But we had hitherto assumed that in her role as public servant she’d bring her best game to bear. If not out of a sense of service and public obligation, then at least out of caution given the level of scrutiny that attaches to LAHSA Commissioners over and above that to which BID bosses are subjected. But, according to a report in this morning’s LA Times, this is evidently not the case. It turns out that the Times and Eric Garcetti found some basic errors in LAHSA’s analysis of its 2016 homeless count. These led LAHSA to greatly overestimate the increase in the County’s homeless population. Of course, overestimates are good for LAHSA, just as they are for the BID. The more homeless people there are, the more money LAHSA gets.1
According to the Times, Eric Garcetti called out LAHSA on their erroneous claim that the homeless population had increased by 11%. He then announced that the correct figure was 2.7%. Note, of course, that Garcetti benefits from a lower figure, as it makes it look like he’s solving a problem. His funding is in no way dependent on there even being homeless people at all,2 so he has nothing to fear if he solves the problem. Then, amazingly, the Times found that Garcetti’s office had also made an error, and that the correct figure was more likely to be around 5.2%.
Now, we don’t think it’s so surprising that everyone makes these errors. As much as people criticize Barbie for saying so, she was right about math class. It is tough. But what fascinates us here is that everyone, Kerry Morrison, LAHSA, Eric Garcetti, they all made errors that were in their interest. What’s the chance of that happening?
Well, we’re glad you asked. There are four instances here (Kerry Morrison’s two, LAHSA’s one, and Garcetti’s). Suppose for the sake of argument that there’s an even chance of a wrong estimate coming in over or under. Then we apply the multiplication principle to discover that the chance is 1 in 24, which is 1 in 16, or 6.25%. Not impossible, but not especially probable either.
Image of LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn is a public record of the great state of California, and is therefore not subject to copyright. Image of Barbie is a screenshot from this video and appears here under a claim of fair use.
- A possible objection to this theory is that LAHSA is, or should be, judged on how effectively they reduce the homeless population. If they overestimate the figure, one might say, they’ll create an impression that they’re not competent, which may jeopardize their funding. This is never going to happen, though, or the fact that they haven’t been able to permanently reduce the homeless population during the entire time they’ve existed would have done something, and it hasn’t.
- Unlike LAHSA, which would cease to exist, along with the salaries of its staff, if there were no homeless people.