A Few More Words About Tod Robberson and That Golf Course

Must. Not. Lose temper. No more scurrilous attacks on Tob Robberson. Because then his bosses will be forced to come to his defense, and I don’t want to fight a war on three fronts. Oh, man, that last sentence veered toward personal territory. Must. Stay. On track. Just the facts:

Yesterday Tod Robberson wrote something that struck me as strange for a few reasons. The gist of his post was that the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta shows us what will happen when the golf course is built in southern Dallas (the City Council is expected to vote on it today). Robberson wrote that Mayor Mike Rawlings encouraged him to have a look at how East Lake spurred development. Then Robberson wrote this:

I didn’t have any reason to disbelieve the mayor. But today, I decided to go the extra mile. I did a 20-year U.S. Census comparison of a one-mile radius surrounding East Lake, just to see what results it would yield.

It seems strange to me that a journalist would say he has no reason to disbelieve a city official, because journalists are supposed to be professional skeptics. Even if you’re predisposed to agree with a city official (for ideological reasons or because you’ve dealt with the official in the past and he has shown himself to be trustworthy), you’re still supposed to let doubt have its day. Ask the question that the official’s opponents would ask. Do some fact checking. And when you do that work, don’t pat yourself on the back for “going the extra mile.”

Minor details, though. Robberson was writing for the blog. Oftentimes such writing is done more hurriedly than it would be if the words were destined for ink and paper. Surely he would have described his efforts differently if he’d had more time to consider what his fingers were doing to his keyboard.

The stranger thing about Robberson’s post is how ignorant it makes him look. He looked at an area described by a 1-mile radius around the Atlanta golf club, comparing current Census data and data gathered in 2000 and 1990. Robberson found that per capita income went up, as did household income. Bingo, that proves the golf course generated development and improved peoples’ lives. Robberson wrote, “There is no other major feature in East Lake that would explain such a dramatic jump in household incomes.”

First, from what I can tell, he didn’t adjust his numbers for inflation. Significant oversight. Second, it doesn’t appear that he did enough research on the East Lake area. For this, we turn to Eric Celeste, former Atlanta resident. In the comments to Robberson’s post, he wrote:

“There is no other major feature in East Lake that would explain such a dramatic jump in household incomes”? Well, except for the 500-plus mixed-income apartments, Atlanta’s first public charter school, a YMCA, a day-care center and a second, public golf course. You know, the development that was part of the original plan. So that it made sense. So that it was a revitalization effort, and not just a hope and a prayer.

Eric Celeste wrote more about this issue on that CultureMap thingy, explaining that SMU will be the real winner if this course gets built.

And that, my friends, is a response to Tod Robberson’s chuckleheaded post. Please note that I’m not calling Robberson a chucklehead; his post is chuckleheaded.

I think I just pulled a hammy.

UPDATE (12:44): You want to know what “going the extra mile” looks like? Read Patrick Kennedy’s analysis of what took place in Atlanta.