KEARNEY – A politically motivated blog has caught the attention of citizens and is raising the ire of council members in the Town of Kearney.
The blog, initiated by a group calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Kearney, is run anonymously and council states that the image portrayed is destructive, false and could potentially drive away investors to the town.
The blog currently portrays an image of the Town’s mayor with his tongue stuck out and stories, which are updated almost daily, criticizing council members, the chief building official and includes a scathing review of this year’s Kearney Regatta.
“It serves to portray the town in a very negative light, the information is not factual or correct,” said mayor Paul Tomlinson. “It could cause some people to reach the wrong conclusions regarding the town, its people, the volunteers and give the wrong impression.”
According to an emailed response to the Almaguin News, signed simply, Concerned Citizens of Kearney, the purpose of the blog is “to ensure that Mayor Tomlinson, Coun. Dingwall, Coun. Sainsbury and Coun. Wadsworth, and their friends, since taking control of Kearney (after eliminating the ward system) operate out in the open in the light.”
“It’s so totally destructive. It’s just full of mistruths and insults. I find it personally offensive,” said Wadsworth. “I think it perpetuates misinformation and people don’t get a true view of what this Town is about.”
“It’s divisive and it presents a very distorted picture of what is happening in the Town of Kearney,” said Coun. Barry Dingwall. “And lies, mostly lies.”
Dingwall says he believes that the blog has divided the Town.
“The hostility was already there. We’ve seen seasonal residents who call the locals ‘inbred’, and the recent beating,” writes Concerned Citizens of Kearney, referring to a recent assault on Jeff Johnston, son of the former mayor by the same name who has been accused of, and denies, affiliation with the blog. “Words don’t create violence or bigotry. That already existed.”
Wadsworth, amongst other councillors, is concerned about the image the blog is portraying of the town.
“There are lots of good things, lots of good people, but it’s certainly not reflected there. That’s for sure,” she said.
Tomlinson says he is concerned that business hoping to locate in the Town of Kearney would search the town on Google and find this blog, stating that it could detract business opportunities.
“It diminishes our possibility of encouraging outside business or interests to the town,” said Dingwall. “This would probably be the most negative thing to the Town of Kearney.
However, Concerned Citizen’s response was that council does not need their help driving investment away, with things such as treatment of local business owners, property inspection issues, and budget woes.
“There is zero promotion of tourism in Kearney and this year’s Regatta was a pale shadow of former years,” writes the blog’s author. “The current council is killing the Town of Kearney and we’re trying to expose it and stop it. They can’t have everyone dragged from every meeting.”
However, the fact that the blog writers remain anonymous is a concern to some council members.
“It’s destroying the town because there is no responsibility attached to the people that put it on,” said coun. Art Murdy. “There is very little recourse. Nobody takes ownership with the blog.”
Concerned Citizens states that the reason behind the anonymity should be obvious after alleged treatment against the Johnston family that included smear campaigns, photo and video surveillance and the assault on Jeff (Jr.).
“We think it’s pretty obvious why we (there are actually several of us who contribute to and maintain the blog) wish to remain anonymous,” stated the blog response.
Tomlinson says he has received calls by people who have become alarmed by information published on the blog, and refuted allegations of wrong-doing which are contained therein.
“It does cause spin in the town,” he said.
Tomlinson says the Town of Kearney is not seeking legal action and to the best of his knowledge it has not been discussed.
“We wouldn’t dignify it with a response,” he said.
He says because of the anonymity maintained by the bloggers, Tomlinson says council is aware that it would be virtually impossible to discover the source.
“It’s doing more harm than good in this town and they just move from one subject to another,” he said. “It’s just outrageous nonsense in the blog.”
“We may editorialize and engage in a more tabloid style to generate interest, but we always base on factual, and easily verifiable, information. Often we quote the Almaguin News and direct our readers to your website,” the blog response states. “We believe we’ve had a positive effect. Several bylaws that we critiqued were drastically revised or struck down completely.”
Coun. Sainsbury was not present at the council meeting to respond to questions of the blog and Coun. Ken Ball’s response was simple.
“I don’t read it,” he said, adding that he has been told about it and understands that it is mostly negative.