Hays County Used Flawed Population Forecasts to Lobby for Road Bond
Local governments in Texas are not supposed to spend public funds to lobby for a particular outcome to a local bond election. But Hays County went ahead and used bogus population forecasts to make the case for a proposed road bond.
This video, which seems to have been created with public funds, includes a county EMS employee making an explicit argument for voting for the bond, and claiming it is a life and death issue:
“Any time we have traffic bottlenecks, we have railway crossings that are blocked, we are having delayed response times, and in some cases that can be the difference between life and death”
The Hays County Bond website, which also appears to have been paid for with public funds, includes an argument for the bond based on the county’s growth forecast, which show a scary looking graph of population surging. It’s based on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) growth projections, which many people have critiqued and consider to be terribly inaccurate.
Legality aside, this argument is incredibly misleading. The CAMPO growth forecasts are based on a method the Texas State Demographer says should be used for “short range projections.” A different method is supposed to be applied for the type of long-range scenario depicted on the Hays County Bond website.
As shown below, according to the long-range method, far fewer people are expected to live in Hays County in 2040 than the projection on the county’s website advocating for the bond. (The 2040 projections shown on the Hays County website even exceed the short range projections method.)
Hays County Commissioner Will Conley is the current chair of the Transportation Policy Board at CAMPO, which made the decision to use these contested numbers for the CAMPO growth forecasts, over the objections of various groups.
A letter from the Hays County Commissioners Court posted on the bond website states:
Our goal is not to persuade you one way or the other but to give you — our bosses, the voters — the tools and information you need to make a good decision for you and your family, and for our larger community.
The use of misleading data on the website clearly deviates from this stated goal, using exaggerated forecasts of future growth to make the road bond look like a good use of public funds.
This post is made possible by a grant from Sutliff & Stout, an accident and injury law firm in Houston Texas. The content is Streetsblog’s own, and Sutliff & Stout neither endorses nor exercises any editorial control.