Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

10

Introduction

We are amazed that the Boca Raton City Council continues to move forward with plans for a chain restaurant on the Wildflower site, while ignoring the sentiment of the citizens. Several citizen surveys have been presented to City Council regarding usage of the site and the results favor a park on the site. One survey conducted by the City in 2011 was reported by the City Staff to favor a restaurant over a park; however, due diligence on the details of that survey suggest that the City Staff’s reported results misrepresent the responses of the citizens. It is important to understand and correct this problem as the reported results of this survey were used to justify the decision to put a chain restaurant on the site.

Background

To get citizen input to the Wildflower site usage decision, the City conducted an electronic survey via the City website. Citizen comments were received from late June until late October, 2011. Over 150 comments were received; however about half of the comments were not responsive to the intent of the survey. The following survey results were presented by George Brown, Deputy City Manager, at a Wildflower site workshop held on October 18, 2011.

Public Comments Table

 

We performed due diligence on the City’s survey results by scoring the original citizen responses. 151 citizen responses were obtained from a public records request to the City in May, 2015. The details of how the City Staff scored the responses were obtained with a second public record request in September, 2015. The results of this request were a detailed log of every citizen response that was scored by the City Staff and the category to which every response was assigned. As a quality control check an independent scoring was also performed by Dr. Timothy Lenz, a professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Political Science Department. The results of these scorings as well as the City Staff’s scoring of the exact same survey responses are in the table below. Again, the three survey scores in the following table all operated with the same input data.

Electronic Survey Scoring

 

These tables highlight major problems with how the City Staff scored the survey responses. The first problem is that the City Staff used a very narrow definition of a park, i.e., Passive Recreation and a very broad definition of a restaurant, i.e., Restaurant/Active Destination. This allowed the City Staff’s presentation to give the appearance of high citizen demand for a restaurant. The scoring reported in lines 2 and 3 in the above table considered the intent of the citizen responses regarding a park or a restaurant. The next problem is the difference between line 1 and lines 2 and 3 in the total number of responses scored. An analysis of the citizen responses not scored by the City Staff shows that those responses that were not counted heavily favored a park.

City Survey Problem #1 – Inappropriate Filtering of Survey Responses

By using Passive Recreation as a filtering criterion the City Staff significantly limited the number of citizen responses that they scored as favoring a park. On the other hand, by using Restaurant/Active Destination as a filtering criterion the City Staff was able to easily score the majority of responses as favoring a restaurant. For example, following is an actual response from two citizens that the City Staff scored in the Restaurant/Active Destination category.

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS: My husband and I are both longtime residents of Boca Raton and we both agree we would love to see a waterfront park with access to restrooms, a stage, concession area where the residents could use or reserve. We have used the island in Deerfield for birthday parties and it would be incredible to have a similar park for the City of Boca. (Great place for teens to have their battle of the bands!!) I was hoping Boca could continue to be a city within a park!

Clearly the intent of these citizens’ response is for the Wildflower site to be developed as a park; however, the City Staff scored the response in the Restaurant/Active Destination category. The number of responses scored in this category by the City Staff gave the appearance of a relatively large number of citizens favoring a restaurant when citizens really favored a park.

City Survey Problem #2 – Not Counting a Large Number of Citizen Responses

In the above table the City Staff only counted 61 responses; whereas the other two scorers counted 78 and 83. This means that the City Staff didn’t score 17 citizen responses relative to one scorer and 22 relative to the other. On a percentage basis this means that the City Staff ignored 28% or 36% of citizen responses that the other scorers felt were valid. Almost all of the responses not counted by the City Staff favored a park on the Wildflower site. Following, for example, is a citizen survey response that was received on September 23, 2011.

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS: I would like to see a passive park with places to picnic and watch the boats go by; maybe some pretty gardens and if room maybe a dock for a water taxi accommodating the local restaurants like in Ft Lauderdale.

This citizen’s survey response, as well as 16 similar responses, was not included by the City Staff in their survey scoring and presentation to the City Council.

 

Summary and Recommendations

The City of Boca Raton Wildflower site usage citizen survey results presented by the City Staff misrepresent the facts. They make it appear that citizens favor a restaurant when actual survey results favor a park on the Wildflower site. This problem was most recently communicated to each City Council member on September 10, 2015 with a recommendation to perform due diligence on the City Staff’s analysis of the survey. As of this writing nothing has changed and the plans for the chain restaurant for the Wildflower site are moving forward. The City Council members need to address the irregularities in the City Staff’s reporting of the survey results and respond to the citizens’ request for a public park on the Wildflower site.

If you agree with this conclusion, please contact your City Council

Mayor Susan Haynie – shaynie@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth – rweinroth@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Councilman Mike Mullaugh – mmullaugh@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

CRA Chair,Councilman Scott Singer – ssinger@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Jeremy Rodgers – jrodgers@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

 

Previous articleBoca Raton Elections – March 2017 – A ‘Shell Game’ Maybe…
Next articleThe Wildflower Property – Proposal Withdrawn-So What Happens Next?
Jim Wood is a 25-year citizen of Boca Raton. Upon arriving in Boca from Arizona, Jim and his family had a house built in Broken Sound in the western section of the City. After the last of their three children left for college Jim and Trish downsized and relocated to east Boca, where they have lived for 18 years. His volunteering activities include serving eight years on an advisory board in the City. Jim is a computer engineer who advanced into executive positions with telecommunications companies Siemens and Lucent. He holds undergraduate degrees in mathematics and management, a master’s degree in computer engineering and an MBA. He is also a veteran who served four years on active duty with the United States Air Force. His interests include cycling (A1A), guitar (acoustic) and cooking (healthy comfort food). He is a member of the Boca Raton Bicycle Club and the FAU Alumni Association.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Although not positive, I would hazard a guess that you live in the eastern region of the CITY of Boca Raton.. I am pretty sure that a survey of ALL residents of the city, broken down by zip codes would show overwhelming support for a restaurant. Parks, especially “pocket parks” are beautiful, but are almost always used by locals. People in the western areas the city ( not the county), would happily drive 3-4 miles for a nice meal on the water… Virtually none would drive to sit in a park. All citizens shared in the cost of the property, and the ultimate use should be dictated by what use would be proper for MOST citizens. The “not in my backyard” arguments just don’t hold water.

    • Dear Joe B,

      You miss the message of the article’s author…The results reported by Boca city staff was and remains a misrepresentation of the data. This is not a NIMBY issue….but thank you for taking the time to memorialize your sentiment.

    • Thanks for commenting Joe B. As mentioned in the article, the survey was conducted by the City of Boca Raton for three months in 2011. The scope of the survey was City-wide and the responses are from all zip-codes in the City. I think the City is to be commended for seeking input from all residents on the future of the Wildflower site. Broad-based resident survey information will allow the City Council to make a higher quality usage decision than just using anecdotal information.

  2. All things considered; existing surrounding business and eateries, current construction underway, already planned and approved projects not yet started, plus future development and the current problematical intersection at the bridge that will only get worse brings only one common sense conclusion: Make this an Active Urban Green Space that our community will be proud of for generations.

  3. OK – Let’s talk statistics…
    Reference the following site: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12/1207300.html

    The estimated 2014 population of the city is 91,332
    The total number responding to the survey was “approximately” 150 = two tenths of one percent
    Using the most generous of your usage of qualified respondents: 83 = one tenth of one percent

    Making people use the web site, makes the entire survey moot. Not unlike making all citizens use a limo service to get to the polls. The technologically disadvantaged are shut out. I am computer savvy and almost never use the city’s web site. The survey process itself is flawed. There was no need for a survey in the first place.

    The laws, both legal and ethical in Boca Raton stem from the principals of Representative Government.
    “REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT has historically denoted a system in which people elect their lawmakers (representatives), who are then held accountable to them for their activity within government. Representative government, or the “republican form,” as it is also known, has been widely accepted as the only practicable form of democracy.”

    I (we) voted our council into office. They deliberate, listen and then make decisions based on what they believe is best. They are accountable to us. If unhappy each of us can make our feeling heard at election time. We can fire them! If, in fact, one or more of our council persons have made up their minds, so be it. If any of us are unhappy, then we make our collective voices heard at the polls.

    Refer to above web site…
    There are 91332 citizens
    78.7 % are over 18 years old. 71, 878
    A majority is 35941
    Does any sane statistician really believe that 35941 people in Boca would rather see a park than a restaurant?
    See…. you can use statistics to support any argument

    • Hi Joe B, sorry for the delay in responding to your post. Been a little busy lately. The mathematics of probability shows that population size is irrelevant unless the sample exceeds a few percent of the total population. To illustrate this I made four confidence interval calculations on the statistics in line 2 of the spreadsheet in my article. Population sizes vary from 91,332 to 91. I used the sample size of 78 and the 60% Park pick. Following are the sample size/confidence interval calculation results with a confidence level of 95%:

      91,332/±10.87%
      9,133/±10.83%
      913/±10.4%
      91/±4.13%

      This is how sane statisticians think. The factors that have a greater impact on confidence intervals are sample size and percentage.

      BTW, what is your full name?

      Jim Wood

  4. City Council members,
    I have lived in Boca Raton since 1989 and worked at the Wildflower from 1989-1992. The city has certainly changed since then and I understand that change can sometimes be good.It is a shame that the Wildflower property has sat empty for 6 years.Do you really think that the city needs another restaurant? I remember all the issues from the 90’s with the residents that lived near the Wildflower,parking,noise,water currents etc… that was in the 90’s ,imagine now? As a city resident for 25+ years I am saddened to see the high rise monster buildings downtown.The charming “city within a park” is gone forever.After all the over building another restaurant is the last thing Boca Raton needs.A park is an ideal way to use the land.It seems that you are not listening to the citizens of Boca Raton but the big developers,I suggest you ask the citizens of Boca Raton in a legitimate survey.
    Thank you .

  5. After following this blog, I feel compelled to make some comments for ‘Joe B’ (whoever that may be) to consider. Here they are, item by item……

    ‘Joe B’ states, “a survey of ALL residents of the city, broken down by zip codes would show overwhelming support for a restaurant.” The reality is that ALL residents of the city were polled, and they did not show ‘overwhelming support’ for a restaurant.

    ‘Joe B’ states that, “Parks, especially “pocket parks” are beautiful, but are almost always used by locals. People in the western areas the city (not the county), would happily drive 3-4 miles for a nice meal on the water… Virtually none would drive to sit in a park.” So Joe B’s opinion is a mandate? He knows what everyone would or would not drive to see? He represents everyone who did not show up for the poll?

    ‘Joe B’ quotes the city population statistics to stake a claim on his opinion. Sorry – you do not get to claim the silent majority as a mandate for your position. You get one exactly one vote for a restaurant, but you do not get to claim the votes of everybody else you may think you represent.

    ‘Joe B’ recites the principles of “REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT” (his caps) as a crutch for his opinion. Again, he gets one vote. It seems that the majority of people who really care about this, and are willing to vote about this, are in favor of some kind of open green space in the downtown. Voting a Councilor out of office after they have done the damage is easy, but the damage lasts forever. Helping them to avoid the mistake to begin with takes vigilance, courage, and energy. So the respondents who show up for these polls are to be commended, right or wrong. And yes, they are the ones who are the touchstone of “REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT”. Why? Because they care………….

  6. Response to Mr. Panella, Running for City Council, almost by definition not objective.

    Line 1. Should be whomever, not whoever
    Bullet 1. ALL residents of the city were not polled. Rather all residents were given the opportunity to be part of the poll. The poll was on the city web site. The opportunity to be part of the poll, I believe, was never communicated to ALL residents. I had breakfast this morning with three friends. I asked them. One loved the park idea, two wanted a restaurant. I am pleased to announce that in my informal poll today, 66% of residents polled preferred a restaurant.
    Bullet 2. No, again as a politician you twist words. Joe B’s opinion is an opinion… I never used the word mandate, or suggested it.
    Bullet 3… This is not an election with “votes” . There are no votes, only opinions. I can, and am able to express those opinions countless times, as you have.
    Bullet 4… No, not my caps but rather from the dictionary of American History, see attached site: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401803571.html. I don’t need to use a crutch (an offensive implication) . And once again you are wrong…I get one vote but as many opinions as I wish.
    BOCA WATCH is a place for opinions…. I know votes are the upper thing in your mind…not mine.

    WOW this is FUN (My Caps)

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