The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Barnstable Town Council

The issue is quite simple.  Why will my town (Barnstable, MA) and its councilors NOT consider my proposal to require all organizations that it grants public taxpayer money to agree to abide by basic democratiAnn Canedyc principles, including due process, transparency, public accountability, and freedom of expression?  See proposal below.

Over the months I’ve been able to extract a few comments from councilors, all of which focus on CIVILITY, and otherwise manifest EVASIVE REASONING.  The cartoon appearing on this page illustrates a few of the councilors.  It is also published on The American Dissident blog site.  Each councilor was informed of its posting and this page.  If any more comments appear, I will post them no matter how damning to me or them. 


Proposal to Mandate Democratic Procedure and Public Accountability
For Libraries Seeking Public Funding in the Town of Barnstable


Die Meinungsfreiheit wird immer stärker eingeschränkt

            —Necla Kelek

By G. Tod Slone, Citizen of Barnstable

Civil Rights Issue
My tax dollars help support institutions that reject both democratic procedure and public accountability. Sturgis Library, which permanently banned me on June 19, 2012 without warning or due process, serves as an egregious example. My “offense” comprised written criticism of librarian hypocrisy regarding written library policy, especially "libraries should challenge censorship" and "provide materials and information presenting all points of view.” Clearly, this is a civil rights issue. As a law-abiding citizen, I am now prohibited from attending any cultural or political events taking place at Sturgis Library due to the action of director Lucy Loomis with the approval of trustees Ted Lowry, Dan Santos, and Betsy Newell. Why do those people scorn the principles of democracy?


The Proposal

1. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable should be made aware that, despite their nonprofit status and according to the Commonwealth, “The agency relationship between the library and the Town is a public one because the library fulfills an essentially public obligation.” [And therefore must be held to the requisites of the First and Fifth Amendments.]


2. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall not punish patrons, who simply and peacefully criticize a library in writing—staff, policies, events, etc. Such libraries should encourage criticism, not punish it.


3. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall not be permitted to dismiss peaceful criticism as “harassment,” a term clearly and legally defined. Instead, they should follow that legal definition.


4. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable must provide a written warning to a patron, prior to punishment, noting the precise “offense” and precise punishment if said “offense” continues. In fact, a list of punishable “offenses” should be posted on the bulletin boards of each publicly-funded library.


5. Such libraries must not only offer, but also clearly define, procedure for due process in a written document, so that punished library patrons have the opportunity to question and challenge the “offense” and penalty before an independent committee.


6. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall hire library directors with the expectation they possess sufficient spine to be able to deal with criticism in a fully democratic manner, as opposed to in an authoritarian one.


7. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall make their records available to the public.


8. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable that choose to ignore the above points will be excluded from further public funding, though given the opportunity to rectify errors in the framework of due-process procedure, a cornerstone of democracy.


Update and Interesting Conclusions

Russell Streur, a resident of Georgia, noted regarding Sturgis’ trespass order: “I am outraged. And I want to know how this can happen in the United States of America. I filed the enclosed Public Access Records request to find out, citing 950 CMR 32. I received the enclosed denial, claiming the library was not subject to the Regulation as it was not a Government Entity.”

Streur then appealed the denial, to the Supervisor of Public Records, Office of the State Secretary, “on the grounds of 950 CMR 32.03, which defines a Governmental Entity as ‘any authority established by the General Court to serve a public purpose.’”

Streur notes “The argument that the Sturgis Library is not subject to the Regulation is specious. It is obvious that a town library serves a public purpose. The authority of the Town of Barnstable devolves upon an entity to which it contacts to serve a public purpose. The library cannot claim the rights of the public purpose and at the same time hide behind the skirts of its organizational structure to evade the responsibilities of the public purpose it undertakes.”


Streur also notes: “My purpose in filing this request is to discover the truth of this thing, how an individual can be permanently banned from a public library for no reason, with no hearing, and with no recourse; and how the individuals who have protested this action also end up without a voice in the matter.”

Shawn A. Williams, Supervisor of Public Records, replied on January 4, 2013, “I have directed a member of my staff, Attorney Donald White, to review the matter.”


Shawn A. Williams, Mass. Supervisor of Records, ordered Sturgis via Town Manager Tom Lynch: “Whereas. the Town is the public entity responsible for the custody of the requested records, the Town is hereby ordered to provide Mr. Streur with copies of all responsive records within ten (10):calendar days, or provide a more detailed explanation as to the applicability of an exemption. The Library is expected to facilitate the Town's production of responsive records.”


In other words, the State argued that Sturgis cannot hide behind its nonprofit designation to avoid public responsibility. According to Williams, “The agency relationship between the library and the Town is a public one because the Library fulfills an essentially public obligation. See Fifty-One Hispanic Residents of Chelsea at 608. As a result, it is the finding of this office that the requested records are considered public and subject-to disclosure.


In conclusion, Loomis’ arbitrary decision and the silence of her colleagues have served to reduce democracy in the publicly-funded libraries of the Town of Barnstable. Why should taxpayer money be used to fund institutions that scorn the principles of democracy and individual liberties? Quite simply, it should not be used to do so!