Murders by black teens rise 79 percent, study says

December 29, 2008

Black teens have become murderers at an alarmingly greater rate in the past several years, according to a new study.

The San Francisco Chronicle buried the story, leaving it to the AP to cover. But in according to the Boston Globe, the study showed that murders committed by black males younger than 24 rose by 79 percent in San Francisco from 2000-2001 to 2006-2007.

The Northeastern University study put this as the fifth-highest increase among the 28 cities studied. Some cities showed a decrease, such as New York’s 21 percent decline, and murders overall have declined nationwide.

Blame for the increase depends on who you ask, apparently, with some observers attributing it to a decline in federal funding for urban youth programs, others saying it’s due to the disintegration of black family structure and still others saying it’s because federal money for law enforcement dried up. In any case, it’s a sad and disturbing trend that shouldn’t be ignored. As one person in the Globe’s story put it, even if you think this story is about someone else, all taxpayers are affected by the drain on resources represented by each homicide case.

Homicides among black males spike – Boston Globe.

Murders by Black Teenagers Rise, Bucking a Trend –

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Observations on San Francisco’s November 2008 election, part 2

November 10, 2008

More good stuff from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s post-election analysis of the Nov. 4, 2008 election with Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics, plus a couple of my own comments (See part 1 of the observations here). This round includes Prop. 8, Chris Daly’s role as bogeyman, the next president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Ron Dudum’s future:

Prop. 8 aftermath. The victory of California Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment withdrawing the right to civil marriage from gay men and women, has been deconstructed a million ways to Sunday already. Various analysts have offered their opinions: Prop. 8 won because African-American voters are more conservative on social issues than the electorate at large, and they came out in great numbers to vote for Barack Obama; or Obama is partially to blame because he wasn’t vocal enough about opposing Prop. 8 (and he said he was personally opposed to gay marriage); or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom didn’t campaign against it actively enough; or Newsom was too visible and became a negative factor; or the anti-8 campaign just screwed up by being fractured in the beginning and missing out on key fundraising opportunities.

Whatever the explanation, both Clemens and Latterman said that support for gay marriage seems to be increasing by about one percentage point per year, and they expected to see the issue on the ballot again.

Clemens said he believed that the next time gay marriage appears on the ballot, supporters of gay marriage won’t rely on a paid-media campaign of television ads and mailers. Instead, they’ll do something like what the Obama campaign did with its vast pool of volunteers. That is, the campaign will be fought in the field, with supporters of gay marriage (probably including as many straight supporters of gay marriage as they can find) going door to door and talking with individual voters.

Alex Clemens, David Latterman and Gabriel Metcalf discuss the outcomes of the Nov. 4, 2008 election at SPUR.

Alex Clemens, David Latterman and Gabriel Metcalf discuss the outcomes of the Nov. 4, 2008 election at SPUR.

My own guess about the fate of gay marriage in California is that the legal challenges to Prop. 8 will go on so long that a measure seeking to undo it will hit the ballot before all those challenges are resolved. If that’s within two years, I’d bet the new anti-8 proposition will lose, but in just a few years longer a subsequent proposition spelling out a constitutional right to civil marriage for gay men and women will win. After that, a few measures seeking to replicate Prop. 8 will come up, but will lose, before supporters decide to direct their money elsewhere.

Regarding the impact the victory of Prop. 8 may have on Newsom’s ambitions to be governor of California, Clemens said that while it may have a negative effect now, a few years down the line it may be good for Newsom to be seen as the father of gay marriage in California. “Four years from now,” said Clemens, “it will be a badge of honor.”

Daly done as a demon? District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly’s days as an effective bogeyman for opponents such as the Apartment Association, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and others seeking to bring the city’s moderate and conservative voters to the polls may be done, according to Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics.

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Observations on San Francisco’s November 2008 election, part 1

November 6, 2008

On Wednesday I attended the post-election analysis SPUR hosts after each San Francisco election, and as usual I picked up a couple of interesting pieces of information. Some of them are items that are transitory and likely to change as early as Friday, when San Francisco election officials are scheduled to do their first re-ordering of votes for local offices under the city’s ranked-choice voting system. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find many of them interesting and useful. This is only a taste — more to come in a later post.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over. As of lunchtime Wednesday, the San Francisco Department of Elections still had about 100,000 votes left to count. Even divided by SF’s 11 districts, that’s enough that it could still affect some outcomes, particularly in close district contests where the total number of votes cast is somewhere around 15,000 to 18,000.

Patriotic hipsters? Gabriel Metcalf, director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, summed up the unique quality that the Barack Obama candidacy for president brought to the entire November election season: “Never did I think I would be walking down Valencia Street and hear hipsters singing the national anthem.”

It’s just a jump to the left. According to David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics, some San Francisco supervisor districts have experienced a significant shift, becoming more liberal. Latterman, along with Prof. Richard DeLeon of San Francisco State University, produces the Progressive Voter Index, a measurement on a scale of 0 to 100 of how “progressive” — or liberal — parts of San Francisco are. The PVI is relative only to other neighborhoods in the city and doesn’t measure how progressive areas are in comparison with any areas outside of San Francisco. Latterman says that some neighborhoods, including District 1 and, most notably, District 11, have become significantly more progressive than they were two years ago.

Dems halt slide. According to Latterman, the Democratic Party increased the number of voters registered under its banner by about 2 percent this year. That’s a pretty good bump for the Dems, particularly in light of the fact that they had been steadily losing voters over the past few elections, as more and more people registered as “decline to state” voters.

GOP registration down again. While the Democrats added voters this time, San Francisco Republicans (yes, they do exist) continued to lose registered voters.

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Google Trends: Tool or toy?

October 18, 2007

Search trends for U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama demonstrate how Google Trends could be a useful tool even though the information Google provides is only comparative and doesn’t show the number of searches made.


Google’s “Google Trends” feature is much in the news today: Google has improved its feature that tracks the most popular search terms by making daily results available. Most people are curious about what others are thinking, so it’s not surprising that information outlets from TV news to bloggers are picking up this development. Most of the news coverage focuses on titillating search terms, and indeed much of what people seem to be looking for on Google is related either to sex or to irrelevant celebrities.

Google’s feature is interesting, but how useful is it, really? I’m sure there’s money to be made one way or another by following or anticipating the direction of search trends — it sounds like a good way to fish for topics if you’re trying to bump up your blog traffic, for example. But the utility of the tool is flawed because of the lack of quantitative information. I can see, for instance, that searches for “Gavin Newsom”, the mayor of San Francisco, spiked in February of this year. And I can see that over the past 12 months, more people have googled that term in Pleasanton than in San Francisco. But there are no hard numbers. Was it 100 people who googled Newsom? 100,000? 10 million? Google probably has this quantitative information, or the ability to get it, but it’s certainly proprietary and perhaps not in Google’s business interests to release numbers. However, quantifying these trends certainly would make this feature a more useful tool for serious study of what people really search for, and I hope Google will make the data available.

Despite the lack of hard data, however, there is some value in using this tool, particularly when instead of looking at just one search term, you use it for comparative analysis of several terms.

It seems likely that PR flacks, investors and people in advertising will be keen on Google Trends. To me, one field for application that comes to mind is politics. Below are some graphs that result from entering both “Hillary Clinton” and “Barack Obama” into Google Trends, where Clinton’s trend line appears in blue and Obama’s in red.

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