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Timothy Myers: Made up numbers and other events of note

Posted: June 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Local officials and other notables like to spout out things that sound "right" to support their points or assertions, and reporters like to write them down and quote them in press accounts. After a period of time the quotes attain the status of received wisdom and nearly theological truth.

People like me enjoy looking behind the assertions to what supports them, usually finding nothing, and then debunking the support and the attendant assertions.

My first local experience dealt with Helmers Elementary School’s failed attempt to institute school uniforms in the late 1990s.

School personnel cited "studies" that showed how children in schools with school uniforms performed "much better" than those children in schools without uniforms. (My Nebraska bride, for reasons too detailed to discuss here, bears a particular animus against school uniforms.)

When I inquired, a helpful school administrator gave me the citation for the supposed "study."

Upon reading it, I was not surprised to find that the supposed support found itself comprised of 13 anecdotal stories involving schools of less than 200 students where administrators self-reported "vast improvements" over 12-month periods in student "performance" not backed up by testing, attendance or other data, but rather a general feeling relating to the selection bias of the uniform implementation. (After a parent plebiscite, Helmers Elementary did not institute a uniform policy.)

A few months ago I penned a column calling into question the advisability of the city of Santa Clarita partially underwriting the SCV Economic Development Corporation because its purported achievements seemed somewhat nebulous.

Primarily, the Economic Development Corporation seemed to collect awards for slick-papered communications given by an association of Economic Development Corporations.

Subsequent to that column, I received a phone message from Jonas Peterson, the president of the Economic Development Corporation, offering to meet and explain the workings of the EDC.

My schedule at that time did not permit such a meeting, and now it will not occur because Mr. Peterson recently resigned his position to take a similar post in Las Vegas.

However, I did notice that after the column, the EDC issued news releases touting the many "jobs" attracted to Santa Clarita over its relatively few years of existence.

When the agenda item came up for city subsidy renewal, local community and business leaders also parroted these gains, and the City Council renewed the $200K-per-year subsidy.

I wish good luck to Mr. Peterson in his future endeavors. Like all public and quasi-public officials in the SCV — even those literally run out of town — he received his appropriate valedictory from local luminaries and the attendant reporting, which led to some entertaining numbers.

From The Signal’s account, the numbers reported constituted fairly conservative amounts, claiming that the EDC attracted 1,000 jobs to the SCV. Probably defendable based upon prior self-reports of the EDC, though in the case of one "catch" of about 400 jobs, I strongly suspect that the folks already worked here but got counted when another company closed an acquisition and left the jobs in place.

But if one really wants to see a valedictory, check out the coverage on KHTS, where a reporter asserted that the EDC could claim responsibility for attracting and retaining tens of thousands of jobs!

A few actual numbers: According to the 2010 census, just about 82,000 Santa Claritans participated in the work force. No reliable numbers exist on how many of these 82,000 Claritans works outside the SCV, but morning and evening traffic on Interstate 5 and Highway 14 would indicate that at least one-third do, reducing the number to 55,000 who actually might (a very weak "might") live and work in the SCV.

This assumes that the EDC will not claim credit for jobs that exist in the San Fernando Valley, West Los Angeles, downtown L.A., the South Bay and, in my case, Orange County.

Subtract from that number the 16,000 people who work for public and legacy entities in the SCV, such as Magic Mountain and Princess Cruises, and one finds oneself left with about 39,000 folks who might actually live and work in the SCV.

This again assumes the EDC would not claim credit for jobs relating to companies and public entities that existed before its formation.

So that being the case, the EDC pretty much either created or preserved every single job held by a resident of the SCV during the corporation’s short history!

How can we let Jonas Peterson leave?

Timothy Myers is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" publishes Saturdays in The Signal.


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