Thursday, November 12, 2009

Council Wants Census Answers

At Monday's City Council meeting, members of the governing body made it clear that they want all stops pulled out to get an accurate 2010 Census count.

Officials have long suspected that the city's residents have been undercounted, especially the Latino population who may have come from homelands where talking to authorities is something to avoid. But if Plainfield can prove its population exceeds 50,000, it would no longer have to go through Union County, but could directly apply for and receive important federal funding. As it is, a Citizens Advisory Committee here reviews applications for Community Development Block Grant funding for housing, social services and other needs. The committee then forwards its rankings to Union County for further review before the county makes the final cut.

On Monday, City Council President Rashid Burney said he asked City Administrator Marc Dashield a month ago for an update. Dashield said Monday the city will have Census Bureau people here, but Burney said there were a lot of people here in the summer.

"That's the Census Bureau," Dashield said.

Burney prodded further, saying key employees, non-profits, the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority and others must be involved. He applauded the "warm and fuzzy" thought that the effort is going on, but said, "If we don't do it right, the numbers will go down this year," because the city has people who are not comfortable talking to authorities.

"We really need to know that it's working," Burney said.

Councilman Adrian Mapp agreed that the city needs to have a plan of its own.

"What is the administration's plan to engage the community to increase our numbers?" he asked.

Burney noted that Perth Amboy had begun its effort in June, and Councilwoman Linda Carter said outreach is needed.

Councilwoman Annie McWilliams questioned who is ultimately responsible for the local count and Dashield said it is the mayor's office.

McWilliams said the administration must have the city's 2010 Census point person at the next council meeting.

The Census Bureau is apparently well aware of the need for sensitive approaches to particular population groups to ensure their willing participation in the count. Click here to see a "toolkit" on Latino participation.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank god for the Council being on top of this one. too bad we have an administration asleep on the wheel. Do we even need a Mayor?

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 2010 Census Bureau folks were guest speakers this summer at the monthly Town Wide Block Association meeting. I have two red Census Bureau coffee cups to prove it Bernice. . .hehehe I attend these meetings as a representative of the Netherwood Neighbors Association.

I pressed the Bureau as to their plan as it relates to counting all Plainfielders, with particular emphasis on our Latin community. Part of their response was that they would be outreaching to some of our city’s organizations. They mentioned Crescent Church, Shiloh Church and the like. I was disappointed with this response as I felt that the folks that participate in those organizations would be more inclined to fill out the census then say folks at St. Mary’s. I suggested that the bureau reach out to the Latin Leadership in the city, including the Latin Churches and the Latin organizations.

To the Bureaus credit they seem to have a ‘hi-tech’ mapping system. This program helps to identify areas in the city that have historically been ‘challenged’ as it relates to filling out and returning the census forms. They have a plan to canvass these areas by foot in order to verify addresses and to determine whether a dwelling is a one family, two family, three family and the like. This will give them an idea of the number of ‘families’ and therefore the number of forms to be sent to the dwelling, (I wish them luck with that).

To my knowledge they are currently in this part of their plan. Then they will again visit these areas going door to door, possibly multiple times, during the actual counting in 2010. My suggestion was that these canvassing people all be bilingual . . . without exception.

I most say that I feel that they can plan this to death, canvass this to death, and even send in the National Guard and they still will not get an accurate count from some of our Latin residents who will naturally feel reluctant to be counted.

One very interesting factoid I learned, and I hope I get this right, is that the information collected on the census form is for use by the Census Bureau only. Of course the raw data collected is used by many agencies of government, but only the Census people view the personal information. Though an individual who might want to prove that he/she has been a resident of the U.S. for a period of time may have their census info used to prove the length of time of their residency. So if there was an amnesty . . . . ya’all following me here. . .the census info could be used as proof. I hope I got that right.

So. . if I were someone who was reluctant to fill out the census form, knowing this just might motivate me. Those above my pay grade will have to judge whether this is a fare ‘tool’ to be used in the plan.

I think the Council President might want to include a Census Bureau representative on his invite list. . . . . .

jim spear

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiss of death - the mayor's office is responsible.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Census is able to go door to door and get into the buildings -- they will find families for 4 or more living in a room and in the basements.

Many of these individuals aren't literate in their native language. Sending forms is pointless.

The only way to get a true count is to go door to door and inspect.

The overcrowding issues have gone on for a LONG time in Plainfield. Where is the inspectiond department? Why aren't the standards for housing density being upheld?

Oh ... too much effort. Someone might have to actually think and work. And, it is after all, City Hall.

12:15 PM  

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