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Tim Myers: The preferred answer is not always the right one

Myers’ Musings

Posted: October 3, 2009 4:10 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
I make my living with numbers. When one spends nearly 25 years in this pursuit, one becomes more and more adept at predicting numerical outcomes.

This is not because experience results in the development of psychic powers; years of looking at the same types of data allows one to recognize recurring patterns in the critical metrics, allowing one to spot trends and seem to predict the future.

I make a hobby of predicting the outcome of local elections.

One can easily recognize patterns here because one can always predict the incumbent will retain office; like predicting the sun will rise tomorrow in the Santa Clarita Valley.

I freely share these predictions through the words of these humble columns.

Now, others make predictions concerning local elections, but they do so without any numerical rigor.

I remember one past columnist who would painstakingly run through the views and positions of each candidate and make a prediction based on that.

Another would review each candidate's performance at various public forums and provide a ranking.

Candidates do this also.

The first method ignores any past numerical patterns and the second cannot withstand numerical rigor since maybe 500 people watch or listen to one minute of these candidate forums.

Now some will argue with my predictions.

When I ask for their reasoning, they invariably say, "I like this candidate because of ..." some view, a long friendship or an aspect of their personality.

I don't consider these things in my predictions since I only evaluate who will come first in the race, or, in the case of most local elections, who will come in the top three.

A particular view, qualification or experience may relate in some indirect way to who can come in the top three.

The best predictor by far? Those who did it before, i.e., incumbents.

Now, some see in my predictions a sinister defense of the status quo.

Since I always predict incumbents will win, they see me joining part of a larger plot to discourage qualified and enthusiastic candidates.

I must confess they are right.

In the past, I encouraged candidates to run when a sober review of numerical facts revealed a doomed candidacy.

One in particular bothers me since I know they borrowed the equivalent of one full year of a University of California education to fund their unsuccessful campaign, and were ready to jump in again before I cleared my conscience and told them not to run.

Beyond the money, running a campaign consumes so much time and effort that one cannot really accurately weigh the personal costs of a long loss.

Now, some may marvel when I actually cast my own ballot in local elections, I seldom vote for the incumbent and will generally only cast a vote for one person.

It may shock people after previous things written here that in the next week to 10 days when I send in my mail-in ballot I will vote for Joe Messina in the Hart District race, a person I predicted will lose this race.

To review, I see no scenario for Messina to win.

He will run against one full-fledged incumbent and two quasi-incumbents who got elected to an elementary school board that comprises part of the greater Hart School District.

Why would I vote for Messina when I predicted, and still believe, that he will lose again in his fourth bid for a board seat?
One reason and one reason only: I prefer him personally to the other candidates.

Why do I prefer him? One reason and one reason only: Messina does not subscribe to the local political soma of, "It's always sunny in Santa Clarita" or the Hart trope, "What's good in education."

I see two dangers in elected office: One is constantly complaining about everything and not moving anything forward. The other is believing everything is wonderful and not moving anything forward.

In either case, nothing moves forward.

Messina does not complain but he also realizes administrators and their supervising elected officials tend to spin things in the best possible light to justify lack of action; a form of institutional laziness.

So I will vote for Messina (and only Messina) when I send my mail-in ballot in the next week or so.

Others might too.

Incumbents don't always win in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident and CPA who thinks numbers hold the key to everything. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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