Open Letter to Al Edmondson (Updated)

So a story appeared in the London Free Press this morning (linked to below) regarding Middlesex County Council’s decision to replace 2-year old laptops with Apple iPads. I find this to be a waste of money for reduced functionality replacing very usable computers. I just sent this email to Middlesex Centre (that’s where I’m a taxpayer) Mayor Al Edmondson and received a response. See below for my original email and Mayor Edmondson’s response.

Mayor Edmondson,

After reading today’s story in the London Free Press regarding Middlesex County Council acquiring iPads instead of $1,100 laptops (, I must challenge the notion that iPads are several hundred dollars cheaper than appropriate laptops for councillor use. Also, a 2 year refresh cycle for computer hardware is almost unheard (and a massive waste of taxpayer dollars) of except for engineers and game developers that need the very latest computer technology.

As a county taxpayer, I’m not happy about this decision to replace laptops only 2 years after purchase. iPads are probably enough, but you can easily find business-grade laptops (small, lightweight & wireless) for $499 – that’s $50 less than the cheapest iPad and they’re much more versatile.

This is yet another example of politicians being enamoured by a piece of technology they don’t need, while ignoring what would really be valuable to them and their citizens.

I eagerly await your response to this email.

UPDATED AUGUST 15, 2010: Mayor Edmondson emailed me back on August 12, and according to him the decision to move to iPads has indeed not actually been made yet even though the London Free Press story makes the case that this is a done deal. As promised, here is the response from Middlesex Centre Mayor Edmondson:

Dear Derek…Thanks for the letter. I would like to comment only on the fact that this is something that has not formally been presented to Council, but appears to being presented as a possible way of saving some money. In terms of the assumption that our councillors are zealous about technology, I would certainly argue the point, as it is far from the truth. Your point about the time to recycle a computer is well taken, as the one which helping to present this to you is much older than those that most County Councilors have, and has only caused me some inconvenience on a couple of occasions.

You should know that it was a giant leap for some Councilors to move away from paper into the wireless world, but as a group we recognized the time money and waste that could be avoided and got on with the change. This same group, less than a year later, were strong proponents of a broadband network for the whole of the County and today that has been established with the exception of one or two towers. This has been another huge technological step forward for County residents and particularly businesses. However, in my mind that does not necessarily lead to the adoption of an i-pod or rather pad as a necessity for carrying on our business, unless a real business case can be made for doing so. Thus far I came face to face with one for ten minutes or so when old faithful here failed at our last meeting. That certainly didn’t convince me that I needed one, nor that I could do a better job because of it. I will wait for the business case, and some tips on the advantages that won’t likely include cute and cuddly.

Thanks again and enjoy your day…Al

Here’s hoping rationale people think this through and re-consider their decision. The notion that iPads will properly replace the councilors’ laptops, aging or otherwise, for the next 3 years is ludicrous. I’m keeping a close eye on the meeting agendas going forward and I may drop in to lend my opinion to full county council if given the chance.