SANDAG is claiming it did not know a forecasting error staffers discovered in 2015 would ultimately lead to voters being offered a false promise in 2016. But the agency’s own staffers made clear to SANDAG executives the two went hand in hand.
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.”