First Selectman’s Update

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Melissa Mack

I begin with a sincere apology. To all who made it a point on Memorial Day to attend the parade and ceremony as a heartfelt way to show your deep gratitude to our fallen servicemen; and in particular to our honored veterans; I am sorry for the poor sound system that left many unable to hear the meaningful speeches given. While I am very proud of how the event has grown and drawn larger crowds over the past few years, it is clear that the sound system is no longer adequate to service those numbers. To that end, I contacted an expert in the field who advised utilizing professional services to accommodate the challenges presented by the outdoor location and large number of attendees. The Suffield Woman’s Club has graciously offered funding. I look forward to the opportunity to continue improving upon this important occasion next year.

I recently participated in Suffield Middle School Career Day at which I was asked to contemplate what I like, dislike and find challenging about my job. What I love about being First Selectman is helping residents and getting things done for the town. And I love that every day is different and brings something new. On the flip side, I am frustrated that projects move at the “speed of government.” Leadership means making difficult decisions and grappling with complicated issues (e.g., Bridge Street School Community Center, Lake Road sand pit, private roads, Police operational study, employee matters, to name just a few). And then there is The Suffield Observer (“The Suffield Obscurer” as it has been coined). It’s not the editorial/opinion pages that I don’t enjoy (everyone is entitled to their opinion). Nor is it the political cartoons (except for those ugly shoes he draws on me!). No, what I least enjoy is the way in which supposed “news” articles are presented to residents as fact. I fully recognize that TSO is a wholly volunteer organization undertaking the enormous responsibility of educating the public. That reporters are volunteers and not trained professionals is understandable. Yet that being said, TSO is billed as a newspaper, delivered to each and every mailbox in Suffield, which mandates an inherent responsibility to adhere to even the most basic of journalistic standards. At the very heart of these standards is a faithful devotion to impartiality. A desire to get both sides of a story. Truth. Accuracy. Verification. Independence. It’s when Journalism 101 is missing from articles that I am concerned about the local effect of “fake news” on our community. Case in point, and just the most recent example – “SPD Review Causes Stir” June 2019. While reporters themselves must be held accountable, ultimate responsibility lies with the editors-in-chief (“Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” laments William Shakespere in King Henry) for ensuring their newspaper upholds standards to deem it truly news and not just a newsletter. TSO serves a true public need in providing local information in the absence of comprehensive professional news coverage. In failing to live up to established standards, the newspaper not only fails its stated mission “to build a sense of community throughout the town of Suffield” but also erodes the sacred trust of their readers and our good citizens.

French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville traveled through America in 1831 examining American democracy. His resulting influential book, Democracy in America, not only noted the vital role of newspapers on our democracy but also highlighted the need for an engaged citizenry. Be that engaged citizen – consider running for elected office in November. It’s not too late.

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