LIBA's Coby Mach has a piece in this morning's Journal Star in which he discusses several good reasons why the results of the city's unscientific online Taking Charge Budget and Program Priorities Survey should be interpreted very carefully. He is correct. The survey should be considered little more than a conversation starter. Be extremely wary if local officials try to sell the results as representing anything more than that.
Not that stirring up conversations is a bad thing, of course. On the contrary, it's very good to engage the public in this line of thinking. And even an unscientific online survey can help us determine which conversations are worth pursuing as we go forward, and which we shouldn't spend much time on.
As Governor Heineman and the DMV have learned, relying on anonymous online surveys to make actual decisions can really make one look like an ass. I don't want to see Mayor Beutler & Co. make the same mistakes. The City could earn a lot of respect by releasing as much of the raw data as possible. Likewise, the City should make explicit its criteria for any manipulation of the data: voiding results, for example, and IP whitelisting and blacklisting. The more transparent are the data, the better we will be able to support or refute Beutler's budget decisions.
Do you have any concerns about the budget process that have not yet been addressed?