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Macon Commissioners announce they will remain in Regional Library System, with conditions

After a marathon meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting, Commisison Chairman Paul Higdon read a prepared statement regarding the county’s decsion to remain as a partner of the Fontana Regional Library System.  At the beginning of the meeting, Commissioner Higdon announced that before the board adjourned, the commissioners would be releasing a joint public statement regarding their current stance on the library. Although the statement was prepared and ready at the beginning of the commissioner’s meeting when nearly 200 people were in attendance, Commissioner Higdon elected not to share the public statement until close to midnight after the board met during a closed session.

The April meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners lasted until midnight on Tuesday with 45 people signed up to address commissioners during the public comment period. Due to the number of people signed up to speak, paired with the lengthy agenda, Chairman Higdon announced at the beginning of the meeting that the public comment period would be limited to 45 minutes, with speakers being allowed 5 minutes each to speak. At the end of the 45 minutes, regardless of how many people were afforded the opportunity to address the board, public comment period ended and commissioners moved to take up the night’s agenda items. 

Commissioner Higdon initially said that anyone who had signed up to speak during public comment and were not able to, would be moved to next month’s board meeting and given an opportunity to speak then. However, Commissioner Josh Young made a motion to move the remaining public comment period to the end of the agenda business items, and anyone who remained at the meeting at the conclusion of scheduled business could address the board then. Commissioners unanimously agreed with Commissioner Young. 

Between the two public comment periods, dozens of people addressed the board over a myriad of issues with the majority of comments revolving around the more than two-year long debate regarding the Macon County Public Library. 

Last month, Macon County Commissioner Danny Antoine addressed commissioners and said after the library limited public input during a meeting, he was “100% in support” of ending the agreement with the Fontana Regional System all to gather and alluded to the fact that the believed other commissioners were agreeable to leaving the regional system but needed time to iron out the details as to how to make that happen. During Tuesday night’s meeting, after commissioners limited public input during their own meeting, Commissioner Antoine clarified that as an individual he supported leaving the library, however he was not speaking on behalf of the entire board of commissioners. 

The statement read following a closed session discussion of commissioners stated, “The Fontana Regional Library Agreement entered into in 2013 requires that the three participating counties, Jackson, Macon, and Swain revisit the structure of the FRL every 10 years. In compliance with that agreement, the three managers met on Thursday, April 6, and discussed what was working and what needed improvement. It was unanimously agreed that the Regional Agreement is beneficial to all three counties and their citizens, but improvement is needed in the areas of parental empowerment and governance of the FRL system.”

According to the statement, Higdon said that while Macon County will remain in the Regional Library System, they are working with the other counties to look into: 

1. Provisions which will give parents greater ability to set restrictions over what materials their minor children may check out while still remaining in compliance with the law.

2. The structure and authority of the respective local county library boards and the Regional board.

“Because the structure of each of the libraries affected is different, this will take a little time to enable each county to evaluate the structure that it has in place,” read the prepared statement from the Macon County Board of Commissioners. “The hope is that we will be able to present these proposed revisions to the local agreement to the three Commissioner Boards by mid to late August.”


  1. Justin Justin April 12, 2023

    Guess they still haven’t bothered to google caselaw regarding age restrictions on books in public libraries. At least the lawsuits will be funny. Poor John Shearl and Danny have lost the plot. They seem to forget that there are people who will sue if they do anything they’ve suggested. Danny’s corrupt action to undermine public schools and libraries while planning to make money through a private school (and library, I’d assume) is the most hilariously blatant piece of right-wing corruption I’ve seen so far this week (which is always saying a lot) and I hope he’s prepared to defend himself in court when the suits regarding that scandal start coming in…
    By the way, who was the poor lunatic who wore a shirt with both an AR-15 (Uvalde, etc.) AND the word “Fuck” to a public meeting that began with traumatized children bravely asking for more mental health resources? He kept issuing ominous threats like “people better be very careful” because he is apparently a “convicted felon”…

  2. Justin Justin April 12, 2023

    Also, this cannot be said enough: Jim Gaston is the biggest reactionary dork I have ever seen, including fictional characters. I guess that is an accomplishment. And that Rebecca Tipton lady needs to lay off the caffeine and find a therapist she feels comfortable speaking with. There are a lot of ways to connect with mental health professionals via phone or internet and I REALLY hope (for her sake and her family’s) that she seeks help soon. I can’t feel anger watching her rants, even though she’s a disgusting bigot filled with John Birch Society talking points, because of the immense pity I feel for her snd her family.

  3. Elaine McCollum Elaine McCollum April 12, 2023

    So what was the point in having public comments if they had already made up their minds about the library and the Higdon property. If Commissioner Higdon had read his pronouncement at the beginning of the meeting most of us would have gone on home. But we were asked to wait until the end which turned out to be near midnight. I just wonder why.

    • Justin Justin April 13, 2023

      Unfortunately, I’ve known Paul Higdon better than anyone (for 36 years and counting) and can confirm that any public comment period he presides over is purely for show. He does not care what anybody has to say unless that person is a fervent christian nationalist. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly he just cannot deal with any level of pushback against his worldview. When he makes a policy decision, it is because he has already been heavily influenced by the only media he consumes (Glenn Beck radio and Newsmax) and so he only wants to hear opinions that make him feel like a big smart boy. I can assure you that if he was even a slight bit less self aware, he would make you state your name, address, and political party before addressing the commissioners. That’s why likes John Shearl and Danny Antoine so much. Compared to them, anyone is going to appear intelligent. Paul Higdon hates intellectuals and everything they care about, which is part of the reason he has always hated places like libraries (they are filled with people who might disagree with his worldview) and is now getting the political opportunity to actually do something about it. The other reason he has always despised public libraries has to do with the right-wing war on all public services. He would be much happier if libraries were all turned into privately owned bookstores so he could quit talking about libraries altogether.
      John Shearl (the cowardly insurrectionist) is the kind of guy who spends god knows how much money to take a vacation to DC on Jan. 6 so he could hear his heroes whine about being losers. But apparently, once the real fighting started, he ran away like a big baby. It makes him feel very important to be able to issue ultimatums to the library like he was Cesar telling everyone how things are going to be. He sounds like one of the hillbillies that assaulted Ned Beatty in Deliverance.
      And Danny Antoine is the most pathetic Qanon doofus I’ve ever seen in real life. I follow the right-wing fringe pretty closely because when I was 17 years old, I fell for the Ron Paul/Alex Jones nonsense. Since waking up, I’ve been fascinated by the ways people like Danny attempt to assert influence over society. It is hilarious until it comes for your local library.

      I’d like to thank everyone who spoke in support of the library, but it breaks my heart to know your thoughtful words fell on the deafest ears possible.

      • Jane Sommers Jane Sommers April 18, 2023

        Justin you are mistaken on so many levels I won’t even bother with pointing out your lies. You obviously are convinced in your own mind and congratulations to you.
        You are spending too much time on America-hating CNN and MSNBC instead of going to work. Better get yourself a moped for transportation if you do not have a driver’s license because you are believing too much nonsense and need to get a job to occupy your time.

        • Justin Justin April 20, 2023

          Hello, Jane. I honestly have no idea why you assume to know anything about me or how I spend my time, but I would love to have a public debate with you about this issue or any other. You pick the time and place and we’ll see if we can find a place to host a public discussion of our beliefs.

        • Justin Justin April 20, 2023

          Also, Paul Higdon is my father, so I definitely know him better than you do Jane. And I’ve been following the right-wing attack on libraries since the pandemic caused conservatives to collectively lose their minds. I would also love to discuss the right-wing attack on all public institutions such as their desire to replace public education with private, for profit charter schools that teach religious indoctrination instead of secular reasoning. I’ve never heard of you Jane and google didn’t come up with anything for a Jane Sommers in Macon County…so who are you, exactly? You seem to know so much about me (not)

        • Justin Justin April 20, 2023

          It’s hilarious that you will spend time attacking what you believe my personal life to be like but you can’t take a second to point out a single point I have made about this entire issue which is factually incorrect. I welcome any discussion about the policy, but if you want to make up a personal life for me and then attack it, I can play the strawman game just as easily. I promise I can be a whole lot meaner and nastier than some dumb old redneck named Jane 😉

        • Justin Justin April 21, 2023

          There is not a single person named Jane Sommers currently registered to vote in Macon County. So take your incorrect assumptions and crawl back into whatever swamp you slithered out of before publicly embarrassing yourself here. “Jane Sommers” is probably some dipshit too scared to post using their real identity. Anybody catch Rebecca Tipton’s letter to the editor in the epoch times spinoff macon county news? She must be the most deranged and unpleasant person I’ve ever seen, which is really something considering I’ve seen Danny and Mary Antoine, Jim and Leah Gaston, and John Shearl. I hope these “parental rights” dorks have therapists to speak with once the legal action starts. They’re going to need professional mental health care if they’re already this insane and they haven’t even had their worldview dragged in front of an ALCU attorney yet.

  4. Justin Justin April 13, 2023

    And for anyone still unclear about what is going on: a group of reactionary bigots completely lost their minds during the initial covid lockdowns. Many fell all the way down the Qanon rabbit hole and have destroyed their lives in pursuit of becoming truly, completely redpilled to the gills. Other’s might have managed to avoid reposting David Icke lizard people memes to facebook, but became convinced that the parts about a “global cabal of pedophiles” are true. They believe, as many have clearly referenced during public comments at commissioner meetings, that teachers, medical professionals, and librarians are complicit in a global conspiracy to destroy America through sinister acts such as encouraging acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community, following peer reviewed research conducted by actual professionals who have dedicated their careers to improving the lives of adolescents, and finally acknowledging parts of American history that seem to deeply disturb some conservatives. They have also doubled down on the most harmful aspects of their prudishness and are now getting school principals fired over Michelangelo’s David, for example. Or freaking out like a dork over the fact that teenagers read, talk, and think about sex. I wonder what kind of childhood people like Jim and Leah Gaston had…
    If you want to know the difference between art and porn, you should start by asking yourself if you are truly so stupid you can’t see the difference between pornhub and Henry Miller. If you’re that dumb, no amount of explanation will do you any good.
    Henry Miller’s book “Tropic of Cancer” was banned in the US until a court ruling that has a lot to do with this issue we find ourselves facing today. If you are mad because books in the teen section mention sex, then don’t let your children read books until you read them first. Put down the phone and pick up a book, Rebecca. Your moms for liberty facebook group or whatever will wait.
    By the time my peers and I hit puberty, we were very much interested in sexual topics and those of us raised by christian conservatives suffered greatly from a lack of information and all kinds of extremely harmful beliefs, which happen to foster the exact atmosphere in which children are actually abused (just ask the countless victims of priests, pastors, boy scout leaders, coaches, parents, family members, etc.)

    I want to be very clear about a few things that many of you don’t seem to understand: there is ZERO pornography in the public library. Zero. If you think otherwise, then you do not understand what the word “pornography” means.
    The reason some books in the teen section might mention sexual topics is because that’s why those certain books exist in the first damn place. People grow up like me and realize kids actually do better, as is statistically proven, with MORE information, not less. If you don’t want your kids to read honest accounts of authors’ lives or research that contradicts your religious beliefs, you should have been avoiding the library long before this. Libraries are places where professionals (librarians) use education and experience to practice discernment in everything they do. They are good people. They are not harming children, but if you are the kind of poor soul who believes librarians are “sexualizing” children, I can guarantee that you are harming your children and I feel so sorry for them. They will have a very difficult transition to adulthood, unless they want to turn put like Jim Gaston…

    • Jim G. Jim G. April 24, 2023

      Hey Justin. Looks like you have 10 out of 12 comments on this article. Southern Scoop might need to put you on the payroll….
      You have mentioned me numerous times yet we have never met. I don’t know your face so had hoped you would introduce yourself to me at the April 12 commissioners meeting. I’d be happy to chat in person with you sometime over the library or any other issue. Doing so from the keyboard at this point is probably useless. However, I do stand by an earlier remark I made elsewhere that you should be careful how you publicly speak about people who genuinely love you, esp your father. This seems to be common sense, though.
      Please introduce yourself next time there is a meeting and you see me. Maybe we can find some common ground? I’m sure you know what I look like if you have been in attendance when I have spoken. Thanks.

      • Justin Justin April 28, 2023

        Haha why would anyone want to talk to a dork like you? I’ve read the horrible bigotry you’ve been spewing in the epoch times spinoff macon county news for years now. You fucking suck, Jim. So does you wife.

        • Justin Justin April 28, 2023

          I have reached out to Nikki beach representatives for a comment on the relationship between Jack Penrod and your a little Christian nationalist crusade that he is funding by having you on payroll and giving you a place to live for free. According to Lucia they will be disabling the website and no longer hosting weddings at the venue. I’m still in contact with them to figure out exactly how much of your hatred they have paid for by allowing you to sit around on their property receiving a paycheck with nothing better to do than write letters to the editor spewing John birch society bullshit.

      • Justin Justin April 28, 2023

        It’s so fucking hilarious that people in Macon county think they know Paul Higdon better than I do. You’re such a fucking dipshit, Jim. My father is one of the most racist, homophobic, bigoted human beings I have ever met and I know that for a fact because I believed all of the stuff he told me for years and even had a confederate flag license plate on the front of my Honda element when I was 17 years old. Are used to listen to Alex Jones every day and even met Alex two weeks after moving to Austin. I have forgotten more about Paul Higdon and far right extremism then people like your dumb ass will ever know, Jimbo. Fuck off nazi scum.

      • Justin Justin April 29, 2023

        If people like you don’t want to live in a secular society, leave America, Jim Bob. There are lots of places where reactionaries have seized and manage to maintain theocracies. Go to Afghanistan or the UAE where bisexual people like me, other members of the LGBTQIA+ community, women, dissenters, etc. are systematically marginalized, often to the point of outright persecution. Try to sell them on your backward version of Christian nationalism because it’s more likely to fly with the Taliban than America in 2023.
        If you want to meet me so badly, you’ll have to come to me because I have better things to do than waste my time by going to sit in a roomful of rednecks just to have the same argument Paul and I have been having for a decade now. I’m glad people are speaking up for the library at these meetings, but if they knew Paul or Danny like I do, they’d just stay home and listen to the new Billy Strings album or something instead of wasting their time talking to two dumbass religious leaders extremists.
        I hope you had fun with the failed experiment of having a dorky weirdo run a Nikki Beach (cater to gays much?) affiliated wedding venue in the backwoods of a deeply impoverished rural community where confederate flags still fly alongside trump flags and other symbols of pathetic losers who can’t admit defeat. Maybe Li Hongzhi can put you on the epoch times/ macon county news payroll alongside Deena since you spend so much time carefully crafting idiotic screeds for the letters to the editor. It’s hilarious that all of that shit will always pop up when people google your name. Your kids will definitely be going no contact in a decade or so.
        Come on by if you want to say meet me, but I’m not going to be nice to a goddamn bigot. Tell your wife I’ll pray for her. Living with you must be a real hoot. 🙂

  5. Justin Justin April 13, 2023

    And I will be personally suing Danny, John, and the county using the exact same method employed by the plaintiffs in the Llano County situation. It’s going to get ugly, but I will win because this “improvement is needed in the areas of parental empowerment and governance of the FRL system.” is a violation of the first and the fourteenth amendment. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

  6. Justin Justin April 20, 2023

    Here’s a piece by the great Upton Sinclair from nearly 100 years ago. People like Jane are more than a century behind the rest of us. Don’t let them sit around, stewing in small minded gossip from redneck losers, and spreading vile lies about libraries, librarians, writers, or any other group. People like Jane deserve to be mocked and made pariahs until they stop hating modern America. She claims CNN hates America, but CNN isn’t sitting around in some backwater, peeved that gays can get legally married because of how great America is becoming. People like her have always hated America (they tried to secede, but that didn’t work out too well) and they have hated every bit of progress this nation has made since our founding.
    Read this instead of whatever right-wing fear porn you usually spend your time absorbing:

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