EDITOR'S DESK: The future, technically speaking

       The business of predicting the future is not an easy one. And, if you're a Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) staffer, it doesn't even sound like much fun. During a seemingly endless three-hour discussion on the Small Area Forecast (note to self: find out sometime whether “small” modifies the word “area” or “forecast”), staff members described each computer run as a 300-hour, technically daunting ordeal that takes them away from more important things... like perhaps cheering on the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) as it decides how big to make Highway 24 through the Westside.
       Maybe that's the reason why so many of the forecast numbers look daffy - such as the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) discovery that PPACG's model calls for thousands more new jobs on the Westside than in the massive Banning Lewis subdivision being built out east. The staffers doing the predicting are glumly punching in population and job data and (evidently) not mulling the logic of what comes out at the end.
       It would have been interesting at the meeting if the two sides could have gone toe-to-toe, each showing how its numbers were derived and why its approach was more sensible than the other's. People might actually have gotten a better understanding of the whole forecasting scenario. But instead logic took a backseat to politics. The PPACG staffers were described as honorable professionals who only want to do their jobs well. The PPACG board was gently advised that delaying forecast approval could endanger funding tied to air quality. One bureaucrat even took the somewhat mind-boggling position that while accuracy is a good thing, the essential goal is a forecasting methodology that is "defensible" with federal officials. Kind of like a baseball player saying it's OK to strike out out as long as his swing looks good.
       The final vote was somewhat convoluted At least a citizens' group that the staffers had left out of the review process will get to look at the forecast now. But all they'll probably do is ask for common sense. Don't they know this stuff is too technical for that?

- K.J.