Facts Aren’t a Matter of Opinion
David’s post about this morning’s Charlie Brennan interview does a great job correcting the record about supposed "factual errors" in Tim Lee’s new eminent domain study. I’d like to make an additional point about the McRee Town neighborhood.
It’s certainly true that qualitative judgments can differ, often widely, especially when it comes to examining an area’s quality of life. Mayor Slay’s chief of staff took issue with Tim’s claim that McRee Town was improving before eminent domain, and cited news reports and police officers pointing out the area’s negative qualities to bolster his contention. It’s important to point out that Tim explicitly acknowledged that the area was unpleasant. But a look at conditions at one point in time doesn’t tell us anything about a long-term trend. Saying that conditions were bad doesn’t, in itself, support the argument that conditions were getting worse.
It’s possible that there are police officers who would say the area was getting worse, but those would amount to opinions. Jim Roos, however, a McRee Town property owner, is able to provide actual data about quality of life in the area. In the buildings he managed, from the mid-1990s through 2000, vacancies dropped and rents rose. This is an economic signal of greater demand, even in the face of higher housing prices. When an increasing number of people want to move into a neighborhood even as the area’s rents rise, it tells us in real, measurable, concrete terms that the area is improving.
That kind of data isn’t a matter of opinion.