A Variation on the Old Shell Game

Keep your eye on the shell...
Keep your eye on the shell...

Our Friend Joe Sipowicz has added a great insight to a recent post on Dick Jones and Redevelopment about the way staff placates city councilpersons who ask questions. We’ll just let Joe say it in his own words:

“Staff also has another trick that may have been part of this little play, especially if it wasn’t rehearsed after all. That is answering the question that nobody has asked. In this tactic the question that was asked is dodged through answering some other question. The answer given is true, but non-responsive. It’s amazing how many people fall for this.

“BTW, this is also a tactic that our old friend Matthew Cunningham keeps using although it doesn’t appear to fool anyone in the blogosphere. It’s amazing how much more capable of critical thought bloggers are than city councilpersons!”

Joe, we know just what you mean. Former Planning staffer Joel Rosen is a master of this technique. You appear to be responsive and ever-so forthcoming, but in reality you give away nothing, and most of the time the councilperson is to too afraid of looking stupid to persist in getting a real answer. It’s like asking someone what time it is and having them tell you they live in a green house with red shutters in the 300 block of East Wilshire Avenue. It may be true, but it’s completely irrelevant!

5 Replies to “A Variation on the Old Shell Game”

  1. This “tactic” only works on those that are slow thinkers. Four of the five council members currently can not often think as fast as they speak so this is an effective approach for staff.

    My favorite “tactic” used at the council meetings, however, is Dick Jones persistent effort to make statements followed by the word “right?” as if he was actually asking a question. Basically he has no question but will state some fact in an effort to prove to someone that he knows what the subject matter of the discussion is.

    Watch Nelson when this is going on. He looks like he is ready to hang himself.

  2. Willis, recently I noticed Pam Keller has also been using this tactic of asking a question followed by the word “right”.

  3. Bankhead needs to take control of the meetings and stop these people from wasting our time trying to show us they know whats going on. A legitimate question is one that the answer is not know by he/she asking it.

    Dick and Pam’s version of a question seems to be: “Now redevelopment money can be used right away in the merged area, right?” And “we have no choice but to use 20% of the set aside funds in redevelopment for low income housing, right?” “Sacramento is mandating that we do this, right?”

    Earth to Pam Kellar and Dick: Please stop asking questions that have the answer contained in the body of the question itself. It certainly is not helping to educate us and it only makes you look insecure by needing reassurance that you got something right.

  4. Yes, Willis that is weak. But almost all of them do it. But they don’t do it just to make themselves look knowledgeable. They also do it to re-inforce one of their arguments for doing something. Of course they very often dsplay their lack of grasp as when HeeHaw went off on his “uh-mmediately” spiel.

    Also, glad you brought up that business about low income housing. Jones keep blathering about how Redevelopment $ can be used to meet mandates. He’s got is screwed up (as usual) and it reminds me that I was going to do a post on his housing befuddlement.

  5. The command staff at the Fullerton PD loves to use this technique to discourage public records requests. Over and over, simple requests are answered with irrelevant statements and misdirection. Persistence is key.

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