The mayor of the town with the least improvement in census-form return rate must wear a sweatshirt from the university of the winner's community. Graphic by Brenda Sullivan.
Windham Mayor Ernest “Ernie” Eldridge is so enthusiastic about getting Windham residents fairly counted that he’s decided to turn it into a contest.
Earlier this week, Eldridge challenged Mansfield Mayor Elizabeth “Betsy” Paterson to see who could best their town’s census response rate… compared to the last time the census was conducted, which was in 2000.
The town that improves its mail-in response rate by the greatest number of percentage points will be declared the winner.
The mayor of the town that loses the wager must wear a university sweatshirt from the opposing community – Eastern Connecticut State University or the University of Connecticut – for a day.
In Windham, the town had a mail-in response rate of 63 percent during the 2000 Census, while Mansfield had a mail-in response rate of 70 percent.
Unlike the multi-page census forms of 2000, the 2010 census has 10 questions, which means it’s a lot easier and quicker to complete – and that should make for an interesting competition.
“She (Paterson) does not want to wear an Eastern sweatshirt,” Eldridge said Tuesday.
“I’d like to beat Ernie,” Paterson said Wednesday.
Both Mayors would like to see their town’s return rate significantly higher. The winners, as it turns out, will be the residents.
That’s because the information provided on the census form has a lot to do with how federal dollars are awarded for a large variety of programs that affect everyone, from children to seniors.
“This matters to your community,” said 2010 Census staff member F. Ellen Whaley.
In 2008, the state received $5.6 billion federal dollars based on census-related data, she said.
Whaley heads the local office of the U.S. Census Bureau in Norwich, which serves 66 towns in Windham, Tolland, New London and Middlesex counties. [Mansfield is part of Tolland County]
Nationwide, there’s an estimated $400 billion to be allocated over the next 10 years on the basis of Census data, she said. “This matters to everyone,” she said.
In March, more than 130 million addresses in the U.S. received a 2010 Census form by mail or by hand delivery, 2010 Census officials said.
One of the more common concerns people might have about the census form is that it may reveal sensitive information.
What people should know is that the Census bureau is bound by law not to reveal any of your personal information to anyone outside the Census bureau… that includes the IRS, immigration authorities, local officials or anyone else, Whaley said.
“Your census data can’t be subpoenaed by any court or given to police. That’s the law,” she said.
Required by the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Census has been held every 10 years since 1790.
Besides guiding funding, census data is used to determine how many members of the U.S. House of Representatives will represent each state.
Census data also helps to determine boundaries for state legislative districts and federal congressional districts.
Another function of the 2010 census is to “catch up” with changes in the country since the 2000 census.
As for those who do not complete and mail their forms, they can expect an in-person visit from a census taker later this spring, who will help you fill out your form.
For more information, call the Norwich 2010 Census office help line at (860) 367-8371.
Posted April 1, 2010 – HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan contributed to this story… and no, it’s not an April Fools Day joke!
“Map program lets residents monitor 2010 Census,” The Ledger Independent, March 31, 2010 http://www.maysville-online.com/news/local/article_e61063ae-3d47-11df-a7c5-001cc4c03286.html
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