This past week has been a busy one for me personally. As part of a new product launch, I was in Mexico in the days leading up to the 4th of July holiday. That was on top of a short vacation to Houston. It was very hectic, but I managed to sneak in an Astros game and spend some time at NASA. Overall, it was a great 4th!
During my trip to Mexico, I spent time talking politics with the factory owner who makes our components. Mario is a native of Monterrey and has spent many years working in the U.S. and for U.S. customers. The discussion focused on drug crimes, U.S. immigration reform and his country's new president. (For a quick civics lesson, Enrique Peña Nieto took office Dec. 1, 2012, as Mexico's president and he serves a six-year term.)
We also talked about Neosho politics. His last visit to Neosho was in February and he wanted to catch up. He commented that he had no interest in being in politics because there are "no gold coins" – his way of saying no matter what you do, you will never make everyone happy. I agreed with his conclusion, but told him that it's not always the politician who is to blame. Often, confusion of facts or misinformation can create quite a stir – a stir that is often little or no fault of those being blamed. Here are a couple of recent examples.
Last week, I caught wind of some "misinformation" given to a local business owner who had asked about a local transportation project. (It was especially frustrating because those "answering" the questions were certainly not being completely honest.) I just happened to be close to his office so I pulled in and figured I'd do my best to clarify some things and see if I could answer any other questions he might have. After 45 minutes of having a lively discussion about a variety of topics, we said our goodbyes. While I certainly wasn't planning to change his mind, I was at least able to provide some information that I hoped would clarify a few things and better answer his questions. As I say during the intro to every town hall meeting, I wasn't there to tell him what to think, but I certainly made a point to make sure he had accurate information from which to base his opinion. When I left, he did thank me for stopping by and told me I'd given him some things to think about. That's success in my book!
Another example comes from some calls this week regarding Morse Park. Both calls referenced the condition of the park. One call was praising the efforts of the city's workers on how nice it was being kept. But another was pure criticism on how "terrible" it looked with all of the weeds and tall grass along La-Z-Boy Drive because we were "too lazy to mow."
Page 2 of 2 - What the second caller didn't know was that the city and the Missouri Dept. of Conservation are working together to convert a 15-acre area of the park from non-native turf grass into native warm-season grass with some wildflowers. (There is also an effort underway to restore some native trees on the south side of the park along Spring St.) These two areas are currently NOT being mowed like other areas of the park and could certainly give the appearance of poor upkeep. (I've since asked the city manager to consider some signage along those areas to help communicate the efforts being pursued.) After discussing our grass and tree efforts with the caller, he had a better understanding of what was taking place at the park and promised to seek more information next time before jumping to conclusions. I thanked him and the conversation ended on a much more pleasant tone that it began.
Luckily, in both of these examples, the outcome was good — more information helped to clarify issues of concern. But sometimes it doesn't end so well. Avenues such as Facebook can certainly fuel fires and turn often benign or insignificant events into major topics of discussion. Ultimately, none of us can stop those who wish to push misinformation for their own benefit, but keeping the facts available sure can help. The next time you hear (or see) something that doesn't sound (or look) quite right, take a minute to confirm the information. If it's a city issue, call city hall or drop me a line. If it's true, I'll certainly tell you. And if it's not, I'll do my best to clarify the rhetoric from the reality. Making sure people know what is and isn't happening is important. I'll end this article with a fitting quote from Abraham Lincoln — "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts."
Thanks to everyone who helped make Celebrate Neosho a great success. Traffic flow was better. The crowd was great. Kyle gave a great performance and the fireworks were a hit.
Until next time: stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.