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Thread: Facts and Falsehoods: WVN #245

  1. #1
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    Default Facts and Falsehoods: WVN #245

    The latest edition of Wayland Voters Network is an interesting compilation of facts and falsehoods, which are combined to give an impression of impropriety where there was none. The intention is clearly to discredit the good name of WaylandeNews, and as the Executive Director of the site, and the one who was personally attacked, I feel a need to issue this response. Shown below are some excerpts from WVN issue #245 in red, and my commentary in black. The full WVN issue is available here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waylan...rk/message/271

    The selectmen, the School Committee, SOSWayland and WaylandeNews have collaborated in recent years on an agenda including a high tolerance for overrides, a new or significantly renovated high school, a large shopping center and a more vertical, top-down form of governance.

    This is flatly wrong. WaylandeNews has not worked jointly with either the School Committee or SOSWayland on any agenda. The one instance in which we did collaborate with SOSWayland and the Selectmen was on a campaign to fight for more local aid for Wayland. As far as the other items go, we rarely take positions (we did not, for example, take any position on the DPW article), and when we do, we do so on a public forum to which all other residents are welcome to post, including Michael Short. (Note: in contrast, no one else can respond to WVN articles, even to issue corrections or clarifications).

    After 2006 Town meeting approved zoning to permit the Town Center on Route 20, the developer, Twenty Wayland, sent a May 11 email invitation to a celebratory barbecue. Those invited included Selectmen Bill Whitney, Michael Tichnor and Joe Nolan, the entire Finance Committee, several leaders of SOS and Kim Reichelt of WaylandeNews.


    This calls to mind an earlier WVN issue in which an unsavory implication was made of my talking to an SOS-chair. Nobody mentioned that I also spoke at length with Alan Reiss during Town Meeting, or that I sat with a group of unhappy Loker parents who voted as a group against the DPW for most of Town Meeting. Apparently a WVN "reporter" chose to imply improper behavior based on his view from across the room - more evidence of the "accuracy" of WVN's newsletters. I have friends throughout the town of Wayland, some of whom have views on a variety issues that vary from my own. I have been thanked by people before, such as Gary Burton and here, Twenty Wayland. When I receive such thanks, I tell people that no thanks are due. My job at WaylandeNews is to help keep people informed.

    Similarly, it may have been lawful for Middle School Principal Charlie Schlegel to send parents an unsolicited email before the election about the importance of voting. He attached a list of budget cuts should the override fail and sent the email on the school system's distribution list. (A citizen's complaint about the email was sent to the state campaign finance office.) Schlegel didn't recommend what and whom to vote for, but the reminder certainly wasn't designed to stir anti-establishment thinking.This fits into a picture of influential groups and favored candidates, office-holders and even employees working toward a common goal.


    Is the suggestion here that it is inappropriate for a school to let the school community know the implications of a vote that will affect them? I've seen complaints that the Loker PTO and principal did not do enough to alert that community to the effects of the school reconfiguration. But here, the principal provides facts regarding the override and WVN says it "may have been lawful" implying that it may not have been, and even if lawful, that it was questionable. The principalís emails are not unsolicited in that parents SIGN UP for the school listserve. Just because someone complains doesn't mean there is a reasonable complaint. Why does WVN even make such a snide insinuation if they know there's no legal basis to it? WVN suggests that the reminder "wasn't designed to stir anti-establishment thinking". But is stirring ďanti-establishment thinkingĒ really what WVN thinks the school principal should be doing? Why does WVN object to a school community knowing the facts? Shouldn't parents know the impact of a failed override on their school? Isn't WVNís stated mission, by the way, to promote voter education and participation? Hmmm....

    INFLUENCE OF WAYLANDENEWS

    The influence of WaylandeNews is more subtle. The website is a wide-ranging source of information and discussion, but it consistently takes positions aligned with the establishment and is controlled by Kim Reichelt, formerly the head of the registered political committee that campaigned unsuccessfully for replacing the high school in 2005. Former School Committee member Steve Perlman recently became a member of the WaylandeNews editorial board. Reichelt, who often sits with SOS activists at public meetings, supports the current selectmen and School Committee and is a voluble critic of dissenting positions, candidates and even news sources that fail to reflect establishment views. She attacked Selectman Alan Reiss during his unsuccessful campaign for reelection. Reichelt has called WVN "propaganda" and described one newsletter as "typically preposterous."


    The assertion that I "control" WaylandeNews is just plain false. I am responsible for site development and maintenance, period. The Editorial Board has ultimate responsibility for both website and newsletter content. Moreover, WaylandeNews does not take any political positions except on its discussion board, where it invites public comment, and those editorials are written by the Editorial Board, and not by me. Any editorializing is clearly labeled as such, and we do not try to camouflage opinions in the guise of objective reporting. There have often been posts by others who support positions or candidates that members of the Editorial Board or I do not personally support. We welcome that sort of dialogue - unlike WVN, which seeks to express a view without any public feedback. A review of our recent newsletters leading up to the election will reveal that none advocated for or against any position on the override or any candidate. Further, our public endorsements pages contained more resident endorsements for write-in candidate Jeff Baron than any other candidate. How can that be blindly "pro-establishment"?

    I do sometimes sit with SOS leaders at public meetings (our kids went to pre-school together), sometimes I sit with other people, like my father or my husband, or sometimes strangers. I am a critic of one "news" source that "fail(s) to reflect establishment views" and that is because it is (as correctly quoted above) "propaganda".

    WVN #245 was also "typically preposterous". As for attacking Alan Reiss, I can't recall doing that, and neither can Alan. I have asked him. I have great respect for Alan, think his opposing view was useful on the Board of Selectmen, and have told him so on countless occasions. Apparently, WVNís attack reference is to my politely noting factual inaccuracies when Alan presented an analysis at Candidates' Night that was based on inaccurate data (actually Chris Riley noted the inaccuracy, I merely followed up and found the correct data). Alan graciously redid his analysis and posted it at WaylandeNews. If WVN thinks this is an "attack", it makes you wonder what sort of debate they deem appropriate.

    I am not clear on why Steve Perlman's membership on the School Committee over a decade ago is relevant. But if they are going to mention that, perhaps they should also mention my job as Voter Services Chair for the League of Women Voters. That position's role is to encourage voter participation.

    The School Committee severed member Jeff Dieffenbach's blog from the site after accusations of inappropriate partisanship, but treats WaylandeNews a (sic) an unimpeachable resource.


    The Wayland School Committee links to WaylandeNews as do many others. There are links to WaylandeNews from a myriad of other sites (including among others: www.ajreiss.com, www.waylandgop.org, www.waylanddems.org, www.americantowns.com, www.wikipedia.org, www.libertypizzawayland.com, www.davidvreganod.com)

    On June 12, 2006 the Finance Committee voted unanimously to "support WaylandeNews and (Town Administrator) Fred Turkington's efforts to write the Legislature endorsing an increase in state aid to Massachusetts towns." This seems to consider WaylandeNews an adjunct or partner in town government.

    I am pleased to be viewed as a partner in the sense that we are here to help the town however we can. We ran a survey for the Selectmen helping them get feedback regarding the Sunday Town Meeting. We helped advocate for more local aid (as noted just above). We look forward to finding other ways to serve the town in such a capacity.

    The character of Town Meeting is changing. Attendance is high when SOS asks voters to show up. But there seems to be an increasing tendency to cut debate short by calling the question, even when several voters are waiting to make their arguments. Kim Reichelt of WaylandeNews frequently moves to end debates.

    Of the last 25 years, the 2008 Town Meeting had the 8th highest time spent per article (at 20 minutes per). I believe I moved to terminate debate twice in this last Town Meeting, both motions overwhelmingly passed. I do not seek to terminate prematurely, the Moderator has the authority to opt to continue debate anyway, and the people of the town have the option (requiring only one-third of the vote) to vote down the motion. While I like participating in the process, there are times when the debate gets unnecessarily long, and it is clear that nothing new is being said. In the end, we do need to finish at some point.

    It is truly ironic that WVN is working so hard to paint WaylandeNews as a biased news source, when (1) the site is so much more than just news, (2) WaylandeNews does not create the news that is posted and therefore cannot craft any story in a biased manner, unlike WVN which makes it its practice to misinform and in this case smear, 3) we make significant effort to be as fair as possible in providing equal public access to all political and nonpolitical groups in town, and (4) we allow and encourage feedback and open discussion on a publicly available forum.

  2. #2
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    Default Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics

    I thought perhaps these extracts from the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics might make an interesting read:

    "Deliberate distortion is never permissible."

    "Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing."

    "Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context."

    "Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant."

    "Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context."

    Journalists should:

    "Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct."

    "Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media."

    "Admit mistakes and correct them promptly."

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    Guess I need to eat my socks regarding one issue. I understand from WVN's latest issue that the OCPF issued an opinion that Charlie Schlegel did violate campaign finance rules. WVN quotes the finding:

    "Accordingly, this office has concluded that governmental entities may not expend public resources or contribute anything of value to influence or affect the outcome of a ballot question," OCPF Director Michael J. Sullivan wrote to Schlegel.

    "Public resources may not, therefore, be used to distribute information regarding a ballot question, even if it is intended to be objective and factual, unless expressly authorized by state law.

    "It is my understanding that the Wayland Middle School, with your authorization, used its server and e-mail list to send an e-mail advocating for passage of the override. Public resources, namely use of the school server, the e-mail list and the time of the school staff, were used to distribute the document. This activity did not comply with the campaign finance law and the Anderson opinion.

    It is not clear from the way this is written whether the OCPF actually investigated and read all the relevant material, or whether they took the complaint as fact ("it is my understanding that..."). I have queried the OCPF for more information, and will post back if I learn anything more.

    If the OCPF does not allow such communication, I wonder what would be allowed? How are residents to learn what the impacts of a failed override are? Was their objection to the inclusion of the override impacts, or to the reminder to vote, both of which seem pretty innocuous?

  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Was their objection to the inclusion of the override impacts, or to the reminder to vote, both of which seem pretty innocuous?
    Perhaps both.
    When you put those two things together and have them put out by the same source, it sounds too much like, "Don't forget to vote, and oh, btw, I hope you realize what the impact will be if you don't vote a certain way...."

    It sounds too much like a threat.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Default Loker rental

    Does anyone have any inormation about The Tech Collaborative, apotential renter of the Loker School building?

    What do they do, and what will they be paying in rent?

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    It just seems so wrong that stakeholders involved (eg teachers, administrators etc.) should not be able to advocate for what they feel is best. They are the voice that truly understands the impact of cuts and how they do/do not affect their capabilities. I understand the limits that must be set regarding telling parents which way to vote, but to inform of the vote and list the potential cuts, seems fairly basic and even necessary.

    Along the same lines are those who live in town and also work for the schools. Many are hesitant to be involved in any way "because they work for the town". I'm never sure whether they are contractually obligated to be muzzled, or whether it is just pc. Here again, it seems that they would be the very people who could tell us, as an "insider", what the "real" impacts would look like. Such a fine line for those wearing many hats around town!

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    There are good reasons for laws like that.
    Think about it.
    Would you want the Chief of Police calling you up telling you that you'll be less safe if you don't vote for some new crime fighting device?
    Would you want the Fire Chief hounding you to vote for new fire trucks?

    It's just not appropriate.
    It's a conflict of interests.

    I have no doubt that they firmly believe it's best for the town, and I might even agree with them. But it doesn't make it alright for them to do it.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Default But look at what he actually sent out

    I am attaching a PDF of the email that went out. Before drawing any conclusions, I urge people to read it. I am very surprised that the OCPF didn't consider this lawful. It makes it unclear to me how the schools are supposed to communicate the impacts, and certainly it is to everyone's benefit if people understand what they are voting for.
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    Default Response from OCPF

    Hi Kim,

    I saw your post from the MS principal which was emailed to a proprietary list of email addresses of voters who also happened to be parents of children at the WMS just one day before the Override Ballot question.

    So I contacted the OCPF yesterday and talked to their day lawyer on duty about it and he explained to me that the OCPF clearly looked down at a 'rogue personal email' sent by a public employee - a high school principal - using town resources to remind parents of concequences of not having the override passed. (I'm attaching the fax that they sent to me). One other curiosity is that Dr. Scheigle is leaving the school system for a job (I believe in Indiana) and would therefore be immune to any punitive actions by the school committee by sending this letter (supposidly on his own)... in other words one might come to the conclusion that he was the perfect person (chosen) to send it. But maybe thats just my 'conspiracy theory' nature kicking it. Maybe I watch too many movies?

    So here is little math... the override passed by 461 votes I believe. 1/2 of this figure is 230 votes so if 230 votes were swayed then you wouldn't have the override. The MS listserver must be on the order of 700 ish emails so the ratio of the two is 700 / 230 or over a factor of 3. In other words more than 3 times as many emails were sent unsolicited to school children parents than it took to gain a margin of victory on the override.... think this didn't have any affect? Who knows... no one will ever know. But this is why the OCPF wrote this 'slap on the wrist' type letter.

    Which brings me to another point... its just that, a 'slap on the wrist'. Hand gets caught in cookie jar, hand gets slapped and hand still eats the cookies. Perfect !

    The day lawyer said that the extent of the 'teeth' of the OCPF is a letter like that so believe it or not Dr. Schleigle got the maximum punishment. The lawyer went on to tell me that their hands are tied. No fines... no recall of an election. If one wants to give the OCPF more teeth then its takes an act of the legislation so he wished me luck. I have better things to do than pursue that.

    Finally you asked a question about how is the schools supposed to let people know about the impacts if they don't communicate with them (like this I guess you are saying). The answer: They aren't supposed to communicate with them like this and thats what the OCPF letter says very clearly. They can communicate with public hearings and via the school committee in open session and via the town administrator but they can't do it by putting pieces of paper in the backpacks of kids on their way home and they can't do it by using town resources to get right to the school parent voters the day before the election.

    Remember, this is not (just) my opinion, its the opinion of the OCPF.

    Boy did it really get hot outside in a hurry didn't it?

    Regards,

    Alan J. Reiss
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    Default The vote wouldn't have changed

    Alan,

    I got a chuckle out of your conspiracy theory. I think you are watching too many movies. :-)

    As I understand it, the only objection the OCPF had to Charlie's letter was the inclusion of the link to the website. (See attached PDF which explains Charlie's discussion with the OCPF). There certainly was no indication they considered him "rogue".

    Charlie's discussion with the OCPF lawyer indicated that it would have been fine for him to send out the exact same email without the link, but instead offering for people to contact him (to get the same information). That's a pretty fine line to walk, and it's easy to see how well-meaning people could step over the line completely inadvertently.

    Regardless of whether this piece violated the OCPF policy (and yes, the OCPF found it did, but I think after people read his email, many will feel that the government is perhaps being a bit too intrusive), it certainly did not change the outcome of the vote. Here's why this is clear:

    There are are 700 middle school students, figure about 550 middle school families, and maybe 500 on the list serve? I don't know, just guessing on this - certainly not everyone is on it. Some of these would be non-residents (METCO families, non-citizens), but let's estimate high here, and go with the 500.

    Of those, voter turnout was about 50% (that's the overall number, and also the % for people 40-50, who would be typical of middle school parents).

    So... 250 voting families on the list-serve. At 2 parents/household (again certainly a high estimate), that's 500 people.

    Of those, it would be extravagant to think that 25% would have clicked on the link. So now we've got 125 people affected by the link (and that's counting a wife's click as though it affects the husband's vote...)

    Of those, some small number would have changed their vote (and it could have moved in either direction - but let's give you a generous estimate of 20% changing their vote from negative to positive).

    That's 25 changed votes. I could be off by a factor of two (though I think I've been truly generous), but I am not off by a factor of 10.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 06-12-2008 at 08:09 AM. Reason: changed "it" to "his email" for clarity

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    Default Looking for the Posted Letter You talked about?

    Hi Kim,

    I didn't see the posted letter you were talking about that was from the OCPF which said that their only problem was the fact that he used a town web address... else it would have been fine. (I saw Charlie's original email above however).

    When I read the OCPF letter I posted (from their fax to me) dated 6/2/08 it states:

    "It is my understanding the the Wayland Middle School, with your [talking to Charlie] authorization, used its server and e-mail list to send an e-mail advocating for passage of the override. Public resources, namely use of the school server, the e-mail list and the time of the school staff, were used to distribute the document. This activity did not comply with the campaign finance law and the Anderson opinion."

    From this 'slap on the wrist' letter, the OCPF doesn't even mention the aspect that the Charlie e-mail could have been done to their satisfaction if a web address was left out. What that paragraph says is very clear... its the mixture of public resources to advocate for a ballot question (passage of an override) which was their primary issue. Not the usage or reference to a web address.

    On the math models... were we both agree is that a mailing such as this could potentially affect some segment of the population, I estimated by ratio and you gave a different model. We both know that as a vote becomes closer and closer then actions like the one that Charlie took could potentially tip the scales and this is bad. Since the letter was sent prior to the ballot question and nobody knew how close it was then any action like that could have become actual campaign interference. You know this, I know this and the OCPF knows this. Please re-read the 6/2/08 OCPF letter I posted; its very clear in what it is objecting to.

    Could you please re-post that document you were referring to so I can see it... or you can email it to me at AlanJReiss@Verizon.net.

    And its still real hot outside too.

    Thanks

    Alan

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Would you want the Chief of Police calling you up telling you that you'll be less safe if you don't vote for some new crime fighting device?
    Would you want the Fire Chief hounding you to vote for new fire trucks?
    I think being "hounded" and "called up" are very different from an email reminder to vote and consider all outcomes.

    And yes, given the choice, I'd prefer to get the facts regarding what the cuts will look like from the administrators who are making those very decisions. I believe that in order to make an informed choice when voting, that this type of information is critical. I'd find info. given by Police, Fire, Library, School Admin, COA, and others to be far more pertinent to translating what a "cut" actually looks like. Seeing an fte cut by .3 on a budget sheet can appear to be harmless, until the folks who will have to accomodate that cut show us how that will be accomplished.

    I'm not in support of a "vote yes/no" message. I am speaking only of a reminder to vote and clear outline of ramifications should the budget not be level serviced. That seems to be of a factual nature and should be widely publicized and clarified by those who will implement them.

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    Default Tracy your reply to John Flaherty

    Hi Tracy,

    I read that you are NOT in favor of a YES/NO type ballot question? Did I read that right? So you are saying that you could be in favor of a menu type ballot question or a separation of public safety vs. non-public safety issues in a ballot question.... if so I think we have some things in common. Please help me understand this.

    This rucas over the MS Principal emailing 500+ families as a reminder on the consequences of a failed override is not a debate over whether people should be informed or get all sides of an issue.... the issue is that public resources were used by a public employee using other public employees to do an electronic blast-o-gram to 500+ families of middle school parents who vote which could sway the outcome of a ballot question. This is a BIG NO NO.. and the OCPF agreed.

    If the MS Principal had printed off 500 letters and put them into 500 envelopes and mailed them with 500 stamps all paid for by him personally and using his time and his resources then god-bless him... he would have been in his rights to do that. The line got crossed when town resources were used.

    This cannot be trivialized in any way and should never happen again.

    My 3 cents.

    Alan

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Hi Tracy,

    I read that you are NOT in favor of a YES/NO type ballot question? Did I read that right? So you are saying that you could be in favor of a menu type ballot question or a separation of public safety vs. non-public safety issues in a ballot question.... if so I think we have some things in common. Please help me understand this.
    Hi Alan,
    We'll have to try and find something else in common!!! My point was regarding the type of communication prior to a vote. I am supportive of a reminder to vote including potential ramifications of a failed override, but I was not saying that a Town Official should be allowed to include any instruction as to HOW to vote.
    I am not in favor of menu style questions, but can certainly understand why some people are.
    Sorry for the confusion! I do appreciate your feedback regarding the MS situation.

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    Default

    Shoot, Alan, sorry - I forgot to include the attachment. I don't have access to it at the moment, but I will post it when I am next at the right computer.

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