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: