This morning the Chronicle ran a story that said Mayor White was going to announce some SAFEclear statistics.
Matt Bramanti at Lone Star Times has some thoughts on the story that was running earlier this morning.
Now the Chronicle's story includes the details of the mayor's announcement:
Collisions on Houston freeways dropped 12 percent in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2003 and 2004, Mayor Bill White announced today, attributing the improvement at least partly to a mandatory towing program that took effect Jan. 1.
The mayor reported 2,177 freeway crashes in January and February of this year, down from 2,489 in the first two months of 2003 and 2,469 last year.
Um, okay. That's our SAFEclear success? I was hoping for more. Can a reduction in collisions really be attributed to SAFEclear? Apparently so.
And there's this:
"It's easier to get around Houston," said White, who previewed his announcement last week in a meeting with the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board. "Every day people come up to me and other members of council ... and say, 'I notice a difference.' "
Does that seem odd to anyone else? The statistics are what they are -- why did he need to preview them for the Chronicle's editorial board? I find that really strange.
Of course, if the Chronicle took one of our suggestions and put editorial meetings on the record, we'd know the answer to those questions. But as it stands now, it was an exclusive meeting between some very influential people in Houston.
What was it the Chronicle was touting recently? Oh yes -- Sunshine Week for open government.
Let's cut to the chase: Mayor White desperately needs to sell SAFEclear as a successful program. We know that other cities are looking at SAFEclear as a model for their own traffic problems, and the mayor may have further political aspirations. He needs to be able to point to SAFEclear as an example of his innovative and bold thinking, in order to get things done.
I hope the Chronicle won't blindly accept the mayor's announcement without asking some hard questions and doing some thorough checking. Sunshine Week should also extend to city government.
UPDATE: I've had some time to ponder this and I am completely underwhelmed with the mayor's announcement. Well, guess what? I'm not the only one. Matt Bramanti dissects it:
The Mayor’s office has unveiled statistics "proving" that the Safe Clear program has been an unbridled success. The lack of consistency and detail in these numbers is simply stunning
Follow the link to see his full take.
Also, Chris Baker is talking about the mayor's announcement and he's doing some "redneck math." He sounds underwhelmed, too.
UPDATE (03-30-2005) Don't miss commenter Bill F's analysis of the mayor's numbers.