Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Whither Research?

Duane Hagadone's proposal to close two blocks of Coeur d'Alene's Sherman Avenue has awakened community interest. The downtown business association has consultants studying the economic effects the project would have on downtown. Presumably the consultants will use valid statistical methods to measure those effects.

If what the ubiquitous and omniscient "everybody" is saying is accurate, Coeur d'Alene will continue to grow. Projects like Hagadone's, though perhaps not on the same scale, will proliferate.

I wonder if it would be feasible for the Coeur d'Alene city government to ask one or more of our great nearby universities (Washington State, U of I, and Eastern Washington) that have research capabilities to conduct projects measuring residents' attitudes about the directions growth should and should not take. The research ought not be limited to economics. It should also include measurement of social, political, and cultural attitudes. That's what social scientists do.

Too often in public hearings, economic testimony is given disproportionate weight because it can be quantified in easily grasped terms: dollars and cents. Testimony expressing concerns about social, cultural, and political effects is often anecdotal not because those concerns can't be measured but because they usually have not been. But the social, political, and cultural growth of a community is no less important than its economic growth. They all interact.

I'd propose that the city council take a very simple step. Contact the universities and see what these great local resources could do to help Coeur d'Alene identify and scientifically measure the ways all the residents would like to see the city grow. In the meantime, postpone a decision on the Hagadone plan. It is urgent only in his mind. Once the council has examined and understood the studies, reconsider his plan. The value of public testimony will be enhanced, not degraded, by including carefully measured and analyzed research results.


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