In response, Foothill Cities’ attorney Jean-Paul Jassy, a noted West Los Angeles free-speech advocate and educator, fired back, accusing the city of intimidation. The blog posted the response on its Web site Wednesday. “We routinely secure major fee awards for our clients,” Jassy wrote. “Including one award in excess of $100,000.” Experts say the battlefield in the dispute between government and those who cover it has morphed from disputes over the flimsy pamphlets of the 1700s to the quarrels over the transient bits and bytes of cyberspace. Nearly two-dozen blogs cover some form of politics or life in the northeastern portion of Los Angeles County stretching from Claremont to Pasadena. Some are serious; some are not. “Fortunately, the First Amendment covers new technologies,” said Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor. “It’s the message rather than the media.” The evolution of political commentary from pamphlets to newspapers to television to the Internet is not unlike the evolution of transportation from horse-drawn carriages to mag-lev trains, said Volokh, who has a group blog at Volokh Conspiracy. “Because of technology, even individuals who don’t have money can express their views,” Volokh said. “There is no downside.” Foothill Cities drew the ire of Pomona officials after publishing a series of rumor-filled posts regarding the departure of City Manager Doug Dunlap. Posts, filed anonymously by bloggers Publius and Centinel, also contained several anonymous comments attacking Dunlap. The issue came to a head last week. City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman sent a letter on city stationery via e-mail ordering the blog to “cease and desist any further publication of false information concerning the City of Pomona.” Free speech advocates question whether Alvarez-Glasman overstepped his authority and wondered what prompted the action last week. “It seems odd for me to have a city official representing in a private matter,” Glenn Reynolds, operator of the Instapundit blog, and a law professor at the University of Tennessee wrote in an e-mail. “Since government agencies can’t be libeled, the claim has to be personal on the part of the City Manager. If I were a voter there, I’d be asking why my tax dollars were going to this sort of thing.” Glasman defended his actions and noted that Pomona provides stationery for his office to use in such matters. He declined to name the person who directed the letter. “That is a matter of attorney-client privilege,” Alvarez-Glasman said. In an instant message exchange, Publius questioned Glasman’s technological savvy and noted the blog has received aid and comfort from many corners of the Internet universe. “The city attorney of Pomona, and whoever ordered him to send his threats, made a colossal mistake. It is clear from the language of his letter that he’s really not up on the whole blogging thing,” Publius wrote. “Simply considered as a PR move threatening us was asinine. We continue to experience a growing groundswell of support in the online community [including offers of legal assistance].” The names Publius and Centinel are well known to historians of the American Revolution. Many believe that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay collectively used the pseudonym Publius when writing the “Federalist Papers.” The name derives from a Roman ruler who 2,500 years ago introduced laws protecting individual liberty. Centinel’s writings of the late 18th century are believed to have played a role in the establishment of the Federal Bill of Rights. “Today’s bloggers, in fact, are more like the pamphleteers of the 18th century when the [First] Amendment was framed,” Reynolds wrote. Pomona officials questioned the lofty aspirations of Foothill Cities and challenged the need for anonymity. “I could take a pseudonym of somebody that had more prestige or historical significance and be totally inaccurate,” said Paula Lantz, a Pomona City Councilwoman. “Why would I give more credence or less credence to what they write by how they identify themselves?” Lantz likened any Internet buzz over the posts, Alvarez-Glasman’s letter and Foothill Cities reaction to spam chain letters that circulate from friend to friend via e-mail. “It’s like when someone forwards some cute, little anecdotal stories about Mother’s Day, or Easter, or name the circumstance,” Lantz said. “It went to a gazillion people because everyone that gets it turns around and clicks `send to all’ and it gets sent to their entire directory of contacts and so on and so on and so on.” Pomona Mayor Norma Torres compared Foothill Cities coverage of Pomona to supermarket tabloids. “They don’t have the full picture of what’s going on,” she said. “I laugh at them. You know what? They are gossipers.” Lantz said she first became aware of the blog after receiving an e-mail on April 20. “The e-mail said, `We thought you might be interested in a recent post. We’re happy to publish your response or commentary on the topic,” Lantz said. “It was signed, `best, Centinel.” In Sierra Madre, where several blogs, including Foothill Cities, make a point of writing about city issues, interim City Manager Don Hopper said he pays no attention. “I don’t have time to even think about them,” Hopper said. “They have no merit, even though the Constitution allows them. I don’t have time to engage in unproductive discussions.” Many in the blogosphere are taking up the cause of Foothill Cities. “When, oh when, will people learn that these `cease and desist’ letters will always get posted, and will always bring bad publicity to those who wrote them, unless there is a damned good reason for sending them?” writes one poster, Little Miss Attila. Aaron Proctor, a Pasadena resident who runs the blog “Aaron Proctor for Mayor,” dismissed Pomona’s reaction. “Why would anybody ask a blog to stop posting stuff?” he said. Anonymous blogger Claremont Buzz said Alvarez-Glasman’s letter to Foothill Cities should have no chilling effect on others covering politics. “As long as bloggers post responsibly and can document their information, it shouldn’t change things,” Claremont Buzz said in an e-mail exchange. “Maybe it’s better to have to re-examine one’s methods from time-to-time. It keeps one honest.” As for Publius and Centinel, they said the controversy has driven plenty of traffic to their site in recent days. “Our readership has shot up like gangbusters because of the city’s threats. The funny thing about it is we weren’t trying for publicity in regards to the rumors we published,” Publius wrote. “We had essentially let the matter rest – on one side, we had the city manager denying all the accusation[s], and on the other we had people still making them. “This letter came out of nowhere, and it is a perfect example of the ineptitude of local governments when it comes to the new media.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811 Ext. 2717 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! A blog that writes about local politics decided this week to fight accusations of defamation and enlisted a free speech attorney. Foothill Cities, run by two anonymous posters, says it “[promotes] responsible, limited local government and [exposes] corruption and government waste.” The city of Pomona says the Internet Web log is nothing more than a supermarket tabloid in electronic form. Thursday, the city threatened a defamation suit against the blog after it published posts and comments about the possible reasons for the departure of its city manager.