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Tim Myers: A lesson in Ender Math

Myers’ Musings

Posted: September 4, 2010 1:23 p.m.
Updated: September 5, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

I cannot afford to act in the capacity of academic snob. I attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, ranked third by the “everyone gets a prize” U.S. News and World Report as a midwestern regional university.

Drake currently (and when I went) boasts an undergraduate population of about 3,500 students. I studied accounting and law on the urban campus. Hopefully that resulted in some understanding of numbers and analysis since I earn my living that way, though I sometimes believe that Midwestern common sense, fueled by the interaction with my Nebraska bride these many years, contributes more to current ability than that long-ago time at Drake.

Contrast this with the academic experience of Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurie Ender, who graduated from Pepperdine University on the beach in Malibu with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and sociology.

Pepperdine also boasts an undergraduate population of around 3,500, but stands No. 53 in the rarefied air of the top 100 national universities, so I believe with some certainty it requires some mastery of math for every degree, including the more liberal arts. However, Ender’s analysis of math in local politics puzzles me, which makes me wonder if she recently invented her own discipline which I call “Ender Math.”

The latest case of Ender Math occurred in the council’s recent 4-1 decision after about three minutes of careful study and deliberation to strip from Los Angeles County the three excellent county library branches within city limits and place them under city control, along with the tax revenue that supports the excellent library service to the citizens of the entire Santa Clarita Valley.

This will produce a system inferior to the status quo, at least in this universe, since it in no reasonable way can provide the roughly 10,000 to 15,000 items brought to the Valencia branch from other libraries in the system at the request of patrons, though the branches may possess more copies of the latest low-brow fiction, including Nicholas Sparks and the latest installment of the “Plum” series.

The public hearing was crowded with about 200 folks against the library takeover filling every available seat and requiring significant standing room, with 48 making impassioned speeches raising all the numerical points regarding cross-library usage the city can in no way provide. Ender dismissed those who showed up to protest by stating, once again, that she represented the 178,000 or so who did not show up to the council meeting to protest, interpreting their absence to mean a vote of confidence in the council’s decision. 

It turns out she would need to adopt this interpretation, since two of the three people who spoke in favor of the city takeover did so with all the passion of someone in a dentist’s waiting room.

The community saw Ender Math on display in the 4-1 decision to raise campaign contribution limits taken right after the election. In that case, absolutely no members of the public spoke in favor of the increase, but Ender Math allowed for the absence of about 178,000 members of the city population — including the 25 to 30 percent the city estimates below the age of 18 — to constitute a broad endorsement of the new, incumbent-favorable policy.

For a mathematical discipline to obtain broad usage, it must at least act with internal consistency. Therefore, Ender Math would require the council member to resign from the City Council since she only received 6,180 votes in 2008, which pursuant to Ender Math, means just slightly fewer than 172,000 citizens failed to endorse her election — or about 82,000 registered voters.

Not to worry, however. Ender understands all too clearly the unassailable electoral math that makes up Santa Clarita elections. Only 17 percent of the registered voters bother to cast ballots in any City Council election. About 7 percent of those despise the incumbents for what they view to constitute overreaching and cronyism. About 6 percent love the incumbents for reasons of affinity and personal relationships.

That leaves 4 percent who know little to nothing about local issues, but due to a slavish devotion to civic duty will punch the incumbent line at the rate of about 75 percent to give the incumbents 9 percent to 8 percent which translates into an absolute and somewhat impressive 53-percent to 47-percent margin.

And that is real math — not Ender Math.

    Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.

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