The numbers don’t add up

Yesterday, the mayor of Los Angeles explained that the city is safe with the protection the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) provides. We will have to see whether we are safe from the department’s poor math and its lack of transparency.

It recently came to light that data showing paramedics respond to 80% of emergency calls within five minutes, as the department had said, are inaccurate. The real number is 64%. This discrepancy is due to a change in the formula used to do the calculations.

The mistake apparently was not a deliberate attempt to mislead, but it raises suspicions since it is so favorable to the department making it. Still more disquieting: Because of the budget crisis, the LAFD was restructured under a mistaken premise. There is a lot of difference between 80%, which is close to 100%, and 64%, which is a little more than half.

City Council members are rightfully upset, because they made decisions that impact the LAFD based on false information. This is not a small mistake.

We think the LAFD should have been the first to make this irregularity public. Nevertheless, this discrepancy was discovered thanks to a debate of mayoral candidates and the journalistic investigation triggered by a candidate’s comment.

The fact that poor decisions were made about the LAFD that put the public at risk is worrisome. The mayor wants to put out the fire from this controversy by explaining that’s not the way it is.

But how can we be sure that Angelenos and their representatives can trust the information the department provides? Or perhaps the data from another municipal agency, which is more quick than precise with the numbers, like the firefighters. There is no guarantee so far and there doesn’t seem to be any lesson to be learned or preventive action to take.

This is a very serious issue. Lack of transparency leads to a lack of trust in how the local government operates.