Time for some “healthy skepticism”

31 Mar

I had some healthy questions about the claims being made by consultant Randy Cohen in a presentation to the mayor,

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20150330/economic-impact-study-reports-arts-employ-451-people-in-chico

but was unable to attend the presentation. So, I sent Cohen an e-mail:

First Name: Juanita
> Last Name: Sumner
> Email: Juanita Sumner
> Area of Interest/Concern: Meetings & Events
> Subject: presentation for Chico, Monday March 30 2015
> Message:
> Hi,
>
> I can’t make the presentation you are giving the city of Chico on Monday
> (March 30) and have some questions about the survey. Am I to understand that
> this survey was anecdotal, or was data such as financial records made
> available? Where can I see the specific data for Chico?

Cohen answered my inquiry very quickly.  He seemed offended by my use of the word “anecdotal,” which means, based on personal observation, case study reports, or random investigations rather than systematic scientific evaluation.”

Randy Cohen (rcohen@artsusa.org)3/27/15

To: Juanita Sumner
 
Anecdotal?? I hope that is not the rumor working around town. It’s based totally on data collected from local arts organizations and their audiences which is then pumped into an econometric input-output analysis model done by our economist from Georgia Tech’s School of Economics. 

It will be released next week. The report would be available then I would expect (since I’ll be presenting the findings next week).

Thanks for your inquiry, Juanita, and sorry you can’t attend the presentations.

Best,

Randy 

data collected from local arts organizations and their audiences which is then pumped into an econometric input-output analysis model done by our economist from Georgia Tech’s School of Economics. ”  Fancy words for “anecdotal”.  

I tried to be nice. This guy claims “the arts” generate hundreds of jobs and bring money into our community, city and county, millions of dollars. That is a claim, so I asked him for numbers to back it up.

Thanks for your prompt reply.   I got a copy of your outline from Chico city staff, and what I’m looking for are financial reports that support your data.  Given the figures you are presenting, surveys, hearsay, are not enough.  

For example, the race track here in town can give figures based on receipts from the motels and restaurants that support their claims that they bring a few million a year into town. You are claiming a lot more than that, but I’m not seeing the same kind of reports. It looks like fluff to me. 

Did you receive or your organization receive any financial compensation for this presentation?

Thanks for your time, Juanita Sumner

Ask a simple question – I’m honestly sorry I said “fluff,” I should have said “anecdotal“, but I was trying to be honest. Be too honest, and you get this –

I appreciate a healthy skepticism, Juanita. I’d suggest you read the report next week. This survey methodology has been used for years and been vetted by banks, White House Council of Economic Advisors, and biz/elected leaders across the country. 

Sincerely,Randy

See how he sidestepped the compensation issue? I’m saying, a guy like this doesn’t just hop out here from Maryland, where he lives, for no compensation. His tone tells me there’s plenty of money in this somewhere, and I’d bet my last $5 it was public money at one point. 

I’m not saying arts don’t contribute to our economy. I have a friend who is employed full-time at a longtime screen print company. They just expanded, meaning, more employees. They make mostly t-shirts, with clip art really, but my friend has learned to use technology that has helped him found his own small business and further his own original artistic endeavors. He makes a nice salary and has decent health benefits, which he pays for himself. He pays rent and buys groceries and supplies locally, so in this way his art contributes to our economy.

But I am skeptical about Cohen’s claims of an ultimate $17 million plus a year being pumped in, and I wonder how many of those 451 jobs pay a liveable wage, or offer upward mobility? I wonder how many of those 451 people have good enough insurance to get them into Enloe Hospital.  

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2 Responses to “Time for some “healthy skepticism””

  1. bob April 2, 2015 at 6:45 am #

    You can go donate money to that great “non-profit” Snooze and Review foundation so it can do wonderful investigative reporting like this:

    http://www.newsreview.com/chico/unsung-industry/content?oid=16643569

    Then you can look forward to a nice tax increase.

    • Juanita Sumner April 2, 2015 at 7:27 am #

      Yeah, we’ll see if Snoop Daugherty shows up at the special CARD meeting – as soon as I take my bread out of the oven I’m on my bike – tell you later.

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