Aldermen ask what’s in a link

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.

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Aldermen debate their role on web – Aug. 7

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