Claremont Insider: Something Foul in the Air

Monday, November 26, 2007

Something Foul in the Air


The City of Claremont and the Claremont 400 have been pushing hard to try to get the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project pushed through. It's really become an uphill fight against public sentiment on the other hand, and reason and scientific evidence on the other.

But, as anyone who has watched the 400 in action before could tell you, hammering square pegs into round holes is a Claremont 400 specialty.

The project has faced steady opposition from a group called Citizens for the American Dream, who have favored a lower density, owner-occupied project. Since the city's draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) came out, there's been greater pressure on the city to move the project to an alternate site.

Because the entire housing project would lie within 500 feet of the 210 Freeway, the DEIR notes that there would be unavoidable adverse health impacts, primarily on children. The DEIR cites a January, 2007, report by the USC Keck School of Medicine whose 10-year study showed that living within 500 feet of a major highway can have very significant consequences for lung development in children.


Today, Will Bigham has an article in the Daily Bulletin reporting that the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has respond to the Base Line Project DEIR in a letter on November 16th. The AQMD formally opposes the project because of the health risks to children.

Of course, that hasn't stopped Claremont City Councilmember Ellen Taylor, the 400's go-to person on this project, from continuing to push for it along with Mayor Peter Yao. Ms. Taylor's arguments strike us as nothing more than willful ignorance:

"We all live near freeways in Southern California," Taylor said. "Our role,and the AQMD's role, should be to see that the air quality should improve, as it has over the last 30 years that I've lived here. I think there are larger policy decisions that we have to consider.

"We have already approved two housing complexes along that same freeway, and nobody came forward to say there was a problem. That would only lead me to suspect that the only reason they think it's a problem now is that we're talking about putting poor people up there."

Taylor really believes that you and we are stupid enough to forget that when those other two housing complexes she alludes to were built the USC study had not been published. She really thinks that that study is meaningless, that it still doesn't exist. (Right, Ellen, that's why they wasted 10 years on it.)

Taylor seems to be saying that new evidence will have no effect on her decision, that her mind was made up a long time before the DEIR came out. Question: Tell us again, Why did we spend $160,000 on the report?

Taylor is also playing up the blame game by making this into a class war: Oh, those people don't want this project because it means putting poor people in their neighborhood - this is a NIMBY issue.

Readers, this is nothing more than a crock of hooey, and Taylor knows it. She's just trying the ol' misdirection again, pitting neighborhood against neighborhood and hoping people ignore the AQMD, which doesn't give a tinker's damn about where the site goes as long as it's not within 500 feet of a freeway.


In this issue, Taylor exposes herself and the 400 for what they are: hateful, ignorant, willing to manipulate, willing to do anything to shove another of their poorly conceived projects down your throat because they are incapable of processing any information that contradicts their stupid preconceptions.

Watch in coming months as Taylor and company make use of logical fallacies to get their project finished. Right now, she's employing an argument from personal incredulity:

Argument from personal incredulity (from Wikipedia)

Two common versions of the argument from personal incredulity are:

- "I can't believe this is possible, so it can't be true." (The person is asserting that a proposition must be wrong because he or she is (or claims to be) unable or unwilling to fully consider that it might be true, or is unwilling to believe evidence which does not support her or his preferred view.)

- "That's not what people say about this; people instead agree with what I am saying." (Here the person is asserting that a proposition must be inaccurate because the opinion of "people in general" is claimed to agree with the speaker's opinion, without offering specific evidence in support of the alternative view.) This is also called
argumentum ad populum.

An argument from personal incredulity is the same as an argument from ignorance only if the person making the argument has solely their particular personal belief in the impossibility of the one scenario as "evidence" that the alternative scenario is true (i.e., the person lacks relevant evidence specifically for the alternative scenario).

Quite commonly, the argument from personal incredulity is used in combination with some evidence in an attempt to sway opinion towards a preferred conclusion. Here too, it is a logical fallacy to the degree that the personal incredulity is offered as further "evidence." In such an instance, the person making the argument has inserted a personal
bias in an attempt to strengthen the argument for acceptance of her or his preferred conclusion.

(Also see similar arguments: wisdom of repugnance and argument from emotion)

Watch and learn fellow Claremonters. The Claremont 400 and Ellen Taylor never let the facts get in the way of a decision they have already made.