LETTER: Keeping Discourse Truthful When Considering Citizens United

Town Councilor Kenneth Woodland writes about the petition submitted to the Town Council about reversing the Supreme Court's campaign financing ruling.

As many may have read over the past few weeks, a group of citizens have petitioned the Watertown Town Council under the rules and provisions of the Watertown Charter to consider action on the United States Supreme Court Case Citizen’s United. 

Since then, efforts have been made by partisan groups in favor of the ruling to purposefully misconstrue the process in hopes that the mere notion of impropriety will sway the public to similar methods of thinking. I am writing in today simply to set the record straight.

First and foremost, it should be clear that I, Ken Woodland, am not the driving force behind the initiative. Although flattered to be given credit for helping with guidance, I would do the same for any passionate group of citizens who are pursuing an issue they feel so strongly about. Taking responsibility would discredit the hard work of those who actually put it together. Regardless of my opinion on the issue, my actions are the same, no matter the group’s stance on whichever controversial topic of the day may be at stake. Next, the sole reason why this initiative is on the 12-11-12 agenda is because of the Charter rules in regards to petitioning, as the Town Attorney pointed out last evening. Although it is kind for some to believe I set or influence the Council agenda, they are wholly and sadly mistaken. 

Next, some have indicated that the Council is being “forced” to debate this matter.  As was done in many cases in the past, the Council can simply decide not to address the issue. Implying this action is forceful and will definitively be debated by the Council is plainly incorrect. 

But no issue from this group is quite complete without a conspiracy theory, so not wanting to let us down, inferences were also made implying Council members who are potential supporters of this petition were trying unsuccessfully behind closed door to convince others. Minds of similar thinking also came out with the popular theories that Obama faked the Bin Laden killing, had Bill Ayers ghostwrite his memoirs, and visited Mars as a child.

An honest debated could have started by establishing set-in-stone criteria for the Council to follow when petitions seeking a position are brought to the floor. The Council logically wouldn’t have the ability to make these decisions if it never intended to. The debates could have ranged from whether this ruling reaches the municipal level all the way to examination of the case itself. But the debate cannot get off the ground with misconceptions purposefully being distributed. 

Last night the Council came to a conclusion on this matter, details of which I’m sure will be highlighted elsewhere. I am writing for future actions, to urge those who are deliberately giving the public misconceptions to advance a partisan agenda to cease from doing so. Non-factual and easily rebutted personal attacks are the aspects that incite disdain for the political system in general and keep substantive debate away from kitchen tables. Although some may be able to risk that for their partisan agenda, I am not.  

In short, slander and libel have no place here. Some attempt to use those tools to discredit with personal attacks, like on my legal expertise for example. In my case, I do not blame them for the confusion of the complexities of contract law which inspires their misconception, but unless there is that much of a desire to test my legal skillset, I strongly encourage these practices to stop so that we may all have honest debate that will foster intellectual and bipartisan growth for all.


Happy Holidays to All!
Kind regards,

Ken Woodland
Town Councilor: District D

bindersfull ohwomen December 13, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Wow is it just me or did Ken Woodland say John DiMascio libeled and slandered him and is going to sue? Since the Patch printed the libel and slander is Woodland suing the Patch?
Watertown Lifer December 13, 2012 at 04:48 AM
^ that's very over the top and doubtful (no one is even mentioned!) I think it says to watch what you say unless you can back it with facts, and as the whole article is disputing "facts" that message is something the political world needs in today's day and age.
bindersfull ohwomen December 13, 2012 at 02:04 PM
The letters are side by side ken and John taking shot at each other and Ken says he gonna sue. The patch should say something.
Watertown Lifer December 13, 2012 at 05:31 PM
^ I keep reading the part you refer to and don't see "sue" or "John" explicitly written anywhere. If you personally want to assume those inferences that is your right, but they cannot be asserted as outright fact based on the content of the letter. "Testing legal skillset" could mean a variety of things besides suing (could be as simple as a legal debate) and as the issue received so much attention it is my belief there were many doing this, not just one person. The letter uses "some" "many" "groups" "those" all implying multiple people are meant to be included.
John DiMascio December 13, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Wow, they aren't teaching Mr. Woodland much in law school. No where was slander, libel, or anything close committed. It's called political speech. But obviously Mr. Woodland doesn't understand that term either. These are the facts, and if Mr. Woodland were pursue litigation he'd have to answer the following questions under oath: Mr. Woodland, did you unsuccessfully attempt to get this item to be placed on the Council agenda months ago under the Council rules? Of course other Councilors under oath, would have also answer whether or not they were asked to sign on by Mr. Woodland to get this on the agenda. So once it's established that MR. Woodland did indeed promote this agenda item, we would then have several witnesses that saw him gathering signatures for this item at his table at the "Faire on the Square" last September. So a reasonable pattern being established, nothing that was stated could possible reach the very high standard for libel and slander. Moreover, by calling it libel or slander, Mr. Woodland is contradicting he was that he was flattered by implying he was the or a driving force. By calling it libel, he's in as much saying that being a ring leader of the movement is some kind of criminal act. The young law student who is rumored to have very high political aspirations, can't have it both ways. Finally, he's a public figure, an elected official. The bar is even higher for libel or slander.
John DiMascio December 13, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Since Mr. Woodland isn't getting a very good education, lets help him out with what constitutes libel and slander. Libel and slander first and foremost must be a blatantly false statement. This is what I wrote: "It has come to my attention that a group of citizens, ENCOURAGED by District D Councilor Kenneth Woodland, has chosen to use a charter provision in order to force the Council to take partisan action on a measure regarding the Citizen’s United Supreme Court Case." "the reference to the young law student was preceded by the passive use of the verb "encourage." "...a group of citizens, ENCOURAGED by ...." So one can be encouraged in many ways by the position, actions, statements, of another person. Did the young law student actually sign the initiative petition? If he did, that right their could constitute encouragement. It my emotionally bolster the citizens promoting said issue, that such an important, notable, distinguished legal mind and Town Councilor, would sign their petition. The fact that he signed it, if he signed it, might be seen as a validation and used as such to encourage others to sign at. After all is such a rock star politico is said to support the measure, then shouldn't the average citizen? I could go on... but the point is made. I'd like to thank Councilor Woodland fort this opportunity to give the citizens of district D some more insight in to his qualifications, cognitive reasoning,and competence to serve.
John DiMascio December 13, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Finally, there are no conspiracy theories as it relates to what preceded the initiative petition. Councilor Woodland asked to have this item placed on the agenda. It was rejected. Under the Council rules, he had the option to trying to get 2 other councils to sign on with him. That would have guaranteed it be on the agenda UNDER THE COUNCIL rules. He was able to get one other, but not the second the one. And if he wants to have that discussion under oath, I welcome it. I'm sure his fellow Councilors will really appreciate being put on the spot, under oath to affirm the historical record. Nowhere have I or anyone else implied any wrong doing, any conspiracy, or any violation of the law. I simply stated on other posts that Mr. Woodland was unable to get this on the agenda using the current perfectly LEGAL Council rules. If the young law student, has aspirations for higher office or even re-election, he best learn very quickly to stop digging his own political grave.
JAY December 13, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Bacon Hill December 13, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Merry Christmas! Especially to the fools who say happy holidays like they mean it.
bindersfull ohwomen December 13, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Be careful John the Town Council is mad at you. Don't get yourself sued.
John DiMascio December 13, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Thanks for your concern Binders.... I'm not too worried about the Council being mad at me. Most of them didn't want any part of this silliness and that's why the voted the way they did. Notice that they didn't even debate the question after the public hearing. They just voted to send a letter telling the Beacon Hill and Congressional delegation, what they already knew or could have read in the paper. They expressed ZERO opinion either way on the merits of this issue.


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