TriMet issues a series of press releases defending its position and trying to "correct" the facts in the KOIN report. What really gets me, however, is the email.
Some of the rebuttals on the Fact Check posts are truthfully valid, while others make me wonder. However, on all the rebuttals, TriMet's missing the point yet again. It's not strictly about the numbers; it's about the perception of the numbers.
I was at first pleased when reading the email that was sent with the link to the second Fact Check post, which was repeated in the first paragraph of the actual post. But then I thought about it again and laughed a little. Here's the content of the email:
We welcome public and media attention regarding all matters related to TriMet. Being transparent helps the public understand the direction and priorities of the agency. At the same time, some of the statements made by the media and public can contain inaccurate information about TriMet. We will “fact check” any communication that misstates the facts. Today, TriMet fact checks the second part of a KOIN report about the agency.
Now, in Al Margulies style, I will break down the email with commentary.
We welcome public and media attention regarding all matters related to TriMet. (Really? Seems like in the past any time there was criticism it was either attacked or ignored.) Being transparent helps the public understand the direction and priorities of the agency. (Wow...it took you how long to figure that out?) At the same time, some of the statements made by the media and public can contain inaccurate information about TriMet. (Maybe a better word for "inaccurate" is "uninformed." Because I know Jeff did his best with the information he had, which is how we have all historically operated when the agency doesn't give us enough information to come to the "right" conclusion.) We will “fact check” any communication that misstates the facts. (That's quite an undertaking. You have been doing that on my blog. Why not Al's? Why not Lane's? There are more people listening to their blogs than mine.) Today, TriMet fact checks the second part of a KOIN report about the agency.
Looking at the content of the Fact Check document, there is one point I would like to make. Here's one of the first "facts" Mary explains (concerning where the money for the raises came from):
The promotions and salary increases for Capital Projects staff, those working on the rail project, are initially funded through the contingency funds, but then the agency is fully reimbursed by project funds. Again, project funds are restricted to the project and cannot be used to restore service or reduce fares.
Later, she disputes the comparison of the $100K employees between TriMet and Denver's RTD in this statement:
While both agencies are expanding their rail systems, Denver contracts out all of the work to a consortium of companies. For our light rail expansion, TriMet is managing the design, building and operation all in-house.
Do you see the contradiction here? In the first paragraph, it separates the funds, saying that TriMet is reimbursed for the raises from the project funds. In the second paragraph, it explains that TriMet is doing the project in-house.
Now, I do completely understand the distinction between the Operations and Capital Projects budgets, and I do understand the distinction between doing something in-house and contracting it. However, from the riders' perspective, what's the difference? And more importantly, from the taxpayers' perspective, what's the difference? It's still our tax dollars TriMet is using to build PMLR. Again, the numbers may say one thing, but it's the perception of those numbers that is really where the disagreement is at. And if Denver could contract out the RTD light rail construction, why didn't TriMet?
So, TriMet, when you check the "facts" for accuracy, remember that it's the implications of those facts that is in the public's mind. It's not just all about the numbers.