The Save Summit Avenue organization, which has peppered the historic avenue with “Save Our Street” lawn signs and calls itself SOS, continues to try to hinder development of the Summit Avenue Regional Trail, this time with misinformation.
Last month, Save Our Street distributed misleading and erroneous data to St. Paul neighborhood district councils, according to records obtained by Streets.mn.
Using comments and likes from the “Share An Idea” section of the City of St. Paul’s engagement website for the Summit Avenue Regional Trail, Save Our Street claims that “the majority of citizens oppose the Summit Regional Trail as proposed.” In reality, the organization simply is amplifying a few loud voices.
Here’s why Save Our Street’s conclusion is unsubstantiated:
- The “Share An Idea” section is not a survey. It is a brainstorming interface for people to post ideas about the future of Summit Avenue. It is not a place for a for-or-against vote.
- The comment section is not a representative sample of the city, the neighborhoods adjacent to Summit Avenue or users of the corridor. Data cannot be extrapolated from it.
- The SOS organization implies that hundreds of people have weighed in with “likes” and that opposing “likes” are 20 times greater than supporting, but seem to miss that many of the “likes” are from the same people. This is a small group of engaged respondents — the most liked comment has only 27. Of the 69 comments identified as being opposed to the trail, 40 percent are from nine people who commented multiple times.
- Save Our Street says its analysis demonstrates “strong opposition to the proposal,” but the city hasn’t released a final proposal yet. Many of the opposing comments are against an early-stage option — which has been ruled out — of a paved trail down the center grass median.
- The analysis categorized comments into three groups: “Opposing,” “Supporting” and “N/A, Off-topic, or Unclear.” Those groupings are unscientifically, and sometimes bafflingly, applied. Comments such as “I love the idea of providing a better bike corridor!” and “If there’s an absolute minimum that should be done, it should be putting some separation of bike and auto traffic” are labeled as “N/A, Off-topic, or Unclear.”
In short, Save Our Street reviewed a small group of comments on a public ideas page and is now broadcasting an unsupported conclusion that St. Paulites strongly oppose a reconfigured bike trail on Summit Avenue.
The SOS data summary, prepared by committee member Marilyn Bach, Ph.D., reads, in part: “A team familiar with the proposed Summit Avenue Regional Trail evaluated all 120 posts (‘ideas’) on the ‘Share Your Idea’ section of Engage Saint Paul, posted between October 2021 and August 21, 2022. In total, 84 individuals left 120 ‘ideas.'”
SOS member and Summit Avenue resident Carolyn Will defends the group’s methodology: “The data used was obtained directly from the website that the city set up to gauge public opinion and attributed per the website characterizations,” she told Streets.mn. “Methodology was included in the original document.”
Save Our Street succeeded in getting at least one district council, Union Park, to include its conclusion in a monthly newsletter last week. The UPDC executive director issued a bold-faced correction two days later.
The Summit Hill Association chose not to publish or publicize the information, according to Executive Director Monica Haas. “Once the draft master plan has been submitted, we will take up the topic,” she said.
Macalester-Groveland Community Council also received the information from SOS. “While we do share opportunities for education, such as the SOS event with tree arborists, we do not include opinion pieces in our communications to committee or community members,” said Alexa Golemo, executive director of MGCC. “We will participate in the engagement process again once the draft master plan is released by the City of Saint Paul.”
Streets.mn managing editor Amy Gage contributed to this report.