I have been thinking about this a lot. I have been online since 1994, when the Alachua Freenet first opened up it’s dial-up lines to Gainesville residents. I was user afn43269, and in a short time I was on USENET, engaging people in discussions about religion and politics and Dave Barry. When the Gainesville Sun first got online as Sunone.com, I participated on their lively message board from early in its existence as the user, DonTWC, which stands for Don the Window Cleaner. Even though I had a username, I have always been up front about who I was. I have never liked anonymous posting, because I think that your testimony loses power when you are not willing to put your name on it. This is not for everyone, but if you are an elected official, I think there should be a record of what you believe and what you stand for.
After I ran for the county commission in 2002, I started a web site that would allow candidates to get their message out for free. I would give any candidate for local elected office a platform to tell the voters whatever he or she wanted, with no limits on space or content. Sadly, very few have taken me up on it, and no incumbent has EVER posted on AlachuaVoterGuide.com. A few challengers have. Some ex-officials have. But it has been a source of extreme frustration for me that so few will go on the record on a site where they might get…GASP…comments from the public.
During the incendiary leadup to the vote on Amendment One last year, I was the only one to open discussion on the site. When people from around the world came to post comments accusing me of bigotry and hatred, I tried to engage them and find common ground. No other public figure had discussions like these that I have been able to find. No one takes comments and tries to have a civil discourse, AND puts his name on it!
I want you to know that as your Mayor, this will not change. I will still blog. I will still deal with your criticisms, comments, complaints, and suggestions in the same manner that I always have. For me, transparency is not a fad, or a novelty, or an undefined promise that can be fudged on later. It has been my life, and you deserve accountable, accessible leadership. Please vote for me March 16th.