Here is some background….
In a series of emails from Select Board member Rob Aseltine in early June (before the town elections) the Longmeadow.org volunteer webmaster (that’s me) was charged with having a serious conflict of interest by being the town webmaster and posting of my personal opinions on the Longmeadow Buzz blog. Mr. Aseltine’s contention was that my personal opinions affected what I was willing to post with regard to the high school building project on the School Building Committee (SBC) website which I developed and maintained as a volunteer.
The LongmeadowBuzz blog was created 2½ years ago as an open forum for discussion of local topics of interest to Longmeadow residents. LongmeadowBuzz is a privately owned and moderated blog to which there was a “link” from the Longmeadow.org website. It is not supported financially or in any other manner by the town of Longmeadow. All town residents and town employees can participate. It is clearly and prominently stated on the blog that all opinions are strictly those of the listed author and do not represent official town policy.
Contrary to Mr. Aseltine’s assertions, there were no documented incidents which show that I censored, filtered or refused to post any high school building project related documents on the SBC or Longmeadow.org websites. All information "above and beyond" what was expected including web videos of public forums and LHS tours were posted in a timely manner- some of which were at my expense. The personal opinions that I expressed on the Longmeadow Buzz blog did not influence this effort.
Anyone who has followed this heated discussion and is familiar with the situation knows that the issue was not about the Longmeadow.org or the SBC websites or how they were maintained. The issue was about access for town residents to information and commentary not found on the town sponsored website (Longmeadow.org). As long as my LongmeadowBuzz posts were consistent with the “Vote YES” message advocated by the SBC, there was no conflict of interest. As soon as my commentary indicated a lack of support for the new high school project with criticism of certain town leaders, LongmeadowBuzz became a “conflict of interest” and the Longmeadow.org webmaster was targeted for removal.
Where does the Town of Longmeadow go from here? You are probably curious if you have recently visited Longmeadow.org.
It is clear that the posting of the November 2009 MSBA/ SBC letters + my critical commentary about the lack of truthfulness and transparency by certain town officials and employees on the Longmeadow Buzz (click to read --> Now is the time!) caused this town website controversy.When asked to remove all links to LongmeadowBuzz from Longmeadow.org on July 14, they were quickly removed without objection. This was first time that any directive about the links (or any other links) had been given by the Select Board or Town Manager.
- Select Board Chair Aseltine has already made good on his threat to remove me as volunteer town webmaster (effective July 26). The website is now “under renovation” and the Select Board and the Town Manager are now assessing plans to fill the gap that has been created.
With the state legislature now mandating increasing amounts of town government information to be posted on town websites, the town will likely be required to spend a significant amount of time and resources supporting the town website.
- Communication of information to town residents in Longmeadow is now being compromised. Press releases for Town Government and School Department are no longer being sent to LongmeadowBiz for posting on the Town Calendar and Longmeadow Community Bulletin Board even though a formal request was made to add LongmeadowBiz as one of the local media outlets. Both of these web resources have become important means of communication within our town over the past few years.
- An alternative website has been created at www.LongmeadowMA.org as the new home for community related content. My volunteer efforts for the benefit of town residents will continue. As in the past I am offering free webpage/ website support (including website hosting) for selected Longmeadow community groups and organizations (e.g., Gardeners on the Green, Longmeadow Historical Society, etc.). If a local Longmeadow group or organization is interested, please send an email request with contact details to webmaster@LongmeadowMA.org .
- Carl Sturgis, Storrs Library Director, had earlier accepted my offer of unlimited free website support for the library and its staff but he has now said “thanks, but no thanks”. Mr. Sturgis has now indicated that he will rely upon library staff to support their website. Given the events of the past few weeks, it’s not too difficult to guess what happened for the change of mind.
The reality here is that Rob Aseltine has disconnected town government and all of its departments (including Storrs Library) from the free Internet resources that have been enjoyed for many years. Mr. Aseltine has decided that it is far more important to control the information and message from Town Hall than to have open and transparent government.
I believe that this is not the direction that Longmeadow needs to be heading!
If you concerned about this new direction, please send your comments to the Select Board and the Town Manager. Their official email address are shown below:
Robert Aseltine- email@example.com
Robert Barkett- firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Swanson- email@example.com
Paul Santaniello- firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Gold- email@example.com
Thank you for reading this letter. Longmeadow is a great town!
Let’s keep it that way.
Town residents can rest assured that LongmeadowBiz.com, LongmeadowBuzz and LongmeadowMA.org will not disappear.