Council reinstates library cat at special me(ow)eting Friday

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by A.C. Hall

Following a wild week of media exposure that spread beyond the United States into countries all around the world, the White Settlement City Council held a special meeting on Friday to re-visit their decision to remove Browser the cat from the library.  This comes after the story was picked up by the Washington Post, online news giant Gawker.com, and international media outlets.
As the meeting got underway, Mayor Ronald A. White addressed the packed council chambers.  He said he’s received over a thousand messages about the council’s 2 – 1 decision to remove the cat from the library, something he and council member Dave Mann were against.
“They’re all in support of the cat,” White said of the messages he has received.
Before moving on, White sought to clear up one thing about the situation.  He said there was some information that indicated that City Secretary Amy Arnold was somehow involved in this situation as she had a puppy at City Hall and was asked to remove it.  White said Arnold and her situation had nothing to do with the Browser issue and he apologized to her for any grief she suffered due to suggestions otherwise.
Council member Elzie Clements, one of two council members who voted for the removal of Browser, also spoke about Arnold.  He said it was his doing that the puppy in City Hall was removed and Arnold complied with the instruction and made no issues over it.
Many of those at the meeting had signed up to speak about the removal of Browser, but Clements said he would like to speak first.  Clements blamed social media and other media as the reason the story became such a big deal, saying that only part of the story was explained.  He then read from a prepared statement. The statement touched upon the many serious events going on in the City such as the death of a council member, the hospitalization of a second council member with a stroke, and the hit and run death of a volunteer firefighter.
“Yet, with all that going on, the only focus of a small group of community activists and their political supporters is whether or not a cat can reside in the public library,” Clements said.
He continued by saying when elected, a council person represents everyone and should make decisions that benefit the entire community.  He said there have been members of the community that told him they couldn’t use the library because of the cat.
He also pointed out that there are no cats in public school libraries, as this would keep those allergic to cats out of school.  Clements also stated that things like latex balloons and certain foods aren’t served in public schools because some kids are allergic.  He then said the supporters of Browser weren’t taking into account people with pet allergies.
“This small group of activists and their political supporters have chosen to ignore the needs of the minority group of people, which includes our school children who are unable to use the public facility,” Clements said. “They take their view of the cat’s residence in the library as exclusive and set aside the needs of anyone else who may wish to use the public facility.”
As his statement came to a close, Clements said he’s received some positive feedback but also much negative feedback regarding the removal of the cat.
“Staff and elected officials have been needlessly called names and ridiculed over this issue,” Clements said.  “The entire town has been made a mockery.”
Clements said he believes the library should be accessible to all individuals, but also said he recognizes there are matters that require the attention and focus of the council beyond the cat issue.  He made a motion to reinstate the cat at the library so long as “administratively feasible.”
“I would like to apologize to those who are unable to use our public facility because of this cat,” Clements said.
The vote to resinstate Browser passed 3 – 0, with Clements, Paul Moore, and Dave Mann all voting in favor.
The crowd broke into applause over the result.  That good cheer disappeared quickly as Clements made a motion to adjourn the meeting.
Many in the audience argued that they still wanted to speak on this issue even though the vote had already taken place. Mayor White informed them that a motion was on the floor and must be voted on.  Council voted unanimously to adjourn, prompting many in the audience to voice their anger over not being allowed to speak.

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