This Letter To Our Readers is from Maria Moore who edits this hyperlocal news website, and provides 99% of the copy and photos published on NewHartfordPlus:
Dear Readers and Visitors of NewHartfordPlus:
I recently had occasion to be chatting with a former selectman of New Hartford who well remembers when Hubie Callahan was First Selectman in town from the 1950s through the 1970s. Â I asked that selectman what was the biggest diffference between the way the town was governed then and the way it is governed today and the answer came without hesitation: Â ”Back then, you ran as a party member to be elected, and once in office you set aside your political party and you worked for the good of the whole town.” Â This selectman was talking about 40 years ago and we all know that time has a way of mellowing the past, but his comment made me think that there really is a different way of doing business in Town Hall.
As an unaffiliated voter, it didn’t even cross my mind to ask what First Selectman Callahan’s political party might have been. Â It’s just not important! Â For me, it’s not what political party sits in the First Selectman’s Office that’s important ~ it’s what the person sitting in that office does that’s all-important. Â Actions speak louder than words, and you’ll know where a person’s interest lies by watching their actions, not by listening to their words, especially when it concerns politicians.
I started to attend meetings of different boards and commissions at Town Hall because I wanted to educate myself about the actions coming out of Town Hall and about those persons responsible for those actions (aka decisions of the boards and commissions). Â As some of you may know, this was back in January of 2009 and I had come fresh from a meeting with the First Selectman at the time that I requested to understand the reasoning behind why I had been told that Town Hall was operating on a 4-day schedule to provide better service to the town. Â Towards the end of that meeting, I remember Earl MacInnes crossing his arms, staring at me and asking me: “What exactly is it that you want, ma’am?” Â Everything for Earl seemed to come back to: “What can I personally gain out of this?” Â The general opinion at that time was that Earl closed on Fridays because he didn’t want to have to work 5 days a week, but I attended meetings, and had many conversations with Earl, the Town Hall staff and with many residents before I decided to advocate for a 5-day work week because I felt that would provide the best service for the town, something which eventually came about under the present administration. Â Had the question about the Town Hall hours of operation not been asked of the present First Selectman when he was a candidate in the Town Hall Forum and had his response in favor of a 5-day work week at Town Hall not been made available by NewHartfordPlus on YouTube together with the rest of the video footage of that forum, one can only speculate what the Town Hall hours of operation today would be. Â Personally, I look to see if there are any similar actions that might point to an answer and this is what I see: Â the town’s Highway Department is on a 4-day work week this year, something the First Selectman agreed to without first bringing it up for discussion with the Board of Selectmen. Â And yet, last year when First Selectman Earl MacInnes brought up the request of the Highway Department to go on a 4-day work week at the April 6, 2009 Board of Selectmen meeting, doubts about the wisdom of a 4-day work week were voiced by Roy Litchfield, a member of the Board of Finance and by Denton Butler, a member of the Building Oversight Committee for the wastewater treatment plant; please see my follow-up article on May 20, Road Crew Can Have 4-Day Work Week Unless Notified Otherwise By The Town. Â When I asked the First Selectman’s Office at the end of May of this year about the road crew’s work schedule, I was told it was the same as last year’s, 4 days per week, with one crew working on Friday once Brodie Summer Camp was running.
Reporting on town politics used to be the assignment of newspaper reporters. Â Nowadays, however, with the ranks of reporters decimated, one reporter may find themselves covering 3 or 4 different towns, and as a friend who is a reporter in Hartford County recently told me: Â ”I don’t have time to FOI every single paper to write my articles.” Â And when documents and information are not forthcoming, as is becoming more and more the case with our town’s First Selectman, overworked reporters with deadlines looming will report on easier pickings. Â A great loss for the residents in the towns covered by my reporter friend in Hartford County, and a great loss for the residents of all towns in Litchfield County, including New Hartford.
So exactly which news media are reporting on our town’s politics? Â Ranked by the number of reports, they are:
- NewHartfordPlus, with me as the sole reporter;
- The Republican-American, whose reporter Kari Banach covers at least two other towns in addition to New Hartford. Â Please note the word ‘Republican’ in the name of that newspaper: It states clearly the political affiliation of that news source.
- The Register Citizen, which on June 15 hired aÂ young reporter from Farmington to report on the Northwest Corner. Â I’m looking forward to reading Jessie Sawyer’s first report on a political issue in New Hartford.
- Conspicuously absent from this list is the Hartford Courant, where a recent report identifying MDC land in New Hartford misidentified the town as New Hartland. Â ”You know, somewhere out west of Hartford” I can just hear some editor saying.
Aggregators of news concerning New Hartford are:
- The Voy Forum, where Joe Gareis does an admirable job of updating the forum with news reports about New Hartford. Â There are no links to news reports from NewHartfordPlus on the Voy Forum, although there are links to reports by other media on news which first appeared on NewHartfordPlus. Â Such is the “free and open news forum” that a recent commentor to NewHartfordPlus said of that forum.* Â I go back to my statement: you know someone by their actions, not their words. Â A disclosure I feel is necessary here:Â Joe recently became a member of the Republican Town Committee; he was a member of the Republican Party at the time he provided his excellent reports and political pieces for NewHartfordPlus;
- New Hartford News Proboards, which is updated once in a while by Joan Auclair and by me. Â Pity it’s not kept up-to-date, because visitors still go there for news of New Hartford, as is evidenced by the steady stream of readers who come to NewHartfordPlus from the New Hartford News Proboards.
- NewHartfordPlus, although I have an obsessive need to double-check the facts of any news report before linking to it on NewHartfordPlus ~ one reason I haven’t linked to Kari Banach’s July 13 piece New Hartford bridge to be closed till fall ~ many thanks to the friend of NewHartfordPlus who emailed me to make sure I’d seen the report; the first 3 lines of Kari’s report are available for free on the Republican-American website; the rest of the report is only available to paying subscribers.
Which, in a roundabout way brings me to the point of this letter. Â I mentioned to the former selectman who reminisced about Hubie Callahan’s many years in office, that the same Republicans who were so eager to send me information before last year’s municipal elections now either seemed to have lost their voices (“I don’t want to get into trouble.” As a former Republican friend of NewHartfordPlus told me when I asked why he hadn’t responded to my request for info.), or they are happily attack anything I publish that’s not 100% cheerleading for the RTC.
“Are you being funded by public money?” Â The former selectman asked me.
“No,” I answered. Â ”I recently started working full-time hours again because we want to keep NewHartfordPlus unaffiliated and not have to answer to anyone on what we can and can’t report on.”
“Then tell them if they don’t like it, they don’t have to come to your website!”
Obviously, this selectman is no longer running for office, or I doubt he would have addressed those footsoldiers of one particular political organization in town so bluntly. Â After all, this same selectman told me that the political wisdom in small towns has always been:
“The way you stay in office is not to say anything, don’t raise taxes and pave the roads.”
But I’m not in office and have no plans to run for office, and I believe that by not saying anything you are tacitly agreeing with the actions that are being done. Â So, while my reporting on town politics has necessarily had to be scaled back now that I am working full time, I will continue to report on the politics of the town, whether or not all the information has been made available to me, and no matter the party affiliation of any of the people included in the report. Â And if you don’t like it, with the greatest respect, I have provided the links, above, to all the other news sources available for New Hartford. Â As always, I’ll continue reporting on the good news, and the not so good news, on Republicans and Democrats and any organization out there because they all, as a whole, make up New Hartford, the town that I consider “home.”
Best to all,
Town Hill Road (the bottom part, as I’m quick to clarify!)
* Â This comment from “Westhillwillie” was not approved by Bob Moore, who handles the comments submitted to the website because Bob’s email to “Westhillwillie” was returned to him as undeliverable. If you’ve submitted a comment that has not been approved, please check to make sure that you provided a valid email address at which you can be contacted. Another reason for not approving comments is when Bob feels that subsequent comments from the same commentor on a report don’t add new information and would just degenerate into a back and forth; in those cases, he always emails the commentor and lets them know why their comment wasn’t approved.