Freedom of Speech

Fri, 2009-06-26

Freedom of Speech is constitutionally protected in the United States. There are many people in the US who oppose this concept, and apparently even some in Acton who are opposed. A particular issue is the many public service signs posted along Acton's roads. Should they be allowed?

Massachusetts Laws do allow towns to prevent temporary signs for commercial purposes. And Acton has bylaws controlling political signs. But what of public service announcements such as public information, or charity events, or school car washes, etc.?

In particular, Acton Forum has posted four signs announcing a new public service, the posting of video records of key Acton meetings, to include BOS, Finance Committee, and School Committees. These meetings are now open to public viewing to anyone at anytime, rather than available once at often inconvenient hours.

Should Acton allow the announcement of such a public service? This is a public service that is not available elsewhere. Acton Forum is a non-partisan website providing public information and public debate as a public service. As another public service, Acton Forum has posted all School and Town salary public information, which was not readily available until AF posted it in May 2009, and still is not on the Acton website even though many towns in Mass make this public info available. Please note that all members of the School Committees sought to suppress the release of this information, and The Beacon ran a front page article siding with the School Committee and against the release of this public information. This action is yet to be explained.

In addition to providing public information, Acton Forum is providing a place for everyone to participate in free discussions of Acton issues, something that is not available elsewhere. Anyone who has attended Town Meeting realizes that TM is not a suitable venue for debate due to time limitations. So Acton Forum provides everyone a chance to post their unedited opinions on the key Acton issues of the day, a chance for full discussion of an issue. But here is seemingly the real question: are there political reasons for people to oppose Acton Forum signs and public service website simply to stifle true debate in Acton? They have been successful in this in the past with The Beacon's acquiescence, and appear to be trying to protect something.

Where is the objective discussion on taxing and spending, for example? Why is Acton's reserve policy so far removed from those of comparable towns, and so directly in conflict with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue recommendations? Where is the current information on the cost reduction efforts to implement some of the $10M of potential savings recommended by Acton's citizens? Board discussions are time limited and cannot allow a full discussion of the issues and therefore are necessarily subjected to the political forces in Acton. Acton Forum allows the time and space for a full discussion of these important issues.

Acton Forum is committed to freedom of speech and to freedom of expression. Will the opponents of public service announcements and freedom of speech please provide their rationale in a rejoinder to this article?