I.  My email update on Friday, May 7, included:  "The 'Envisioning 2020' study was a complete boondoggle which stifled citizen input which might be unwelcome to the old backroom gang.  That old gang is not running the Planning Department any longer, & Envisioning 2020 should have no place under the new management."

One reader emphatically objected to that statement; and since both the Planning & Zoning Commission (at a 4 p.m. meeting on Wednesday) and the County Supervisors (at a 2 p.m. work session on Thursday) will hear about the Planning Department's future, including the possible implementation of some ideas from "Envisioning 2020," it's appropriate to discuss the objections.


II.  Envisioning 2020 was advertised as a way to learn citizens' real worries and hopes for the future of Cochise County.  The "official version" of the project is at
   http://cochise.az.gov/uploadedFiles/Planning_and_Zoning/Envisioning%20pt1.pdf
That's an 85-page file, which may take a few minutes to download.

My low opinion of Envisioning 2020 is based on how it conducted public meetings and a written survey, and on its results.


A.  Public meetings filtered out any citizen input that the Planning Department wasn't already comfortable with.  That observation is based on what three [May 15: four] CCIPRAns (including me) saw at meetings.  People were split up into small groups for discussions; then every idea on which a small group reached consensus was reported to the entire meeting.  The problem was that consensus existed only if everyone in a small group agreed.  Ideas which were unusual, or with which even one person did not agree, never got to the entire meeting.

One CCIPRAn, Helene Jackson, stated such concerns in a letter to the project, dated November 26, 2007, reproduced on page 71 of the long pdf file mentioned above.  She wrote her letter after attending two of the meetings.

The process improved over time, but only slightly:  at one meeting, the moderator said that people with ideas that didn't get consensus could give them separately to the Planning Department; however, the entire meeting still didn't hear such ideas, and discussion remained within the framework set by the Department.


B.  The survey was inept.

All interviews were conducted by phone, so there was no input from people who have no phone, or live off the grid -- many of the people who care most about the special quality of life in Cochise County.

There were only 406 interviews -- 1/3 of 1% of the people in the county.

The data were mishandled -- in reporting what city people live in or identify with, the percentages add up to only 83%, not 100%.

The sample was biased.  Cochise County is about 50% men, but the sample was only 40%.  About 50% of us in Cochise County are under 38, but in the sample, only 30% were even under 50, and 48% were retired.  About 33% of homes here are rented, but in the sample, only half that, or 16%.

To put it another way, the sample would be realistic only if everyone in Cochise County had phones and lived on the grid; if we were about 50,000 men and 80,000 women, instead of 65,000 each; if 40,000 of us were under 50, instead of 80,000; if 40,000 of us were 65 or over, instead of 20,000; if half of us over 18 were retired; and if about 7500 of us rented homes, instead of 15,000.


III.  Other features of the project


A.  The project was also not entirely volunteer work.  There were volunteers, but the organization that supervised the work was paid $10,000, perhaps even more, and the organization of "facilitators" was paid $75 per hour.  Reportedly, County employees who worked at the meetings were compensated by adjustments to their work schedule.  The real volunteers were the citizens who showed up hoping to make a difference.


B.  The final report of the project was delayed, possibly for political reasons.

Originally, the results were to be presented to the Supervisors before the 2008 election.  However, the results were delayed until January 2009, after the election.  The delay was never explained, but it meant that before the election, the Supervisors weren't exposed to tough questioning about "value v. cost" for the project.


C.  County government has ignored the results of the survey.

Here's what the 406 people in the telephone survey said they cared about, on a scale of 1 to 5:
   Healthcare facilities 4.2
   Public water system 3.9
   Schools 3.8
   Public sewage system 3.7
   Parks & recreation 3.7
   Roads 3.7
   Retail shops & banking 3.4
   Community center 3.3
   Public transportation 3.3
   Industry/Mfg. centers 2.9
   Residential subdivisions 2.3
Those results have been available for over two years.  However, even though "residential subdivisions" are the last thing that people in the phone survey said they cared about, the County Supervisors continued to spend lots of time on subdivisions (less time now that the building boom is over), but spent little or no time on many items higher on the list.

As to housing, 84% of the sample said they wanted a separate house, and 36% wanted 1 or more acres.  Only 7% wanted to live in apartments, townhouses, or condos, and only 4% wanted any kind of planned housing development.  Yet the Supervisors have continued to encourage planned developments that squeeze people into small areas.


IV.  About the objection to my statement that "The 'Envisioning 2020' study was a complete boondoggle which stifled citizen input which might be unwelcome to the old backroom gang.  That old gang is not running the Planning Department any longer, & Envisioning 2020 should have no place under the new management."

On May 8, Karen Corey sent, to me and unknown cc recipients, an email including:
       "I attended most of those meetings during 2009 (after
   working a 10 hour day, where were YOU, by the way?)
   observing the proceedings and listening carefully to the
   concerns and suggestions of citizens who took their time and
   energy to come out late after work and participate in a
   grassroots democratic process.  I take offense to your
   calling these efforts to get true citizen input into the
   revision of the County's comprehensive plan a 'Boondoggle
   which stifled citizen input.'  You are quick to criticize
   folks who put in hours of hard work, travel and effort to do
   the right thing for the county.  I am very disappointed
   again in your subversive and very negative attitude toward
   and excellent planning department staff and citizen
   volunteers who worked to facilitate the meetings.
       "I supposed you can consider me one of the 'old
   backroom gang' that is not running the department any
   longer, but I can tell you honestly and sincerely, I trust
   the data collected during the envisioning process and I
   believe it is extremely relevant to the current management.
   It's ridiculous to spend so much time, effort and money in
   gathering data only to toss it away.  Disregarding the data
   also breaks trust with the public to whom the BOS promised
   to listen to when they approved the Envisioning 2020
   program.
       "Please remove me from your e-mail list.  I respect
   your right to your opinion, but can not respect a man who
   would write such divisive comments with no basis in fact."

I had planned to discuss first the factual objections that Karen raised, and then move to the personal comments, but after writing Parts II and III above, I realized that none of Karen's objections is based on fact, so I'll just go through her email point by point.

   POINT:  "I attended most of those meetings during 2009 (after working a 10 hour day, where were YOU, by the way?)"
   ANSWER:  Mostly working on other CCIPRA items, which Karen wasn't involved in.  Apparently Karen didn't realize that I and other CCIPRAns and friends attended any of the meetings.

   POINT: "... observing the proceedings and listening carefully to the concerns and suggestions of citizens who took their time and energy to come out late after work and participate in a grassroots democratic process."
   ANSWER:  It wasn't grassroots.  The structure was imposed from above, and any individual's opinion, unless it fit into the framework decided on beforehand, was discarded or discounted.  That's not grassroots; it's more like what modern politicians call "Astroturf."

   POINT: "... I take offense to your calling these efforts to get true citizen input into the revision of the County's comprehensive plan a 'Boondoggle which stifled citizen input.'"
   ANSWER:  They weren't efforts to get "true" citizen input, they were efforts to get distorted input.

   POINT:  "... You are quick to criticize folks who put in hours of hard work, travel and effort to do the right thing for the county."
   ANSWER:  I never critized any volunteer, only people who were well paid for this useless work.  And my criticisms are not "quick," they are based on knowledge and study, as I believe Parts II and III above show.

   POINT:  "... I am very disappointed again in your subversive and very negative attitude toward and excellent planning department staff and citizen volunteers who worked to facilitate the meetings."
   ANSWERS:
       "Subversive"?  When a government official, even an ex-volunteer, says that criticism of bad government is "subversive," the official is obviously confusing bad government with government in general.  If I thought that all government must be bad, I wouldn't bother to criticize.
       "Very negative attitude toward ... staff"?  I never criticize "staff" for merely following lawful orders; they want to keep their jobs, and they don't set policy.  I criticize top-level officials who set policy, and lower-level staff who follow thuggish orders, or act like thugs, but those criticisms have nothing to do with Envisioning 2020.
       "Very negative attitude toward ... volunteers"?  As I said above, I've never criticized the volunteers, only the people who took home $10,000 for this useless project.

   POINT:  "... I supposed you can consider me one of the 'old backroom gang' that is not running the department any longer"
   ANSWER:  I never did consider Karen one of the backroom gang, and she never ran the Department.  She was a volunteer on the Commission, with one of nine votes.  I think she did a good job on the Commission, but a major voice in setting County policy?  No way.

   POINT:  "... but I can tell you honestly and sincerely, I trust the data collected during the envisioning process"
   ANSWER:  Karen's honesty and sincerity aren't in doubt.  However, her "trust" is no substitute for actual analysis.

   POINT:  "... and I believe it is extremely relevant to the current management."
   ANSWER:  The record shows otherwise.  County government has treated Envisioning 2020 like a red-headed stepchild.

   POINT:  "... It's ridiculous to spend so much time, effort and money in gathering data only to toss it away."
   ANSWER:  It would be more ridiculous to use bad data when you know it's garbage.  The County wasted its $10,000, and now should just cut its losses.

   POINT:  "... Disregarding the data also breaks trust with the public to whom the BOS promised to listen to when they approved the Envisioning 2020 program."
   ANSWER:  Wrong.  If Envisioning 2020 had done its job properly, THEN ignoring its results would be a breach of trust.  But the project was flawed through and through, and is useless.  It would be a breach of trust with the taxpayers to pretend that the money wasn't wasted.

   POINT:  "Please remove me from your e-mail list.  I respect your right to your opinion, but can not respect a man who would write such divisive comments with no basis in fact."
   ANSWER:  I regret Karen's cutting off communication; she was a good Commissioner and a good Chair.  But while her letter is heartfelt, it isn't fact-based; my work is.  Whatever she thinks, I'll get by; however, in my own experience, cutting off people with whom you disagree is a bad idea:  it insulates you from new thoughts, and keeps you happy in ignorance.  Perhaps someday Karen will rethink the matter.

A final thought:  My arguments were first published years ago, when Envisioning 2020 was an ongoing project.  The facts in support of my arguments were available to Karen when she wrote, and she must have received emails containing my arguments, and the factual bases for them, while she was still on the Commission.  It was careless of her to accuse me of making statements "with no basis in fact," and she should probably avoid such careless accusations in the future.