City Hall Credibility Takes Hit

by MissionViejoDispatch.com on March 4, 2013

City Hall’s credibility took another shot in the foot last week in a news release about a “happiness” report from a University of Vermont study.

The Vermont study purports to identify the “happiest” places in America based on geographically tagged words in Twitter messages (Tweets).  Ten thousand words were assigned happy points. “Rainbow” had a higher happy score than “earthquake.” Validity questions aside, the University found its home state, Vermont, was the 5th happiest behind Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and Utah. California was 13th. The saddest state was Louisiana.

The University also surveyed urban populations, finding South Orange County to be the 4th happiest urban area nationwide. The local region was officially titled “Mission Viejo-Lake Forest-San Clemente,” but the scatter map of tweets below shows the ranked area also included Rancho Santa Margarita, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Aliso Viejo, Ladera Ranch, Dana Point, and San Juan Capistrano. To enlarge map, click here.

Scatter Map for South OC Tweets

MV’s City Hall falsely seized the dubious glory for itself, however, stating, “Mission Viejo has been ranked as the fourth “happiest city” in the United States, according to a study by the University of Vermont.” The article made no mention or reference to any of the other South County cities in the population sample. The PR piece went farther, implying significant credit could be attributed to “municipal services” provided by, yep, MV City Hall.

Never mind there are a dozen different cities in the ranked area. The biggest cluster of happy Tweets (red) appears to be from along the Coast, primarily in Laguna Beach.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Brown March 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

So what else is new?

Paul R. Selzer March 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Obviously, the city council is taking “happy pills” to proclaim MV the 4th happiest city in the US.

Ernie Klein March 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm

It will be interesting to see if any of the council members respond to this. I find it hard to believe Cathy Schlicht signed off on this.

[Editor's Note: Ms. Schlicht has been a critic of City Hall's publicity machine; Staff's news releases are not reviewed in advance by council members.]

Joe Holtzman March 6, 2013 at 6:12 am

Send up enough smoke you can screen reality !

Desi Kiss March 6, 2013 at 9:26 am

One must agree w/ Nancy Brown! There is nothing new! Just look at the renewal of the Charles Abbott and Associates “Contract” for 2 more years from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015. (Item #5 on the 03/04/13 City Council Meeting Agenda) In my opinion sub-par performance was rewarded again for 2 more years. Please make a note of it. Simply biz as usual by the same players. Does anyone know how much we pay CA&A for this “service” for the next 2 years?

Carl Pham March 6, 2013 at 9:35 am

If this is the biggest complaint you have about city hall, you’re unbelievably lucky. Maybe you should try living in, say, Chicago or Philadelphia, or even some of the small corrupt towns in California, before you get all het up about a goofball press release on a goofball study that no serious person cares two shakes of a rat’s tail about.

Joe Holtzman March 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Carl……that is why I do not live in Chicago! And I expect that smoke not be issued from our city hall.

Christopher Rosolanko March 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm

WAIT WAIT WAIT!! JUST A MINUTE HERE!! Now just where in Hell did City Hall dig up some credibility to hit??

Allan Pilger March 9, 2013 at 9:50 am

So Carl Pham gives City Hall a free pass for hyping on its website front page what he calls a “goofball study,” but attacks activists for exposing it? Go figure. Also, if Carl thinks city hall hype is the biggest complaint, he needs to tune into the Dispatch more frequently.

From a professional marketing standpoint, City Hall should ease up on constantly hyping what a great job it is doing for the citizens. This stuff shows up almost daily on city e-newletters.

Businesses and institutions need self-promotion, but a constant promo drumbeat usually has a opposite effect of raising questions of validity–especially with conservative activists as watchdogs to point out the follies.

Also, the public is dubious about surveys, which are constantly hyped by the media as a cheap substitute for digging up real news.

Ted Douglas March 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

“Also, the public is dubious about surveys, which are constantly hyped by the media as a cheap substitute for digging up real news.”

Isn’t that what the Dispatch is essentially doing, but in a negative way?

I guess there aren’t any Dog Parks, Tennis Centers, Cultural Arts events, or anything else meant to bring happiness and enjoyment to the residents of Mission Viejo, so you might as well go after City Hall’s “credibility”.

While I don’t agree with very thing the city government does, this is a pretty silly non story.

[Editor's Note: The survey was conducted by the University and released locally as news by the City of Mission Viejo - not the Dispatch. The Dispatch article was limited to the serious misrepresentation of the survey's results by the City.]

Allan Pilger March 12, 2013 at 8:50 am

Thanks to Ted for his comment. For the record, the Dispatch focused on the $6 million expenditure for the tennis center and the potential of millions for the dog park.

Myself and others have consistently recommended sectioning off several of our 50 parks for dogs at a tiny cost and more convenience that one park with major re-grading on our eastern border. We are not dog haters.

We supported the original plan to resurface the tennis courts and refurbish the tennis clubhouse at about $700,000. It was overdue. But the project gradually mushroomed into a $6 million resort makeover. We are not tennis haters.

As for arts events, we challenged the focus City Hall on events while neglecting the infrastructure. That’s changing now, with street and slope improvements. If City Hall can handle the infrastructure and cultural events, fine. We are not cultural haters.

Thanks to Ted for the opportunity to restate our support of sensible recreation development and recognition that cultural events are important for a sense of
community. But the infrastructure is the City’s Number One responsibility.

Larry Gilbert March 12, 2013 at 9:19 am

Perhaps we would not be so attentive to what is reported by the city if staff would acknowledge when projects do not come in on (original) budget or on time. When was the last, or in this case, the first time, that our city has ever apologized to its taxpayers for these capital improvement projects?

Shall I name a few beginning with the Murray Center expansion that was to cost $5.5 million and ended up north of $15 million. In that illustration they kept moving the goal posts and resetting the budget with every change order. Watchdogs will continue monitoring staff in our attempt for transparency and fiscal accountability.

The tennis center being another case where the original budget looks nothing like the final cost. Regular readers acknowledge that the Dispatch provides a much needed public service. We know that it is read by staff based on feedback that is received. In fact a result of the Dispatch publishing these articles for the past few years led to the city staff creating its own blog trying to counter these Dispatch reports with city spin.

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