Is Bob Stein the only political scientist in town?

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Last week, the Chronicle‘s Kristen Mack included this curious line in her mostly positive review of Mayor White’s first year in office:

“He came into office with major problems that seemed intractable,” said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, whose wife, Marty Stein, is White’s agenda director. “It’s bad enough when you inherit an administration where things didn’t go well. But this is a guy who pushed the envelope and did very well with it.”

Mack did the right thing in identifying Stein’s relationship with a member of the White Administration. But in so doing, she rendered Stein somewhat of a suspect analyst to be quoting. Do we really think he’s going to have anything critical to say about the Administration? Indeed, it might actually be notable and worth quoting if he did say something critical.

It’s not as if there aren’t several universities in this city with academics who follow city politics, and even a few of us outside of academia who do so and have terminal academic credentials. Why not include some other analyst instead of Stein, since Stein clearly adds nothing to the story?

Today, Rad Sallee repeats the practice in an informative column on $AFEclear:

But Rice University professor Bob Stein, who helped design the program, predicted the numbers will decline as motorists ensure their cars are roadworthy or drive on surface streets.

“The very act of doing the program will change attitudes and behavior,” he said, noting that the logjams predicted when Spur 527 was closed for repairs never materialized. Motorists simply found other routes.

Stein also responded to the idea of limiting Safe Clear to rush hour. “It won’t work for the wrecker companies,” he said.

With that remark, Stein — whose wife, Marty, is the mayor’s agenda director — hit another of the critics’ sore points: the idea that Safe Clear is just a revenue scheme.

That first bolded section is informative. In her column, Mack failed to mention that Stein, in addition to being married to one of the mayor’s paid advisors, also served as one of the mayor’s policy advisors himself.

So here’s a question for Chronicle editors (if there are any such creatures): Why in the world would the newspaper print Stein’s positive assessments of the mayor’s policies, as if Stein is a completely detached, uninvolved, objective academic?

Surely such a creature can be found in town, but it’s not Bob Stein in this instance.

We’ll take up the substance of Sallee’s column in a separate post.

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