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At a recent Polson City Council meeting, city manager Todd Crossett intended to persuade the mayor, city commissioners, and public, that the Orton Family Foundation’s brand of Heart and Soul is the real deal for Polson.  It is interesting to see how he went about it.  Before the story, let me provide a background of deceptive methods and you can decide if any of these were used:

  • Statistics 101:  I remember very little of my college statistics class, but one thing my professor stated has stayed with me.  It was this one simple statement:  You can lie with statistics.  He provided many examples, all of which are used to fool rather than to inform.
  • Closely related is the misuse of correlation.  Correlation does not imply causation.  Example:  It can be stated that murder rates are higher in summer.  Also, ice cream consumption increases in summer.  There is a correlation.  This does not mean that eating ice cream causes murder or vice versa.
  • Wisdom teaches us to use the best evidence to persuade another to a particular point of view.  However, intentionally withholding some aspect of information connected with that evidence can only be called deception.

Let me now present what happened on September 5, 2012, and the reader can decide if Mr. Crossett’s actions were deceptive.  Pay attention.  There will be a quiz at the end.  Some hints are provided in the bold sentences.

City Manager Crossett reported on a study done by Gallup involving about 26 cities.  One eye witness reported that Mr. Crossett said this study just happened to come across his desk.  A wise citizen noticed an important detail was missing and asked who funded this study.  Mr. Crossett answered that it was the Knight Foundation.  If he knew that, why was that nugget withheld?  Could it be because the Knight Foundation works with and funds the Orton Family Foundation?  The familiar “Heart and Soul of the Community” and “What Do You Love?” is found throughout the study–exactly the language used with the Orton Family Foundation.

Mr. Crossett summarized the study stating that citizens’ affinity for their community was measured and included their reasons for staying in a community and being part of the community.  It was determined that a high level of affinity correlated to higher economic development in the community.  [Recall the murder vs. ice cream correlation example]. The study also asked what drove the affinity and it was determined that there were three underlying factors:  welcoming atmosphere, pleasing aesthetics, and varied social offerings.  Mr. Crossett suggested:  As we look at ways to grow our economy we need to be aware of these underlying factors.

The study did indeed measure residents’ emotional connection to where they lived and compared that to the local GDP growth and saw a correlation.  They stated this information was very important for making choices on where to direct resources to engage the community.

So, the purpose of the study was explicitly stated in 2008 as this:  Over three years, the researchers will analyze the trends to prove whether emotional connection drives economic growth, or the other way around.

[Allow me to digress.   This is a silly premise.  Why wouldn’t the research focus on what drives economic growth—period?  Reading the study, it is quite obvious the Knight Foundation felt positively giddy about this correlation.  They desperately wanted to believe the correlation proved something.]

Now it gets interesting!  Mr. Crossett either did not notice, or decided not to mention, the results of the three year study.  Paula Ellis, vice president for strategic initiatives at the Knight Foundation, reported at the conclusion of the study:  The research has not determined whether community attachment causes local economic growth.

The research conclusion doesn’t really seem to matter to the Knight Foundation.  They remain giddy about the correlation and the final 2010 report offers pages and pages of data and graphs, without statistical analysis, such as margin of error, and does not attempt to tie the findings to economy.  The research conclusion doesn’t seem to matter to Todd Crossett, either.   As stated above, he suggested we should use this information to grow Polson’s economy.

Why the smoke and mirrors?  My evaluation concludes that this is part of the Orton Family Foundation’s Heart and Soul plan, (and now we can include the Knight Foundation), to lay the groundwork for leading the community to accept the ideologies they believe in.  Not much happens by chance. It is extremely unlikely this research just happened to cross Todd Crossett’s desk.  The Orton Foundation is guiding this entire process.  They call all the plays in the game.  I repeat something I have said before.  Polson Heart and Soul is all for show.

Final quiz:  Can you find any examples of deception?