At a meeting Tuesday, two assembly members spoke about the personal impact of online attacks. Heather Lende and Margaret Friedenauer said they were both targeted in Facebook posts recently. They urged community members to work towards civility, not divisiveness.
Some of the online attacks followed a parks and recreation advisory committee meeting last week that drew a huge crowd of more than 100 people. They fiercely opposed a proposal to draw up a winter recreation map. Many feared a map would restrict snowmachining and other motorized activity in the valley.
Assembly member Lende was at the meeting, and she wrote about it on her personal blog, referring to the ‘snowmachining, ATV-ing, not-too-fond-of-newcomers or skier-types crowd.’
“She flipped that story around 180 degrees on us and nobody liked it,” said former assembly candidate Ryan Cook in an interview with KHNS.
Cook recently started a Facebook group called Haines Rant & Rave. He shared Lende’s blog post to the group.
“She called us a bunch of angry snowmachiners that don’t like skiers or newcomers to town,” Cook said. “How does she have the right to even do that?”
Cook’s post inspired a number of personal attacks on Lende. Some said they should boycott her family’s lumber yard.
“I know at least that Margaret [Friedenauer] and myself have been really treated pretty badly on the Haines Rants & Raves site,” Lende said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And I guess I would just encourage all of us to work toward some civility here.”
Friedenauer echoed Lende’s concerns. She said the fact that the Facebook group is private doesn’t mean its comments don’t get around.
“You know, people call freedom of speech and that’s fine, but that’s doesn’t mean you don’t have repercussions for what you say,” Friedenauer said. “And those repercussions are…I don’t know what they are. I don’t go to the grocery store some days because I don’t want to see people.”
Lende said she worried that this kind of negativity will keep people from getting involved in local government. She also said she’d like Mayor Jan Hill to do more to set a civil tone.
“Because you were at that meeting and you look at some of these pages and I look at you as our leader to set the tone,” Lende said to Hill. “And there aren’t going to be people that sit on here and on our committees if we’re subject to this kind of slander and vicious attacks from the public. It’s really very hard.”
Hill is one of the about 250 members on the Rant & Rave page.
“The fact that I look at pages should not concern you,” Hill told Lende. “Obviously you’re looking at them too if you see that I am.”
Rant & Rave page creator Cook said he recently wrote a post asking people to be more respectful and saying that he would change his tone as well.
“There was a couple comments that were out of line,” Cook said. “You get to the point where you’re expressing your feelings in the moment and you look back and you’re like ‘yeah, might not have wanted to say that one.'”
As for the winter recreation map that drew so much resistance, Lende suggested the assembly request the parks committee drop the idea for now.
“I think for now, it would just be a lot of effort for no real purpose and we’ve heard that people don’t want to do that,” Lende said.
But Friedenauer said the assembly didn’t need to give the parks committee any direction. She said the assembly, not the committee, has power to take on the map initiative. Therefore, to reject the idea, all the assembly has to do is take no action.