Under mounting pressure following revelations SANDAG knowingly misled voters in November, the agency has scrambled to explain itself.
Their primary defense, though, is undone by a single slide – from the agency’s own internal communications.
Last week, Voice of San Diego reported SANDAG’s chief economist and a staffer exchanged panicked emails in fall 2015 after discovering a crucial error in the agency’s economic forecast. The error had significant impact on Measure A, a sales tax proposal SANDAG put before voters in November. The ballot measure said it would raise $18 billion; the flawed forecast meant it would actually raise far less.
Since the investigation was published, SANDAG officials have claimed multiple times they didn’t know those two things were connected – that is, that the forecasting error translated to a false number being put before voters – and therefore the agency did not deliberately lie to the public.
“The eye-catching emails quoted by the press, and attributed to our new chief economist, Ray Major, pertained to income growth, one of numerous factors used to estimate taxable retail sales in the agency’s forecast model,” SANDAG executive director Gary Gallegos wrote in a letter to the Union-Tribune. “Those emails were not related to Measure A.”
But the lengthy presentation that staff economists delivered to their bosses four months before SANDAG’s board voted to put Measure A on the ballot left nothing to the imagination.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
It will interesting to see how the process unfolds, but in the meantime, what's the revenue shortfall for the project list? And what's the process for determining what projects will fall off the list for funding? (As the trolley segment from Old Town to UCSD fell off the list for TransNet 1 40 years ago).
It's not uncommon to have over-estimated revenues and increased costs - the question is by how much and why? But most importantly for the future of our transportation infrastructure - how should the plan change with reduced forecast$?
What IS needed at SANDAG is an independent "Legislative Analyst Office." But with extra safeguards.
Ideally, hire outside "asshole" consulting individuals or firms -- people not just "objective," but people actually antagonistic and distrustful of government. (No, NOT me!). Do NOT make them government employees!!! REASON Foundation might be helpful providing expertise in such an endeavor.
Don't let SANDAG have anything to do with the consultant selection process. Indeed, they should HATE and FEAR the selected consultant.
Make CRYSTAL CLEAR to the SANDAG bureaucracy that FULL transparency and cooperation will be mandatory. This is an "Inspector General" oversight arrangement.
SANDAG staff and management have EARNED this adult supervision status. Ask the consultant to report ANY reticence to cooperate by SANDAG personnel.
Encourage the press and the "LAO" consultant to interface, and seek input from the more intrepid journalists. The press WILL report government malfeasance if someone does the hard work for them. VofSD is a pleasant exception when it comes to research.
I have several studies that I suggest should be done on past SANDAG projections and present claimed performance. There are multi-billion dollar scandals waiting to be exposed. SANDAG has been lying through their teeth for DECADES!!
SANDAG has badly wanted the additional half-cent sales tax increase for many years. I attended a SANDAG board meeting 5 or 6 years ago when an agenda item discussed this. SANDAG did frequently polling to judge the public support. At the meeting I attended polling was bad, even though staff was calling it a “Quality of Life” tax. Yet the public wasn’t buying it. At one point about two years ago I even received the polling call. It was a push poll.
Executive staff surely knew all about the bad revenue projections, but ignored it to try to get voter approval of the desperately wanted additional tax revenue. Heads should roll, including board members, but I’m not convinced it will happen. SANDAG is too entrenched and thinks they can ride this out. I would hope that Gary Gallegos would resign out of decency.
The state has a deficit, the city has a deficit, the school district has a deficit, SANDAG has a deficit, (projected) can't public employees do MATH?
@BRYAN HERRING Actually the SANDAG CAN do the math. They are highly qualified, skilled statisticians.
But they also lie. Especially at SANDAG, the most dishonest government agency I've ever encountered. Sure, they have lots of competition for the government agency "Liar, liar -- pants on fire" award. But SANDAG earned that accolade, fair and square!
Oh, good heavens! There is really only one scandal that isn't being taken care of. And, that is the continuing denial of necessary funding for mass transportation. We are at freeway capacity for daylight car and truck traffic between 6a.m. and 6p.m. with only a four hour "free" way between 10a.m. and 2p.m.
We started some "escape valves" in the 1980's with "the trolley", the I-15(mid-town), the 78, the Sprinter. But, were we to have some cataclysmic problem today, we would all suffer the total gridlock of our transportation system. But, we have the same problem the Chargers have had for decades...finishing.
And, we have a problem planning. Chula Vista is a prime example of horrible planning. They knew that there would be four major east-west arteries since the 1980's. Did they plan for proper mass transit links to the 125 or the I-5 or the 805? No! They saw the lovely money from new housing and squandered the opportunity. And, it was ok to make the development east of 805 "pretty" leaving the original core west of 805 to begin the quick deterioration we see today. You see, segregation isn't always with a racial underpinning. It's still stupid in either case.
We couldn't plan for expanded air service. It couldn't be done here. It couldn't be done there. So, an enterprising soul decided to build a bridge to TJ airport. Gosh, I didn't know TJ had regular non-stop flights to Europe and Bejing...BEFORE the bridge. Now how did those Mexicans do that? Hmm. Forget a "wall", build a bridge. What a concept?!
It was so wonderful that, finally, a freeway connector between 905 and 125(toll) was completed just last year(going north). The really sad thing is they forget to build a freeway connector from 125 to 905, going south. Dumb, really dumb.
No, the scandal is that someone is still bucking to build a freeway from the Oso Parkway in Mission Viejo through an established wilderness to "trestles" , a beloved beach area, and connect to I-5. People! Get real! There is no where for I-5 to expand from San Clemente to Encinitas! "The train, the train", a high speed rail using the Metrolink line would help. I'm so happy for two, seemingly, mutually exclusive groups to place a thumb in the "stupidity" dike: the Marines and the surfers.
California is so beautiful and so prosperous and so intelligent. I'm so proud to be a Californian. But, we, as Californians need to put the pedal to the medal and, believe or not, progress, yet preserve the asset we have been privileged to be handed. Disney, for heaven's sake, was on the right road with the monorail. His visions have not been wrong....so far.
Reminds me of the old adage - How do you know if a politician is lying?
Answer - If their mouth is open and words are coming out, they are lying.
Tis so, so, so, so, so true.
Thanks for adding more background detail to how this came to light in the first place. It appears Mr Major, who has much executive experience, noticed a few slides in his staff's presentation he was uncomfortable with and took action. Why the Executive Director and his Deputy were unable to professionally handle this revelation from their Chief Economist in 2015 has become crystal clear thru this series of articles. They lack integrity and have demonstrated this thru their twisting tale of excuses. Bottom line, we cannot trust them anymore.
Further, was this slide detailing historical revenue projections compared to future estimates a regular part of the ongoing information prepared by staff, reviewed by the ED and his deputy and presented to the Board of SANDAG? For how long? This one simple slide should have been a red flag for Board members who manage public funds and yet it appears they were unable to professionally handle this revelation either.
Given the statements of the SANDAG leadership and at least the chairman of the SANDAG board, significant changes are needed with the SANDAG leadership and with the SANDAG board if SANDAG is going to have any credibility in the future. Absent significant changes, it will be almost impossible to reach the two-thirds threshold for any future tax increases for SANDAG.