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Free Speech

Original post made by George Martin on Mar 15, 2009

Pleasanton Weekly limits free speech? It is OK to edit offenisve language or other rude comments, but shutting down the community to talk about the parcel tax. Many of us who comment are worried if we use are full name or real name our kids will get hurt, some have already had issues at school over this parcel tax. Seems that the Pleasanton Weekly only worries about political views which they agree on.

This comment will also be sent to all 4 TV networks along with other newspapers which will not sensor. Do the owners of the Pleasanton Weekly know what Jeb is doing? Does the NAACP know what Jeb is doing? They will soon.

Comments (45)

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Good for you George. Jeb states that teachers cannot respond but that is blatantly incorrect. Many posts are from those who say they are teachers and there is absolutely NO reason to believe that teachers would not reply anonymously on their own time, not school computers. If Jeb were running for office I would be tempted to say he had taken a few too many campaign contributions from teachers and administrators. As it is he is simply not acting rationally. What other topics might become forbidden?

Posted by unregistered user, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:05 am

Could this be a ploy to force posters to become "registered users".

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:20 am

No more anonymous postings, eh? Well maybe this one will slide through.

Perhaps the Weekly did not get response to the Parcel Tax Endorsement article that they expected?

Look … here is the deal:

People are tired of feeling like they work for the Government. We grew up learning that government worked for the people. Yet that no longer seems to be the case. Our sales tax is quickly approaching ten percent, so that local businesses can no longer compete with on line purchases from neighboring states. We will soon pay the highest state income tax in the country. Our business taxes and fees are driving viable employers out of the state in droves.

And yet the machine is still hungry.

So do we work for the government? Or does the government work for the people? And regardless of your position on yet another new tax, I ask you, how much more load do you think we, the people can endure?

Posted by Reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:40 am

JEB! How can you just shut down every parcel tax blog?? So much for the idea of the press and free speech.
I have found the postings often times be very informative as people share information, links and pertinent articles that I never would find on my own or that the newspapers and PUSD would never publish. I see value in many of the comments and am well enough able to discern the baiting or ranting of others.
I think this is a disgrace to the Weekly to try such tactics especially after coming out with an opinion of your own in the last issue.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Foothill Farms
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:06 am

I urge anyone who still believes in free speech to write to the President of Pleasanton Weekly Gina Channell-Allen

Web Link

to file a complaint against Jeb Bing.

I wonder how quickly those businesses would withdraw their ads if they learn about how PW is upsetting their readers.

Posted by Liz, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:53 am

I am truly disappointed in this censorship and even more shocked by the irrational lack of perspective.
To suggest this action is necessary because one side is being unkind to the other was just not true. Most of the discussion was thoughtful and both sides had occasional mildly taunting posts.
Parents with children that are vulnerable to the displeasure of school staff are deserving of the protection of anonymity.

The PW should be ashamed.

Posted by "Big Brother" Is Here, a resident of Civic Square
on Mar 16, 2009 at 2:21 am

If a government entity ordered the Pleasanton Weekly to cease operations due to the Weekly printing something readers felt was detrimental to it's readership, we would hear the howl of "freedom of the press and freedom of speech".

Are those freedoms a "one way street" if you "own the street"?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2009 at 7:49 am


Registration at this website doesn't require you to use your full or real name. And even if it did, trying to verify the accuracy of the information is too much of an administrative nightmare to be worthwhile.

I agree that Jeb's administrative action has a chilling effect upon the discussion. Perhaps though everyone needs a cooling down period. It is a topic many people are passionate about. I don't agree that free speech is being censored. The First Amendment states that Congress shall make no laws abridging free speech. It doesn't say that private companies like Embarcadero Publishing are required to spend their for-profit funds to support someone else's practice of free speech.

Posted by Jeb Bing, editor of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Mar 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

Jeb Bing is a registered user.

Those of you who do not like our policies are invited to find another forum for your conversation. Many forums initially designed as friendly places for the community to connect get taken over by those with shrill and extreme ideas and drive others away. Not everyone will agree with where we choose to draw the line, but it is our right to draw that line and we will do so in the interest of preserving a forum where children and adults—and, yes, teachers--feel comfortable coming and participating without being exposed to disrespectful treatment. We're not limiting anyone's comments; we are simply asking that you own up to them by registering.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:12 am

I'd personally like to see this website allow registered users to control the length of their login session. It is a hassle to have to constantly log in every time after leaving the site because the PHPSESSID cookie expires after every session. A lot of other sites expire this cookie after a few days or allow users to control the expiration date.

Posted by Rae, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:31 am

Stacey and Jeb,

Well said!

Even ignoring the sometimes downright nasty comments that have been inside the various threads on this blog (including, but not limited to, the parcel tax), I can think of two threads that were started to specifically target individuals. One recent thread called out a teacher using lies and innuendo - very close, if in fact not over the line, of being libelous.

It's way past time for the bloggers who hide behind total anonymity to show a little self-discipline and integrity by taking even a limited responsibility for their remarks.

"Community of Character" anyone?

Posted by Doo Doo, a resident of Valley Trails
on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:20 am

Can I ask WHY it is so important to "register"? Does it make what I say any more/less valid? I am still a Pleasanton homeowner. I feel my name is insignificant.
I believe it is the only way to get an honest opinion form our residents without fear of repercussions.

Posted by Kiko, a resident of Val Vista
on Mar 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

Do you see how divisive this proposed tax has been on the community that the PW web site has chosen to blanantly choose sides and limit comment that they do not like.

"Those of you who do not like our policies are invited to find another forum for your conversation" is the most outrageous statement I have read on this site. Its our ball and we're changing the rules and if you don't like then just leave.

If you don't think that the Pleasanton community is polarized, then you have been in that box way too long. This just adds to it.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

Here's the policy statement Jeb was referring to: Web Link

Some key highlights:
* You agree to be respectful of others, be truthful and be solely responsible for all postings you make.
* You agree not to use any profanity, nor post any information that is hateful, libelous or obscene, or that is threatening, abusive or offensive to any individual, group or class of person.
* You agree not to disclose personal information about another person, nor post anything that misleads others as to the source of the posting.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Web Link

"In the colloquial sense, censorship occurs whenever we don't say or write something because we fear adverse consequences, or because we feel that what we would like to say is inappropriate in the circumstances, or because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings. (This is often called self-censorship. I call it civilized behavior.)

From the other direction, many think it censorship when an employee is disciplined or not promoted because of something he or she has said, when people are ejected from a public event because they are judged to be disrupting the proceedings, or when a newspaper declines to accept an advertisement, rejects an op-ed or a letter, or fails to report on something others think important. But if censorship is the proper name for all these actions, then censorship is what is being practiced most of the time and is in fact the norm rather than the (always suspect) exception.

...To the objection that such an action would amount to a curtailing of the employee's First Amendment rights, the Supreme Court has answered (in Connick v. Myers, 1983) only if the speech in question were directed at a matter of public concern...

...You shall not speak or write about this, ever. That's censorship...."

Posted by Disagree w/B, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Hi everyone! Let's try this. I opened a blog spot at Web Link Most of you know that I'm against the parcel tax, but all opinions are welcome. I, too, will ask that people be civil and factual, but there are no rules unless Google shuts us down.

Posted by Rae, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm

DwB, I'm just curious. What will you do when individuals are personally attacked by name? When "civil and factual" turns to lies and innuendo? Will you allow your blog to become a safe place for blog bullies?

It's been interesting to see how quickly the conversations on this blog turn malicious when the issues is controversial. Good luck!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Disagree w/B,

Your address is, right? I sent you email. Please respond. The time is urgent.

Posted by Disagree w/B, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Hi Stacey. I responded.

Rae, It's like a school yard brawl. I'll try reason. I have the option to delete a post that is offensive, but I have faith that the community can keep from personal attacks. It's an experiment from whether anyone will post at all to what they will post. You can visit, and I'll try to let people know if I succeed (it's civil and factual) or not. Pleasanton believes it's similar to Lake Woebegone. Let's see.

Posted by Sandy, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Sandy is a registered user.

The conversation can continue here.

Remember that it is NOT necessary to use your real name as a username when you register (though I encourage it). The extra step of registering allows the Weekly to gather your email address and name (though they do not share those with the public). The benefit of this could be that people are more cautious about inflammatory language, and that any accusations of libel or slander can be connected to the individual writer. Registration also gives you a password for your username, so that in theory, no one else can impersonate you on the forums.

I'm glad we're having a cooling-off period. Mr. Bing's actions do not limit or censor anyone's speech. Everyone can still express their opinions as they wish in public. These forums are not a real "town square", though -- they're more like a particular room in a café. The café owner (or in this case, the editor) is allowed to tell people to take a walk around the block if he senses that arguments are getting too heated.

Posted by Ann Martin, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I have been made aware of a rumor going around Pleasanton that the Amador Valley High School PTSA is not supporting the parcel tax.
At this time, the AVHS PTSA has not taken a position for or against the parcel tax.
The decision to support or not support the parcel tax will be made at the next regularly scheduled PTSA meeting on March 18th when members will have the opportunity to discuss the issue and vote on it if they choose to do so.
The AVHS PTSA Executive Board is treating the parcel tax issue in the same way they treat every issue. They have posted an agenda, invited the membership to attend the meeting in the same way they always invite the membership (through the AV Express and Constant Contact reminders) and will open up discussion and voting in adherence to PTA guidelines and rules.
There may be disagreement among the executive board members in regard to the parcel tax. But their actions indicate that they are in agreement that their right to speak on behalf of the membership obliges them to give the membership an opportunity to discuss the parcel tax issue.
If a vote is taken, the results of the vote, as with every other vote made by AVHS PTA will be a matter of record.
As a past member of the AVHS Executive Board, and a current member of AVHS PTSA, I am proud of the way the current board is making every effort to provide all its members an opportunity to be heard.
They should be commended for not allowing any personal viewpoints to interfere with their commitment to adhere to a democratic process.

Posted by Disagree w/B, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Sandy: When I logged in last night, all the threads were shut down. Didn't see one or two are allowing posts as before. It was easy and free to set up a blog, so I'm fine if it never gets used.

Posted by Julie, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Julie is a registered user.

Personally, I have no problem with requiring registration. It also protects you - for example, no one can post under my name since it is registered. The Weekly has not limited free speech - say what you want within the rules, simply do so with a registered name.

Posted by Ann Martin, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I should make it earlier post is not in response to the PW Town Square Forum requiring users to register. I have no problem at all with that.
Since this thread deals with free speech, it seemed like the logical one to use for posting my comments.

Posted by Liz, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Requiring registration is not what I object to but instead the very biased and frankly untrue justification for doing so. With little exception the conversations were spirited but civil, with a great deal of valuable input. The suggestion that one side, the side that questions the parcel tax, was the ones being mean was a very biased assertion.
There was challenge from all sides but nothing that grown-ups shouldn't be able to deal with. I don't understand what Jeb was talking about, saying teachers can't defend themselves, all sides were able to defend themselves as a few teachers made clear in their harsh posts as well.

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 6:58 pm

You can see which side of Jeb's bread is buttered.

Posted by Take two, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Just another example of the media trying to influence an outcome.

Posted by Carl, a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Jeb - Why is the PW still allowing anonymous postings to parcel tax stories, like the '500 tax' story?

I don't think you want to appear biased in the application of your new Town Forum policy.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm


I can bet that the poster who decided to open a new topic thread attacking Jennifer Cohn because of said poster's apparent misreading of what was written is what really rocked the boat. Yes, grown-ups should be able to deal with it as long as they can read as well as they write.

Posted by Jennifer Cohn, a resident of Walnut Hills
on Mar 16, 2009 at 11:06 pm

I just wanted to say a big "thank you" to those of you who saw that thread for what it was and condemned/reported it.

Maybe having registered names can help create an online environment that encourages the exchange of ideas and discourages inflammatory statements and personal attacks. If it does, I think we'd have a much more effective forum.

Posted by Another Gatetree Resident, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 5:13 am

Ha -- Another PW slant exposed. I expected nothing different on this topic than that returned on the sound system. While the PW was happy to cover the graduation festivities, they could care less about covering it from a "neighbor's perspective."

Yes -- we ALL know who's plucking Bing's cherries.

Posted by Ann Martin, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:13 am

To Another Gatetree Resident,
I'm sorry, but I'm completely unaware of any controversy regarding the graduation ceremony and any sound problems/issues it creates for the neighbors.
Would you mind sharing? You can email me off-forum if you

Posted by Another Gatetree Resident, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:18 am

Ann -- Graduation wasn't the issue but it was initially used by Lou Cesario, Ben Fobert, and Bill Coupe as the "excuse" for installing the new sports field sound system last year. To say it was shoved down the neighborhood's throat is an understatement. As we all know that wasn't funded by the PTA, but rather the Boosters. When neighbors tried to get the PW Weekly to report from both sides of the fence -- using last year's graduation as an event worthwhile reporting about -- only the "Amador Side" got reported. History on that can be seen via this Web Link.

This is really old news, but some of the discussion can be found at this PW Web Link.

I will again state if money continues to be spent on items like this and a marquee versus funding teachers -- then the Boosters priorities need revisiting and that alone will halt some in the immediate neighborhood from voting in favor of a parcel tax.

Posted by Parent of Two, a resident of Val Vista
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:26 am

Parent of Two is a registered user.

This may come as a shock to all of you, but my real name ISN'T "Parent of Two". And I agree that requiring registration was a drastic step, but even I noticed that two or three voices seemed to be dominating the discussion, and those voices weren't especially respectful of each other.

Put it this way. I know I live in Pleasanton. I've given the PW my home information. We (and the editors/owners of the PW) have no way of knowing who or where those disputatious voices were coming from. They may have been greedy administrators or bitter teachers or lazy students or prison inmates or eight-year old kids.

But regardless, it's rather poor form to shut the discussion (argument? fight?) down at a completely arbitrary point. If you're gonna do stuff like that, give a warning to the offending individuals first. If that doesn't work, post a blanket notification to all users. Slamming the door to "guest users" should be a last resort.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:33 am

I never thought that here in the US we would see this type of censorship. In other countries, people have to go as far as using anonymous type software to even surf the web. I would not like to see that happening here. In my opinion, it is wrong for the PW to restrict posts.

However, papers such as the Mercury News do the same. Anyone who wants to post must be a registered user. It does not mean you have to register with your real name or email address. You can create a dummy email address, call yourself J. Doe and you will be allowed to register.

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm

So...if you can register with any name and any email address, then why have to do it at all? It seems the only people that will know how to find out who you are, is the Pleasanton Weekly staff? Why do they want to have that information? How does my full name and address make what I have to say any more important?
Individual names are insignificant.
Slow down, and listen to the community

Posted by Joe, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:04 pm

If Mr. Bing was a real reporter/newspaperman and the govenrment wanted to know his sources, he'd sing like a stool pigeon.

Posted by Jim, a resident of Val Vista
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I have been following this registration thread with amusement. To show you just how silly registration is, I took a clue from the Blues Brothers and registered on a site with the address 1060 W. Addison St., Chicago, IL (773)404-4100 (that's Wrigley Field) and nobody even knew. So, go ahead and register...use Raley's address, hey that will work.

Posted by Diana, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:54 pm

A friend shared this site with me, it is worth reading.

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association's website on this subject
Web Link.

Parcel tax supporters like to frequently engage in scare tactics to enhance their chances of passing a tax measure. Tax supporters attempt to "scare" voters into supporting a tax increase. Such scare tactics are frequently observed with parcel tax measures associated with public education, health, and public safety. Taxpayers should neither tolerate nor be intimidated by such scare tactics.

When addressing the public, parcel tax backers are frequently encouraged to put the annual cost in simple, friendly sounding terms that usually begin with "it's only." "It's only a few cents a day," or "it's only a few dollars per month." Officials try to make it sound like the coming property tax increase is trivial and that anyone who is opposed must be a cheapskate.

Newspapers can be another problem for taxpayers. While editors at a few papers may be sympathetic to the taxpayers' cause, the vast majority of newspapers are almost universally hostile and will support most parcel tax increases proposed by local governments.

Posted by DJohns, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm

DJohns is a registered user.

When I read your response on that thread I winced because although you did not out right call her the name, not only did you not condemn it, but by repeating the insult it felt as though you were giggling.
I can understand how it felt to her.

Posted by defining a "troll", a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 5:13 pm

It's from Wikipedia, which isn't the normally the most reputable source, but the regular dictionaries haven't caught up with cyber speak yet. Just posting this to clarify that this term, when used in this context, is used more to identify a behavior than it is to call someone a name.

"An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.[2]"

Posted by john, a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:11 am

so funny- seems like i see the same sub group showing up again and again in these topics. The times seem to be evenly spread throughout the day and it really doesn't matter what the topic is -may as well be a best peanut butter debate, you can depend on the same group showing up. And Stacey- how do you manage to work and hit up so many of these topics? You must be self employed or you would have been let go by now. And Jeb, worried about imflamatory remarks???!! Exactly how many people actually read this blog from the little PW ?
Good luck all , have lotsa fun

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:39 am

Stacey is a registered user.


I'm not employed. My career was sold to a Canadian business about three years ago, about three months after I returned from maternity leave so the choice to become a stay-at-home mom was easy. I was one of only two in my department given a sweet severance deal because my company highly valued me. I've done part-time contract work since then, which gives me highly flexible hours.

Posted by mike, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Stacy, regarding cookie monster, PHPSESSID,it's you... personally.

Posted by Mike, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Stacy, my apologies. I was being flippant. But, as a fellow traveler, that is, unemployed by a foreign country, namely North Carolina, I know how it feels to be put in this despite situation. ..........But, going back to earlier postings, I once thought that the PW should monitor these postings. After reading the earlier posts to this posting again, I am not so sure I support their monitoring after all. And, I am speaking as a 50-something who has read many emails/letters-to-the-editor. I think we should read, analyze, and respond based upon our own intelligence. Thank you for thoughts.

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