Claremont Insider: Fun with Numbers

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fun with Numbers

Judy and Diann caught in a Big Fib

Judy Wright and Diann Ring were working late last Monday night trying to get their letter to the editor and city council in shape. Maybe Bill McCready was in the corner flipping tortillas, but he didn’t say much. Dick Newton was deceased that night.

When they got to the third to the last paragraph, they were stumped. They needed a statistic to really bring the point home. They had already used the idea that “the city council held 10-15 well attended neighborhood meetings.” It was way too much work to look up whether it was 10 meetings, or 15, or somewhere in between. Anyway, it was a lot.

They remembered that the City had held a Big Meeting at Bridges Auditorium in December of 1992, and a lot of people spoke. Maybe if they told the mean editor and dumb ol' members of city council that there had been a huge groundswell for the Utility Tax, it would show ‘em just how right Wright and Wring are, and how Wrong everyone else is.

But it would have to be a really big number.

Boy said Judy, I don’t know how many people were there, and I’m too tired looking up history for my book and stuff…I’ll bet there were thirty or forty people who spoke and I’ll bet that nine out of ten of them were on our side.

I know said Diann, let’s tell them that 32 out of 35 speakers requested a utilities user tax be instituted.

And that’s what they did.

[Note: The minutes for the December 12, 1992 public hearing at Bridges Auditorium are here. 16 members of the public spoke. Only 3 of the 16 clearly supported the utility user tax. Most were making comments on tangential issues such as tax fairness, service cuts, alternative financing such as fees, etc. A couple seemed to be leaning pro-utility tax, a couple seemed to be leaning anti-utility tax without being clear about it. There is no meeting or combination of meetings in the late 92-early 93 period, when the Utility User Tax was being considered and adopted, that make the 32 out of 35 statistic citied by Wright and Ring. It is simply incorrect.

A very interesting--some might say compelling--statistic Wright and Ring omit is one associated with the contentious LLD process. Reporting the March 6, 1990 count of mail to council on the LLD. "The city clerk reported receipt of written correspondence received to date on this issue to be: 60 letters of support, 475 opposing, and 14 withdrawing opposition."

That sounds to us like 7 or 8 to 1 against the LLD. But for Wright and Ring, it is an inconvenient truth.]