An underinformed council thus voted to impose a solution that may not work very well on a problem that may not be very big...
...The report on existing policies and possible alternatives that Neerman delivered to the city manager and council members last week should have been solicited before the vote. Let’s hope the council plays catchup as well as it plays politics.
My newspaper column starts with the library fiasco, meanders past a college-bound kid and the not-quite-at-Ground-Zero Islamic center, and ends with a quick remembrance of a friend.
Clueless council caves on filters
By Edward Cone
News & Record
Some short items to wrap up the summer:
Reports of inappropriate material being viewed on Greensboro Public Library computers are down sharply in 2010, thanks to policies enacted and enforced by library staff.
So how could City Councilwoman Trudy Wade say at a recent meeting that nothing ever gets done about porn at the library? Because the council, faced with a surprise motion from Danny Thompson to install content filters on library computers, didn’t have all of the relevant facts at hand. Thompson had not informed the city manager that a motion was forthcoming or bothered to discuss the issues in any depth with library Director Sandy Neerman.
An underinformed council thus voted to impose a solution that may not work very well on a problem that may not be very big. Filtering technology has improved in recent years, yet it still may block information that belongs in a library. Filters may or may not be the best way of dealing with the real challenge of policing inappropriate content.
But there was Thompson, waving a thick stack of incident reports from the downtown branch. It looked good for the TV cameras, even though only a fraction of the reports in his hand had anything to do with porn. Nobody wants to look like he favors foisting smut on children, so despite the fact that questioning the value of filters is not the same thing as supporting public access to porn, everyone caved.
The reality is that Neerman and her staff seem to be doing a good job of balancing the need for safe, welcoming public facilities with the mission of providing access to a wide range of information. The report on existing policies and possible alternatives that Neerman delivered to the city manager and council members last week should have been solicited before the vote. Let’s hope the council plays catchup as well as it plays politics.
• • •
Newspaper columns have famously short half-lives, but the one Jerry Bledsoe wrote about the bittersweet experience of packing his son, Erik, off to college has stayed with me since I first read it in the Greensboro Daily News in 1983.
Back then, I saw things from the kid’s perspective. This summer, I’m feeling it from the father’s point of view. We’re proud of Elijah, and he’s ready to move on, but it’s hard to believe we’re breaking up the band.
On a related note, our college-bound son said to me the other day about the year of my birth, “No offense, Dad, but 1962 was a really long time ago.”
All I could tell him was the truth: It didn’t used to be.
• • •
People have every right to oppose the construction of an Islamic center a couple of blocks from the former World Trade Center site in Manhattan, but a nation that enshrines freedom of religion in its Constitution cannot stop the project based on the religion in question.
I am sensitive to the symbolism of the location, and I honor the memories of the dead and the feelings of any families upset by the plan, but I don’t think adding this facility to a neighborhood that already includes a strip club and an off-track betting parlor is such a big problem in the first place, much less a test case for restricting an essential American liberty.
• • •
Will Avera died this month at 51. He was a successful businessman and a loving husband and father and, as evidenced by the throngs that turned out for his visitation and funeral, a man who made a lot of friends and touched a lot of lives.
Will was curious about people and ideas. He was a good listener and had a few opinions of his own. His physical courage and mental strength in the face of illness were humbling to observe. He loved good conversation and a good time but he was at heart a man of action. If you feel so moved, go do something useful and generous in his memory, because that’s the kind of stuff Will did every day.
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