Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Town censorship

Back before I skedaddled out of town for a short break, there was an article in the Enquirer-Journal describing how the town has begun censoring the town website. A snippet:
Waxhaw commissioners approved a derogatory comments policy for the town’s website at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The move was prompted by a letter with derogatory comments toward members of a committee on the town’s website. The letter cited some members by name and was later taken down.

According to the approved policy, the town manager and supporting staff will review the documents placed on the town’s website and remove any they believe are derogatory. A note will be placed on the website letting people know that the document has been removed, and that it is available by request, Town Manager Mike McLaurin said.

The original letter was included in a recent agenda packet. The letter, from Waxhaw resident Brenda Stewart, discussed a recent approval of a work of art by Tom Risser to be placed in the town. The work commemorates the 2010 train derailment in Waxhaw.
From what I can gather, the town isn't really censoring the town website, but actually censoring what appears to be included in agenda packets that are prepared for various committees. These agenda packets are available for download at the town's website.

In an email, town manager Mike McLaurin stated that future incidents of redacted/censored documents would be noted on the town's website and the unredacted copies are available by contacting the town clerk, Bonnie McManus.

As for the document that started it all, it's a letter from Brenda Stewart regarding the recently unveiled derailment sculpture by Tom Risser. Here's the text of the letter for those interested:
==Page 1==


I am requesting that the town of Waxhaw Board of Commissioners rescind the 4/26/11 decision to place Mr. Risser's 12' wide x 15' tall piece of metal/plastic at the North West Main Street and South Jackson Street location. Due to the reasons stated below another site should be chosen:

  1. The permanent metal piece if erected at the Main and Jackson location, without question would be a nuisance to me and my tenants as it would be offensive and annoying. We have the right to quiet enjoyment of our home.
  2. The enormous size of the metal piece alone would be irritating to have it perpetually looming over our private residence. The location is less than 50 feet from my private property. This would be emotionally damaging as well to my family and tenant and would also be economically damaging as the sight of this metal piece would reduce the economic value of my property.
  3. The town's stated expectation of numerous visitors arriving in vehicles and pedestrian foot traffic would be disruptive to me and my family and my tenant's quiet enjoyment of our home. The congregating of individuals at any time of the day or night would be disruptive to the privacy and quiet enjoyment of our home.
  4. I expect late night visits from those who engage in vandalizing such structures and this would endanger our safety and security. The town already has a history of such activities. The metal piece, removed from the downtown business district, would leave it open to those types of activities because of the lack of oversight by police.
  5. There are many children in the surrounding neighborhoods who walk to and from the stores on a regular basis. These children are rarely supervised by adults or parents and they certainly would be drawn to the metal piece. They would naturally be inclined to climb and play on the metal piece resulting in possible injury from a fall or may be struck by a vehicle when crossing the street. The chance of this happening if the metal piece were located in the downtown business district would be minimized due to much higher visibility by the police and adults.
  6. This is a peaceful residential neighborhood consisting of private homes and churches. There is absolutely no logical reason for placing the metal piece in this location bringing constant vehicle and foot traffic into a community of private homes. That traffic should be generated in the downtown business district to help increase business for the local merchants. The west end of Main Street does not need to be built up or included as stated by the Art Jury Chair Terry Michaelson and the Beautification Committee Chair Jason Loseke. This is the most ridiculous statement I've heard thus far. No one in the west end neighborhood has requested a metal piece or any art for that matter to be placed across from our homes.
  7. There isn't any parking at the site. The only parking is over a block away and individuals are not going to park and walk to the site, they will simply pull off the road onto the grass. This will also be disruptive to the quiet enjoyment of our home, cause traffic hazards, and destroy the grass that was recently planted.
  8. The town should maintain the greenway, planting trees, flowers and rose bushes and would, in my opinion, be much more appropriate and would enhance this west side neighborhood of private homes and churches.

  9. ==Page 2==


  10. Because my home is adjacent to the site, me and my family and tenant would be the most affected by the presence of the metal piece.
  11. Once again, the town's elected officials and staff should have taken a simple survey of those most affected and then made decisions based on the feedback received.
  12. The events leading up to the decision to place the metal piece at the location across from my home are disturbing to say the least. The area located at South Jackson and West North Main was surveyed and staked off with string 2 weeks prior to the subject being placed on the agenda for a vote. At the BOC meeting on 4/24/11 I asked the Mayor, Daune Gardner why the area had been staked off prior to the vote and she stated she did not know what I was talking about. How is it that the mayor would not know about this since she placed the item on the BOC agenda to be voted on mere minutes later? Todd, a town staff person spoke up informing me that the site was staked off just to see how it would look. I stated that I drove around to the other 4 sites and they were not staked off. He said one site had been but kids pulled the stakes up. If this is true why was only one other site staked off and not all 4 "just to see how it would look?" The Town Manager, Mike McLaurin was quoted in the newspaper stating "The sculpture, if approved, WILL BE placed on West North Main Street in the downtown area. The newspaper article was dated 4/24/11 and the vote for this agenda item did not take place until 4/26/11.The fix was in.....the vote was a farce! Why do we even have elected town government? If the town manager's agenda is a foregone conclusion and the BOC majority is Mike's personal rubber stamp then why are you all sitting here tonight?
  13. Terry Michelson, the Art Jury Chair and Jason Loseke the Beautification Committee Chair wrote a formal recommendation to the BOC stating that the artist Tom Risser wanted the artwork as close to the derailment site as possible and wanted it readily visible when driving through town. However, when Mr. Risser gave his presentation he denied that he made that statement and said he was okay with any location and even stated he liked the site where the yellow butterfly is and that he was sure the town staff could move the yellow butterfly. The statement in the formal recommendation by Terry and Jason is a lie.
The decision to place the statue in the midst of a neighborhood of private homes and churches is unjust, disrespectful and thoughtless. It is impossible for me to comprehend that those of you who voted in favor of the site truly believed this would be the best of all possible locations for the metal piece. It is my firm belief that you voted to place the metal piece across from my home in retaliation for my yearlong opposition to your pet project, the proposed local historic district. And, for the articles written by me and published in the media telling the truth about how the people of this town have been so poorly served by those in whom we have placed our trust.

Lies and deceit have become your legacy as public servants of Waxhaw. HOW SAD!!!
Honestly, the letter seems rather tame to bother with censoring it. If my understanding is correct, it only would've been included in one of the agenda packets with a bunch of other documents and I can't honestly envision too many people downloading those things in the first place.

I personally would've preferred a rebuttal if one was necessary.

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