Thursday, July 24, 2014

We're Number 37!

D Magazine published its ranking of 63 Dallas suburbs. Richardson came in 37th. Meh.

Is Richardson really the 37th best suburb? Who knows? I don't. And D Magazine doesn't either. The magazine's methodology looks at safety, education, housing, and something called ambience. After the jump, why I don't ascribe too much importance to D Magazine's scores.

D Magazine claims "The first three measures involve data and the objective analysis thereof." As if you can't go wrong if you use data. I've got numbers so it must be true.

Crime statistics are notoriously unreliable. Measuring education achievement is even more controversial. (D Magazine uses STAAR and SAT results, but calls it STARR. So much for any expertise in the matter.) A particular issue with using Richardson ISD results is the fact that 60% of the students in the RISD don't live in Richardson. Housing prices may be the most objective measure here. And percentage of owner-occupied houses. (D Magazine must really not like renters.) The final measure, ambience, D Magazine freely admits is entirely subjective. The only objective measure identified as going into its "ambiance" score is a "walkability" index. D Magazine must believe that a walkable suburb is a better suburb (and I agree with them on that), but there are lots of people in Richardson who fight against development that promotes walkability. Those readers should beware of what D Magazine considers "ambiance."

In effect, D Magazine mixed together apples and oranges and kumquats and avocados, measured them on various scales, gave each an arbitrary weight, tossed the whole mess into a kettle (aka Excel), sorted on some total, and professed to have a ranking worth the time and effort, but in fact ended up with nothing but wapatuli. It all seems to make sense when you start mixing the ingredients, but after the party you realize it's just wacked.

If the rankings are suspect, the writeup for Richardson by Cristina Daglas is pure PR. It reads like it was written by an overworked journalist who was told to make 63 phone calls and write up 63 city summaries before the end of the day. By the time she got to number 37, she was just grateful someone returned her call. It reads like Daglas talked only to Mayor Laura Maczka, who talked mainly about herself. Then Daglas just printed it.

When not talking about herself, Maczka talked about Richardson's "wow factor." Apparently a new State Farm office out by the freeway didn't wow the rest of the D Magazine scorers, judging by the mediocre "ambiance" ranking. Daglas doesn't appear to have any independent knowledge of Richardson. Otherwise this quote by Maczka would never have gone without Daglas providing context: "[Direct election of the mayor] was one of the best things for engaging our residents in a way they had never been engaged before." Arguably true, but Daglas might have pointed out that Maczka voted against even giving Richardson voters the chance to say whether they wanted to directly elect the mayor. It took a citizen petition to override the city council vote and put it on the ballot. Now that Mayor Maczka benefited from a change she resisted, she touts it as "one of the best things." Maybe something that might have helped Richardson in D Magazine's rankings would have been if they included a score for chutzpah.


mccalpin said...

I have to admit that the D Magazine article is probably not even as accurate as you give it credit for (which is to say, less than zero). But this is hardly the first time that D Magazine has failed to meet even the most basic standards of journalism. If you recall, I wrote an open letter the D Magazine's publisher a while ago when he published what was essentially a hit piece on Richardson, that was devoid of even the appearance of journalistic objectivity and integrity. Please see Open Letter to Wick Allison.

It seems that D Magazine is more interested in selling copies of its magazine than actually contributing anything positive and useful to the community. Very sad...and certainly grounds for believing that drunkenly throwing dull darts at a dartboard would give more accurate results than any D Magazine survey...


Mark Steger said...

Richardson ranks 10th best in nation, according to or 37th best in DFW area, according to D Magazine. Go figure.

Mark Steger said...

"Why You Shouldn't Take Any Crime Stats Seriously".

Mark Steger said...

Richardson ranks 17th best in nation, according to 24/7 Wall St or 37th best in DFW area, according to D Magazine. Go figure.

Mark Steger said...

Dallas Observer rates Richardson as "Best Suburb Dallas 2014." D Magazine ranks it 37th. Go figure.