I'll Surrender My Snark If the Guardian Loses its Condescension: One More Look at the Numbers

Tim Redmond thinks our debate on Forum tomorrow should be “fun.” But I'm bored with his line of argument already. Because the truth is that we're reached a point in the “how much does San Francisco spend per capita?” debate where reasonable people can disagree. And at that point, debating the numbers instead of San Francisco's urgent governmental needs is letting the city get off easy.

We're not arguing about facts so much as what is appropriate to put in or out of the equation … and there's no definitive answer to that question, nor will there be. It's still a decent subject for a debate, but it's a sidebar that's obscuring the larger discussion, the one we really want to have, about why this city is so horribly mismanaged (hint: Joe Eskenazi and I wrote 5,000 words about its entrenched culture of unaccountability). I know that for Joe and me, any discussion of “Worst-Run City” that doesn't center on unaccountability is missing the point.

So at the risk of making everyone roll their eyes and link to a sexy slide show or an article about pot, l'm going to go over the Guardian's arguments while acting on the assumption that they are making a good-faith effort to get at the real answer, and explain — in a snark-free way — why we disagree, hopefully clearing the way for a discussion about how we can actually make this city better.

The first point to realize is that the chart we included in the “Worst-Run City” article (adjusting Philadelphia's budget) was accurate: the raw numbers — total city budget, population, and per-capita spending based on those numbers — do show that San Francisco spends more money per person than other cities. The Guardian isn't contesting that. They can't.

What they are saying is that:

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