Conneaut, Ohio’s City Manager, Robert Schaumleffel, Jr., is “tired of the dirt,” you see. And he claims that he’ll be the one to “put a stop to it.” Pursuant to his blustery de-dirting campaign, Manager Schaumleffel has decided to take a page out of the bag of tricks from his German ancestry and stomp down on the political free speech of a local website that features information about the city, its government, and officers. So, our esteemed city leader has had his legal department send a cease-and-desist letter to the site’s owner to put a stop to posts about city government.
This arrogant attempt to quash free speech by a local politician is an excellent example to remind us all that government abuse isn’t just something that happens in a state capitol or in Washington DC, but something that can happen right in our own home towns… and often does. It also serves to remind us all that as citizens we must fight zealously for our rights.
The website of the city government of Conneaut, a small town situated near Ashtabula, Ohio, which itself is in the North Eastern corner of the state, is apparently in the middle of being redesigned and during the time that the city page has been off the web, a local woman named Katie Schwartz had put on her website some pages detailing council members and city government.
But, Manager Schaumleffel is not pleased that everythingconneautohio.com has also featured posts critical of the city government in the past and he is determined to shut down some of the site’s content. As a smoke screen for his efforts, the Manager claims that people will be “confused” by the site and might think that the section detailing city government is the official city website.
If that isn’t a weak claim, I have yet to see one.
At least one councilman was upset enough at the Manager’s anti-free speech crusade to make a point of it at a recent city council meeting. Ward 1 Councilman Dave Campbell called the Manager’s attempt at legal intimidation of the site “garbage” and tried to cajole others on the council to back his move to rescind the cease-and-desist letter. He lost by one vote.
So, Sieg Heil, Schaumleffel. Let’s not have the annoying results of that nasty free speech stuff being forced on government officials, shall we? I agree with herr Schaumleffel that city government should have approval powers over local websites, don’t you? I mean, we can’t expect politicians to be held to account for their actions, nor to be subjected perhaps to an unkind word once in a while, can we? They have such a delicate emotional balance as it is. I say it’s best not to upset our city fathers. Let’s shut this aberrant webpage owned and operated by a private citizen down. This unapproved content is monstrous!
What do you think?