is that libraries run by counties can still be sued for failing to include materials requested by their constituents.

We need to stop demonizing our professional library staff and the LGBTQ+ community. We need to ignore the disingenuous campaign to vilify our librarians and work together for solutions.

We don’t need Macon County Pizza Gate conspiracies that damage and threaten real people’s lives. Let the librarians do their jobs in peace, and instead try to help with the many actual needs of the residents of Macon County. Our county commissioners have their hands full with these, and I have confidence that they will follow all relevant laws regarding our library and our sacred 1st Amendment rights.

It seems there is a case to restrict a few books in order to keep our children safe from graphically displayed sexual acts. When in doubt, take the time, follow the instructions, and allow the process to work. It just might.  

Dan Kowal – Franklin, N.C.

Compromise should come from both sides

In response to a recent letter in support of compromising, I wholeheartedly agree that it is past time to do so on the library issue.  None of us like conflict.  However, the country that most of us love was born out of conflict, so conflict is simply part of life.  For nearly 10 years I have been a supporter of the library.  My family is glad for the library’s services, but like so many others, we became shocked two years ago when it began promoting controversial agendas from NGOs (non-governmental organizations).  This activity has not been limited to Macon County – It is nationwide.

I’d like to call for compromise from both sides.  If you have heard that “people are being intolerant” or “want to ban books” or “tear down the library,” you have been lied to. Parents and taxpayers are not the ones trying to force their beliefs on others at a public place or banning speech; only the Fontana Regional Library (FRL) Board has suddenly cancelled speech at their public meetings.  There is no “Christian Nationalist” conspiracy.   Anyone who says this is about attacking the 1st Amendment or burning books is pursuing divisiveness, false information, and hostility. Perhaps people should ask the library if they censor or restrict what materials are sent to prisons?  Why would the library limit what materials are available to a certain group?

We need to compromise for our children and teens.  Both sides have expressed the desire for ending gas lighting library promotions as well as the need for labels on all sexually explicit materials and separation of certain materials.  Yet the FRL has rejected these compromises.  These solutions actually facilitate access and make it easier for patrons to locate or avoid materials. I repeat: Labels for content and separation actually give more access with information and fully uphold the 1st Amendment.  If there is a sub-genre of “Christian” fiction singling out Christians, then let’s at least be consistent and label materials targeting minors as sexually explicit.  This is no different than Hollywood labeling movies for content.  To deny this fact would seem to be a desperate move to maintain an agenda.

If someone obtains a copy of Playboy or Penthouse magazine, why is it covered where it cannot be seen?  Does this cover deny someone their 1st Amendment?  Does having these types of materials separated behind a counter prevent access?  Does this cover show a lack of tolerance? The answer is obviously, no.  The people who want this type of material are not being discriminated against.  The cover is merely common sense.  We can all compromise by showing common sense and decency towards our children.

We campaign together on all sides to prevent underage drinking and keeping minors off drugs. None of us want children to be abused.   Most of us would not support kids endangering themselves with pop culture trends such as eating detergent or cutting themselves. I dare say none of us desire for minors to have unwanted pregnancies, STDs, or mental problems. If that is true, why would seemingly intelligent people deliberately sexualize children or confuse them with un-scientific biology just because it suddenly became fashionable?

Finally, our commissioners obviously want what is best for the kids.  Just look at what have been topics for the last year or so: Skate park, new high school, Pre-K, and library.  However, there is only so much money to go around, and we don’t need higher taxes without better efficiency.  If you do want to pay more, anyone is free to start private fundraising instead of demanding it from the public treasury.

The majority of Macon County has elected these current commissioners to manage county assets.  There are complex issues and everyone has their own ideas of what should happen.  However, we need to give this commissioners board some space to work.  Macon County commissioners have gone on the record saying the library will be funded no matter if we stay with the FRL or not.  If we respect democracy, we need to allow them to concentrate on their jobs.  These guys deserve our patience.  Macon County deserves compromise from the Fontana Library System.  

Jim Gaston – Franklin, N.C.

Group’s position on library policies clarified

I read Dan Kowal’s letter to the editor in the Macon County News. I welcome his view as a Macon County educator, and applaud him for saying that children should not have access to pornographic materials, as they currently do in our libraries. He is also right that no one group should be able to get 100% of what they want. I agree with him, too, that we do not want to lose our library’s hard-won assets, and I support ways to leave the Fontana System that do not involve this major drawback. 

Where Kowal loses me is when he tacks this statement on toward the end: “We need to be clear about what is behind the push to remove materials: a well-orchestrated fear campaign targeting our LGBTQ+ community. The point is to silence, isolate, and disappear our friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors.” 

As someone involved in this from the beginning, that is most definitely not the point and contrary to our intentions. The people who have been asking for library neutrality and protections for minors have never attempted to silence other people in any way, shape, or form. We have never sought to rob others of having a say in this process, and we have not asked for others’ books to be removed. We have been asking for the exact kinds of common sense protections that Mr. Kowal suggested. We’ve asked that access to books with sexually explicit material—straight, gay, or otherwise—be restricted to adults, and/or such books be labeled “sexually explicit” as a parental advisory; that online resources that are explicit also be restricted to mature audiences or require parental approval; that explicit books be moved into a different section, and so on. 

We are open to other suggestions of practical ways to safeguard innocent children and teens from being prematurely exposed to sexually explicit materials in our libraries without preventing access for parents who would intentionally select these materials for their children. We are not trying to isolate or “disappear” anyone. That is highly offensive and inflammatory nonsense. We are seeking to have children protected and our parental rights respected, so that all families, regardless of their political and/or religious beliefs can feel comfortable in our libraries. And as to the charge that we are trying to “silence” any individuals or our opposition in this controversy, I can only assume Mr. Kowal is ignorant or misled as to the facts. In terms of silencing others, it is the Fontana Regional Library Board that has in his words “stonewalled” and chosen to stop all public comment at their meetings for the foreseeable future in order to silence those who were asking for these common sense protections. So, thank you for your contributions to the policy discussion here. We welcome your voice and your ideas, but please get your facts straight.  


Rebecca Tipton – Franklin, N.C.

Could a public banking system help communities?

What if one way to fund school projects, such as building a new high school in Franklin, or help in providing construction of affordable housing here, rested in the establishment of a public banking system in North Carolina? Such local banks would be accountable to citizens of the area, not stockholders who live elsewhere. Loans could be provided at a lower interest rate, making it easier for public entities and others to get loans and pay them back. North Dakota currently has such a law and a few cities, such as Chicago and Philadelphia, have had discussions held on the subject by some running for office there. Others in New York state are also discussing this. In 2019, California passed a public banking law legalizing such a system there.

If such banks would help local communities, perhaps this is something to be considered.  


Christine Matthews – Franklin, N.C.

 A need of direction within our libraries 

  Myself, along with others have written about the controversial issue that surrounds our local Fontana Library system. Our system includes three counties – Macon, Jackson and Swain. The issue is questioning whether sexual explicit materials should be present for our children to have easy access.  I have talked with some of our local citizens and there seems a little confusion within the scope of this issue. This issue has been going on for well over a year with little to no resolve. It’s obvious the board doesn’t listen or care about the concerns of its local citizens, to the point of no longer accepting any open discussions or points of view. It concerns some of our citizens that we are asking that if the library will not change their direction in this matter, we ask that Macon County no longer contribute to the Fontana Library System. Some are upset at this approach.

This is a view from a very concerned citizen of Macon County, myself, and also as a Christian, and not just in name only, yet not forcing any belief on those who have a different point of view. Whether you’re gay, straight or whatever you may be, makes no difference to me, or in this issue we face.

I truthfully cannot understand just why is it, any library feels it must show, educate, demonstrate any materials of any sexual orientation, straight or otherwise,  to our young children who haven’t even learned their ABC’s or know which direction North or South is. Yet, within our library there’s an Adult, Youth and Children’s section which directs appropriate materials towards specific age groups. Like in viewing TV and movies, there’s a rating that directs the viewer of  what they are about to see and theaters are to check IDs if minors try entering questionable movies. So if TV and theaters help families in directing what may or may not be appropriate, why is it the library can’t place these materials in a secure area for the parent or guardian to assist their under age children in viewing such materials? Our library should comply as the Wichita Library doing so, in the case of Sund vs. The City of Wichita Falls. 

As a person of faith, and if my faith means anything, I myself would rather see funding stop if our most innocent are used or being allowed such materials. I would even go as far as giving the library to our community college, then as these children become 18, they can discuss these things openly in the pros and cons of such a life changing issue, then they can make for themselves their own decisions in carrying this responsibility. There are some, even within the faith that I share that prefer to remain quiet which speaks volumes; then some that have an opposite view, which troubles me. It was Christ that was the most protective of the innocence’s of children (Matt.19) I’d rather follow this truth than any other.

Love to meet over coffee, whether agreeing or not.


Deni Shepard – deni.shepard828@gmail.com