Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Klineberg calls for big government solutions. (No Surprise)

Houston Area Survey offers good news but also suggests need for change, Jeannie Kever, Chron.com

In previous posts referencing the Kinder Houston Area Survey I've written about its flaws, and warned that what was coming were some dodgy recommendations.


Well, they're here:

(S)urvey founder Stephen Klineberg added a dose of tough love during a talk to the Greater Houston Partnership, calling for investment in universal preschool and additional efforts to boost the city's environmental and aesthetic infrastructure.
In other words, massive government spending programs designed to solve problems that, according to job patterns, don't seem to exist or would be counterproductive toward the growth that the region has experienced. While cuts in pollution are noble (and needed) goals, the suggestion that ridding the area of pollution (and, by extension, its many refineries) would be good for the local job market is laughable. The fact is, most of Houston's "job boom" are created by the same. As neat as a burgeoning "iPhone app industry" sounds, it's never going to replace the good paying jobs that the oil and gas industry offers. I won't even address the environmental infrastructure until someone can clearly define what it is, outside of a buzzy-green sounding catch-all for government waste and expenditure of course. As for aesthetic infrastructure, that's code for zoning.  As much as people think they want "form based zoning" or "full on zoning" they don't. Outside of a handful of new-urbanists who think David Crossley is a Houston City Bright(!), most understand that Houston's lack of zoning is what has made it special.

Another laughable conclusion from the survey was this one:
Klineberg argued that boosting mass transit is crucial, too, even as the surveys own data showed 61 percent of people who responded said they had not taken a Metro bus or light rail in the past year. Even people who don't use mass transit support its expansion, he said. That could mean a desire for other people to use it, freeing up space on the roads, he said.
That is the desire, not to ride mass transit, but for other people to ride it. When almost two-thirds of respondents admit they don't use Metro, but support more transit, it's not because they're imagining a day that they give up their cars, they're imagining a day when everyone else gives up driving leaving a congestion free commute. As I've said with the KHAS, it's fantasy with no bearing in reality. It's a neat parlour trick that reinforces beliefs about what Houstonians think when there are no consequences to their actions. Kind of like a Houston driver saying that Houston has the worst drivers, except for themselves of course, and that most shouldn't be allowed to drive. It's also an excuse for ChronBlog, the Apple Dumpling Gang and Houston Metro to maintain the false crutch that "the people want light rail". Never mind that what the people really want is for others to use anything but the roadways they are currently using.

The good thing about the KHAS (for Statists and educrats) is that it can be all things to all people. It is both specific and vague at the same time. This is why Dr. Flores from University of Houston-Downtown can walk away suggesting the survey reveals a need to increase funding for his institution (Full Disclosure: UH-D is my alma-mater) despite the fact that higher education, and UH-D specifically, aren't given any specific attention within. To my thinking, UH-D needs to spend more time focusing on what they could be, which is a University that could do a great job serving Houston professionals who are looking to obtain a degree. That's why I, and many others, went there, because they had a very robust roster of evening classes which allowed us to earn our degrees after work. During the day UH-D is primarily the university that Flores describes but, at night, it transforms into something else entirely. The leadership at UH-D has never fully acknowledged (or marketed) that aspect.

Hopefully this will be the last post that I spend writing about what is a bad survey for policy making. The KHAS is a pretty picture and nothing else. It's a one-time grad project that has grown terribly out of proportion. Something that our lazy media and leadership has allowed it to do, because its conclusions have conveniently dove-tailed with their desires. Reality be damned.

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