Book Controversies Carry Over Into Runoff

Irving City Hall
Irving City Hall | Image by City of Irving

Irving’s city council races went into a runoff after none of the candidates secured more than 50% of the vote during the general election held on May 6.

Early voting for the runoff began on May 30 and will continue until June 6. The actual election day for the runoffs will be on June 10.

In Irving’s District 3, incumbent Mark Zeske will face off against the strong challenge of Abdul Khabeer.

In the general election, Khabeer nearly won outright, earning 47.9% of the vote compared to Zeske’s 32.7%.

In District 5, the energetic primary saw Mark Cronenwett secure nearly 41% of voters while Heather Stroup narrowly edged out Matt Varble by only 52 votes.

Since election day, Varble has endorsed Stroup, saying, “Heather’s honest, pragmatic, and hopeful insight into our community’s problems and needs, and willingness to examine the issues and listen closely to the public’s questions and concerns is commendable.”

Varble had been a controversial candidate during the general election, embroiled in a dispute with members of the homeowners association where he serves as president.

One long-term resident, Margaret Tichelaar, claimed to The Dallas Express, “There are so many women who had been harassed by him that, that women in the neighborhood now say, I mean, we all think he has something against women.”

Varble had supported twice-a-week trash pick-up and opposed moving sexually explicit books from the children’s section of public libraries, suggesting “there are more important things to be worried about.”

A spokesman for Stroup, Will Busby, refused to comment on whether she agrees with Varble’s attitudes and actions, telling The Dallas Express, “Heather is supported by many from within the community, including Matt Varble and other candidates from the May 6th General Election.”

The Irving race has been especially charged due to controversy over allegations that Irving public libraries host inappropriate materials in the children’s section. These materials allegedly include books that discuss or depict acts such as anal sex, oral sex, and other sexual acts with both minors and adults.

Some of the books in question have been removed from other taxpayer-funded libraries such as DISD school libraries, as reported by The Dallas Express.

When asked if Stroup supports the use of taxpayer funds to provide and promote books with pornographic materials, spokesman Busby refused to answer.

During a candidate forum, Stroup said she thought librarians should decide which books go in the library and where they should be.

She explained, “We have protocol in place if I were to go to a library and decide that this book doesn’t need to be on the shelf, and what is it doing here, then I simply fill out a form, and I give the librarian the autonomy to do what I feel is the right thing.”

“Because I simply don’t like the book or don’t like it for my child, and there are a lot of books, but I don’t want someone to come into our libraries and draw attention and start taking books that I like, that I don’t find offensive,” she added. “That’s why we have protocol in place to limit hostility.”

“Let the librarian do the right thing. If there is a problem with that then we need to investigate it further,” Stroup concluded.

However, community members who have been raising the alarm about illicit material in the children’s section of public libraries say their concerns have been ignored by the librarians.

Viki Norman explained to The Dallas Express that when she appealed to the librarians about potentially obscene books, “they’ve resisted any information or efforts or input by the community to this day. They have not done anything to help make the library safer for kids.”

Similarly, Dr. Flory Malloy told The Dallas Express that the process for removing a book, “sounds super great, except for the fact that it’s a point of pride for every librarian I’ve spoken with to have never removed a book from the shelves.”

Stroup’s opponent, Mark Cronenwett, has argued that communities ought to protect children from potentially harmful content by moving illicit materials to age-appropriate locations.

“I am not opposed to literary content that represents diverse views. What is pernicious is the exposure of pornographic material to our children,” Cronenwett told The Dallas Express. “Study after study has shown that the early exposure to young children of graphic sexual images can lead to a greater consumption of pornographic material, in addition to risky sexual behavior, to prostitution and human trafficking.”

“A City has a duty to protect its young citizens from this content and the harm that necessarily follows,” Cronenwett argued.

Cronenwett has said that he does not want to ban any books but that books with pornographic material should not be available to small children.

Families for Irving, a grassroots political action group, has endorsed Cronenwett, who previously served on the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau board, the Irving YMCA board, the Municipal Bond Commission, and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

A resident of Irving for 14 years, Cronenwett told The Dallas Express, “The priority of my campaign is to advocate for Irving families — all Irving families. It is the driving force behind my positions and has been my motivation in serving the City of Irving.”

“I love the City of Irving. I love the friends and community it has provided my family,” Cronenwett added. “Serving on boards has been, in many ways, my show of appreciation to this great city. If elected to Council, I will continue to advocate on behalf of our residents to promote their interests and address their concerns.”

If elected, his priorities include increasing police funding, developing family-oriented infrastructure, and returning to twice-a-week trash pick-up.

Stroup’s priorities include developing an app for Irving’s public television network, improving the city’s animal control programs, and exploring options to privatize trash pickup, according to posts on her campaign website.

As noted, early voting for the runoff is open from May 30 to June 6, with election day on June 10. Voters can find polling times and locations through the Dallas County Elections Department.

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