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Letter to the Editor: Formal Agreement is Needed Between Town and Grapevine

A letter to the editor from Jon Spector.

To the Editor:

Wendy Spector is focusing on her re-election campaign. Her two themes are “communication” and “engagement,” something she’s worked on through her service as Weston volunteer, School Committee Chair, and now as Moderator. Trying to get more people involved in the political process, by giving more people a voice and ensuring a fair debate.

So I’m replying to Bill Sandalls’ letter in which he insinuates that the Town Moderator used myGrapevine data to enhance her campaign, which would be a serious ethical breach. Mr. Sandalls also makes some good points in his letter, so in the spirit of trying to stay positive, let me address those first.

Mr. Sandalls notes that the Town has no written agreement with me covering the use of myGrapevine data, and he suggests that’s not the proper way for the Town to operate. I think he’s right — we need a formal agreement that protects the Town. I’m a resident of the town also, and I don’t want to create the appearance that Weston is at risk.

The Town and I have talked about a formal agreement in the past, several times, but we never got around to codifying one in a written document. But based on the events of the past few weeks, Donna VanderClock and I have already decided that a letter of agreement is definitely necessary, and I've decided to draft a letter and present it to the Town. The areas I think the agreement should cover include:

  • Making clear that no fees will be charged to Weston for as long as the service is running
  • Making clear that Weston owns all of its subscriber information and all of its published data, and that these data cannot be shared or be used for any other purpose
  • Giving Weston the right to take the software code and run its own “westonGrapevine” service
  • Defining acceptable arrangements for Weston to retrieve its data should the town decide to stop using the service (or should I decide to shut down the service)
  • Ensuring Weston is able to easily archive all myGrapevine messages, to meet their archiving obligations
  • Making clear that Weston is responsible for all content in its messages, and for assigning access rights to editors and administrators who are employed by the Town.

All of these terms are fine with me. I’ve been following them up until now without anything in writing; I’m happy to follow them in the future bound by a letter of agreement.

Because five brains are better than one, I’d like to invite Mr. Sandalls, Ms. Jancourtz, Mr. Viles, Mr. Crum, and anyone else who has good ideas to send me their suggestions about any other possible areas they think the letter of agreement should cover (my personal email address is jonathan.spector@gmail.com). I’ll do my best to codify their concerns in the draft I present to the Town, and if I don’t include all of their ideas in my draft I will pass their ideas along to the Town anyway for Weston’s consideration.

Would I have taken this step now if Mr. Sandalls, Mr. Crum, Ms. Jancourtz and Mr. Viles had not raised this issue? To be honest, probably not. I would probably have focused more of my time on the next version of myGrapevine (which has some great new stuff in it — RSS feeds, web calendars — coming soon!).

In the future, Mr. Sandalls, may I suggest that there is an easier path to offer help to Weston than the one you and your colleagues chose? For example, if you or any of your colleagues had given me a call or sent me a note and said “You know, Jon, you don’t know me but I’m a resident of Weston and it worries me that the Town has no contract to protect itself,” I would have responded exactly as I did in this letter: “Bill, you’re right. I’m going to fix that.” It would have been a lot simpler and friendlier.

Now, turning to your insinuation that the Moderator has used myGrapevine data to further her campaign for Moderator, that is a serious accusation. Since it didn’t happen, I know for a fact you have no evidence of it. But it’s impossible to prove a negative; the most I can do is to offer two salient facts: there are 3,561 subscribers to westonGrapevine, and The Moderator sent her email message to 22 people. Each was someone with whom she has a personal connection.

What upsets me about your insinuation is that it doesn’t seem as if you made any attempt to ascertain the facts, and you weren’t willing to give a fellow resident the benefit of the doubt. Does it even make sense the Moderator would steal data and send a private and personal email message to 3,500 people, most of whom she does not know, particularly when the list likely includes a whole group of people who have been fairly vocal about criticizing her?

To end on a positive note — I’d like to reiterate my call for people to send me their thoughts about an agreement between me and the town of Weston. As Mr. Sandalls suggested, it’s time to put an agreement of this sort into writing.

Jon Spector,
Conant Road

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