Evanston aldermen spent an hour Monday night debating a web link.
Web page

A portion of the city web page with the link to annrainey.com.

The link, four levels deep on the city’s web site, lets visitors navigate to a web site owned by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward.

Members of Evanston’s chapter of the NAACP want the link from the city web site removed because they object to comments made on a message board that is two links away from the alderman’s web site.

NAACP chapter president George Mitchell told the City Council’s Rules committee he believes the city should remove links from its site “to private web sites that have the potential for being viewed as governmental.”

Despite a memo from city attorney Herb Hill concluding that the city faces no legal liability for comments that might be posted on the message board, Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said he was concerned about liability issues.

Ald. Moran, who has often clashed with Rainey on various issues, also suggested that the council should establish guidelines for how aldermen should run a web site, if they have one.

Currently Ald. Rainey is the only alderman with a web site, but several other aldermen have e-mail newsletters with signup links available from their pages on the city’s web site.

Mitchell insisted “our issue has never been what is actually said on the message board.”

But NAACP member Judith Treadway said the message boards are filled with “disinformation and lies and do not promote a positive image of the city.”

“Many of the comments are very bigoted and prejudiced,” she added, “We’re asking that there not be links from the city’s web site to the garbage on the message boards.”

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “I don’t agree with dropping links from the city web site to any one of us. We would have to drop the links on everything we have. But it’s a question of trying to utilize more discretion.”

Ald. Rainey said the city also provides links to a wide array of web resources from its public library web site and asked whether those links would be subject to review as well.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said she feared that a more restrictive policy on web links would “wipe out enormous amounts of information” from the city’s web sites.

As they did after debating the issue at the Aug. 6 rules committee meeting, the aldermen asked the city’s legal staff to conduct yet more research on the issue.

Related story

Aldermen debate their role on web – Aug. 7

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. What a waste of time
    What a ridiculous way to waste our City Council’s time and energy. The 8th ward board is a tremendous public service. If someone does not like what is said on it, he or she is encouraged to use the board to offer a counter-argument. That would be much more productive then wasting the city’s (or the school board’s, as has been done in the past) time complaining about it. There is no compelling reason to censor it.

  2. I’m trying to find where on
    I’m trying to find where on Ann’s message board you can find: ‘bigoted and prejudiced’ remarks.

    It’s more of a place to get information from what I can see. I’m just glad I wasn’t at the meeting where people, undoubtedly not too web savy, were more than likely trying to figure what a web link is and for that matter the internet.

    We’ve got this site to get our info!

  3. More discussion, not less
    Evanston needs all the spaces for discussion it can get, and I am grateful to Ann Rainey for her message board and to Bill Smith for this space. There are those in this community who seem to want to stifle any opinions which they do not share. What we really need in this town is an open dialogue about the issues which divide us, not an attempt to sweep them under the rug or intimidate those who make unwelcome comments.

    I only wish more Aldermen (and in fact, more elected and appointed officials) were willing to provide forums for citizens to express their opinions. How can you adequately represent your constituents if you don’t know what they think?

    If we remove the link to Ms. Rainey’s message board, will the City also remove the link to the library website which has a blog for teens which allows comments. Will those comments be subject to the same scrutiny that is now applied to the 8th ward board?

    I would encourage Ms. Treadway and anyone else concerned about the content of online message boards to add their voices to the conversation. If you see erroneous information – correct it! If someone says something improper – call them on it! It is only by open dialogue that we can begin to come to some kind of compromise and shared vision. Let’s unite, not divide!

  4. links are informational
    Has Mr. Mitchell noticed that there is a link to the national NAACP, and contact info for the local one on the Evanston Public library website? http://www.epl.org/community/clubs.html Would he like this link removed as well?

    If the NACCP gets its way, the library’s entire community information directory would have to be taken down, which would be a disservice to the Evanston community.

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