What “Experts”?

Voice of OC logoReading the two Voice of OC articles (here and here) that are very critical of the proposed Anaheim Convention Center expansion, it’s hard to miss repeated claims that “experts say” this and “experts say” that – and these “experts” have a uniformly negative attitude toward the expansion. The headline of the first article goes so far as to shout “Experts: Anaheim’s Convention Center Gamble Sure to Fail.” Now, that’s an astonishing thing to say: astonishingly ignorant, that is. Look out a window at the Resort area: yep, all this investing in the Convention Center has been a failed gamble, alright, and continuing such investment is doomed to failure.

Now, the repeated reference to the plural “experts” would lead the average reader to conclude this is a consensus opinion among convention industry experts. But is there? Who knows. The “experts” the Voice of OC points to consists of two guys. Unless they are America’s only existing experts on the convention business, two guys are hardly a consensus. Are we to believe there are no convention industry experts who hold a contrary opinion?

When it comes to the Convention Center expansion (and the Angels negotiations, as well), professional studies have been lambasted as generalities that aren’t specifically based on Anaheim’s situation. And yet, these two experts whom critics are relying have based their skepticism on generalities and not the specifics of Anaheim’s situation. One can’t have it both ways.

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  1. “And yet, these two experts whom critics are relying have based their skepticism on generalities and not the specifics of Anaheim’s situation.”

    Well, Matt, you’re making an assumption based on the generalities presented in the article to arrive to that conclusion.

    There’s a very good chance the two experts are, in fact, basing their opinion on the specifics in Anaheim. I haven’t spoken with them. I’ll bet $20 you haven’t either. A bit awkward to draft a piece attacking the soundness of relying upon generalities and assumptions to support a conclusion, then turning around and doing just that.

    But– to your point, the need for a R-O-B-U-S-T analysis before agreeing to commit the city to this project is clearly required. It’s a bit insane that Kris Murray and Lucy Kring have already made public statements endorsing the project before any analysis of its merit has been presented to the council.

    Torpedoes be damned, right? Perhaps your critique ought to be directed at decision makers who clearly prejudiced and uninterested in the opinion of experts before you critique a journalist who really did nothing more than ask questions.

    After all, if the author at the Voice is wrong, there’s no harm. Why put a target on them? I’d rather have a discussion on why two councilmembers have agreed to execute a project with uncertain costs and debateable benefits all the while promoting their stewardship of the taxpayers’ interest.

    Their justification ought to be bulletproof. It should withstand sensitivities to capital cost variation. It should still show a clear payback with revenue variations, including something as significant as a national trend in rental hall demand.

    Clearly it doesn’t. That’s the point of the piece. There’s a huge chunk of risk here that isn’t being adequately resolved for the taxpayer and two council members clearly don’t care. More on that, please.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Ryan, 52 minutes elapsed between the publishing of this post and your comment. You are slowing down.

      “There’s a very good chance the two experts are, in fact, basing their opinion on the specifics in Anaheim.”

      Based on what? Knowing nothing else, there’s an at least equal chance there are not. I tend to think it would have shown up in the article if you were right.

      • Hey, a brother’s got to eat, right? Line at the register was a little long today.

        SO . . . based on the fact that neither you or I have eliminated either possibility. That’s kinda obvious isn’t it?

        The point is you drew a conclusion based on an assumption tied to a generalization. You then used that to attack the original author, then you did the exact same thing to me.

        Any particular reason that you get a special rule book that the rest of us can’t use?

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Furthermore, Ryan, the costs are by no means uncertain, nor are the benefits debatable. Unless you think it would be bad for Anaheim to be able to book larger and better conventions.

      The ATID will generate more than enough revenue to pay for the expansion and the extras such as neighborhood improvement funds – and those projections are ultra-conservative: based on a TOT growth rate that is half of the historic growth rate.

      Sorry, man. The Chicken Little routine isn’t working here.

      • Matt,

        A little project management 101 for you.

        Detailed Engineering has not been completed for this project. That means, AT BEST, you’re looking at a +/- 20% estimate for this project. I’ll go out on a limb and say +/- 30% is probably realistic.

        So, yes. The estimate if far from certain . . . unless you think the rules of construction some how magically don’t apply to projects endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.

        I think I can give you at least two experts who don’t agree with your revenue projections, Matt. Just how many do you have in your corner? Of those, how many based their assumptions on work done in Baltimore rather than Anaheim?

        In any case, the study ought to show at what point TOT revenues will not cover the upper end of expanded construction costs. Wanna bet it doesn’t do that? I haven’t even looked, but it really should.

        There’s no Chicken Little here, Matt. I didn’t say the sky is falling. I said two decision makers jumped the gun and issued their approval before an analysis was presented to the council. Then I said you should be talking about that instead of attacking a journalist who asked rather pertinent questions and did more exploratory work than at least two people who are going to vote on a decision.

        That’s hardly squawking. I think you ought to be a little embarrassed that you said it is.

        • Matthew Cunningham

          A couple of things:

          I’m not “attacking” Adam. I’m pointing out 1) the repeated reference to “experts say” creates the misleading impression of an expert consensus of which there is no evidence and 2) that basing a judgment on generalities is bad when it comes to studies that support expansion, but is A-OK when it comes to opposing the expansion.

          Furthermore, basing revenue projections on just half of the historic TOT growth rate is a pretty safe bet. Unless you have special knowledge that there will be no-growth and no hotel rooms built in the Resort District for the next 30 years.

          • Sure. Are we planning a major resort expansion? You know, like the last one that promoted major growth that’d bias the 30 year curve?

        • If Travelers street-gang can expand with no opposition by you Ryan than the convention center can expand.

  2. Matthew Cunningham

    And it’s hollow for you to criticize two council members for “jumping the gun” being supportive of expanding the Convention Center but it’s A-OK for the mayor to “jump the gun” in opposition.

    • The mayor is opposed? That’s news to me, Matt.

      Assuming that’s true, I’d rather have an elected official biased against spending $410MM taxpayer dollars.

      I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of a Conservative, Matt. One who doesn’t leap at the chance of spending money that isn’t theirs.

      Hat tip for illustrating the gap between that concept and Murray and Kring.

      • BOOO! Bad form, Matt. You don’t get to pull this one back into moderation while you draft a reply.

        Very villainesque!

        • Lets all please stop debating this ridiculous attack dog who blindly supports Tait and is on autopilot with Fitzgerald to demean the women on our City Council. The city has already had a major workshop on the expansion. The resort businesses have been taxing themselves since 2010 for these improvements including the Grand Plaza that Tait voted for. This is a no brainer for the council and the Mayor should support it tonight along with the council. There is no valid reason to oppose.

          • ” . . . and is on autopilot with Fitzgerald to demean the women on our City Council.”

            WHAT?! Do you have any idea how ridiculous that is?

            That’s a beautiful reach, Colonist. Holy Ad Hominem. Really, cheers bro.

        • Matthew Cunningham

          What are you talking about? I did no such thing. You spend more time on Anaheim Blog than I do!

  3. A bigger convention center will allow more/larger conventions. How can that be bad? Why wouldn’t someone come out supporting this?

    The only criticism that can be launched is that those conventions won’t come.

    So what do we do to make Anaheim as attractive as possible?

    How about ARTIC, ARC, 4 star hotels and the like.

    Seems VOC is against anything Anaheim will do to improve itself. This blind desire to see the city fail is sick. Where does it come from? Who pissed off OCEA this bad to make VOC the trumpet for civic failure?

  4. Well I agree that nobody should be just writing “Experts think” without at least naming a couple of the fellas. If that’s what Adam did.

  5. Sounds like FOX News! “Some say…”

  6. It’s amazing to me that people take the Voice Of OC so seriously.
    It is a blog disguised as a “news agency”, It is about as “fair and balanced” as FOX NEWS is on their end of the political spectrum.
    To think that ADAM ELMAHREK can be considered a journalist is a laughable in it’s own right. But, to have his shoddy piece get attention here is even more silly. What is he going to p/o the union bosses?

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