On March 11 Port Clinton City Council was presented with an impossibly optimistic economic impact study for the proposed Waterworks Park development. The Ottawa County Improvement Corporation and FirstEnergy made a presentation based on a computer software program called IMPLAN®, data from the area and the project was fed into a computer and out popped the numbers.
According to the numbers fed into the IMPLAN® software the city would collect, after time, $7.8 million dollars in property, sales, income and bed taxes per year. The State of Ohio, after time, would collect $4 million dollars in taxes. Now that seems like a lot of taxes, but they surely won’t be coming from the supposed 585 people making an average yearly income of $18,803 because they don’t pay very much in taxes, nor will they have any money to spend the new development. This sounds like the “rich get richer” from our Waterworks Park and to quote former Judge Moon “we are all the poorer for it”.
“You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment,” Alvin Toffler.
Mayor Vince Leone asked if the software was proven in other communities, if there were examples of other projects showing its reliability. Councilman Aukerman identified the “poverty level” incomes of the new jobs created and asked if the study could tell us what additional costs there will be to support our community. Councilman Snider unfortunately said the wrong thing,”earliest possible timeframe” which sounded like a rush to judgment. Our newest at-large councilman, Lisa Sarty, loved the “black and white” information. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy and we may all be seeing red if you make the wrong decision.
In theory people are rational and they make complete calculations to reach the right and wise decision. In reality people make decisions with personal biases that find a way into the process of decision-making. City Council needs to recognize and avoid these personal biases--the selective search for evidence, the premature termination of search for evidence, source credibility bias, selective perception, prejudice, wishful thinking, optimism, choice-supportive bias, incremental decision making and escalating commitment, underestimating uncertainty, the illusion of control, group think and peer pressure.
“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” Plato
According to the March 7 News-Herald article “Casino Revenues Fall Short”, during Ohio’s first year with four operating casinos, revenues are $1 billion dollars short of campaign promises, leaving county and school officials with significantly smaller tax payouts. (Hope Port Clinton City Schools was not relying on that money to build a new school). Alan Silver, a gambling industry expert and Ohio University assistant professor, said there was nothing nefarious about casinos’ promises. Predicting revenue for a new industry is simply difficult to do, he said. “Anytime you do studies, you’re shooting in the sky,” Silver said. Rob Walgate, vice president of the anti-gambling American Policy Roundtable thinks what “we’ve seen is a lot of false promises here. They can’t hit the numbers that they promised. They lied.”
The State of Ohio in its desire for a better economy made decisions based on quantitative data to allow gambling in the State. According to the American Gaming Association, the gaming industry relies on the well-known and widely used IMPLAN® Model for economic impact studies.
So developing Waterworks Park is a lot like casino gambling if you’re betting on the numbers. The message to Port Clinton is the numbers don’t lie, they just fall short.
Citizens Organized for Responsible Development