Thursday, May 9, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Fewer than 70 percent of Maywood residents participated in the last two U.S. Census counts, a reality that has likely cost the village a significant amount of money, said Drake Booker, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau.
Booker was at a public meeting held May 6 at Village Council Chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, for the purpose of strategizing how village officials can maximize resident participation in the Census.
The prospect of yet another decade of being underrepresented moved Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins to call for the creation of a count committee that will work toward ensuing that as many residents of Maywood participate in the Census as possible.
“Whatever numbers we generate govern what we get for 10 whole years,” Perkins, referencing the Census, said during Monday’s meeting. “That’s why we’re asking people to get involved.”
Booker said that the count committee will allow the village “to create strategies to target those [underperforming] areas and get as close to an accurate count as possible.”
Booker said that each person who is counted during the Census process translates into $1,500 in federal funding that goes to the village.
“On the flip side, for every person who does not participate, that’s $1,500 that is missed out on,” he said. “And when I say $1,500, that’s $1,500 per person per year, for the next 10 years.”
Drake said that 65 percent and 69 percent of Maywood residents were counted in the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, respectively.
Those residents who are particularly prone to avoid participating in the Census include veterans, people experiencing homelessness, renters, college students, senior citizens and people living in poverty — in other words, a substantial amount of Maywood’s population.
Hispanics, in particular, were underrepresented in the last Census count, Booker said. Consequently, the demographic represents the greatest opportunity for Maywood to increase its participation rate.
But enticing Hispanics to participate may be easier said than done, particularly as federal, state and local governments ramp up deportation measures under President Donald Trump’s administration, which wants to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court could rule on the matter by late June.
“How does immigration status affect the Census, because there’s that one question [that might ask] for immigration status and for, say, a specific demographic that might be undocumented, how do you convince them to fill out that document?” asked Maywood Trustee Antonio Sanchez.
“The only way they’ll be affected is if they don’t fill it out,” Booker said. “We don’t share any information with second or third parties … Each Census employee takes an oath and vows not to share that information. The violation of that oath is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
“We take the information we get from residents, no matter what demographic, very seriously. It’s solely about getting a snapshot of what America looks like on Census Day.”
That said, Sanchez added, “trusting the government is a big pill to swallow.”
“It is,” Booker said, “but that’s why we really have to get those trusted voices [involved in the count process].”
Maywood Clerk Viola Mims said that the lack of trust in government is shared across demographics. She said educating residents about the importance of the Census, and how taxpayers benefit from it, could be critical for increasing the participation rate in the village.
“I believe educating residents is a major factor, but … people seem like they don’t want to be involved and don’t care,” Mims said. “When the Census was last done, there were a lot of residents who wouldn’t even answer when you knocked on their doors.”
Mims said that one resident didn’t want to answer her door, because the woman thought the Census “gives the government a way to monitor her, her family and her lifestyle, and that she can be penalized.”
Booker said that he and the count committee will focus on Census tracts that include households who did not participate in the Census a decade ago. He added that the village should get creative about community outreach and public awareness efforts.
Mayor Perkins said that the 2020 Census will be critical if the village is to avoid the consequences of falling below the 25,000 population threshold that typically defines home rule municipalities, which are more independent of the state’s statutes than municipalities that aren’t home rule.
The 2010 Census counted 24,090 people in Maywood. While not enough to deny Maywood’s home rule status, the count still presented some complications for the village — the most prominent of which is the Eisenhower Emergency Communication Center.
The center, which will operate in Broadview, is the result of a law that took effect in 2016 and that requires municipalities with populations of fewer than 25,000 residents to consolidate their 911 dispatch systems with nearby towns.
“We’ve got to get to 25,000 again,” said Mayor Perkins. “The reason we had to join Broadview was because we fell short of 25,000. That’s how important the Census is to us. It also affects us downstate in Springfield, where we go to look for dollars.”
Rhonda Sherrod, the Maywood resident who will lead the formation of the count committee and its various sub-committees, said she’s calling for all hands on deck.
“We’re going to need all the energy and manpower we can muster in order to do this effectively,” she said. “If we’re undercounted we will not get our fair share and Maywood deserves its fair share.”
Residents interested in getting involved with the count committee in any capacity should contact Mayor Perkins’s office at (708) 450-4492. VFP
The Census Bureau’s Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM) application makes it easier to identify hard-to-survey areas and gives socioeconomic and demographic profiles of those areas using American Community Survey (ACS) estimates available in the Planning Database. Click here to search hard-to-survey areas in Proviso Township.
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