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Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader


You could add to that list “survey results.” First, surveys conducted by partisan organizations are often used to prove a point, rather than inform.

So, when I received a survey through the mail from State Senator, David Long, I smiled at the glossy piece that carried five pictures of the senator and 14 mentions of his name.

Question: “Do you think the right to hunt and fish should be placed in the Indiana Constitution to protect against those who want to limit these practices?”

Only a very few people in Indiana challenge the “right” of hunters and fisherfolk to do their thing, so why ever would we go through the million-dollar process of adding an amendment to the state constitution? Answer: to protect those who run controversial operations such as the canned hunts where deer and other animals are penned up, the old shooting-fish-in-a-barrel concept. Many people find this highly objectionable and hardly akin to hunting, but rather more like murder. The only redeeming feature in canned hunts accrues to those fatso sadists who have to get off their bulbous asses in order to stalk a few feet into the cleared brush so they may blow Bambi’s head off. Fatso hunter gets his rocks off, and the equally repugnant low-lives who own such canned “hunts” get cash. Bambi never quite knew what hit her, and we need to protect this in the constitution?

Here’s another one: “Do you support requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to work or seek work in order to receive welfare?” Why all the qualifiers? So, why just able bodied, why only those without dependents? And, only have to seek work? Of course, we all chant. Make ‘em work or cut ‘em off. Trouble is we have chronic unemployment, a swath of middle aged white guys can’t find jobs as hard as they try, while others couldn’t perform even rudimentary jobs due to congenital physical or mental problems, injury and more. Let them eat cake, eh, David?

There are quite a few other simplistic questions on the survey, including one suggests funding to state supported universities should be based upon their on-time graduation rate. Yuck. Such banality fails to take into account that we are each different and proceed through life at different rates. Should IU have been penalized for my three years in the Army? There are a thousand reasons students take extra time to graduate, (just ask Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or a thousand others) so to press IU, Ball State or PU to push students through in four years means the schools will find ways to make their meaningless numbers. Stupid question. I believe David has a law degree, so he should know better.

Speaking of standards, speaking of stupid, the last question on David’s online survey invites participants to rank spending priorities from one to eight. Seems neither counting nor proofreading are among David’s strong points as there were only seven items to rank from one to eight.

Oh, and by the way, the online survey is significantly different than that which comes in the mail, making one more curious as to how our “opinions” might be interpreted, if they are to be interpreted at all.

Bottom line, the mailer is more a public financed name-recognition, photo-laden-image builder for Senator Long, not a meaningful survey.

Squandering our Inheritance

Councilman Russ Jehl, who has not been brought inside the Legacy process, believes the Henry Administration is spending money like profligate lottery winners. He notes that of the $78 (or so) million Legacy inheritance, the city has already encumbered $30 million or so, including paying for 2013 snow removal! Some of his fellow councilmen, including Republicans, not to mention the city controller who manages our city’s accounts, politely think he is mistaken. First, the administration says his $30 million is a bit high, and extends out a few years. Secondly, they note the fund is earning what they call a “conservative 6% per year,” which is quite an achievement for any government entity, and which supports their argument the Legacy Fund will be around for many more years, unless squandered, which is his point. However, reading the spreadsheet on SmartGov suggests $30 million is encumbered, either paid or promised to projects, or as collateral for bonds. Seems Mr. Jehl is right judging by the spreadsheet. He argues that not only have we reached the limit of permitted spending, but may have exceeded by $3 million which is what is left of the discretionary funds in the mayor’s Education “bucket.”

Some councilmen do agree with Russ about tightening access to the fund. An oversight committee has been formed and additional rules are on the table, and remember, it takes six votes, a super majority from council, to spend from the fund.

With that in mind, a whopping lot of proposals to use the Legacy money are on the table including the many millions that will be needed to start number one priority, development of our rivers.

Not all councilmen, however are completely on board the prudence bandwagon. Such a large pool of money is very tempting to politicians and their friends. For example Councilman Tom Smith, a Legacy insider, lobbies to give Parkview Hospital, which does not pay taxes on its substantial income from its Randallia campus, some $1 million of our public inheritance for a “synergy” on that campus. One has to wonder why well-healed Parkview, which also pays its exec about a million a year, can’t fund their own projects. Another councilman ponders whether the Parkview proposal is really “transformational,” as the Legacy guidelines demand. Perhaps tightening the process should begin with a no vote on the Parkview project, as well as the (insiders) Councilman Didier/Paddock-sponsored World Baseball Academy project that (insider) Smith commented would certainly transform the World Baseball Academy, but not so the community. Perhaps Mr. Jehl is offering an oblique criticism of both questionable uses of the inheritance, and perhaps Mr. Jehl should be on the Legacy committee, rather than those who have their pet projects and, thus, an inside track to spend. Prudence is a virtue.

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