One of the most important civic events for our nation is fast approaching – the 2010 Census. In mid-March, every Milwaukee household will receive a 2010 Census form as required by the U. S. Constitution, and it is important that every resident be counted.
That’s why Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council president Willies Hines Jr. formed the City of Milwaukee Complete Count Committee (CCC) and asked me to lead the Subcommittee on African American Outreach. The CCC consists of government, business and community leaders dedicated to raising awareness about the census and achieving a complete count.
The census is much more than just a simple count of our population. Census data directly affects how more than $400 billion in federal funding is distributed to state and local governments each year – funding for education, health care, job training, transportation and many other important programs and services. For every Milwaukee resident that goes uncounted, we lose $1,200 annually or $12,000 over a decade. The impact of an undercount would mean millions of dollars lost to our community.
In the 2000 census, we lost a Congressional seat because we failed to count every resident. We all deserve equal representation in Madison and Washington and the only way to make that happen is by achieving a complete count.
The 2010 Census form is the shortest in history. It asks 10 simple questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete. The individual in whose name the housing unit is rented or owned should complete the form on behalf of every person living there, both relatives and non-relatives.
You have nothing to fear about the census. The Census Bureau is prohibited by law from sharing your census forms for 72 years. No other government agency can get your personal information – not law enforcement, landlords, banks or creditors. The only thing you should fear is not filling out your census form.
In Census 2000, the national mail participation rate was 72 percent as of the April 2000 cut-off, while the mail participation rate was 68 percent in Milwaukee. Mayor Barrett, Council President Hines and I challenge Milwaukee residents to beat the 2000 mail participation rate. By increasing the mail participation rate, we can reduce the overall costs of conducting the 2010 Census and help achieve a more accurate count. About $85 million is also saved for every one percent increase in mail participation.
Milwaukee’s future is in our hands, and we owe it to ourselves to define who we are as a community to the nation and the world. Let’s stand up and be counted!
Jerry Ann Hamilton
President, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Chair, City of Milwaukee Complete Count Committee Subcommittee on African American Outreach