Editorial: UGB survey results won’t be worth much

Bend has a nifty, slick online survey about the expansion of its urban growth boundary. People who click through the survey can learn about the process and the kinds of choices the city has to make.

But the city would be dead wrong to put much weight on the results.

It’s like many online surveys. There’s nothing scientific about the data it collects. There’s no guarantee it is at all representative. It can be filled out multiple times by the same person or anyone on a mission to skew the results. You don’t have to live anywhere near Oregon to fill it out.

City staffers know that. But when a presentation was made to the City Council about it at a recent council meeting, there was no such disclaimer. The survey itself even states: “Your input will help the UGB Steering Committee refine the goals for the project.”

Really?

We pulled Brian Rankin, the city’s principal planner, aside at that meeting. He said the survey is a tool for gathering some input and informing the public a bit more about the project. But he said it is not a scientific survey and cannot accurately reflect how the public feels.

So we were disappointed, again, when Joe Dills, a project manager hired by the city as a consultant, got up and spoke about the survey at an open house about the UGB. He encouraged people to get on the laptops provided and fill it out as a way of having input. He spoke with pride about the hundreds who have filled it out.

No disclaimer again.

We know it’s a downer to have a nifty, slick survey that you want people to fill out and to have to inform them of the survey’s flaws. But as we saw from the debate about the future of Mirror Pond, some people take online survey results and use them to legitimize conclusions. Don’t let that happen with this survey.

If you are curious, if you type “Bend UGB remand” into most search engines, the top hit will take you to the survey.