Sunday, June 04, 2006

Magic beans and snake oil

Water flows downhill, the sun rises in the East, and the pope is rumored to have risen from the ranks of a secretive organization called the "College of Cardinals." Thus we shouldn't be surprised when consultancies visit towns peddling ideas like "visioning," or when towns shake the piggy bank and come across with some public cash to buy a few such magic beans.

Newspapers need to report on these goings-on, but they need to be careful to stay on the sidelines -- and away from the cheerleaders. As in:

The results are in from May’s visioning forum, and according to a report by ACP Visioning and Planning, residents strongly support creating a vision for Columbia’s future.

Put away the tar and feathers. The report doesn't appear to really say that -- but when the story says it does, the newspaper is planting a thumb on the "visioning" scales nonetheless. You cannot generalize about what "residents" think from a group of people who attended a "visioning forum." It's not allowed.

Roughly 89 percent of the meeting’s respondents thought visioning would benefit Columbia. Visioning is a citizen-driven process to formulate long-range goals for communities. One table of respondents wrote visioning could produce “sustained, controlled growth.” Another said the process might include “new ideas that may not have been brought up before.”

That's as opposed to new ideas that have been brought up before. Bear disappears into woods with roll of Charmin. If we're going to include the tautological views of the sorts of folks who attend visioning meetings, can we at least de-Igor them a little? Maybe by explaining "visioning" in a separate syntactic unit from the one where we talk about what the attendees think?

The deck hed should have been a clue to the main problem here:

Report from first forum reveals obstacles in involving the entire community in process.

If the report reveals any such obstacles, we don't recount them. Which is too bad, because that seems to be sort of Topic 1 to be discussed before we hop any more firmly on this bandwagon.


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11:00 AM, June 22, 2006  

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