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New Jersey Mayors
Mobilize Around
the 2010 Census


Yolanda Finley
By Yolanda Finley, Media Specialist
New York Regional Census Center

Achieving a complete and accurate census is a high priority for the New York Regional Census Bureau and community stakeholders, especially the state’s elected officials. The once-in-a-decade count of the nation’s people will be used to determine how $400 billion in federal funds will be distributed annually to states, the number of seats each state will hold in the House of Representatives and how the lines will be drawn for local voting districts. The results from the 2010 Census will impact New Jersey communities over the next 10 years.

Many municipalities have formed volunteer Complete Count Committees (CCCs) comprised of community leaders and members of faith-based groups, schools, businesses, media outlets and other organizations. Typically appointed by elected officials, committee members work to make sure entire communities are counted. As mandated by the Constitution since 1790, The Census Bureau counts every person living in the U.S., citizens and non-citizens alike.

“We count everyone regardless of status,” noted Lester A. Farthing, Regional Director, New York Census Bureau. Farthing hopes this message will reach anyone unsure about participation.

raised hands to be counted

Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau is prohibited from sharing any personal information obtained from the census with any other government or law enforcement agency.

The 2010 Census form (questionnaire) is sent out in English, but will be available upon request in five other languages: Spanish, Chinese-Simplified, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian. The Bureau has also created 59 different Language Assistance Guides to assist individuals who need help to complete their English census questionnaires. Support will be available online at: www.2010census.gov, through centrally located Questionnaire Assistant Centers in communities, and by telephone until July 30 at 1-866-872-6868.

While all mayors have been actively promoting the census, The New Jersey Urban Mayor’s Association recognizes that efforts must be stepped up to reach their communities. Past censuses have shown that residents in urban areas are harder to count, in some cases, the response rates have been below 50 percent, compared to New Jersey state and national rates of 68 percent and 67 percent respectively.

In places such as Newark, Irvington, East Orange, Orange, Plainfield, Jersey City, Union City, Perth Amboy, city mayors, CCCs and other partner groups have spent months working with the New York Regional Census Center Partnership team to send out the 2010 Census message. Information has been shared at cultural events, municipal council meetings, schools, churches and other houses of worship, street festivals and parades, even local salons and barber shops. The Philadelphia Regional Census Center is working closely with southern New Jersey counties to get the word out.

“We are doing everything within our power to emphasize how critically important the 2010 Census campaign is to the livelihood of our communities,” says Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith, President and Chair of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association. “We are hosting rallies and meetings, we’re at the 2010 Census Road Tour stops in the heart of our neighborhoods, and we’re on radio and television programs. We are letting everyone know that New Jersey could lose representation (a Congressional seat), if we don’t participate in the Census. Mayors are spreading the word that funding for schools, healthcare, transportation and just about every need of our community will be linked to the 2010 Census. ”

Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz noted that her city kicked off its census campaign on April 8, 2009. “The City of Perth Amboy is identified as a ‘hard-to-count community’ so we are automatically challenged to raise our count,” she said. “We have created a CCC consisting of community leaders, of different ethnic backgrounds. A tri-lingual media piece is being aired in our local access channel reaching the Polish, Portuguese, Latino and Black communities. We’re heavily engaged in the school system, because I understand the importance that children will play in helping to bring home the message and the impact it will make to non-English speaking parents/guardians. Among many other events such as career days and neighborhood business meetings, we are making an effort to stand for the good of Perth Amboy.”

On the launch of the National 2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour January 4, the New Jersey Urban Mayors had a “It’s In Our Hands” Rally that evening at the WISOMM Center in Newark, where each Mayor reaffirmed his or her commitment to spur residents to participate in the census. On site was Liberty, the Regional 2010 Census state-of-the-art Road Tour vehicle which is traveling throughout the northern part of the state. Constitution, the name of the Philadelphia Region vehicle, is visiting southern communities. At each Road Tour stop, residents will have the opportunity to see a sample census form and to be a part of the Portrait of America by taking a snapshot and recording an audio message about why New Jerseyans should participate.

“To ensure an accurate and fair count of all populations in our region, our partnership with the Census Bureau is key,” said Randy Brown, Mayor of Evesham and chair of the League’s Census 2010 Awareness Committee.

We’ve also created the 2010 Census Take 10 Initiative to boost the mail-response rate. It is a challenge for each state, county and city to exceed their 2000 local response rates by taking 10 minutes to complete the Census questionnaire and return it. It will give real-time information to communities about how they are fairing in returning the census form. The Bureau will begin updating the mail-back rate on a daily basis starting March 22 on the www.2010census.gov web site. The Bureau hopes this information will be a call to action to communities.

“Our goal is to get the forms returned,” says Farthing, “We want to convey how the data collected will help move New Jersey forward during this decade.”
From mid-April – July 2010, any resident who hasn’t returned their census form, will receive a visit from a census taker, an individual from the community who has passed the Bureau’s test and a background check. Census takers wear official government identification badges. They will not request social security, citizenship or income information. The Bureau is asking local governments to encourage residents to cooperate with our census takers during this Non-Response Follow Up (NRFU) phase.

Part of the Philadelphia Region includes the southern counties of New Jersey: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Hunterdon and Mercer. For more information about census outreach in these areas, call 215-597-4816.

The New York Region includes the five boroughs in New York City – Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties in New York and Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Morris Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties in New Jersey.

For more information about the 2010 Census, visit www.2010census.gov or call 212-356-3100.

 


This article appeared in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 3, March 2010

 

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