What's in a name? Athertonians may clash in court
Original post made
on May 15, 2012
Definition of Athertonians: residents of Atherton, California. Simple, right? Think again.
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posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 12:00 AM
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Posted by shutdown
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 17, 2012 at 7:42 am
Peter Carpenter says "The Town has quite properly capitulated" I am not so sure Widmer, McKeithen and the members of the ALSC have capitulated as the letter written above is an agenda item on next Wednesday's Council Meeting. I hope the Council has the common sense not to approve it but here are some answers to the ALSC:
Answers to Various Accusations
via Athertonians by email@example.com (Athertonians Moderator) on 6/16/12
Accusations by Opponents to the Athertonians Email Group
1. Does Athertonians censor opposing views?
Answer: No we don't. We seek to support open communication between residents. However, after a message from Ginny Niles, a member of the ALBSC, was posted last fall containing highly inaccurate and misleading representations about the Library project, we got complaints about approving propaganda that does a disservice to the residents of the town. We elected at that time to reserve the right to not approve messages deemed misleading or untruthful, no matter who they are from.
2. Does Athertonians refuse membership to certain residents?
Answer: Ordinarily, no. However, we do reserve the right to only approve those residents whose interest in being members are in conformance with our purpose for being, which is open and factual communication between residents. When individuals seek membership for the purpose of attacking us or undermining the functioning of the group, we will refuse their memberships.
3. Is the Athertonians refusing to help reduce the possibility of name confusion?
Answer: No, when notified, Athertonians did modify the Athertonians Logo to add more clarification about who we are and our purpose. We are otherwise unable to modify the Yahoogroups website. Because the only possible confusion is between a infrequently published newsletter called "The Athertonian" and our email list and blog, called "Athertonians" we think the issue as well as incidence of actual confusion is rather minor.
4. Athertonians refused to discuss issues of concern to council members with the Assistant City Attorney regarding changing our name, who promised us confidentiality.
Answer: Yes, that is correct. We have been moderating this list for 8 years, in all of which time, we have had no complaints from residents about any confusion about us. Then, to our surprise, we received a brief flurry of hostile messages from people claiming to be confused about us on Thursday, May 3rd and Friday, May 4th. Shortly after that we received the below letter from the Assistant City Attorney, Ms. Jennifer Larson, who wrote "We continue to receive reports of confusion by residents who erroneously believe your Athertonians yahoo group and blog are in some way connected to the Town of Atherton." Ms. Larson knows very well none of those complaining on Thursday (all of whom were affiliated with the ALBSC) were actually confused. Rather, they seemed to be attempting to build a legal case against this group.
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Jennifer Larson
Sent: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:01 AM
Subject: Website confusion
Dear Athertonians Moderators:
We continue to receive reports of confusion by residents who erroneously believe your Athertonians yahoo group and blog are in some way connected to the Town of Atherton. As you are likely aware, the Town's newsletter, which has been in existence longer than your yahoo group and which is available online, is named "The Athertonian." A good example of the potential for confusion is that a simple google search for "Athertonian" produces, within the first few results, "Athertonians: Community Notices for Atherton Residents," which is a link to your yahoo user group. It is not difficult to see how an ordinary person could reasonably believe that your group is affiliated with or representing the Town itself. This confusion is particularly problematic where residents have thought that politically-charged statements sent via your yahoo group are being disseminated by the Town, instead of by private individuals.
While we respect your right to create and maintain such an efficient vehicle for neighborhood communication and discussion, it is in all of our best interests to find a way to resolve this growing confusion.
To that end, we propose that you amend your group name to remove the almost complete overlap between "Athertonians" and our official Town newsletter, the "Athertonian." For example, names such as "Atherton Residents" or "Athertonians Together" create more of a distinction between the two unrelated news sources, and indeed would have the ancillary benefit of clarifying your group's purpose. In addition, we feel the disclaimer currently appearing on your home page is obscured by text and should appear more prominently at the top of the page, and perhaps in bold or colored text.
Please understand that we have no interest in preventing political or other discourse between private individuals: We seek only to protect the concerned residents who have been (or will be) confused by the name of your group. We feel that the two aforementioned small changes could be sufficient to meet that goal.
Please respond at your earliest convenience.
Assistant City Attorney
5. Did Athertonians unsubscribe some members because they hold different opinions?
Answer: Yes, we unsubscribed ten members but not because they hold different opinions. After Ms. Larson sent us a message threatening possible legal action, we recognized that our group was under legal attack by Councilmember McKeithen and her ALBSC committee (who were the same folks who claimed name "confusion" above) presumably because of our interest in making sure residents get accurate information about their EIR rights and the controversial library project. Since they were attacking us and our very purpose, we felt that they no longer should enjoy the privilege of having membership in our group which entitles members to have facilitated communication with the town. We then unsubscribed members of the ALBSC and refused a membership request from Mr. McKeithen for obvious reasons. This is something we've never done before to any member. However, given that the ALBSC has access to a reserve of nearly $6 million available for their purposes (plus the small fact that they opted not to use the Athertonians list to provide outreach for any of their library meetings, when doing so might have helped inform more residents of the town), we felt justified in removing them from the list.