With a tip of the hat to Diane Hourany, who blogged about this over at site Z yesterday…
In a nutshell, the city has created a one-stop set for all you data hounds out there. The tool is powered by a company called Socrata, and offers some built-in visualization features like charting and mapping. If you’re a genius of the engineering type, you can – of course – get a feed of the data or download the data or otherwise crunch the digits to your heart’s content. I, sadly, don’t have those mad skills so I kept the training wheels on.
The data available on the site is pretty diverse – ranging from a catalog of all of the public art the city owns (with location coordinates) to crime data. I settled on the data about all of the ballot propositions, starting with 1966 and continuing forward. We’ve voted on a long list of ridiculous things over the past four decades.
I started goofing around with the data, and decided to look at if the letter of a ballot proposition had much to do with whether or not it passed.
There were 97 ballot propositions that showed up first on the list with the letter “A” – and of those, 82 passed and 25 failed, meaning that over the past 55 years or so 84% of all propositions named “A” have passed.
There were 34 ballot propositions that showed up with the letter “M” – and of those 17 passed and 17 failed, for a 50% pass rate.
There were only 2 ballot propositions that showed up with the letter “Z” – and they both failed, for a 0% pass rate!
What does this mean? Clearly it means that I have way too much time on my hands this evening! Or, my other theory is that voters get sick of voting on ballot propositions. This is my theory because this is how I feel about ballot measures. I kind of figure the role of government is to, um, figure these things out, make an educated policy decision, implement it, see if it works, and revise as necessary. If you’ve got a couple big questions for me, I’m open for that. Or, if the citizens are pissed you haven’t asked us about a couple big questions, I’m down with that. But get past 5 or 10 items and I get really cranky and annoyed, wondering what exactly I’m paying for down at city hall. Initiatives that have been placed on the ballot by a couple of supervisors that can’t get the issue passed at the Board of Supervisors draw my ire in particular…
My only regret is that I can’t go back in time and test my theory by putting a recall initiative for Chris Daly on the ballot labeled as item A!
Regardless of how wrong or right my theory is, go out and take some data for a spin!