Milford's Facebook page: Useful forum, or off limits?

| 14 May 2015 | 01:34

By Anya Tikka
— Milford's Facebook page is the only online means of keeping residents informed about township business. But the page — and the political statements and advertisements people have posted there — came under intense scrutiny at the supervisors' May 4 meeting.

Supervisors' Chair Don Quick put up a post stating: “No further political advertising in this group. Anyone posting political advertising or comments will have their posts removed and repeated posting will result in removal from the group. Political posts or comment of any nature attached to other posts will also be removed.”

Resident Larry Kotar asked supervisors what’s appropriate to post on a page closely associated with the township government.

In response, some township residents objected to Quick's post, citing the First Amendment protection of free speech.

Kotar had posted a comment asking supervisors why the "sudden change of heart."

Quick said political views should not be allowed on a local government page because it could give some candidates an unfair advantage over others.

"We have a couple of campaigns running right now," said Quick. "If 200 people post in favor of Senator John Smith, I’d be lost who to vote for. It’s not equitable. I do want to bring it up, what to do.”

Residents Shirley Masuo, Steve Owens, and Alex Lotorto said Facebook was a useful way to share information.

Owens asked if it was possible to limit posts to administrators, with residents allowed to comment only under those posts.

Lotorto, who runs groups on Facebook, said it's possible.

Supervisor Gary Clark said he's against using Facebook as a means of communicating official business.

“You did it on your own, not connected to this township in any which way," Clark told Quick. "I’ve been against Facebook for many reasons."

At the moment, the township has no digital recordings or email communication of any kind. Everything, including notes taken by the township secretary/treasurer, Viola Canouse, has to be recorded on "hard copies."

The supervisors discussed starting a township web page but deferred the decision for financial reasons, among others.

Quick said he wanted to be able to inform people quickly about matters like the Columbia pipeline, for example. But the page is not for all township business, such as people seeking permits.

The following morning, Kotar posted this note on Facebook: “I would like to thank the Milford Township Supervisors, Treasurer, Solicitor, Zoning Officer, and members in the audience for entertaining my questions last evening at the monthly supervisors meeting. While we agree to disagree, it is safe to say that we all want the best for our community and the passion shown during the discussion exemplified that fact.”

Quick was among those who "liked" the comment.