And the story continues…
From June, 2011 to October, 2011 the City accepted citizen input regarding preferred usage of the Wildflower property, but the City’s scoring of the survey’s results misrepresents the intent of most of the responses. A large number of responses were not scored by the City and most of the responses that were scored were incorrectly categorized. These two problems allowed the City Staff to present results of the survey as favoring a restaurant on the Wildflower site; whereas the survey results actually favor a public park on the site. Furthermore, now that the problems are made visible, some City Council members and City Staff are trying to dismiss the importance of the survey. This article describes these problems and provides an updated status. The problems are individually discussed to assist with understanding.
Problem 1 – Citizen Responses Not Scored
The City Staff’s scoring of the survey failed to include a relatively large number of citizen responses. Independent scoring of the responses indicates that about 20 valid citizen responses were not counted by the City Staff. Considering that the City presented the results of 61 responses, the 20 not counted represents an error of over 30%. In reviewing the type of responses not counted, the majority favored a park on the Wildflower site.
The short video in the following link describes this problem in more detail. The first video clip is from June, 2011 and is the City Staff inviting the citizens to respond to the survey. Note that the citizens were encouraged to provide input to the City through a number of different methods.
In the second portion of the video clip, the City Staff is disclosing that it only counted citizen responses provided through the City’s Wildflower web site. The only apparent reason for the City Staff misrepresenting the number of citizen responses submitted was to tilt the survey results to make it look like the citizens favored a restaurant on the Wildflower site when the survey results actually favored a park.
Problem 2 – Citizen Responses Not Scored Correctly
The categories the City Staff used when scoring the 61 responses was inappropriate and resulted in most of the citizen responses being misrepresented as favoring a restaurant on the Wildflower site; whereas, the intent of most of the responses actually favored a park. Following is what the City Staff presented at the October 18, 2011 Wildflower Workshop.
Passive Recreation (11)
Restaurant/Active Destination (45)
General Comments (3)
Sell Property for Residential Use (2)
The problem with this categorization is that it is impossible to determine how many citizens prefer a restaurant versus another use of the Wildflower site. Some of the Active Destination citizen suggestions in this category included: concessions, amphitheater or open stage areas, rental facilities, art shows and events, food trucks, boat and trailer parking, roller rink, shops and bike rentals. Bundling these uses with the category “Restaurant” gives the false impression that citizens favor a restaurant on the Wildflower site.
A public record request was made to the City in March, 2015 and resulted in 151 citizen responses to the City’s Wildflower Survey. Two independent citizens then scored the responses to check the City’s results and arrived at a much different conclusion than the City Staff. The last slide in the short video in the following link highlights in yellow the City Staff’s scoring of the responses as well as the scoring by two citizens.
The results of the citizen responses scored by intent (park versus restaurant) in the City’s Wildflower Survey clearly do not favor a restaurant on the Wildflower site.
Problem 3 – The Survey is Now Being Positioned by the City Staff as a Non-Survey
At the January 11, 2016 City Council meeting where the problems with the Wildflower Survey misrepresentation were discussed, the City Council circled the wagons around the City Staff and downplayed the importance of the survey. At the same meeting, the City Staff stated on the record that the Wildflower Survey is not a survey since the results are not “statistically tabulatable.” A problem with this statement is that the same City Staff member presented the statistically tabulated Wildflower Survey results at the October 18, 2011 City Wildflower Workshop. Following is a link to a brief video that includes clips of both presentations.
Rows two and three in the last slide of the video include the statistical tabulation by two citizens in 2015. The citizens along with the City Staff in 2011 had no problems with calculations. It wasn’t until the misrepresentations by the City Staff were made visible in 2015, that the City Staff decided that the results were not “statistically tabulatable.” This plays into the hand of the City Council who is also now downplaying the significance of their Wildflower Citizen Survey, because of the misrepresentations.
The City Wildflower Survey results presented by the City Staff clearly misrepresent the intent of the citizens who responded to the survey. Also, a significant number of responses favoring a park at the Wildflower site were not included in the City Staff’s statistical tabulation. Instead of acknowledging these problems and correcting them, the City Staff is declaring the survey to be something other than a survey because the results are not “statistically tabulatable.”
Most of the City Council seems willing to ignore the problems and is moving forward with plans for a Houston’s restaurant on the Wildflower site. While this is obviously a quid pro quo to campaign contributors, it also continues a bad precedent of providing no consequences for malfeasance or misfeasance by the City Staff.