Wednesday, November 18, 2009

El Censo del 2010

Everyone agrees that reaching the the crucial 50,000 count in the 2010 Census hinges on getting the city's burgeoning Latino population to participate. The question is how to engage that group and make those residents understand the many benefits that will come from an accurate count.

As others have already reported, suggested strategies offered at Monday's City Council meeting may not achieve the desired results. Putting a public service announcement on the city's web site, making outreach to English-speaking churches and talking up the Census at public events like the annual tree-lighting at City Hall may miss the mark.

In public comment, school board member Wilma Campbell suggested using schools as a link to Spanish-speaking households. Many children already are bilingual and help their parents access everyday systems such as banks and various offices. Material on the 2010 census is readily available in Spanish, but hearing about it from one's child could reinforce the importance of participating, if only for the sake of the next generation.

Census officials know that Plainfield is a tough nut to crack when it comes to gathering data. Partnership Specialist Kevin Derricotte showed the governing body a color-keyed map of Union County that indicated the city had less than 50 percent participation in 2000, meaning people were getting a reduced amount of governmental funding that is tied to the count.

City Administrator Marc Dashield claimed Monday the city has been involved in a partnership with the Census Bureau since June, but members of the council appeared to be skeptical of how strongly the city and the agency are reaching out to the Latino community. Councilwoman Annie McWilliams said she is a member of Shiloh Baptist Church, one of the named partners, but she said, "Plainfield has 100 churches."

Derricotte said there will be a "road tour" on Jan.9, with a Census vehicle at City Hall and coverage "online in real time" on the local Channel 96.

In 2000, the count was 47,829, he said.

Since then there has been an even greater influx of Spanish-speaking people than in the late 1980s, when Central and South American refugees fled their homelands for safety reasons. Newer immigrants, especially from Mexico, have come here for work, many being men who left their families behind. They can be seen in billiard halls, public laundries, places that send money and goods to homelands and in bars and restaurants that cater to the Latino population.

Derricotte said whether they are documented or not, "Everyone needs to be counted."

Census data beyond the actual count is held confidential for 70 years, under penalty of law. Breaching that confidentiality results in five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Only the numbers will be made public, Derricotte said.

Currently the effort is in the "awareness" stage, he said. Next comes the "motivational" stage. The Census Bureau is also hiring Latinos to help canvass the city, he said.

The presentation Monday did not exactly fulfill the council's direction to the administration to bring forward local individuals who are involved in the 2010 Census. Normally, presentations are made at agenda-fixing sessions, not regular meetings, although the presence of a large crowd Monday may have been an unexpected plus for raising awareness.

The actual count will start with a survey in March. Households that do not respond will find Census Bureau workers knocking on their door five times, Derricotte said. Results will then stand for the next decade and will be used for everything from political redistricting to allocating funds for housing and social services.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am dumbfounded as to why this administration cannot get even the simplest things going. I am even more stupified that they do not embrace ALL of Plainfielders, regardless of party loyalty.

Jerry Green reminds me of a frightened bully who just keeps beating up people because he is afraid of being exposed.

There should be no problem in getting people to volunteer (for no money) to help in this census. The realy problem is getting over the JG - Democratic party loyalty paranoia.

9:41 AM  
Blogger active citizen said...

The mayor's ideas for reaching out to the city show how small a mind she really has. I'd expect those kind of suggestions from group advertising a church social. We need to reach everyone and especially Hispanic people, who are most scared of the government. That's why David Connolly has tried to stuff his buildings with Hispanics, because he knows they are easily scared and won't complain. Let's do it right. Unfortunately, we have to hope our nearly useless mayor can get her act together soon.

I have to applaud the City Council in their efforts to make the mayor get on the ball. Thank you.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to reach out to the Latino community through a church, I'd suggest St. Mary's. The congregation is probably close to 90% Latino now.

6:02 PM  

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