Chelan-Douglas Trends e-Newsletter

5-QUESTIONS WITH: MARK KULAAS - WENATCHEE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER AND LAND SERVICES DIRECTOR, DOUGLAS COUNTY

Mark Kulaas Photo

Q: Can you tell us what are the most critical issues facing you at your day job in Douglas County? And in your view, what are the most pressing concerns the Wenatchee City Council is taking up?
A
: The issues and concerns are parallel, if not the same. We want to create communities, world-class communities that are responsive to current needs at the same time looking forward to leave a foundation that generations yet born can build on.

Q: How does data generally inform your response to these issues and concerns?
A
: Data can tell us three things: what was, what is and what might be. When we view data comprehensively across data sets, we can develop hypotheses as to how we got to this point on time and where the community might be trending. This in turn allows the community to answer if that is the desired direction or whether it needs to explore some alternatives.

Q: To what degree does Chelan Douglas Trends give insights to your daily decision-making at both jobs?
A
: Trends is a great site to grab information from a variety of data sets. As you click through the individual data presentations you gain a sense of the broader character of your community by considering how one data set might be influenced by or influencing other data. Another benefit of the Trends project is the ability to check the Trends sites for other communities to give you a snapshot of how they are doing and if there are some data sets for comparison with your community.

Q: You're a long-time resident of the greater Wenatchee area. Are there any indicators that simply surprise you? Are there any that you think your fellow residents need to pay close attention to?
A
: Not really so much of a surprise as perhaps cautionary are the trends showing in a variety of data that is driven by income disparity. Our community lags the state and the nation in both personal income and household income. The gaps appear to be widening. The ramifications of this affect the public school system, local government functions, housing quality, business growth and general economic vitality.

Q: You've worked in the public sector for over four decades now. Over this period, do you think that decision-making has become more grounded in fact?
A
: Certainly technological advances have made access to data much easier. We used to get data every ten years from the decennial census, and even then the data was five years old before it was generally distributed. There is a demand from citizens, policy makers and the courts that local government decisions have at least some basis in fact. Still, data is just data; it only comes alive and is meaningful through analysis. Data is the "science" part of our work; critical thinking is the "art" portion.