I attended the Thursday, June 17, 2010 meeting of the Metro Charter Commission, the group appointed by Mayor Wharton to develop a Charter for Metropolitan Government. The proposed Charter will be voted on at the November, 2010 elections.
I was surprised at these developments:
1. A representative of "Rebuild Government", a lobbying group for consolidation appeared and presented a "survey" to the Commission as he has done at past meetings.
As with all of Rebuild Government surveys, there was no information on:
-If the questions had been reviewed and determined to be valid (such as neutrally worded etc.)
-No indication of how the survey was taken (random phone survey, visits, self-responses to e-mails etc). A truly random sample is a lot different than an e-mail sent to supporters!
-No information on the number of respondents. (It may have have been five, or 500 for all the information that was presented.)
-No information on the "margin of error" or if there even was a "margin of error" determined. This normally (at least statistically) tells how valid a survey really is.
What really concerned me is that the Metro Commission members, who are responsible for writing Charter that will affect every Shelby County resident for years, accepted the survey without any questions!
One Commissioner even seemed to think that the Metro Commission should ignore an Attorney's Opinion and proceed with a Charter provision based on the survey!
When you hear the Metro Commission and pro consolidation proponents trumpet the "survey results" of Rebuild Government, be sure to ask the questions I noted to determine if the survey is even close to being statistically valid!
2. I was even more surprised to hear the representative of Rebuild Government submit a provision that "he had been asked about", that was accepted by the Metro Charter Commission for the "Charter writing committee" with virtually no discussion.
The document (the survey and the proposed Charter provision) was handed to the Charter Commission at the meeting. Members of the audience had to ask for it.
I do wonder why was this not on the Agenda and yet a motion approved to take action on it? I have always assumed that the Open Meeting Law at least required that an item be on the agenda before action was taken, and it is surprising the documented was handed to the Members at the meeting, when it was obvious the information could have been available well before the meeting and included on the agenda for a full discussion.