A bogeyman used to douse criticism and poo-poo citizen concerns
COLUMBIA, 9/29/12 (Op Ed) -- Citizens beware! Your information may be labeled "misinformation" when you question local leaders about their intentions for your lives and livelihoods.
"What I got from (the petition) is that I think there is probably a lot of misinformation out there," said Columbia Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus, when residents of a housing project presented him with a petition urging a different route for project redevelopment.
Information about the housing authority's redevelopment project is in a Federal statute called the URA, so it's unlikely anyone reading it would be "misinformed." People are more likely to be misinformed by only listening to housing authority representatives and their consultants.
Meanwhile, community leaders have been playing the misinformation card a lot these days.
"Misinformation has gotten in the way of building trust, Columbia Public Schools superintendent Chris Belcher said. 'I'm really bothered by misinformation put out there...,' he said. One complaint is that some schools still aren't air-conditioned while the district spends money expanding its administrative office."
"Misinformation is harmful to the district's reputation and community trust," Belcher said in the email.
"Incorrect information has been widely disseminated that a blight declaration as required exposes most of Columbia to pending condemnation by the city of Columbia. This is totally incorrect."
In each case, it turns out the "misinformation" was coming from the leadership as it tried to pull a fast one over smart, watchful people. The best thing for leaders to do is answer questions truthfully -- and stop playing the "misinformation" card when citizens demand answers.