By. Neil Williamson, President
In an incredibly unscientific methodology, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) 1-Community project is conducting a resident survey regarding the community priorities. The survey, which is available as a pdf, is being circulated by various advocacy groups to their members.
Worried about an organization stuffing the ballot box? Got it covered – Each and every anonymous survey will be require to initial a box that indicates to the best of their knowledge they have only filled out the survey once.
The Free Enterprise Forum is a very lean organization of modest means but when we conduct a survey we utilize outside professionals to guarantee an accurate and representative sample. We are disappointed that given an almost one million dollar grant the TJPDC choose to conduct an unscientific citizen survey.
In addition the TJPDC choose not to select a survey instrument that could be easily submitted electronically (and possibly limit duplicative surveys) but instead requires respondents to print out the survey and then submit it to them either by mail or hand delivery. A Senior Vice President in a direct response agency once told me, “The harder you make it to participate, the lower the number of responses”.
So before we even get to the survey instrument itself, we have made clear our questions about the methodology.
Interestingly, we actually like the survey document. Citizens are required to rank their top ten issues in order and only 10. There are an array of options including: Protect Property Rights, Diversify Regional Economy, Consider Economic Feasibility of Goals and many more.
So now the Free Enterprise Forum finds itself between a philosophical rock and a hard place; do we encourage participation in a survey that has flawed methodology or sit on the sidelines Monday morning quarterbacking?
After significant thought time, we are encouraging everyone to fill out the survey ASAP. We know the answers will be suspect and we have questioned the validity of much of the public input the TJPDC has put forward as a part of this process.
Nonetheless as the Canadian rock band Rush sang in their 1980 hit Freewill — “Choosing not to choose you still have made a choice”.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credit: Serene Musings Blog