The City of White Rock has received a number of rumours through its “Rumours and Misperceptions” fact check email address since its launch last June.
And while some of the reports are serious inquiries, others, however, appear to be satire in nature.
Since June, members of the public who have heard rumours that they “believe should be corrected” are asked, on the city’s website, to refer them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions are asked to include screenshots or links to social media posts; links to media articles, editorials and letters to the editor; and date and time and station of broadcast.
After submitting a freedom-of-information request for all emails received by the fact-check email address from June 20 to Aug. 20, Peace Arch News received 17 reports. All identifying details of those who submitted reports was redacted.
“Dear City Myth Busters,” one email, accompanied by a cartoon image from the Netflix original series, Bojack Horseman, begins.
“Thank you for setting up this site. 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 rumor 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 rumor.”
Another rumour reporter, who wrote calling the fact-checker initiative “reminiscent of the Stalin era back (in) the days of the USSR,” writes rumour has it that “Council will approve a new White Rock Bylaw giving the Bylaw Officers sweeping powers to act as ‘rumour police.’”
In the same email, the writer adds that his family depends on White Rock’s water, and “I hope this new bold PR initiative launched by the City will serve to significantly improve the quality of water delivered to White Rock water users.”
The city’s chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill told PAN Wednesday that not all rumours submitted to the fact-check email address warrant the city’s response.
“We need to assess whether or not it’s misinformation that actually requires our attention or not, or if it’s just silly and frivolous and not serious so that it would create concern by our community,” he said.
“You can appreciate that there’s a vetting process to this and we’re going to be assessing each piece as it comes in.”
Although some correspondence were delivered with a sarcastic tone, most seemed to be serious questions, and several related to water issues and allegations against council.
“You still haven’t disclosed the details of the purchase of (Epcor water utility)! Why aren’t we hooking up to (Metro Vancouver) water? Isn’t it the cheaper solution,” someone asks.
Another writes: “I heard a rumour” that the city is now having to double up on both arsenic and manganese plants at the Oxford site, and that “Epcor wouldn’t even consider this as it is so cost prohibitive.”
Another resident, representing the White Rock Safe Water Alliance, alleges that Baldwin had been spreading a rumour that White Rock’s water exceeds Canadian drinking-water standards in all respects.
“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,” the email says.
Another rumour reporter raises a conflict-of-interest allegation against Coun. Helen Fathers in her role as market manager for White Rock Farmers’ Market.
“The city grants Fathers’ business the right to the space for free and then Fathers’ rents it to vendors and gets to keep the profits. From the Public Purse to Helen’s Purse so to speak,” the person writes.
Another resident reports a rumour that Coun. David Chesney is in conflict of interest over his relationship with the talent booking agency RockitBoy Entertainment.
“Is it true that as an employee of RockitBoy Entertainment, that Councillor Chesney has voted in favor of a $5 Million expenditure that features a new entertainment facility, the amphitheatre and the beach?” the person writes.
“Is this not a Conflict of Interest?”
So far, the city has responded to one rumour that was sent to the fact-check address and has posted three rumours that came to the city’s attention by other means.
Bottrill said the webpage isn’t just intended for rumours submitted by citizens.
“We do want that to occur, but if ourselves are aware of it and if we are aware that other people besides just the individual making this kind of allegation, more than that, we will consider it.”