Council Wants Census Answers
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.