Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lies. Damned Lies. Statistics.

For the second time is less than two and a half years, the "Facts & Figures" page on the CCSD web site has been extensively revised due to me bringing the use of outdated, not to mention un-sourced and mathematically problematic, figures to the public in the pages of the Banner-Herald.

The first time was in October 2008, leading up to elections for spots on the Clarke County Board of Education.  I will not cover that episode again, as I have done so any number of times previously (just enter “Worthy” as a search term at the top of the page if you desire to read more about it).  Wrote I at the time:

It is amazing what a little negative publicity can do. Within hours of my letter to the editor appearing in yesterday’s Banner-Herald, the HTML version of the CCSD’s “Facts & Figures” had been extensively revised and the PDF version had vanished altogether . . .

That quote is from a blog post of 28 months ago.

My latest column, printed Sunday, similarly noted that “the information given on the ‘Facts & Figures’ handout included in participants' folders is different in almost every respect from that given on the analogous page of the district's website.”  This, predictably, prompted a wholesale revamp of the web page in question on Monday.

Yesterday morning, the web page included a notation that it was last updated in August of 2010.  Some information on it may well have been.  Most, however, had not and some was years out of date.  And yesterday afternoon, the information appearing thereon changed dramatically.

Why is it left to me to prompt these revisions?  The updated page notes that the CCSD has 2848 employees (an increase of about 700 in one day, mind you), but the information on its web site gets to be years out of date (for example, the per pupil expenditure figure on the site earlier today dates from FY 2008, which began almost 4 years ago).

Does not any of this multitude of employees ever review or update the information presented on the CCSD web site?

By the same token, does not the local news media ever review or ask questions about such information?

Apparently not.

These are questions that someone besides me needs to be asking. If the data presented by the CCSD is consistently inaccurate, how is the public to make reasoned decisions as to local education policy?

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Impertinent Observations

Now that I have the new gig over at the Banner-Herald, posting may be somewhat sporadic here at TOA.  Even so, I am not technically a shill for the corporate masters at Morris Communications.  I am, instead, a freelancer writing under contract to the folks at One Press Place about whatever attracts my interest.  And we all know what that usually is.

New mayor Nancy Denson has named new chairs to the commission’s two standing committees.  Says Blake’s article:

Under former Mayor Heidi Davison, the two super-district commissioners - most recently Hamby and Girtz - chaired the committees because they each represent half the county and, at least theoretically, have broader interests and larger constituencies than the eight regular commissioners.

Davison organized the two committees in 2003. Government Operations vets internal government policies like sidewalk construction and fees for recreation programs, while Legislative Review considers proposed laws. Each has five members and, while the chairmen run the meetings, the mayor assigns the issues the committees tackle.

As the article makes clear, chairmanship of either committee is an administrative task, not necessarily a policy-making one.  Even so, I appreciate former mayor Davison’s rationale for naming chairmen.  On the other hand, if Denson was intending to send a message that her administration was going to be more centrist, just as her campaigned promised, this was a good place to start.

On another matter, once again I was ahead of the curve.  Close on the heels of this column from last Sunday in which I lament the land acquisition practices of the Unified Government, we discover that City Hall is going to buy even more land for the SPLOST-funded “tennis center,” which has turned into nothing but a money pit.

I posted what appears below over on the Banner-Herald comment board, quoting from the article:

Although county officials had said they did not have money to buy land for the tennis center, they said Tuesday that the deal is too good to pass up. Cornerstone is asking $240,000 for the property, well below its $362,000 assessed value and the $2.2 million the YWCO wanted for 9 acres off Research Drive.


Still, the purchase will push the tennis center's cost to $3.1 million, and only $2.3 million in sales tax revenue is budgeted. Other funding will include $240,000 from a contingency fund and $430,000 in interest from the SPLOST program, Reddish and Leisure Services Director Pam Reidy said.

So we don’t have the money within the existing tennis center budget to build it on land the Unified Government already owns, but we have money to purchase additional land on which to build it?

So if City Hall buys the property for “well below” its assessed value, will the assessments of neighboring property owners be reduced to reflect this new market value?

So, given the years of angst that has accompanied the design and placement of the tennis center, we will overcome legitimate concerns as to the desirability and utility of whatever is built by simply throwing more money at the damned thing?

Go ahead, keep telling me how frugal City Hall is with my tax money.

Addendum - see the Banner-Herald article for scads of comments

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