Nothing Worse Than Changing a Right Answer
I play in a fair amount of trivia night competitions — not as many as I used to before having children, but enough. Political history and sports history are my specialties. The team I generally play on just about always wins: eight out of 10 in the Boys Hope Girls Hope night (one of the biggest trivia events in St. Louis); five for five in the Soulard trivia night, which is coming up again in two weeks; three out of the past four Variety Club trivia nights (I think); dominated the past two MAC trivia nights; back in the ’90s, I played on the team that twice won the Mary Queen of Peace sports trivia nights, which is a really big event. So, even though I am not the top member of my own team (that honor goes to Bill, Tom, or Tara), I know trivia. And there is nothing worse in trivia than having the correct answer written down and then changing it to an incorrect answer. That is the stuff that stays with you for days — longer, if it costs you the win. So, why am I telling you this? Because that is exactly what I did in a recent op-ed.
I originally wrote that the Kansas City TIF commission consisted of 11 members, which was correct. That is the number I used when I spoke to the Kansas City Pachyderm Club last month about TIF. However, as we were getting ready to publish my op-ed on the subject, I came across minutes of the KC TIF commission that made it appear it had 12 members. (Go to items 4,5,6,7, and 8 of the report and start counting members in the various roll calls; they have different members depending on where the project is.) My major mistake was either failing to write down the info, or incorrectly filing it, when I was first told that the commission had 11 members. So, I could not find the info, assumed I screwed up, and went with the number that appeared the TIF minutes suggested in the original published draft of my op-ed about TIF in Kansas City. I didn’t realize that a consultant to the commission had been included in some of those roll calls, leading to my miscount. If I had read further, I would have found roll calls with numbers other than 12.
It really is not a big deal, and the fact that the KC TIF commission has a ratio of six KC members to only five members from other bodies (instead of six to six, the corrected figure) actually makes my point stronger, not weaker. But “An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it,” as John F. Kennedy once famously quoted Orlando Battista. So, I have corrected the piece online and over at the Missouri Record, which graciously ran the article for us in the first place. And I admit my mistake here, as well, for the whole world to see — and probably not care about at all …
I try to really get into the minutiae of government here for the Show-Me Institute. Because local governments are so different in Missouri than in other states, covering local governments entails risks. You can’t just be an expert on local government in general, you have to become an expert in every individual system. That is hard, and takes a great deal of work. But there is no excuse for making a mistake like that, and I pledge to work hard not to do it again.