My May 4 column was the subject of an op-ed in the Journal last Friday by Douglas R. Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission. He referred to “statistics used in a presentation to the Cobb Young Republicans” and said this columnist “challenged several of the facts the presenter included.” Indeed I did.
Hooker wrote that the “statistics are based on in-depth research and analysis conducted by the Atlanta Regional Commission” and vetted by experts. He said the reports were available online and then added: “What we don’t understand is why McKee did not take the time to carefully check his facts prior to writing his column.”
Not only was that a gratuitous slap but a totally incorrect assumption. The fact is that I visited the ARC website to verify the presenter’s figures and check out the information for myself before writing the column – standard practice in my many years in journalism with three newspapers, the Associated Press and U.S. News & World Report as regional editor in Atlanta. I also had digested the folder sent out by Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network, Inc. (MAVEN) and other pro-tax materials — and expressed my opinion as a columnist.
In the op-ed, Hooker rehashed figures used by ARC and other TIA supporters, referring to them as facts. The fact is the ARC figures are projections and estimates drawn from research and analysis. They are not equivalent to proven facts. The ARC website itself refers to “the potential impact of transportation projects selected to go before voters” July 31. The site also refers to “the forecasted results of implementing the Regional Transportation Plan.” Since when did “potential impact” constitute undisputed fact? Neither do “analysis” and “evaluation” or “the forecasted results.”
Some pro-tax “facts” have been fact-checked by the AJC’s PolitiFact Georgia. Example: a MAVEN ad claiming that metro Atlanta has “one of the longest average commutes in America. Over an hour every day, five hours a week you don’t spend with your family – 260 hours a year.”
PolitiFact pointed out that commuters usually get two weeks vacation and do not work all 52 weeks of the year, meaning the “average time spent commuting each year might not be 260 hours.” It was “a bit of a leap for MAVEN” to make its hour-per-day roundtrip commute based only on the morning drive and “a bigger leap” to conclude that commuters spend 260 hours a year driving to and from work. “We give MAVEN a half-true,” PolitFact concluded.
Another “half-true” rating went to an ad by Citizens for Transportation Mobility saying Atlanta’s cost of living “ranks as 7th worst out of 51 metros nationally.” PolitiFact’s research says Atlanta is the 16th most expensive. And there’s more at the group’s website.
Voters, do your homework. Check the facts for yourselves.