Monthly Archive for February, 2009

Minor Sues Danielson Over Landmark Hotel

Halsey Minor has filed a lawsuit against Lee Danielson over the Landmark Hotel project, Will Goldsmith writes for C-Ville Weekly. Danielson was running the project for Minor, and now Minor alleges that Danielson has committed fraud and breach of contract, apparently blaming the faltering project on his former business associate. Danielson says that he’ll be suing Minor, too. Given that each guy has a history of business deals going sour, it may well take a court to figure this out. The squabble between the two has gone on for months, so this isn’t a particularly surprising outcome.

The bigger question is what’s to become of the enormous building shell, since construction stopped weeks ago, with no sign that it’ll be continuing. It has the potential to be downtown eyesore for years to come. In the meantime, though, maybe that barricade could be moved off of Water Street, opening it up to three lanes again, and that man-made pothole could be filled in with an asphalt patch?

Group Sues to Halt Meadowcreek Parkway

A citizen group has filed a lawsuit against the city and requested an injunction to prevent construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, Henry Graff reports for NBC-29. They contend that Council’s 3-2 vote to give the land for the road to VDOT fell short of the Virginia Constitution’s 75% bar. (Article VII, Section 9 states: “No rights of a city or town in and to its…parks…shall be sold except by an ordinance or resolution passed by a recorded affirmative vote of three-fourths of all members elected to the governing body.”) Will Goldsmith wrote about the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park’s plans to halt the construction via legal means in C-Ville Weekly last month. Group members include Rich Collins, Dan Bluestone, Peter Kleeman and Colette Hall. Kleeman has been writing about the matter on his own blog, which provides a sense of the basis for the group’s opposition. Those more legally-inclined can see the text of the lawsuit and the request for an injunction courtesy of Hawes Spencer at The Hook.

Legislature Approves Regional Transit Authority

The General Assembly has authorized a Charlottesville/Albemarle transit authority, the Progress reports, and there’s no reason to think that the governor won’t sign that bill into law. Del. David Toscano’s HB2159 cleared both chambers with near-unanimous votes. But it’s not clear that it’ll do any good, what with the failure of HB2161—Del. Toscano’s bill to permit the city and the county to hold a referendum on creating a special tax to fund the authority. The bill was killed in a subcommittee on an unrecorded vote. With no funding, there’s really no purpose in establishing such an authority.

On the Importance of Double-Checking Graphs

The Daily Progress has twice used extremely misleading charts in the past few weeks, and this seems like a good opportunity to highlight the importance of being a critical reader of charts and graphs. In both instance they employed bubble charts, a type of chart that is often avoided because people have an awfully hard time understanding them. At right is the chart that the paper employed on Sunday in Ranchana Dixit and Brandon Shulleeta’s “Can we afford our future?,” which tracked expensive capital improvement projects being planned in Charlottesville and Albemarle. As you can see, a minuscule amount is being spent on water and sewer improvements in comparison to Places29—in fact, more is being spent on Places29 than the other three combined. But the dollar values don’t add up. What’s going on?

The problem here is that people are really bad at comparing area. We do well with comparing colors, lengths, shapes, etc., but our brains are not well-equipped to figure out bubble charts. Doubly problematic is that this math behind the visuals in this chart is flat-out wrong. The area represented by the bottom bubble is $45.5M so, proportionally, the top bubble should represent $1,300M, not $312M. It’s 320% too big. Likewise, the middle two bubbles are significantly too large. The effect is to significantly exaggerate the disparity of the area’s spending priorities. Though having that big “$312 million” graphic above the fold on the front page of the paper is eye-catching, it’s misleading.

Here’s a side-by-side of the chart as it was presented in the Progress and how it should have looked:

As you can see, the effect isn’t nearly as striking. But it does have the benefit of being correct.

Stats-geek blog Junk Charts has a whole category to keep track of misleading bubble charts, because they’re so commonly misused. Understand, though, they’re not being misused maliciously by newspapers; they’re just easy to get wrong. In this case, the paper used an area-based chart with math that applies only to diameter leading to a geometric exaggeration of the data. The solution for the Progress is to use a simpler chart. (I’ve mocked it up as a bar chart, which is a much better format for this data.) This is certainly a minor sin, but it’s the sort of thing that (quite wrongly) leads readers to cry “bias!” when “mistake!” is a more appropriate response. And if you read this story in the paper yesterday, and didn’t think something was funny about that graph, the solution for you is to be a critical reader of charts and graphs. Look at the numbers, do a quick comparison and see if you’ve been given a false impression by the visuals.

Volunteer Farm to Help Stock Food Bank

The World Foundation for Children is setting up a volunteer-run farm in Culpeper County to provide meat and vegetables to the Charlottesville branch of the Blue Ridge Food Bank, Nate Delesline III writes in the Culpeper Star-Exponent. The organization has leased 100 acres for the next decade. They plan to start small, growing ten acres of potatoes, and move up from there. A couple of similar projects have been underway in the Shenandoah Valley for a while now, run by the same organization, reputedly with great success.



You are currently browsing the weblog archives for the month February, 2009.