Statistical Gibberish - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2080788

Statistical Gibberish

Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, (expletive) lies and statistics.” I believe that the origin of the statement is uncertain, but I think I saw it on a placard in Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s office.

The phrase refers to the ability to spin — I mean, interpret — statistics to bolster weak arguments.

Supervisor Schneiderman alleged that he wanted to understand firsthand what the community wanted for the downtown of Hampton Bays after the community rallied against the Town Board trying to reinstate the annulled downtown rezoning. The supervisor started with his listening tour. When that didn’t get the results he wanted, he started his dog-and-pony show presenting his vision of the downtown to small focus groups.

Now the administration moved its sights to a poorly developed, biased survey gathering basically anecdotal evidence, with the responses being statistically unreliable. To bolster their weak argument about what the community wants and doesn’t want, they will “interpret” the results to support whatever outcome they want [“Hampton Bays Community Survey: More Restaurants, Less Traffic,”, February 15].

Years ago, Supervisor Schneiderman told me that my “constructive” criticisms of his administration would be more palatable if I put them in a “compliment sandwich.” I guess that goes back to his years in academia. It is not that I forgot his comment — I just really never found enough compliments to sandwich the criticism.

Here, I do applaud the Town Board for officially withdrawing the appeal of the State Supreme Court decision to annul the downtown rezoning and working through the fatigue to attempt to revitalize the downtown of Hampton Bays. But let’s start with the facts, the truth and the law, and not the statistical gibberish.

We went down that road before with the Hampton Bays Downtown Overlay District, and that didn’t turn out well for any of us.

Gayle Lombardi

Hampton Bays