The borough of Telford is a small residential community in upper Bucks County, on the cusp of the border with neighboring Montgomery County. Normally a suburban peaceful place, many residents are up in arms due to the activities of one man: Councilman Robert Jacobus.
Jacobus is a relatively recent addition to Telford’s Borough Council, consisting of seven members in which all but one are Republican. Late in 2022, two members of the council abruptly resigned, and Jacobus was appointed as one of the replacements.
What was not generally known at the time was that Jacobus is anti-LGBTQ, and his antics since becoming a councilman have caused several of his council colleagues to call for his resignation.
Jacobus’ first target was the Indian Valley Public Library, which, in addition to Telford, serves several other nearby suburban municipalities, including Salford, Franconia and Lower Salford. Jacobus wanted to completely defund IVPL because it maintains a number of LGBT items in its collection, and because, he claimed, the library promotes an LGBT agenda with its Pride month displays and foists obscenity and pornography onto children.
In a heated debate at a Telford council meeting, IVPL director Margie Stern refuted Jacobus’ accusations, asserting that all sexually graphic books like “Fun Home” and “Gender Queer” were not accessible to children and that all LGBT material that was filed in the children’s section was age-appropriate. In addition, Stern said the library has a process by which community members could lodge complaints and have allegedly objectionable material reconsidered, a process that Jacobus and his allies had not availed themselves of.
Jacobus and his allies did not believe Stern’s claims and pressed their case.
The majority of the council was not receptive to Jacobus’ demands. The borough’s annual budget had already been approved late in 2022. That budget had already moved some of the money designated for IVPL to the local police department in an attempt to address certain borough needs without raising taxes. They were unwilling to cut the library’s funding any further.
In response, Jacobus presented a report to the council (some called it a manifesto) to further press his case. Titled “The Library Loophole weaponized to Sexually Exploit Children,” the report is filled with claims including “Your tax dollars are subsidizing obscenity, medically damaging “how to” sex guides, and grooming – including facilitating Apps for child sex trafficking.”
This report also contains excerpts from several books, including sexually oriented sections of “Fun Home” and “Gender Queer” and others which Jacobus claims are targeted at children, but which are, in fact, filed in sections of the library not accessible to children.
Community response to Jacobus’ crusade has been vociferous and divided. Normally sedate and modestly attended affairs, the most recent council meeting in February was not only filled to capacity, but residents were literally lined up around the municipal building to get into the meeting.
Among those wishing to address the council at that meeting, it was evenly split between Jacobus supporters and library supporters. However, according to John Waldenberger, a Telford resident who live-streams council meetings, many pro-Jacobus speakers were non-Telford residents. Among them, Waldenberger recognized several members of the area chapter of Moms for Liberty, an advocacy organization that strongly lobbies for the banning of LGBT books from libraries.
For all the controversy so far, the majority of Telford’s council and the borough’s mayor has stood firm in its support of IVPL, refusing to consider further cuts in the library’s funding beyond what was already approved in the current budget.
In a statement released by IVPL and posted on its website, the library’s administrators acknowledge Telford’s support but also admit that budget cuts have hurt the library.
The statement says, in part, “We are pleased and reassured to see the stated affirmation that six Telford Borough Council Members and the Mayor support the Indian Valley Public Library and do not endorse efforts to further cut funds to the Library. The reduced funding in 2023 from both Telford and, to a lesser extent Souderton, has a direct negative impact to the Library’s operating budget.”
IVPL Director Stern admits that the funding cuts already imposed by Telford have been painful, and will precipitate a budget shortfall for the next several years, which the library will have to struggle to make up.
However, Stern is encouraged by the response IVPL has been receiving from the community. “We’ve been getting lots of support from people who know the library,” she says. “People who use the library, who are aware of what we’re doing for the communities we serve.”
In regard to Jacobus’ ongoing efforts to completely defund IVPL, Stern says, “We’re used to dealing with and negotiating municipal budgets. But for him — it’s personal.”
Jacobus’ agenda isn’t restricted to the library. He also put forth a proposal — titled “Interacting with Transgender Individuals” — for a policy change to be imposed on the local police department for how it was to henceforward treat trans people. The proposed policy would force the police to not acknowledge trans people’s gender identity, to only use biological pronouns, and other ways to demean a trans person’s dignity. The council rejected considering the proposal.
Jacobus’ aggressive pursuit of his far-right anti-LGBT agenda has not made him any friends on the council. In a non-binding vote, a majority of the council voted that Jacobus should resign his post. Jacobus declined the suggestion.
The local election in Montgomery County is May 16.