SJC Equestrian Coalition "Economic Study" Qestionable At Best

                              Failure to Provide Backup Data Undermines Validity of Study
                                                                             Guest Column
                                                                                  By Ted Shown

The San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition presented an economic impact study to the City Council on June 21, 2016 asserting that the Equestrian community brings in more than $50 million to the San Juan Capistrano community each year. Equestrian economic studies are not uncommon; a Google search will find many such reports for communities across the country.
Having written many economic reports in my career, primarily in the aviation and logistics field, I was interested to know the methodology by which the $50,000,000 figure was arrived at. I discovered that although the results had been presented to the City Council and other groups, the actual report has not been made available despite being requested. 

According to the press release, the study was conducted by Dr. Raymond Sfeir, Associate Dean of Economics and Management Science at Chapman University. I reached out to Dr. Sfeir requesting a copy of his report. His response was that the report belonged to the Equestrian Coalition and I should request a copy from them. I contacted the Equestrian Coalition and learned that they had decided not to release the report. I was told by an Equestrian Coalition board member that Dr. Sfeir attended the meetings where the results were presented and answered questions, but that they would not release the study itself. 
Having written many studies over the years for airline route cases which included testimony before the California Public Utilities Commission and the Civil Aeronautics Board, I have never encountered a serious study which the authors would not release. How else can a reader determine if the conclusions are correct or understand the context of the results?

When I asked the Equestrian Coalition why they would not release the study, I was told that they were concerned that it would be criticized. Well, welcome to the real world. Pretty much all reports come under some criticism. Studies in medicine, economics, demographics and pretty much every other field are conducted, released and subjected to the review of qualified people. To do any less is to take the unreasonable position that we should all just accept the assertions without any substantial knowledge of how the data was gathered or analyzed. There may be some need to provide context to the study, but if it was done well, there should be no fear that releasing it will somehow collapse the conclusions.

I mentioned earlier that there are many similar reports written for communities across the country. Many of these studies are available online and some are available for a small fee. I could find none which refused to make their methodology available. 

It is certainly the right of the Equestrian Coalition to publish their assertions with no backup. It’s their report. They paid for it and they are responsible for what they claim it says. However, for the rest of us, we must relegate their report to mere assertion. I don’t know if it is a good study or not. The only way to evaluate the study is to read it and learn how the data was collected and analyzed. I also don’t understand why they refuse to release the study. I would recommend that the report be understood as no more than what it is, an assertion with no backup provided. If the Equestrian Commission ever decides to release the basis for their assertions, a real conversation can be had.

Ted Shown moved to SJC in 1999 and served on the SJC Planning Commission. He and his wife have three children and seven grandchildren. A former aviator for the US Navy, Ted served in executive management in the airline and logistics industries after obtaining a BSEE from Rice University and an MS degree from USC, and founded his own logistics company in 1983. 


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