Citizens aren’t buying the City of White Rock’s campaign to stamp-out gossip. According to documents obtained by theBreaker, several think it is a joke at taxpayers’ expense.
White Rock city hall launched a “Rumours and Misperceptions – Eliminating Misinformation” page on its website June 20. It is aimed at addressing what it calls “inaccurate information circulating in the community and media,” mainly related to the secretive water utility deal with EPCOR and complaints about polluted drinking water.
Rather than being transparent, the “City by the Sea” is spending public money on lawyers and spin.
theBreaker asked for email to and from the dedicated email address on the city hall website. On Aug. 18, White Rock released 10 email messages that it received between June 21 and July 10. The names of the correspondents were withheld for privacy reasons.
“Please note that the city does not respond directly to email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org,” wrote FOI manager Ken Overton. “All incoming emails receive an automatic reply.”
One of the first emails received was about the EPCOR deal.
“You still haven’t disclosed the details of the purchase of EPCOR! Why aren’t we hooking up to [Metro Vancouver] water? Isn’t it the cheaper solution?” wrote a person at June 21, 7:14 a.m.
On April 12, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered White Rock to give citizen Ross Buchanan a copy of the business case and related documents about the EPCOR deal, which is costing White Rockers more than $14 million. Instead of complying, city hall hired a lawyer to fight the order in B.C. Supreme Court.
A writer of a July 10, 12:46 p.m. email charged Mayor Wayne Baldwin with spreading misinformation for boasting at the June 26 city council meeting that White Rock’s drinking water exceeds national standards.
“Simple common sense will tell you that the provincial and federal governments would not dole out $11.8 million of public monies to White Rock so that White Rock can try to correct its troubled water situation if it was in fact true that [according to Baldwin] ’White Rock’s water exceeds the Canadian Drinking Water Standards in all respects,’ said the email.
“Either City of White Rock Staff, Fraser Health, [Conservative MP] Diane Watts and [ex-BC Liberal MLA] Gordon Hogg are all wrong, or Wayne Baldwin is creating incorrect rumours and spreading misinformation. In my opinion, it appears very clear to be the latter, so I ask please that you take quick steps to stop these unfortunate rumours, correct this misinformation and advise back.”
Another wrote at 8:54 a.m. on June 21 that “it is reminiscent of the Stalin era back in the days of the U.S.S.R., since you are asking the public to report rumours.
“Rumour has it that following the recommendations of staff, council will approve a new White Rock bylaw giving the bylaw officers sweeping powers to act as ‘rumour police’ and any member of the public found to be spreading ‘rumours and misperceptions’ that the city deems to be detrimental to the city’s interest will face stringent penalties. Is this correct?”
An even shorter email, under the salutation “Dear City Myth Busters,” on June 25 took a similar satirical swipe at the rumour patrol.
“I have many myths that I wanted to have professionally investigated and this seems to be a fantastic use of my tax dollars. My first rumour that I hope you can dispel is that Mayor Wayne Baldwin, is actually two children in a coat. I have attached the image that is circulating to support this rumour below. Please look into this matter and finally put this rumour to rest.”
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