In Panel, Mayors Laud 2010 Census
Filling out the 2010 Census may seem like just another boring piece of paperwork, but it is extremely important for states and municipalities, a panel of former mayors told an audience last night in the Lowell Junior Common Room during an event organized by the Institute of Politics to raise awareness of the census.
“There are a number of issues that are critically important to cities, and, yet, they’re not particularly sexy,” said former Mayor of Miami Manny A. Diaz, an IOP Fellow.
The results of the census determine the allocation of $435 billion in federal funding, the distribution of Congressional seats, and the provision of government services in cities.
“It has a dramatic impact on your ability to revitalize your city, and especially the neighborhoods that need it the most,” Diaz added.
Thus far, an estimated 71 percent of Americans have filled out the census, the panelists said, and census counters will begin going door-to-door next week, which, according to Greg J. Nickels, the former mayor of Seattle, might cause concern among some Americans.
“It’s safe, this isn’t going to be used as a tool to try and deport you or determine your immigration status, or anything else—you might owe the government money. It’s safe, it’s confidential, and it’s important,” Nickels said.
According to IOP President P. Kenzie Bok ’11, Harvard students have been working to help spread this message. The IOP Community Action Committee has worked with CIVICS—a joint IOP and Phillips Brooks House Association program that teaches civics classes in elementary and middle schools in Boston and Cambridge—to prepare a lesson about the importance of the census for their students, many of whom come from serially under-counted populations, Bok said.
The system of counting is imperfect, the former mayors said, especially when it comes to counting college students.
During the discussion, audience members said they were motivated to be counted in their home cities, because those areas might have a greater need for federal funds than Cambridge does.
IOP Director Bill Purcell said he sympathized with the students, but that the current counting system is necessary to produce an accurate depiction of the nation.