Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Real Expert Weighs in on Bethlehem Survey

Bill Scheirer
Blogger Jonathan Geeting, from his perch atop some rooftop in Brooklyn, squawks that Bethlehem's City Council President is dumb for refusing to accept, in its entirety, a citizen satisfaction survey conducted last year. You see, in addition to being a linguistics major, he's also an expert on statistics and ... well ... everything else. Geeting goes on to accuse me of "statistics fail blogging," and likens himself to Nate Silver of 538 fame. But last night, at a Block Watch meeting in West Bethlehem, a real expert outlined some of the shortcomings of that survey.

The expert is question is city watchdog Bill Scheirer, who was a statistical economist (econometrist) before he retired. Scheirer studied at Princeton, the London School of Economics and MIT.

The survey in question was mailed to 5,000 households at random. There were 1,477 responses, as well as an additional 96 surveys completed in the City webpage. Dr. Chris Borick, from the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, stated that the margin of error was +/- 3%. He has a 95% level of confidence in the report.

Scheirer last night told Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan that the response rate was"not bad for a mail survey." He also stated that Dr. Borick has a "very good reputation." But he cautioned that, in a survey of this type, "the important thing is the nonresponses." He indicated that a random sample of the nonrespondents should be aggressively pursued, and that if those results differ from those who responded, the survey could be flawed.

So while I believe the citizen satisfaction survey has great value, and blogged about it two weeks ago, I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. City Council President Eric Evans, who hears from residents every day, would be foolish to ignore them. It appears that a real expert, as opposed to some know-it-all who majored i n linguistics, agrees.

17 comments:

Jon Geeting said...

Nothing Scheirer says is incompatible with what I'm saying. The opposition could be somewhat large than the survey says finds, but it's not going to be by that much. Even if you add all the Not Supportive and Don't Know people together, you still only get 36% against. That estimate is definitely too high, but even if it were 36% opposed, that's not enough to justify voting against the plan.

The polling only matters so much anyway. Even if people were opposed 60-40 against, Council members should still vote for single hauler if they're personally persuaded it's right on the economics. Doing what works best is more important than doing what's politically popular. Good thing the single hauler plan is both.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The bottom line, Jonathan, is that you simply don't know what you are talking about, and should quit while you're behind. You compound stupidity with an arrogant disdain for a City Council president who probably has a better handle for what his constituents think than you do from your Brooklyn Bunker. Scheirer pointed very clearly to the inadequacies in that survey, something you completely failed to realize bc you're no expert.

I happen to think that a single hauler system is the right thing to do, but you don't rally people to your cause by insulting them.

Jon Geeting said...

Also you don't have to be Nate Silver to know that a random sample of 1477 people gives you a better picture of what most people think than talking to a hundred politically-engaged people. The most likely scenario is that there's a silent majority out there who don't particularly care who picks up their garbage, and just want the service provided cheaply and efficiently. That's who city council members need to be thinking about when voting on this - the people who don't really care about how it gets done, and just want the best service for the lowest cost.

Bernie O'Hare said...

See my comment at 12:25. I'm busy writing about what happened at the meeting.

Jon Geeting said...

When public officials say silly things like Evans did they deserve to be ridiculed. Saying that Evans' small sample of constituent meetings is just as good as a big sample is dumb and wrong. That is the argument you are making when you say that he must have a "handle" on his constituents that somehow is not reflected in the poll. Eric Evans' gut is not better than a poll.

And no, Scheirer's comments do not call the whole survey's results into question. You can quibble with the margin of error, but just changing the methodology isn't going to give you a huge 20 point swing the other way. These results are statistically significant. This isn't complicated, it's like statistics 101 stuff - required for a linguistics major! You're embarrassing yourself.

Bernie O'Hare said...

See my comment at 12:25. I'm busy writing about what happened at the meeting.

Anonymous said...

The single hauler is not what the majority of Bethlehem residents want. It is that simple.

Callahan clan operatives can come on here disguised as whomever they want but that is a fact. Over the years this idea has been pitched and the residents have rejected it.

Residents who have been mislead by officials for decades do konw the trickes of the trade. The first year or so, the rates are great. Oh oh, the cost of tires is way up we are raisng your "only" trash hauler fee by 20%, we have no choic,e sorry.

Bullshit, we know the game.

Of course people know that Bedlam is a hotbed of inbred politicans so even if they vote this abomination into law, and add a law forcing you to name every firstborn Clyde, you will still vote fort the same names come election time.

So will we get single haulers, yes. Do people want or need single haulers, no.

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 12:48... you will get what the City gives you and like it. How about that. Your one voice frankly does not matter. The City will do what it believes is right. If you don't like it, run for office next time. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:42 AM, you sound like Wee Willie Reynolds. Who are you?

People should not forget that the following members of City Council stated, during their election campaign, that they were against the single hauler system:

Wee Willie
Rocko Richuttee
Bobby Donchez

Let's see if they stick to their guns. Or, do they have the backbone of a rope.

guy williams said...

Maybe the solution would be to again mail out the survey, nowing how important it is, to city residents.After all we elect people even though only a fraction of registered voters actually vote.We can always argue on what non voters want but come on, enough all ready on the excuses.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit, we know the game.

There is no "game" in Allentown. Just convenient twice weekly pickup from your curb.

Guy Williams said...

No game in Allentown,Are you kidding,complicated at least based on neibhorhoods.Drive down some of the dense housing streets like gordon on trash nights.Cars parked inches apart limiting access to sometimes 5 ft piles of furnitue and construction debris.Trash in paper bags and boxes which hold up great in wet weather usually winds up as street litter.Dense streets like these I agree will need two pickups but in other areas with single family homes adjustments could be made.

Anonymous said...

Geeting is an asshole. I blame his parents for doing raising such a petulant, spoiled, rotten kid. I still can't believe he danced on Charlie Snelling's grave.

I see people like him and I really fear for the future.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Snelling? You mean the murderer?

Anonymous said...

Mr Scheirer...... a real intellectual . How very rare, almost unheard of on Lehigh Valley Rambeling. What a breath of fresh air.

Anonymous said...

No game in Allentown,Are you kidding,complicated at least based on neibhorhoods.Drive down some of the dense housing streets like gordon on trash nights.Cars parked inches apart limiting access to sometimes 5 ft piles of furnitue and construction debris.Trash in paper bags and boxes which hold up great in wet weather usually winds up as street litter.Dense streets like these I agree will need two pickups but in other areas with single family homes adjustments could be made.

So whats the "game"? You just stated that 1) there is a lot of trash in a city and 2) its all out on a single night. Sounds like it's working great.

Guy Williams said...

Its been stated that there was no game in allentown with convenient pick ups.Allentowns trash problem is far from perfect.Suggested in past to city officials for allentown to establish a transfer station similar to their recycling centers where residents could go during day to deposit furnitue and construction debris and trash in general.Deposit in back of parked trash hauling trucks.Clean outs and remodeling usually happens during day so disposal at that time would eliminate much of debris along curbs at night.Benefits would be less street volumn, less street litter,less hubub and noise and faster pic ups.Suggestion fell on deaf ears.Sometimes you just gotta think out of the box.