Don’t Expect Straight Talk From “The Spokesman”


By now you should have received your February issue of our taxpayer-paid propaganda sheet known as “The Spokesman.”  The new issue features a cover article titled “Business retention report shows healthy climate of growth” [pdf] which creates the impression – without actually coming out and saying it – that our local economic development is going great guns.  Which is what Mayor Howard “Growth and Development” Frimark wants us to believe.

But most of what is written is pretty much just factually-unsupported feel-good fluff which, when you really think about it – actually sounds pretty un-promising.

Let’s start with the first paragraph, which states that the City “utilized the data-collection instrument to survey 41 businesses.”  Is 41 a statistically significant sampling, or just a semi-meaningless number?  We’d also like to know what’s a “data-collection instrument” – is that a fancy way to say “broom” or “trash bin”?  And when they say that of the 41 businesses surveyed, “28%” were “retail” and “10%” were restaurants, do they really mean that they surveyed 11.48 retail businesses and 4.1 restaurants?  Why not just name the businesses, which would be a whole lot more informative (but which might explain, come to think of it, why they didn’t do it).

The second paragraph tells us that “growth in product and service offerings” indicates a “healthy business climate.”  We don’t know where that theory comes from, but we’ll take their word for it for purposes of this discussion.  The City reports that 32% of the 41 responding companies (13.12 of them?) “introduced new products, services or capabilities in 2007”; and within 18 months another 17% (6.97) “anticipate introducing new products or services.” Adding those up would still mean that less than 50% of those 41 businesses are experiencing, or expect within 18 months, a “healthy business climate” – and that’s assuming that, for example, a restaurant can satisfy the “new product” standard by as little as offering a new flavor of Jello for dessert.  

The third paragraph gives us some factoids about those businesses.  But does it really matter to the health of our business climate whether “43% are family owned” or “8% are not-for-profit”?  Of course not – just some irrelevant information to create the appearance of substance.  If the City wants to give us some meaningful information, why isn’t there any mention of whether (and if so, by how much) the City’s sales tax revenues have increased? 

The final three paragraphs talk about employment and expansion.  We question how “healthy” is a business climate where  “[e]xpansion/ renovation dollar investment is projected to exceed $22 million” yet only creates “20 new jobs”?  Or how the City administration can appear to brag about an anemic 2.11% “net gain” of “83 full time positions” (out of 3,930 full-time employees of the 41 responding businesses) following a virtually non-existent 0.10% growth (4 full time positions) in 2006?

But of course, in the parallel universe that local government inhabits, all of this makes sense so long as you don’t ask any questions, you try hard not to think about what you’re being told, and you just keep on paying your increasingly higher property taxes and fees for stagnant, if not declining, services.

6 comments so far

I read that story and just missed all those things you pointed out. Wow…no wonder so many ordinary citizens keep getting suckered by these guys.

A most excellent observation, Pub-dogs! The question about any increase in sales tax revenues, the whole reason PR has gone down the road of “partnering” with private developers, is spot on.

An honest man who arrests public attention will be called a “humbug,”‘ but he is not a swindler or an impostor. If, however, after attracting crowds of customers by his unique displays, a man foolishly fails to give them a full equivalent for their money, they never patronize him a second time, but they very properly denounce him as a swindler, a cheat, an impostor; they do not, however, call him a “humbug.” He fails, not because he advertises his wares in an outre manner, but because, after attracting crowds of patrons, he stupidly and wickedly cheats them.

P.T. Barnum–“Humbugs of the World”

I typically use the Spokesman to line the bottom of my bird cage. Oops, I don’t have a bird. What sort of sh*t have I been using it to clean up?
Well, anyway, the Spokesman has never been anything other than a lame piece of propaganda. It seems sometimes to compete vigorously with the Herald Advocate and the JT as a mouthpiece for City Hall. What’s that thing cost to print and distribute? Whatever it is, it’s too much. Better off posting it on the City Hall front doors for all the good it is for the community. I get as much use out of it as I do the Sunday bulletin at the church I attend.
More meaningful would be some discussion about the empty storefronts all over the place and the possibility for some meaningful tax paying businesses moving into them and into all of the commercial / retail space being built up in Uptown. Reading about how the city might be seeking new tax paying businesses as opposed to how the city will tax me more in order to fund their self inflicted deficit would make me very happy.
How about it Howard et al???

What do you mean empty store fronts all over the place?

The only empty store fronts I’ve seen are those in some of the new development on Northwest HWY.
wich haven’t in bought yet.

Otherwise most of Uptown seems to be filled with stores.

Forgive me if I’m asking an obvious question or if I missed something but what do they have in mind with redeveloping the Higgins Ave cooridor and what’s the point of it?

Looks fine to me so why fix it if it aint broke?

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