By Sharon Robinson,
Administration Director, City of Milwaukee
Chair, Complete Count Committee
As the Chair of the City of Milwaukee Complete Count Committee formed by Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Willie Hines, this is my call to action for every household in Milwaukee to take part in the 2010 census as required by the U. S. Constitution. When your census form arrives in the mail mid-March, please fill it out and send it in right away!
As an African American resident, this is also my call to action to you to help spread the word about the importance of the census. I especially need you to help dispel myths that hinder a full and accurate count, especially among people of color.
One of the biggest myths is that filling out your census form will get you in trouble. This is false. In fact, your personal information is private and is protected by law for 72 years. The Census Bureau cannot share your census forms with any other agencies – not law enforcement, immigration, the courts, landlords or creditors.
There are also “naysayers” out there who say that people of color have nothing to lose or gain in the census. This is false. We have all seen examples of challenges to our right to have our votes counted. Just like voting, there are people who don’t want all of us living here to be counted. In fact, the census is the biggest game in town right now to build the respect, influence and power of our community – and it’s an opportunity that comes only once every 10 years.
And numbers do matter. Every year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion in funding based on census data. For every Milwaukee resident that goes uncounted, we lose $12,000 over a decade – dollars for education, health care, job training, transportation and more. So the impact of an undercount of even 1,000 would mean a loss of millions of dollars to our community. An accurate and complete count also ensures equal political representation for Milwaukee in Madison and Washington.
Completing your census form will take just 10 minutes of your time. It is the shortest form in history and asks 10 simple questions – such as the name, age, gender and race of people in your household. 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. That’s it.
In Census 2000, the national mail participation rate was 72 percent by the April 2000 deadline, while the mail participation rate was 68 percent in Milwaukee. Although Milwaukee was declared a high performer, we can do better.
I hope I can count on you to join the Complete Count Committee’s efforts to empower every household in our community to take part in the 2010 census. For more information, please visit the City’s website www.milwaukee.gov/2010census or call the Census Bureau’s Milwaukee Office at 414-203-3840.