Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008 | In his spirited defense of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. (and by extension, Centre City Development Corp.’s) quasi-governmental redevelopment model, Councilman Tony Young commits the cardinal sin of equating correlation with causation: “We have a successful model, we just have to make it work.”

It may indeed be true that redevelopment and urban renewal have prospered in the decades since CCDC and SEDC were created, but it would be dishonest to attribute this prosperity to the entities’ existence without presenting further evidence. After all, no other California city has the equivalent of these nonprofits, and certainly few would argue that Los Angeles, San Francisco, Anaheim, etc., have dragged their feet on redevelopment during the same time period.

To understand why the councilman’s argument is silly, consider this: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and other successful people probably put on their pants one leg at a time. Yet we can’t assume, as the councilman does, that this routine is what’s responsible for their success. (I would concede that they would probably not be quite as successful if they chose not to put on their pants at all.) Would San Diego’s report card on redevelopment have been worse if we had a different structure? We can’t be sure, though the audit raises important questions.

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