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Have your say, put a name on it

Put your name on it.

Nearly every week, The SUN receives letters to the editor —unsigned, signed with false names, or emblazoned with clever pseudonyms.

The letters are not printed.

We are willing to print nearly any letter sent to us, so long as a missive meets a few standards, among them no obscenity, no libel and within a word limit.

And, signed.

We also require an address and phone number that allows us to check a letter for a valid signature if we do not know the author.

The trend to allow and, in fact, encourage anonymity has blossomed on the Internet — on blogs, on so-called “news” sites —allowing far too many commentators to go unidentified. This opens the door to an unreliable form of dialogue that would be restrained in other, more traditional venues.

When the identity of a writer is not required, authors feel safe to display anything they can concoct, hidden from scrutiny and any criticism that targets them as the source.

Anonymous commentary and the use of pseudonyms are cloaks for cowards; opinions expressed in this way lack authenticity.

If you have an opinion worthy of consideration, have the integrity to sign your name to it. If you believe your message is valid and valuable, let people know from whom it comes.

The same goes for political messages distributed in a variety of forms.

This week, many Pagosa voters received a flier in the mail urging a “no” vote in the upcoming Reservoir Hill election. Most of the information in the flier was correct, with one glaring omission: the flier states the town council, “has only committed to further study the economic feasibility (of the Reservoir Hill proposal) on a feature by feature basis.” This leaves out the fact that town council approved the purchase of a ski lift for more than $40,000, with the oft-stated intent that it would be used on Reservoir Hill.

At the bottom of the flier we read: “Paid for by the TRUE Friends of Reservoir Hill.”

Who? “TRUE Friends” without names?

Another piece of campaign literature was recently mailed concerning the election on April 23. It relays some bold assumptions about what goes on in the minds of town councilors, with its ultimate design to encourage a “yes” vote on the issue.

This mailing, according to a note on the card, was “Provided by Pagosa Votes.”

Who? Where is the weight without the names? How can one hold the advocates accountable?

In both cases: come out in the open. What’s the problem with that? If you believe in the message you promote, why would you not want people to know who you are? Why should people who want to examine the character and quality of your message have to search to discover your identity?

Further, we urge elected officials to step forward and take an open stand with respect to all issues — not to run and hide behind “the people” when thorny problems arise. Speak your mind, make decisions: that’s what you are elected to do. Cast a vote, face the blowback.

A recent statement by a county commissioner to the effect that other controversial issues should be taken to the voters is a less than courageous position. Why retreat into the background to leave a decision up to “the people,” in particular when an election drains critical taxpayer dollars? This is equivalent to an anonymous letter. Take a stand and put your name on it. If “the people” don’t like it, they can try to oust you at the next, regularly scheduled, opportunity.

Karl Isberg

This story was posted on April 11, 2013.