Petition seeks to recall Huntsville mayor, city council after vote to privatize library

”We want to change the composition of the city council and the mayor so that we have people who will listen to the citizens here in Huntsville.”
Huntsville residents Amanda Louie and Susan Guerrero outside the Huntsville Public Library.
Huntsville residents Amanda Louie and Susan Guerrero outside the Huntsville Public Library.(KBTX)
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 9:35 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KBTX) -A group of Huntsville residents calling itself HTX Public First is looking to garner enough support to oust the mayor and several city council members.

This comes after the Huntsville City Council voted 6-3 in favor of privatizing and outsourcing its public library operations last December. The vote to outsource and privatize the library comes after concerns were raised surrounding banned books and LGBTQ displays at the Huntsville Public library.

Organizers of the petition question the need to outsource the library when they say it’s being properly run locally. They also feel the community has been ignored and that the council’s decision was made on short notice and was done without feedback from the public and library staff.

“There was no need for any private management of our library. There was no need to turn to this company to keep the doors open. Our library is fully funded and well managed and well taken care of,” says organizer Amanda Louie. “We had no public notification of this contract before it was placed on the agenda on Friday, December 16th and that agenda was for a vote for December 20th the following Tuesday, So that’s four days between finally telling the public that you’re contracting with this company for our library.”

“That’s our library that’s not the city mayor’s library, that’s not the city manager’s library, that’s our library,” says Louie. ”If you put it on the agenda and vote on it four days later how is that giving anyone enough time to even research this company you want to contract with let alone discuss whether this is what’s best for Huntsville.”

Huntsville resident Susan Guerrero feels strongly that the library should be run locally and that the council overstepped its bounds when making the decision.

“A library is the heart, in my opinion of a community. And privatizing it means that you no longer have community input into how the library is run, the content of the library, and the services that it provides,” says Guerrero.

“As I learned more about how the privatization came about concerned me also. I felt that the current city council overstepped its bounds in trying to settle a dispute between individuals within the community by basically taking the problem and turning it into an outsourcing situation. It should have never been handled that way,” said Guerrero. “It should have brought the community together rather than dividing the community and that was not what they did. They continue to divide the community by bringing this organization in and, basically talking down to the people who have an interest in seeing this not happen.”

City leaders have declined our multiple requests to discuss these matters in more detail. In a previous statement, the city said the move was made to save money and improve services but their vote to privatize came after concerns were raised about the city banning books and removing a gay pride display in the library.

We also reached out to Huntsville Mayor Andy Brauninger but did not receive a response before publishing but in a newspaper editorial, the mayor says all votes by the council are based on what members believe is best for the city.

In Mayor Brauninger’s most recent editorial in the Huntsville Item newspaper, he confirmed that a police officer was sent into the library last year to inspect books. In a video shared on social media, the officer can be seen speaking with a staff member about books but the mayor says none were ever removed. Brauninger says the police department was simply responding to concerns of possible violations of the law, but he didn’t say who made those concerns.

Huntsville residents concerned over possible censorship at city library

So far organizers have gathered 20% of the signatures needed to submit the recall petition. For more information on the group and its efforts click here.