Does this slide from Mayor Adler's ThumbsUp program actually admit that it's all made up, or am I misreading?

I’m genuinely not sure whether I’m reading this correctly or just approaching it with bias. Since I consider you all a group of rational critical thinkers, could you help me make some sense of it? Please, please call me out if I’m totally reading this incorrectly or out of context.

As I read it, it says that the folks collaborating on ThumbsUp don’t know if they have a solution (not to mention that there’s no problem…), but they think they’ve almost come up with something believable. And they’re finding that having a straw man argument (fingerprinting increases public safety) in play has been useful because it helps unite the public around some unreal foe.

I think Grammar Girl does a great job explaining what a Straw Man Argument is. She continues to explain why politicians love them:

It can be annoyingly effective because in response you may be lured into clarifying what your position is not instead of talking about what your position is, and studies have shown that when you repeat a lie, even if you are repeating it to refute it, the repetition can reinforce the misinformation in the minds of some people. [Emphasis added.]

This link to the full presentation was posted on the City Council’s Message Board by Mayor Adler last week.

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@skylar_buffington - I’d say you may have heightened sensitivity from being close to the issue.

“Straw man” to me is a proposal or placeholder for discussion. I think the mayor is trying hard to find common ground for compromise among interested parties, who are polarized, - so yes - that is a problem he is trying and find a solution to resolve. Personally I am encouraged by, and applaud, his active role trying to resolve this and the PUD issue.

I voted in support of the FAN resolution regarding ride sharing, but have never been a customer, so consider myself unbiased. In the spirit of full disclosure - I also supported the Mayor’s campaign, with no regrets.

@Phil_Wiley, I can see why you’d think that. I also wouldn’t put it past the mayor to use the phrase “straw man” in the wrong way, not being the sharpest grammarian out there. However, the phrase “spark against” implies that he knows exactly what he’s talking about. You don’t set up a compromise for people to rally against; you set up a problem for them to be angry about, then you offer your solution, criticizing your opponent for not seeing the supposed simplicity of it.

Thank you for posting this information, especially the link to the full presentation.

In answer to the specific question that’s been posed, my personal view is that the phrasing on this slide is inarticulate but not itself a sign of anything nefarious. “Placeholder” is a neutral to positive phrase that I’d personally use instead of “straw man”, which as Skylar points out has negative connotations (at least to many people).

That said, looking through the whole presentation made me more negative about this proposed compromise, about which I was already skeptical after reading some Statesman articles on the topic. I am opposed to the idea of mandating fingerprint-based background checks for drivers, but I now think that this proposed compromise might be an even worse idea.

Why? Because this compromise looks like it’s built on a relatively complicated system of incentives/penalties, and I strongly believe that a primary consideration of any regulation should be to draft it to be as simple as reasonably possible. Generally speaking, the more complicated a set of regulations, the more it (i) favors incumbents, who actually understand how it works, over potential new competitors, (ii) has unintended consequences due to the inherent difficulty of understanding complexity, and (iii) is subject to ongoing tweaking that exacerbates points (i) and (ii). To be clear, some issues are by nature more complicated than others, so I’m not saying that every system of regulation can be “simple” - but the goal should be to be as simple as reasonably possible. In the case of the TNC’s, I think that either the pre-December regulatory framework or the ballot initiative proposal come reasonably close to that standard.

A specific concern that I have in this case is the degree to which the “Thumbs Up” proposal relies on incentives/penalties that boil down to “only a Thumbs Up driver can go to location XYZ.” I foresee and fear that such an idea has no natural limit and will lead to a series of future changes such as “only a Thumbs Up driver can pick up passengers late at night downtown.” It could very well end up as a de facto mandate for fingerprint based background checks, without the accountability of political leaders having to state, “we are voting to mandate fingerprint based background checks.”

As a voter, I care about this point because it’s tougher for me and others to get to the bottom of understanding where an official stands on the issue. As a consumer, I care because the complexity likely both directly increases prices through direct costs that are ultimately passed on to me and indirectly increases prices by discouraging new competitors.

Going back to the language of the slide, I’m concerned that “Thumbs Up” regulations will be something that City Council members are “sparking against” for years. I am also, to put it bluntly, skeptical that these requirements would be tweaked in a well-considered manner in the future. That skepticism is driven by the degree to which the initial ordinance mandating fingerprint based background checks relied on anecdotal examples of unacceptable lawbreaking without, so far as I can tell, much thoughtful consideration of costs versus benefits and whether the proposed changes would truly solve the underlying problem.

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If “straw man” was grammatically misused, and we substitute “skeleton” or “placeholder”, that still doesn’t account for being “in the neighborhood of something believable”. I’m just having a really hard time seeing this as anything other than intentionally deceptive.

Inarticulate power-point presentations are pretty common. If they were up to something nefarious, it seems unlikely that they’d post it online.

My opinion is they meant “in the neighborhood of something (workable) or (feasible)”…the whole phrasing is clumsy, but if you look at the slide within the context of the entire presentation, IMO it indicates poor language skills rather than deception.

Re the question about what problem they’re trying to solve: