This letter is in response to the article Some Data Claims About Northampton Comp Plan Update Don’t Hold Up which appeared in the November 17th Eastern Shore Post. Andrew Follmer, author of the CBES Shoreline article which was critiqued by the Post, defends his analysis and conclusions.
Thank you for your continued coverage of the Comprehensive Plan Review, it is important for all our citizens to be engaged in this vital process. I would also like to thank you for pointing out that for two of the figures from one of the sources cited in my analysis in Shoreline, I had transposed the numbers with those on the next line of one of the Census Reports. I regret this, and I apologize for any confusion caused. Unfortunately, by focusing on these two numbers to the exclusion of the broader, well-sourced analysis, I fear you left your readers with the false impression that my conclusions were incorrect. I welcome this opportunity to demonstrate that the correction of these two pieces of data confirms that my analysis remains robust and the conclusions remain valid.
The corrected figures prove false the Planning Commission’s claim of a dramatic increase in poverty for Northampton County. The correct 2015 poverty rate is 20.5%, as you reported, and the 2009 poverty rate from the same source (Census Bureau’s SAIPE) is 20.6%. This confirms my conclusion that poverty has been flat rather than the dramatic increase cited in the draft Comprehensive Plan. The Planning Commission’s claim of a 33% increase was actually in reference to the 2007 poverty rate – also false, as the 2007 poverty rate was 20.8%. During the same period 2009-2015, the median income increased from $34,501 to $37,515, a 9% increase. While your article confirmed my finding that the Planning Commission had correctly quoted the alternative figures from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), it failed to include that the Census Bureau itself cautions against using this data for communities smaller than 65,000, instead referring users to the SAIPE.
I apologize that the distraction of the transposed numbers led you to miss the forest for the trees. Not only do the corrected numbers confirm my conclusion on the Planning Commission’s use of inflated poverty figures, but the following four additional conclusions of my analysis –which are based on other data sources—remain robust and valid.
• The nearly 40% decline in Northampton County’s unemployment rate is largely ignored by the draft Comprehensive Plan;
• Tourism Growth and its contribution to our economy and employment is disregarded in the draft;
• Current and relevant public input has not been permitted; and
• The Planning Commissions predictions on population decline are already disproven.
In short, as stated previously, the draft Comprehensive Plan provides an inaccurate and distorted assessment of our County that ignores not only the successes and growth of the past few years, but also the positive lessons of those successes that should be informing our path forward.