Friday, December 19, 2014

The data 'washing machine'

Rahm's red light cameras had no real safety benefits.
Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, chairman of the council Transportation Committee, said the city's numbers come as no surprise: "Those numbers the city uses have never made any sense. Of course they are skewing the numbers."
Okay, I may be beating a dead horse here. In two previous posts, one on CPS's modest improvement in grad rates and one on supposedly rising growth scores, I added the following qualifier:
 If that is, you have faith in the transparency of the system and faith that the researchers are measuring the same thing. I don't. But that's for another blog post.
We'll here's another another post.

You see, in our new, data-driven world order, Rahm Emanuel's regime is quickly become number-one in lack of transparency and in data fudging. I actually started writing seriously about this last summer when the Chicago media couldn't get its numbers straight about how many shootings had taken place on a given weekend.

It was back in April when Chicago Mag writers Bernstein & Isackson kicked the whole thing off with their 2-part series, "The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates". They called the system of crime data collection, "the washing machine".
The city’s crime numbers seem too good to be true. One former lieutenant has a name for the system: the washing machine. “They wash and rinse the numbers,” the lieutenant says.
The pair went on to document how Chief McCarthy's boys had actually gone back in and reformed the crime data in the face of mounting criticism of how he and his boss, the Mayor, were handling the shooting pandemic on the west and south sides.

This morning's Tribune's report on Rahm's red-light cameras shows more of the same data washing. The Trib's study demolished the mayor's claims that the massively expensive installation of hundreds red-light cameras had large safety benefits for the citizens.
Emanuel has credited the cameras for a 47 percent reduction in dangerous right-angle, or "T-bone," crashes. But the Tribune study, which accounted for declining accident rates in recent years as well as other confounding factors, found cameras reduced right-angle crashes that caused injuries by just 15 percent.
 At the same time, the study calculated a corresponding 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes that caused injuries, illustrating a trade-off between the cameras' costs and benefits.
And then, when the numbers aren't there to produce the needed politically-necessary outcomes, the cheating begins. Just look at the national pandemic of cheating cases relating to standardized testing madness.
In the wake of Tribune revelations, the city's contractor was fired, that company's top executives were ousted and federal prosecutors charged a former City Hall manager with taking up to $2 million in bribes from the former CEO of the company, Redflex Traffic Systems, to build its Chicago business into the largest automated traffic enforcement program in the country.
But the real story here is about numbers and what meaning we make of them, whether about miracle jumps in test scores, and drops in crime statistics. The red-light cameras turn out to be just another regressive tax while the mayor's data-washing machine takes us all to the cleaners.

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