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City officials seek blogger's identity

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Kayla Bunge
April 14, 2008
— Perhaps it’s not his commentary but his anonymity that makes city officials nervous.

A handful of city employees—led by Police Chief James Coan—spent six months trying to unmask John Adams, the anonymous Free Whitewater blogger and outspoken critic of city government.


Coan said the criticism Adams has levied at the city has been “unfair and unwarranted.”


But while both Coan and City Manager Kevin Brunner acknowledge that Adams has the right to free speech, it shouldn’t be anonymous, they say.


Besides, city officials just wanted to know Adams’ identity so they could talk.


“In a democracy, you need discussion, you need dialogue,” Brunner said. “I don’t appreciate the anonymity of it. It’s more productive to have a dialogue as opposed to a monologue.”


Brunner said a city should expect criticism.


“If we’re not experiencing criticism, we’ve got to worry,” he said. “But I like to know who I’m talking to.”


Adams said he writes anonymously because he wants people to focus on what he says not who’s saying it.


“Some people say that’s not why I use a pen name. It’s because I have something to hide,” he said. “I don’t have anything to hide.”


Adams said he is a common man who follows the example of uncommon men, such as Thomas Paine, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, all who criticized the government using pen names.


Similarly, it’s the “unfortunate direction” in which the city is headed that has Adams speaking loudly and lawfully.


“I write polemically, but I live peacefully,” he said.


His critics, Adams said, have falsely charged that he has a personal motivation for blogging.


“I write for the issues alone,” he said.


And Adams writes only about what’s public to allow others to draw their own conclusions.


“It’s my take on the city council,” he said. “People can watch the same meeting, attend the same meeting and have a totally different view.


“I’m not describing anything that’s hidden or secret.”


Adams believes his blog has allowed people to again feel comfortable with having a different opinion and making it known.


“It encourages people to say, ‘We expect things to be different, and it’s not wrong for us to expect that,’” he said. “‘It’s OK for us to have these views, too. I’m not the only one who feels this way.’”



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