Bias in a survey of 800 businesses about a proposed paid sick day ordinance was the focus of a city committee meeting this evening. The meeting was that of the Health & Human Services Committee, Councilor Belinda Ray, Chair. The survey was ordered by city manager Jon Jennings to be conducted by city staff.. Mayor Ethan Strimling who has championed the passage of such an ordinance led the questioning as to whom the survey was mailed, the wording of the questions and more about the survey’s veracity.
Designing an unbiased survey is a learned skill set that requires more than just “throwing a bunch of numbers around” said Mayor Strimling at the meeting. It may well have been a survey that Jennings just doesn’t give a hoot about as long as his agenda is achieved; to discredit the proposal for paid sick days.
The survey was sent to businesses as a joint project with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Health and Human Services Department. That following a Chamber meeting in which strategies opposing the paid sick leave policy were discussed. At that meeting that the Mayor attended, he was asked to leave before the discussion began. A point of contention between Hentzel and the Mayor who have already clashed publicly because of her personal attack on the Mayor in the press. She called him “divisive” because of his proposals in the city.
Following the meeting, the Mayor said that he was never allowed to see the joint survey between the Chamber and the City before it was mailed out. In fact, he didn’t even know that one had been issued until recently. Had he been allowed to review the survey prior to its issuance, many of the questions he raised at the meeting could have been prevented. And a lot of time saved. The Mayor recommended that the better way to conduct the survey would have been through a neutral organization and not the city manager’s office – a neutral organization like the Muskie Graduate School or COG would have creditability.
Questions not answered at the Committee meeting will be addressed at the next meeting according to Councilor Belinda Ray, who is one of the more conservative members of the City Council and is often aligned with Jennings. Whether or not a new survey is necessary will be determined at a later date.
“I’m looking forward to when the Committee begins work on the ordinance itself,” said Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Women’s Lobby who has been a major supporter of the proposed ordinance. Jennings attended the meeting briefly and then abruptly left without returning or an explanation.
(Note: For a fascinating look at how the Chambers operate, this blogger recommends reading: “American Amnesia. How The War on Government Led Us To Forget What Made America Prosper” by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Simon & Schuster, 2016).