Monday, March 17, 2014

Olde Farts And The Missing Majority

Lately there's been some 'cussin' and discussing around a stated gap between this City's demographics and what subset shows up for Council and Town Hall meetings. And when we say demographics we mean age because the dirty little secret is that no one at City Hall is the least bit concerned that the audience remains lilly white. The audience age observations surfaced at the first Town Hall meeting in the Mayor's statements that were later recounted at the subsequent Council Meeting.

According to print media the Mayor "told the town hall meeting audience that the average age of a Dunwoody citizen was 37 or 38, and those citizens did not have time to come to these types of meetings because of their families or jobs." We won't speak to what keeps other folks busy and quite frankly neither should the Mayor.

But we're all over the age thing.

The 2012 estimates from the U.S. Census bureau suggest a median* age of 36.6 years in the Wold. First this is not the average age but it is the age at which there are just as many who are younger as those who are older. This particular stat also includes all ages. Infants. Twaddlers. Elementary School children. High School. In fact, over 21% of our population is under 15 with almost 26% under 20. Certainly those 18 and 19 year olds are eligible for the vote but the remainder of this one-in-four cohort is indirectly represented.

As we've pointed out before, suburbs are places dedicated to the worship of children so it should come as no surprise that many in the Wold expect that the parents of minor children are the most appropriate representative on their children's behalf. The City Manager has taken us all to school on what a representative form of government means (he gets what he wants--you don't) and perhaps he'll let us know if this reaches into our dens and kitchens. It also seems the Mayor disagrees with parental primacy--otherwise he would have used a demographic stat that more accurately reflects the rather inconvenient view that an elected official should first and foremost represent the electorate. You know. The voters and taxpayers.

So what are the demographics of the potential electorate--those eligible to vote in this representative government (even if they don't bother)? One way to look at this is to examine the U.S. Census bureau data** for the potential electorate. This group comprises 36,388 souls out of a total of 46,133. The estimated average age*** of the twenty and over crowd is 47.1 while adding in some potential non-voters gives an average age of 45.3 for those fifteen and over. Call the average age the midpoint between these and we get an electorate that is ten years older than the median age of the overall population. Not quite Olde Fart but not thirty something either.

But that's just the average which surely tells only a small part of the story. How true. So how many Olde Farts are there and how does that stack up against them Smart Young Whippersnappers? Well, 12.6% of our population is 65 or older and that seems old enough for Olde Fart. Given the Olde Fart end state (dead) that compares pretty favorably with the under-fifteen crowd that comes in at 21.2%.  Taking out the legal minors we find that Olde Farts hold their own with young voters as well. You must march firmly into the 25-35 decade to match the over 65 crowd.

If we close in on the center of demographic mass we find that 23.1% are over 55 (previously known as "doing the speed limit") while the under-twenties comprise 25.9%. A back of the envelope estimate shows that there are about the same number of residents over 55 as there are those that are legal minors. What sane politician wants to piss off over 10,000 folks of an age known for a high rate of voting in deference to about a thousand 18 and 19 year olds who often cannot be bothered to even register?

So yes, Dunwoody has a large contingency of young folks, but primarily these are too young to vote, too young to enter into a contract and in almost all cases too young to drive. As one might expect our population demographic takes a dip with college age children as presumably these folks go away to college or get an entry level job and can no longer afford Dunwoody. And this all fits our general description: a suburban home to those who want a good place to raise their children.

Basically we've a middle-aged population. Currently the average age of adults (and we're acknowledging 18 yr olds as "adults") is around 46 but should rise as we now have a developer proposing to build a fifty five and over residential complex near Georgetown. This is not likely to offer a younger crowd at the Mayor's meetings and will drive up the average age in Dunwoody. With a stated policy of suppressing apartments with transient residents who tend to be younger the shift should be even greater. So you may not like Olde Farts but outside of that poor bastard we scared back to Fantasy Land it looks like our Plan of Record is "grow the rolls."

But is that what this is really all about? The aforementioned article goes on to quote the Mayor: "We, as a city council represent 47,000 people and we have to be very careful not to be pushed and swayed by a very vocal minority."




They're vocal.

But they may not be the minority they're dismissively made out to be. But even still there seems to be something else going on.

Sixty five percent of our population is under 45--children (a full 25% of the total and 40% of this younger subset), their parents, some folks working towards parenthood and a few smart young folks. And these are the folks who are NOT showing up at the Mayor's meetings which he states is because they're too busy with life. But the Town Hall meeting started with a personal testimony to the fact the the Mayor and Council cannot read minds. And yet...he can speak authoritatively to what are the motivating concerns and issues for this missing two thirds--which represent only 56% of the potential voters. Could it possibly be that the things most important in their lives are more centered around what is going on with the schools than how long the orange barrels are going to be on the Parkway? Perhaps so long as the City doesn't let anything important go pear shaped they are focussed on things that directly and immediately impact their children's well being. Who really knows? TOD cannot read minds either.

Politicians love to claim they represent a larger than life group in support of their opinion or policy all too often falling back on "The Missing Majority"--those folks out there in the constituency in some form or another that just don't have the time or opportunity to participate as much as others yet have all the time in the world to share their concerns and views with any ole politician (in private and off the record of course). This is particularly true when the politician's position is not carrying the day--remember all those emails about the Parkway that could just never be found? So the approach is to marginalize those who show up, who represent, as a vocal minority. Yet some of the very same politicos hold in high reverence that distinctly smaller minority that wrote, as if writ in stone for the ages, some Master Plan that was then subject to quite the minority for review and consequently can now only be deviated from on recommendation of the staff. Perhaps size really doesn't matter. The reality is that these politicians don't give a hairy rodent's rectum if you're in the minority or not they just want you to shut up, sit in the corner and pay your taxes.

And that's exactly what you should do because they are going to do and get what they want whether you like it or not--just pretend you still live in DeKalb County--because you do.

* Only in special cases (even distributions) is the median (midpoint of the range) equal to mean (average of the numbers in the range).  As we move along we will (due to lack of raw data) assume such a distribution.
** Unfortunately the Census data are bracketed as 15 yr 0 mon to 19 yr 12 mon which covers two years worth of voters. However it does not account for those over 18 who are not eligible to vote--not citizens or voting rights suspended. In the absence of detail data we'll call it a wash but recognize the inherent inaccuracy.
*** These estimates are based on the assumption that within a Census range the distribution is even, IE the median equals the mean.