Sunday, February 11, 2007

Incorrect? Incorrect Like A Fox!

Like many other people in attendance at the Lewes Fire Hall the other night for a public meeting on the update of the Sussex County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, I was astounded by a claim made by Rich Collins, the sunnily optimistic conservative spokes-speaker of the pro-development lobby in Sussex County:
Mr. Collins, who also represents the Positive Growth Alliance, said the problem may be that Sussex County isn’t growing quickly enough. He based that on estimates that show the county population is rapidly growing older and the death rate is exceeding the birth rate. (From Sussex’s land future debated, by Michael Short, Sussex Post)
This report, while accurate, doesn't convey the full extent of what Mr. Collins claims. What he said was, "growth may not be our problem, maybe the lack of growth" is the problem.

If you listen to the county's MP3 of that part of the proceedings (About a minute or two in), you find Rich quoting from the latest Delaware Population Consortium population projections series. He points to the projected amount of population growth, which the Consortium reports in 5-year increments, and says, accurately, that the amount of new population added to the county is projected to drop from 17,867 new residents added between 2000 and 2005 to 12,055 new residents added between 2020 and 2025.

Mr. Collins' conclusion? "Now, I don't have my calculator, but thats, what, about a 33 percent decline in growth."

Rich is either very adept at math on the fly, or he did the calculations before-hand and his aw-shucks act is just that.

What those numbers represent is a 32.5 percent difference between the rate of growth over the last half-decade and the projected rate of growth 20 years from now. The difference is largely due to the fact that, as a retirement area, eastern Sussex County will continue to have a declining birth rate and a burgeoning death rate. That's just demographics. What will keep population change on the positive side will be continued strong migration into Sussex County.

In fact, if you look at the whole of the Consortium's projections, you see that Sussex County is expected to grow by almost 73,000 people between now and 2030. That's a 40 percent growth in population and equal to moving all of the current population of Wilmington, plus a few neighborhoods worth of Elsmere, into Sussex.

I hesitated to write about this. I'm employed by the State Planning Office, which is often at odds with Mr. Collins. I would have let it go had it not made it into the news reports. My motivation to address this is mostly because I also serve as the secretary of the Delaware Population Consortium and take some pride in the work that that group does. I feel a responsibility to step in when it looks like the Consortium's projections are being mis-used.

Mr. Collins may simply be mistaken; he may simply not understand the data he is looking at. But I don't think so. I think Rich is trying to muddy the discussion and sow seeds of doubt about the extent of the problem facing Sussex County.

1 comment:

Nancy Willing said...

I am REALLY glad to hear that you stand behind the DE Pop Stats, Mike.

I wondered.

All stats can be manipulated and it sure looks like that is one of the functions of Rich Collions meal ticket. Shame on him.

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