Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Watchdog" awakens!

From: amherstac@aol.com
To: Mdechiara@gmail.com; farshidhajir@gmail.com
Sent: Wed, May 26, 2010 10:18 pm
Subject: Public Documents Request



In the PDF of the letter signed by five School Committee Chairs sent to the DA requesting a ruling on public officials who have blogs posted on the Shutesbury internet listserve, under the "permissions attached" pages, Farshid Hajir reads: This letter to Cynthia Pepyne looks great; I would like to sign on. My comments:

But then after the colon there are no comments.

Could I please be provided with a copy of those comments which seemed to have disappeared.

Thanks,

Larry Kelley
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From: amherstac@aol.com
To: newman@lnn-law.com; lesser@inn-law.com
Sent: Wed, May 26, 2010 3:02 pm
Subject: The First Amendment and Open Meeting Law in the modern age


I certainly hope the local ACLU will weigh in on this 'Only in Amherst' tempest in a teapot I first railed about on my blog 6 days ago but now prominently displayed on the Front Page of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

As a long-time insider of all things politics in the People's Republic I can assure you this effort to involve the DA ruling about blogs is an orchestrated (local) government attempt to quash Catherine Sanderson's First Amendment rights simply because she (very publicly) "calls 'em as she sees 'em".

And is not that what the First Amendment is all about?

Larry Kelley (concerned that I will be next)

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So six days after it first hit the blogosphere (my piece of it anyway), the Daily Hampshire Gazette covers the story of five School Committee Chairs sending a letter of request to the District Attorney for legal clarification on blogs and the Open Meeting Law. Front Page. Above the fold no less.

The Gazette, finally, reports

And you would think, since that letter was instantly forwarded to the Gazette last week (in hopes of getting the headline they indeed got) with all this time to hash out the story, they could have done a better job.

Don't mind me, I'm just pissed off that I was referred to as "Larry Kelley, a Amherst watchdog blogger who posts frequently about "The Vagina Monlogues" and "West Side Story," is also a member of the town's Redevelopment Authority."

Besides misspelling "Monologues", the proper name for my committee is Amherst Redevelopment Authority, a quasi-state, independent body with four members elected by town voters and one appointed by the Governor. The only entity in town besides Town Meeting/Selectboard with the power of eminent domain.

And I have not posted about 'VM' or 'WSS' in over a year.

Details, details.

Obviously the problem, as the Old Guard sees it, is Catherine Sanderson and her School Committee blog. Because she is not afraid to speak her mind openly, in public, at all hours of the day and night. That should be encouraged, not threatened.

As the ACLU says about the First Amendment: The way to deal with bad speech is with more good speech--not censorship.

Mr Hood Commented on this blog a few days ago that his blog (still in its rookie year) garnered 129 unique visitors last week. This blog was almost 500. And Ms. Sanderson's open public sitemeter tells me she was about 33% over this blog last week, so I would guess her unique visitors were somewhere in the neighborhood of 700. Thus I would hardly lump Mr. Hood in the same category as Sanderson's "that see large volumes of web traffic."

Of course law is always going to lag behind technology. The Mass State Legislature recently tweaked a law to include text messages because some pedophile sending explicit messages to a minor got off because the original law talked dealt with graphic material being disseminated but did not clearly spell out "text messaging". Now it does. And of course we now have a law saying you can't text message while driving (who would have thought you need to make that a law.)

But what never changes is the intent/spirit of the law. And clearly the Open Meeting Law, enacted before the Internet revolution, simply wants to keep public matters kept public. And you don't get any more public than a blog.
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It will be interesting to see if the Gazette or Bulletin issues an editorial on this issue.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whoops. They left out your third fave: Cherry Hill!

Signed, Anon Nitwit Jerkazoid

LarryK4 said...

Or showing respect for the American flag and the slaughter of 3,000 innocent non-combatants on 9/11.

Tom said...

I also thought that was a bizarre way for the paper to describe you, as if you just wrote over and over again about those same two topics. I guess they were afraid to say anything that would make you sound relevant and worth reading. They also probably discovered the story (like me) through you, so they really owed you better than a passing mention.

LarryK4 said...

Thanks Tom.

Yeah, one of these days I will put out all of the inside stuff about my relationship with the venerable Gazette or I should say: their relationship with me (which of course has changed since the founding of my blog three years ago).

Anonymous said...

Reek on, Larry!

Curtis Unster Nottingham Trip said...

I've finally figured out what Larry's book should be called, The Penis Diatribe.

You heard it here first, Larry, so don't go trying to take credit for it when you steal it.

Anonymous said...

Larry:

I have a question. Can anyone make a public document request or is that something only journalists can do.

LarryK4 said...

Sure, anyone from the general public can make a request. You just have to sort of figure out who the "recordkeeper" would be.

For instance, school issues the request (in writing of course) would go to the Superintendent, town issues go to the Town Manager or if a DPW request, police or fire then perhaps the department head.

You also have know if such a document exists. You can't make them do any work to create a document specifically for your request. They have ten days to respond, and if they blow you off you can appeal to the state keeper of records.

The Secretary of State lays it out pretty clearly on his website.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information, Larry.

LarryK4 said...

No problem.

If you turn up anything interesting send it my way.

Anonymous said...

The various school committee members trying to silence Catherine need to be damn careful because many of them are UMass Faculty.

OK, then a meeting of the MSP (faculty union) that three of them are present at is also a public meeting. Think that the media wouldn't like to attend closed meetings of the MSP?

Be careful what you ask for...