Jefferson City Council struggling with misconceptions

Officials say rumors, myths take on life of their own every time they get repeated

Jefferson City officials say they often have to fight the battle of misconceptions in the public, but they are unsure of how to combat the issue.

As the City Council continues discussions on a proposed conference center, certain misconceptions about the issue keep coming back, much to the frustration of council members. But myths and misconceptions run wild with all issues and council members don’t know how much they can do to stop it.

“There are misconceptions that are put forward fairly often,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner.

Scrivner said he has found the best way to combat misconceptions and myths is to talk to people one-on-one about city issues, though it is not always successful.

“I do have some success when I can talk to people, in some cases,” Scrivner said. “You can talk to people sometimes, and it just seems like it falls on deaf ears.”

He said listening to people within the community is the most important aspect of being part of local government and that communication is key to overcoming some rumors or myths.

But Scrivner also said some of the responsibility for knowing the facts on city issues falls back on the public.

“People have some responsibility in this, too,” Scrivner said. “People have a responsibility to read the newspaper, to watch the TV, to listen to the news and to judge their council on their body of work.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Ralph Bray said information simply needs to be shared as much as possible to help slow the spread of myths.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll said many of the city’s most popular rumors have existed for a long time, gaining traction each time it’s told as a truth. “I don’t know why people believe them,” she said.

Carroll said myths are perpetuated through word-of-mouth and letters to the editor.

“As those things are said, people believe them to be reality without checking into the facts,” Carroll said. “And all it could take is a simple phone call to their councilman.”

First Ward Councilman Rick Prather agreed, saying often only one side of an issue is portrayed and taken as fact. Prather said having a good public relations program could help to combat the spread of myths, though he is unsure of what that program would consist of.

Second Ward Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich said the issue of myths and misconceptions is not unique to Jefferson City, but the best way to combat that problem is through more accountability measures.

“I think people need to know the good things our city is doing,” Mihalevich said. “The more we get out what we’re doing, the better people will understand.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Carlos Graham said he’s not sure how to change the habit of spreading rumors or myths, but he hopes having more direct communication with constituents will help.

“Doing town hall meetings and being able to stay in touch with your constituents and let them know that they can call you any time ... to get the actual facts,” Graham said.

Accompanying article:

Many City Hall issues saddled with myths, half-truths

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