Monday, May 05, 2008

Policy Vetting: A Fundamental US Media Obligation

An examinination of the role of journalists in connection with the "vetting" and the "selling" of public policy

By Curmudgeon

Weber County Forum has, now and then, discussed the proper role of a home town daily regarding actions and proposals of elected officials. Came across this post by Paul Glastris, guest-blogging on The Washington Monthly's blog "Political Animal":

POLICY IS THE BEST HONESTY... A lot of journalists get lured into the profession by the excitement—the chance to cover wars, natural disasters, political campaigns, or the lives of powerful people. I'm not immune to such inducements and have done a bit of all of the above. But most of my time in the business has been spent engaged in what might be called "policy vetting." Does a particular government policy work as advertised? Would a proposed new idea work if it were actually tried? This is not the most Hunter Thompsonesque form of journalism. But it's one I find endlessly fascinating, in part because it provides a bracing check on one's ideological biases.
Exactly. Policy vetting as he calls it --- nice term by the way --- ain't sexy much of the time, but it matters. A lot. Regardless of whose policy is getting vetted: the President, the governor or the Mayor of Ogden or Plain City.


RudiZink said...

Nice catch, Curm. I'd also like to direct our readers's attention to this article, embedded in your Washington Monthly piece:

It deals with with the disconnect between "neo classic" economist Milton Friedman's ideologically-founded advocacy of school vouchers, and the realities of the American politico-educational marketplace. I believe it nicely reinforces Paul Glastris's thesis, that public policy proposals need to be thoroughly vetted before being put into action:

An Idea Whose Time Has Gone

In short, today's article hammers another point that's been a near constant here on WCF:

"Gather all the relevant evidence first... before undertaking public action."

Curmudgeon said...

Maybe off topic... maybe not....

Having deposited my faithful '94 Aerostar van for major surgery at a shop on Washington and ridden the 612 downtown, and it being a beautiful spring morning between terms, decided to do a downtown walkabout and see what was happening.

Walking from Washington to Wall, noticed that there are still a lot of storefront shops empty and available for leasing. On every block, north and south sides, of the two blocks of Historic 25th Street. And a block off 25th to the north, a lot more signs up offering office space. [Old Post Office, nearly the entire Berthana block, with the building on the east end offering "office suites starting at $150 a month," high speed internet and all utilities included. Granted, Class A office space it isn't, but still, hardly bespeaks much demand for downtown office space.] And Boyer has signs up for office space in The Junction and the old Well's Fargo building, many floors of it, is available too.

Much has been said over the past years about downtown Ogden taking off "once Frontrunner arrives." Frontrunner has arrived. And the "to let" and "available" signs don't seem to have diminished much.

Looking through the gate at the Union Square Condo development, noticed several "for sale" signs stuck on the lawn of the common area. Not really surprising [people change jobs, lives, move in and out of houses all the time]. But it would be interesting to know if the units are selling reasonably quickly and for a reasonable advance over the original purchase price. I hope they are.

Noticed there is a big advertising billboard up against the east wall of what used to be Star Noodle [available for leasing, renovations promised]. It encourages Ogdenites to enlist in the fight against drunk driving. Unfortunately, the billboard is just behind a large blooming tree, so that all you can see of the sign as you drive down 25th Street are the letters "ving." Maybe it should have admonished Ogdenites to avoid drunk billboard placement.

I walked on to the Frontrunner station, where a school group of about 15 was trying to get ticketed using the one [1] ticketing machine there. I got there about 12 minutes before the train left, and they'd been there for a while already. They didn't make it. Train left with them still trying to buy the last tickets, helped by a kind stranger who missed his train while working the touch screen as the teacher desperately worked the money-slot trying to get the kids on board on time. Two other passengers in line behind the kids also missed the train. The machine seems very slow, had a sign saying it was persnickety about taking credit cards, and to see the UTA service agent in the bus depot if you had trouble. Not good. [One ticketing machine, having trouble with credit cards?]

Park and ride-the-train lot maybe one third full.

Wandered over to the Salomon Center, passed the Great Blank Wall [aka Larry Miller Theater] fronting the main development area. Work is going on at the building folks were reporting no work at recently. Masons on the scaffolding. Two more buildings going up south and east of Salomon Center.

Strolled over to Great Harvest about ten or so, got coffee and a slice, and staked out one of its two sidewalk tables to watch the street life for a while.... such as it was. Not much. For one five minute stretch about 10:30, I was the only person visible on the street from Great Harvest down to Union Station. For that five minute stretch, Curmudgeon was the street life of downtown Ogden. [Now there's a scary thought.]

The only shop doing much business that I could see was Great Harvest. More or less steady stream of people in and out, getting coffee, bread, etc. Nothing much else happening on the street that I could see.

Note to whoever decides these things: Ogden needs more sidewalk cafes. [Note: sidewalk tables were out at Peddlers/GFC too.] It was pleasant sitting outside Great Harvest of a warm spring morning, sipping coffee, reading a bit. And when you're at a sidewalk table, people seem to say hello and, sometimes, chat for a moment. Perfect strangers. Kind of fun. Be pleasant of a warm spring afternoon to sip a cooling wine or beer at a sidewalk cafe too after a downtown shopping stroll, but I realize in these parts that's a slippery slope on the path to perdition, and [gasp!] the chirrin might see.... Still, hard to sell 25th Street as a happenin' kind of place if not much is happenin' and what might be happenin' is not permitted.

On the whole, so far as I could see, the long-promised arrival of Frontrunner has not yet done much by way of increasing daytime business downtown. It still may, but the promised condos and apartments need to come on line and increase the well-heeled resident population of downtown fairly quickly, seems to me, or the expected boom isn't going to amount to much. There just are not many people on the street downtown--- still weren't at 11 when I caught a bus back up to campus. Hard to do much business when there just isn't much traffic on the street.

PS: on my stroll around downtown Ogden, I kept a sharp eye out for the missing 275 public parking spaces that, we are told, are holding up construction of the Gondola View Five Star Hotel. [I am nothing if not public spirited.] Sadly, I didn't find them.

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